Monday, 4 May 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Imperial Probe Droid

Black Series Imperial Probe Droid 01

Release Date: April 2020
RRP: $29.99/£27.99

May the 4th is a special day for Star Wars fans across the globe every year, but 2020 marks a particularly spectacular occasion. It's been 40 years since The Empire Strikes Back was first released in cinemas, so of course it's being celebrated with all manner of new toys and merchandise. Leading Hasbro's charge as far as the Black Series goes is a new selection of retro-carded figures akin to their 40th Anniversary A New Hope range, but there are plenty of other treats for collectors as well. The Black Series Imperial Probe Droid continues the (still relatively new) deluxe range of figures incorporated into the line, for characters that are a little too large and/or detailed to fit under that standard $20 price point. Given that the Probe Droid is the first thing we see in The Empire Strikes Back and sets the whole film in motion, arguably there isn't a better choice for the Black Series to celebrate this milestone anniversary.

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The Imperial Probe Droid is the third release in the Black Series' deluxe range, following on from General Grievous and the Heavy Infantry Mandalorian. There have been other figures bigger than your typical Black Series release as well, but those have all been store exclusives so weren't designated the unique "D" numbering. Apart from size it's for the most part your typical Black Series packaging, however there are a few extra flourishes in celebration of The Empire Strikes Back's 40th anniversary. On top of a special 40th anniversary logo in the top corner, there's also a classic logo at the bottom next to the (extremely faint) box artwork. This artwork is of course also printed (marginally clearer) on the back, where is it also accompanied by brief bio both marking the anniversary and explaining the basic functions of a Probe Droid. Inside the droid is stored on a moulded plastic tray, held into place by some particularly strong plastic ties. The base for the stand is behind, taped to the red backing card.

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If there's one thing Hasbro certainly didn't skimp on with this release, it's detail. The Imperial Probe Droid is possibly one of the most impressive Black Series figures yet when it comes to looks, with Hasbro making sure that this figure is much more than just a big lump of plastic. Nearly every detail from the onscreen version has been loaded into this toy, and you'd have be an extremely keen-eyed fan to pick out any blemishes or inaccuracies. Despite being entirely made of plastic the finish really gives off the impression of die-cast metal, while all the lenses that adorn that eerie bug-eyed dome have a glossy glass-like sheen to them. The best moulding in the world is nothing without an equally good paint job though, and the Probe Droid certainly doesn't disappoint there either. That satisfying gunmetal paint job also sports patches of silver weathering and brown dirt/rust marks to signify that this is a droid that's already seen a fair bit of action, and the odd splashes of red on the body also help give it a little more visual flair. With the previous deluxe figures it's sometimes been a bit debatable whether they truly warranted that slightly higher price point, but there isn't any shadow of a doubt here that the Probe Droid does.

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Since the Probe Droid is a free-floating droid a display stand has been included as the figure's only accessory, which consists of a clear plastic stand piece and a white display base simulating Hoth's snowy terrain. The stand simply clips into the base, and then the Probe Droid comfortably fits on top. The connection between the stand and figure is a fairly sizeable ball joint so clips on nice and tightly, though sadly the joint doesn't offer any sort of tilt to make posing that little bit more dynamic. Best of all though is that the stand piece is nice and long, so the droid perfectly looms above other Black Series figures to remain visible in a crowded display.

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The Probe Droid might not be able to stand on its own but that doesn't mean it isn't poseable. The figure features multiple moving parts - not just limited to a 360 degree rotating dome but also fully moveable legs that can each bend in three separate places. The top, middle and "hand" sections can all bend just like a functioning arm, so that the Probe Droid can get into all sorts of flight, reconnaissance and just general probing poses. It's a shame that the claws/pincers are static, but still look pretty good and could feasibly grip onto items that are thick enough to fit between them. Additionally the gun turret on the top of the body can also rotate - the joint is capable of a full 360°, but it can't turn the whole circle without coming into contact with the dome. Then finally the antennae can even raise and lower! While ultimately it might only be able to stand there floating, the moving parts are actually a lot of fun and add a lot more display variety than you'd initially think. 

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Though the Black Series Imperial Probe Droid may have been released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, it's frequent use in expanded Star Wars media such as Rebels or Jedi: Fallen Order means it has a lot of display potential alongside Imperial Forces as well as being shot down by Han and Chewie. Although the thought of it just floating there and not really being able to do much else might deter some away, the Probe Droid more than justifies its deluxe price point with incredible detailing and a surprisingly amount of interactive parts. And honestly, what's not to love about a droid design as iconic of as this? Hasbro continue to impress with these deluxe figures as well as pulling them from all different parts of the Star Wars universe, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

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