Sunday 6 October 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Stormtrooper with Blast Effects

Release Date: 2018
RRP: $24.95/£34.99 

If there’s one thing any budding toy photographer needs in their collection, it’s effect parts. But while buying them separately is all well and good, it’s always nice when figures themselves come with them as well. Hasbro have done an excellent job making them standard with their Power Rangers Lightning Collection figures, but over in the Star Wars Black Series it’s few and far between. When they do release one though they really make it count, such as this deluxe Black Series Stormtrooper with Blast Effects figure. Decking out their standard Stormtrooper with some new scorch mark battle damage, this set also comes with a variety of effect parts and a display base. It was released as a Disney Store exclusive in the US, with further exclusivity varied around the rest of the world.

As part of the third phase of Black Series figures this Stormtrooper comes in the usual black and red packaging we’re all used to by now, but of course due to the amount packed into this box it’s a little bit bigger than the usual fare. Due to its status as a store exclusive in the US it also lacks the spine numbering you’ll find on all the mainline releases. The front of the box features a nice big window so you can see all of the contents inside (not just the figure itself), with a slightly smaller picture located in the bottom corner. The back has the usual artwork and bio combination, but the main difference here is that there’s also a picture of the toy itself with all the accessories. Unusual for the Black Series, but given the main appeal of this release is the blast parts rather than the figure itself it makes sense to throw a completed image onto the box. Inside you’ll find the figure and accessories all secured on a moulded plastic tray, along with a special backing card that we’ll take a closer look at further down in the review.

As you can probably guess, the Stormtrooper was one of the first characters to be released in the Black Series line. In fact the Sandtrooper was the third, and then the standard Stormtrooper followed shortly afterward as the ninth figure. Which makes sense, it’s one of the most iconic designs in all of Star Wars so of course it’s going to be among the first. The mould itself hasn’t changed in that time, so what you’re getting here is essentially the same figure you would have back in 2014, and as far as look is concerned the sculpt still holds up pretty well. It has all the right detailing, and the glossy white plastic used has a similar sheen to the sections of the actual suit. The mould’s constant reuse is definitely beginning to show though, particularly in the shin guards which don’t only feel brittle but also had a bit of mould flash around the knee area. I highly doubt this will be the last we see of this Stormtrooper mould, but it feels in need of an upgrade soon.

What sets this Stormtrooper apart from previous release is the added scorch mark battle damage, located on the helmet, chest and right shoulder pad. Despite looking a bit like a charcoal smudge it’s actually pretty convincing battle damage, and doesn’t feel too far from the kind of thing you could expect to see on a Stormtrooper that’s not having the best day at work. Some of the more recent films like Rogue One and Solo have gotten us more used to seeing troopers that aren’t squeaky clean like they are on the Death Star, and adding a few battle damaged units into the mix makes for far more diverse and exciting army building.

The mould may be showing it’s age a bit when it comes to looks, but that’s not the factor that really confirms this figure is past its sell by date. That factor would be the articulation and poseability, which is pretty poor overall. Make no mistakes the joints are all there - the Stormtrooper has a ball jointed head, swivel hinge neck, swivel hinge shoulders, bicep swivels, hinged elbows (with a swivel at either side), swivel hinge wrists, ball jointed waist and hips, hinged knees and swivel hinge ankles. The problem is that the armour gets in the way of so many key places, leaving the Stormtrooper barely able to raise his arms outward much more than 90° and the hips practically unusable. Despite being double hinges, the elbows are incapable of being bent flat and anything more than a minor bend forward results in to white armour pieces clashing against one another. They, along with the knees, are also stiff and the plastic itself feels pretty gummy. Everywhere else on the figure seems unaffected, but without these key areas (especially the hips) doing the legwork you’re severely limited in the poses you can get out of it. Compare this to the Clone Trooper mould, which is also reasonably old and with its flaws but not even half as bad as this.

But forget about the figure, it’s the accessories that are the key selling point here. The Stormtrooper comes with a standard blaster rifle (which can be comfortably stored in the side holster when not in use), along with three separate effect parts moulded in translucent orange plastic. The first of these is a blast piece for the rifle itself, which clips onto the barrel to give it a dynamic “rapid fire” look. The overall effect looks absolutely fantastic (even if this Stormtrooper blatantly isn’t going to be hitting anything with it), but sadly probably isn’t that all compatible with similar weapons due to the specific shape the plug is moulded into. You might be able to get away with some weapons, but it’ll be a case of trial and error.

The remaining two pieces are two explosion/blast effects - one large and one smaller. Very similar to Bandai Tamashii Nation’s own explosion parts in design and execution (albeit with different shapes), the blasts have a colour gradient to mirror the look of an explosion with dashes of charred black/brown paint for extra realism. Not only do they look great, but they’re a perfect compliment to Bandai’s own effect parts. You can never have too many explosion pieces after all.

But on top of all that the set also comes with a unique display base, featuring a double sided panel which can switch between either the Star Wars logo or that grated Death Star flooring. It’s such a little touch but really adds to the quality of the base, since it can freely switch between feeling like a piece for a single figure or part of a larger diorama. Which brings us back to that unique insert card mentioned earlier in the review. Rather than the standard solid red card included with most figures, the Stormtrooper comes with a nicely printed replica of the Death Star corridor - perfect for displays and giving photos that extra bit of visual flare. It’s made of a sturdy, durable cardboard that should stand the test of time when treated with care, and can easily be folded out into a longer background should you choose to disassemble it. I’m uncertain whether Hasbro purposely threw this in as an accessory or just did it to make the figure stand out on the shelf more, but it’s these kind of touches that turn it from being a “figure with effect parts” to a proper diorama release.

The Black Series Stormtrooper with Blast Effects set comes as a recommended purchase under certain conditions. While the Stormtrooper mould itself isn’t all that great (though ideal for army building or that one cannon fodder trooper every Star Wars display should have), the effect parts are and the little other extras like the display base make it a worthwhile little package. Though it absolutely is not worth its retail price in the UK (the US price is far easier to swallow, and absolutely should have been more along these lines), the good thing is the set is pretty old now and didn’t seem to sell well - so stores on both sides of the pond have begun throwing it on pretty deep discount. And at those sort of prices it’s far more palatable. 

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