Sunday 12 June 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts First Order Stormtrooper Shield & Baton Set

If there was one thing that Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens proved, it's that Stormtroopers can be a force to be reckoned with. Gone were the cannon fodder troops of the Empire days who couldn't ever seem to shoot straight, replaced with the brainwashed army of the First Order - highly specialised and ready to take on any opponent. One Stormtrooper became particularly notorious when he managed to almost take down a lightsaber wielding Finn, but was ultimately defeated by a carefully timed blaster shot from Han Solo. The Star Wars fandom knows him by many names - TR8-0R, FN-2199, Nines, Riot Control Stormtrooper...however Bandai Tamashii Nations have simply opted for First Order Stormtrooper Shield & Baton Set when it comes to their S.H. Figuarts release. This figure is the sixth release in the line for The Force Awakens, and the first to be a Tamashii web exclusive.

As one of the few web exclusive figures in the Star Wars Figuarts line, the Riot Control Stormtrooper (for the sake of ease, that's what this figure will be referred to throughout the review) is a rare chance to venture away from the rather plain black packaging that the other figures have had. The box you can see above doesn't stray too far away from that comfort zone, but still manages to do the job nicely. A windowless cardboard box (as is the case for most web exclusives these days), the front features a rather standard image of the figure along with a close up in a striking red bar behind it (most likely representing the sheer ANGER this Stormtrooper demonstrates towards Finn, the traitor) with a number of more dynamic figure shots included on the back. The packaging also clearly labels the figure as the "First Order Stormtrooper Shield & Baton Set", which I think we can all agree is a rather undynamic name for such a memorable trooper.

Despite a new name and some fancy new weapons, the figure itself is identical to the retail release First Order Stormtrooper from December 2015. That isn't necessarily a bad thing though, because the First Order Stormtrooper is a REALLY good toy. First-time buyers will be in for an absolute treat when they have this mould in hand, while these who picked it up the first time can get excited about it all over again. It's surprisingly light, but beautifully sculpted with glossy white armour that looks just like it does in the films. Combine that brilliant sculpt with the amazing articulation this figure has and you can see why it's such a winner. Unlike a lot of the other Star Wars Figuarts, the First Order Stormtrooper uses the new style S.H. Figuarts body (and hips) and really benefits from it. The range of motion is excellent, and the new style hips ensure that the seamless look of the sculpt isn't broken up in the process. The shoulderpads and belt pouches are also all individually articulated, so can move out of the way/be repositioned when posing the arms and legs.

Unfortunately this Stormtrooper is also a pretty bare bones release, coming with only a minimal amount of accessories. Included are a total of five swappable hands (a pair of closed fists, a pair of open hands and an additional right hand to grip the baton), the riot shield and the baton which swappable inactive (closed) and activated (parts). This Stormtrooper doesn't come with any sort of blaster or rifle, with Bandai obviously quite eager to set it apart from the standard variant. This is where for many people the forthcoming Mafex release might seem like the more appealing option, because not only is that figure a retail release but it also comes with both the riot weapons AND a standard blaster. How the quality will differ between the two is another matter entirely, but the fact remains that if you're looking for an S.H. Figuarts Stormtrooper and only plan to pick up ONE release - choose wisely as you'll only be getting one kind of weapon with it.

Both weapons are nicely detailed and accurate to the source material (although the activated baton lacks the red energy running through its core), and swapping the baton parts around is easy to do with each part fitting into the handle nice and firmly. Connecting the shield to the figure's arm is a little trickier though, as the shield actually has a left fist moulded onto it. This means placing a handless arm through the strap on the back of the shield, and then locking the wrist joint into place on the fist while trying not to break anything in the process. Thankfully it doesn't feel so fragile that something will break, but it can be a bit fiddly to do at first which will naturally lead to some frustration. Its uncertain why Bandai chose to have the shield work this way rather than just give it a handle for a hand to grip onto and a removable strap piece, but on the upside this does mean that once everything is connected it won't just stay nice and firm - there'll be no chance of the shield flopping about in the hand either.

Last year the First Order Stormtrooper was hailed as a pretty great release for the S.H. Figuarts line and that praise still rings true six months later. However the real kicker for many people when it comes to the Stormtrooper Shield & Baton set is that Tamashii web exclusive status. While that didn't by any means make the figure difficult to get, it did mean that it came without any of the usual retailer discounts retail Figuarts are given (the actual RRP between this and the retail version is negligible) and its uncertain how kind the aftermarket will be to it. Outside of the weapons its also exactly the same figure. If you're buying for the character or want a Stormtrooper slightly more exciting than the usual blaster variety than you will not be disappointed by this release - the figure is fantastic and the weapons make it all the more exciting. However if its just a Stormtrooper you want you might want to consider looking elsewhere first as there will be both cheaper options and also options with a bit more variety to them.

A great figure? Undoubtedly, arguably the best Stormtrooper at this scale you'll find. But a great release? That's something really only the buyer can decide.

No comments: