[font=Verdana] After a few weeks off reviewing due to not finding anything new, I'm back with a review of not 1 but 2 Saga figures from the recent ANH wave, starfighter pilots from each side of the conflict. The TIE Fighter Pilot and Gold Leader - locked in mortal combat where fate has decided neither shall survive - are the subjects of today's review; although neither adversary was a highly-requested figure, both are still welcome updates of classic SW figure concepts.
[font=Verdana] Packaging: 3.5/5 (both)
[/font] What is there to say about the overall packaging that you don't know already? You still have to tear or cut it to free the figure, it still has the same Saga v2 basic graphics, it still has the movie title on the side. The figures are thankfully not tied to the trays in any way this time around, though both have their weapons clear-banded to their hands which warps the weapons and the hands; Gold Leader's helmet is in its own compartment in the tray which requires a little work to get it free.
The movie pictures on each bubble insert are different from the ones on each cardback, so you get more to see, I like this better than the cards where you only get the same image front and back. The bio text on the back is a little light for both, and Gold Leader's prototype photo makes it look as if the helmet doesn't sit all the way down, even though it actually does; both prototype photos suffer from the big empty , a condition where the middle of the cardback shows the figure standing there from 2 angles but nothing else is going on around this - c'mon Hasbro, show off the features, accessories, interaction with Hasbro vehicles, the way the stands interlock... something.
[font=Verdana] Sculpting: 4/5 (TIE Pilot); 4.5/5 (Gold Leader)
[/font] Both figures share some inherent strengths and weaknesses - both have very nice outfit sculpts and well-designed separate outfit props, yet both are a little on the tall side and have face sculpts that don't quite work.
Some folks have been saying that we didn't need an update from the previous version, this was a redundant new figure - as soon as you put this Saga figure next to the old POTF2 version, you'll know that those people are wrong . The old figure, which Hasbro reissued several times with various TIE vehicles, had the general shape but very little detail; this new version has a fantastically-detailed outfit with wrinkles and textures and creases and tech detail all over this figure's outfit, even the chestbox and hoses (which can be removed, leaving holes in the figure) are an improvement. Everywhere you look is something with extra detail on this sculpted outfit. The legs even start lower down which looks far more proportional than that old figure, and the hips are sculpted very smartly to hide the gaps from articulation.
The arms on the TIE Pilot are a little strange, they have great detail but the right one is permanently bent at the elbow with the wrist tilted down to hold the gun, while the left arm is straight and a little extra long - it ends at his mid-thigh which might have been forgivable if the right arm looked similar in length, but it doesn't. The other problem on this figure is the helmet, the overall sculpt seems a little 'soft', and the head seems to be tilted upwards too much; that's not to say it's terrible, there are some detail improvements, but they seem to get lost possibly due to the plastic used. The designers tried to get a different take on the lenses in the mask, I see what they were getting at but these are a little too small.
On the other side, Gold Leader is a tall guy and this figure represents that. His outfit is the standard ANH Rebel pilot design used for both X-wing and Y-wing pilots so at first it seems like it's been done to death, but this is a great new take on the design. Here you'll find detailed textures, tiny folds and creases in places like the boots, and the over-vest has a fascinating sculpt that I can't take my eyes off of. Also, as a single separate piece is the chestbox, its hose, and the grey straps that come off it and go around the legs, all of which is good work and can come off the figure (though I think you'll have to remove the leg straps by pulling the legs apart at the knees which may end up breaking) leaving some sizeable holes because of how well they're integrated with the figure.
Dutch's face is very smooth and his features a tad generic, his hair sticking out the sides a little only makes him look less recognizable with his helmet off. Once again, the arms are a little strange, I guess pilots get weird arms in this wave. His right shoulder is permanently away from his body about 30 degrees, and the elbow is permanently bent. The left arm is straight but below the elbow moves away from the body which looks a little odd unless he's holding his helmet.
[font=Verdana] Pose: 4/5 (both)
[/font] Both figures have a neutral pose without seeming like a robot, but because of their arms, they aren't great for posing; both can also stand on their own without help. Oh, and both figures have itchy trigger-fingers, but neither are separate from the hands.
The TIE Pilot's legs are close together and his left arm is straight so this is a good standing look for ANH, but his right arm is very bent and close to his body so it doesn't really fit in well with the pose (unless you pose him toasting a glass of champagne, then it's perfect). Also, the helmet's upward tilt hinders the look, but overall nothing here is terrible. In a TIE cockpit he's very basic (don't blame the figure, blame the antiquated toy design), and because his legs start lower down his body he sits higher than earlier TIE pilot figures, but the cockpit can still close - his articulated knees don't help there, though they work perfectly in the Vader Gunner Station.
Gold Leader's standing pose has a slightly wider stance but nothing ridiculous. His right arm always being away from his body looks a little strange and out of place. His left arm shouldn't look that weird but for some reason it always does until its holding the helmet, then it looks totally natural. Thankfully, the figure can sit naturally in the Y-wing cockpit - although you have to unplug his rear strap - but I couldn't get him all the way into Luke's Dagobah X-wing because of what I believe is a leg room problem... maybe he could fit with enough work, but I dunno.
[font=Verdana] Paint: 4.5/5 (TIE Pilot); 4/5 (Gold Leader)
[/font] Neither of these guys are sporting tons of paint, and they both have good but not great paint on their chestboxes, so how did they get different scores?
The TIE Pilot has a basic look, black on black with a splash of black - it's amazing that Lucas was able to get these guys to show up on film at all. The figure is cast in black plastic, but uses sculpted texture changes to make different elements like the boots, belt and vest stand out. The chestbox and left wrist comm device have some paint apps on the various buttons and switches, and the shoulders each have a neatly-applied Imperial logo. What I really like is the subtle grey paint wash on the chestbox hoses that lead to the helmet, which they also used a little of on the "mouth" grill.
Although I like the eye lenses being painted dark reddish-grey, the applications on every one I've seen so far have had varying degrees of slop; I also found that the helmet's Imperial logos were unevenly applied both in thickness and location, so double-check the paint before buying. But overall, the paint here is judicious and effective.
Orange. This is, of course, Gold Leader's primary color and Hasbro cast every piece in that bright orange color except 1 glove, the belt, the chestbox and its gear (cast in translucent yellow plastic), the vest, and the head and neck. The chestbox has some paint apps but nothing tremendous; the tubes around his left shin are painted silver, as are the encoders on his left shoulder though these are small and sloppy; and the right glove and both boots are painted black with a tiny amount of slop where it ends. The vest has a great off-white color and it's very well-applied, even the sculpted straps painted black that intersect it have no troubles where you'd usually find big trouble.
Hasbro often has a tough time with eyes and here is no different, on mine one eye is even larger than the other, but even if they weren't they're still too thick just like the eyebrows. The hairlines are a little weak too, but at least they're underdone instead of bleeding over their lines. My chief complaint though is that the orange of the outfit could use a subtle paint wash to bring out its detailed sculpt and give it some life.
[font=Verdana] Articulation: 4/5 (TIE Pilot); 3.5/5 (Gold Leader)
[/font] Lately, Hasbro has been removing the waist articulation from some figures and I don't understand why. In the case of the TIE Pilot - as well as a few other figures from around the same release time - he actually could have an articulated waist but the crotch piece's upper section is squared off to prevent any rotation unless excessive force is used (which may result in damaging the figure). The pilot figure's articulation consists of: standard neck, shoulders, swivel right lower-bicep, rotating gloves, standard hips, and universal knees. The gloves are a welcome touch, and as mentioned earlier the hips look very nice, but it's the knees that really take the cake here - both bending and rotating, and doing it all without looking bad unlike the recent Jabba's Palace Luke; I wish the right bicep articulation let the arm straighten like the aforementioned Luke though. What I really would have liked to see was a neck tilt that let the figure look up and down, he needs it badly.
Unlike the TIE Pilot, Gold Leader's waist is the same piece as his torso so he never had a chance at doing the twist. What he does sport though is: standard neck, shoulders, swivel right lower-bicep, rotating left glove, standard hips, universal knees... and a very strange hidden tilt in his upper neck. The right glove not rotating is a disappointment, and I wish they had put a swivel in his left arm somewhere because of the way it pulls away from the body; the right bicep swivel is adequate, but doesn't make up for the shoulder being always away from the body. The knees are very good and the articulation is hidden by the separate straps which even move up out of the way when you bend the knee. Then there's the crazy neck tilt - which you can't even see evidence of from the front until it's in use because it's so well-integrated, then it stands out like a sore thumb - this neck articulation tilts the head up using a hinged tongue-in-groove design, even though it only has a few degrees of range (and looks pretty bad doing it), it is fairly effective to have him look around.
[font=Verdana] Accessories: 2/5 (TIE Pilot); 3.5/5 (Gold Leader)
[/font] Gold Leader has 2 accessories. They gave him a standard ANH rebel blaster - the Rebel fleet troopers' weapon of choice - this accessory is also the POTJ sculpt of that gun and it's even more detailed than the POTJ Imperial blaster, though because it has a trigger guard and the figure's trigger-finger is sculpted to his hand, it doesn't quite work out here that well (not that he really needs a gun anyway). This gun has silver painted halfway up the barrel, so you might want to give it to the Captain Antilles figure who has an all-black version.
Then there's Gold Leader's helmet which appears to be a new sculpt and looks very nice, the helmet now has an included chin strap and mic. The paint job is quite detailed and well-applied except for the chin strap paint. The helmet has the clear yellow lens, and even though the left side doesn't seem quite right on the bottom, once it's on the figure it looks just great - strangely, once it's on the figure, it also makes the figure's face more recognizable.
The TIE Pilot has the aforementioned standard Imperial blaster that we've been seeing since POTJ, it's got an accurate sculpt and size, but nothing to write home about really - still, something to give to the blasterless Super Articulated Stormtrooper figures. It's pretty loose in his hand, so they clear-banded it in there thus bending the grip a little and leaving an imprint. The black plastic is a little too shiny and dark, but that's a minor nit to pick.
Finally, both figures come with the generic Star Wars figure stand, but thankfully, Hasbro has fixed the serious interlocking problem that I mentioned in previous reviews. Upon comparison, the original version of the stand had bumps behind each notch - probably designed for tension - but they likely overestimated how much the plastic would shrink; these new versions not only have no bumps, but each notch has an additional groove cut behind it, no more than a few millimeters deep but enough for the tabs of either version of the stand to interlock with this updated design -- if you're feeling adventurous, you could even try sanding or cutting your older stands to match. These new stands also have round foot pegs where the old ones have hexagonal pegs; and the new ones have "1M" or "2M" stamped into the undersides where the originals don't, so besides the extra groove and round peg, this will help you tell them apart.
[font=Verdana] Overall Grade: [font=Verdana] B [/font] [/font] [font=Verdana] (TIE Pilot) [/font] [font=Verdana] [font=Verdana] ; A- [/font] [/font] [font=Verdana] (Gold Leader) [/font]
[font=Verdana] [font=Verdana] [/font] [/font] I like both of these figures even though they each have a few issues. Both updated costume sculpts are like they were taken straight off the big screen and that really counts for something with me. Gold Leader is an impressive new Rebel pilot figure and I think a must-have. The TIE Pilot proves that sometimes even the smallest of details can affect how a figure works overall, but is still definitely worth giving a chance. [/font]