Wednesday 23 October 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Darth Vader

Release Date: October 2019
RRP: $10/£10

Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures is an ongoing series of Youtube shorts that takes key moments from across the Star Wars universe and reimagines them with stylised animation. Though the series has had an accompanying toy line for some time, previous waves have simply been re-releases of other lines done up in new packaging. For 2019 though Hasbro are going all in on the animated aesthetic, relaunching the line with a brand new 5" range that fully embraces the look and feel of the series. Additionally figure also has its own unique gimmick – truly putting the "action" back in action figure. Among the first wave of figures to debut at this year's Triple Force Friday is of course none other than the mighty Sith Lord Darth Vader, and as a huge sucker for stylised figures like this I knew that I just had to check the line out and see what it has to offer.

A line primarily aimed at children needs some eye-catching packaging to ensure these figures are seen on the shelf, and given that was exactly how I ended up leaving the store with one of these (I wasn't even looking for it!) suggests that Hasbro have probably done a pretty good job with it. For collectors you still get those nice rectangular boxes you see with the Black Series, albeit smaller with with far more dynamic graphics. If the huge window showing off the figure doesn't lure you to it, then the big image to the side of it will. The front of the box also advertises the figure's "force slash" feature, which is then demonstrated on the spine while the other shows off the other characters currently available in the line. Compared to all that the back is actually quite boring, featuring that same great artwork from the front along with all the technical and licensing information no one ever bothers to read. Inside the figure is stored on a moulded plastic tray, however unlike on Black Series packaging the front section of the box is actually a lidded piece that pulls out with it.

Between The Clone Wars, Rebels or even just toy lines such as Disney Toybox or its predecessor Disney Infinity, Galaxy of Adventures is far from Star Wars' first foray into the animated aesthetic. However this particular figure strikes a perfect balance when it comes to proportions and simplicity – not straying too far into the top-heavy look of the Disney Toybox figure but offering something that looks distinctively animated. This is emphasised through the use of sharper diagonal lines in both the helmet shape and chest unit, giving the iconic Vader silhouette a more dynamic look that has echoes of his appearance in Rebels. The red lenses on the mask are an often overlooked (or outright forgotten) element of Vader's suit, but Hasbro have boldly given them solid colouring that really amplifies the evil aura of the suit. It's quite the contrast to the suit in the films, where part of the fear factor comes from how blank and soulless Vader looks. With the red eyes and more defined shapes he looks positively expressive, which is the perfect look for shorts that are boiling the characters down to their core essences. Both hands are moulded so that they can comfortably hold accessories, however Vader's right hand has an extended thumb and index finger for that perfect force choke pose.

Much like other Vader toys though it makes excellent use of different plastics and finishes on the various parts of the suit, such as the glossy black boots standing out against that matte black body. The cloak and skirt sections are made of soft plastic, which again adds another look and feel to the figure in addition to making it all the more expressive. The paint application can be a bit spotty here and there, but sadly that's to be expected for a mass produced toy at this kind of price point. Even among all the different toy lines out there Vader has consistently proven to be a difficult character to nail down perfectly, but Hasbro really have brought their A game here to make a stylised figure that immediately stands out on the shelf.

This figure doesn't just look good though, it's also surprisingly poseable! Of course at half the price it isn't quite at the level of a Black Series figure or similar scaled release, but it's still a lot more than I was expecting from a figure where one of the key selling points was a moving body gimmick. Altogether Vader has a ball-jointed head, swivel hinge shoulders, elbows, knees and feet. Though sadly the shape of the helmet means the head is mostly limited to a swivel motion, the range of motion on the shoulders and hips was a particularly pleasant surprise. And despite the skirt sections being made of soft plastic, thankfully they'll still malleable enough to get a good range of motion of the legs. The only complaint worth noting is that the elbows and knees are unbelievably stiff – so much so that the joints genuinely feel like they're going to break when you move them. Whether it's intentionally done to reinforce them ready for hours of play I don't know, but just how much force you have to put into it is definitely a little unsettling at first.

Vader's sole accessory is his personal red-bladed lightsaber, which unlike most collector-grade figures does not have a removable blade or a hilt that can peg onto the figure's belt. The hilt is however nicely and accurately detailed to look like the onscreen version, but designed to be a little bit chunkier to match the line's aesthetic. The lightsaber comfortably fits into either hand, and there's even enough articulation in those arms to get both hands to hold it at once! With his lightsaber Vader can now show off his "force slash" gimmick, which involves a spring loaded waist swivel. Simply pull the waist to the side and the torso will snap back to the centre, imitating a powerful slash attack. While most collectors will probably argue that they don't want or need such a gimmick in their toys, it really is a lot of fun and bound to go down well with the target audience. It's simple, effective and (from an adult collector point of view) doesn't impede on any of the other articulation – what more could you ask for?

Though the Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Darth Vader figure warrants a somewhat shorter review than usual, that isn't to say it comes any less recommended. Though the animated aesthetic won't be for everyone, its unique style really makes it stand out amongst all the other Star Wars figures on the market. The design and surprising level of articulation make it well worth the asking price, and the perfect release for both kids looking for chunky, gimmick-enhanced figures AND adults simply looking for something a little different. With all the other things I currently collect Galaxy of Adventures won't be a line I completely immerse myself in, but it is one I will be keeping a close eye for some of my other favourites from the Star Wars universe. Definitely one of the best spontaneous purchases I've made in a good while.


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