Last year saw Master Replicas' first use of LEDs in place of EL material for the saber blade lighting with the Darth Vader's Force FX lightsaber, and the effect there was wildly successful. This year, Master Replicas has released 2 more Force FX sabers with LED blades, the Mace Windu AOTC saber, and the focus of this review, the Luke Skywalker lightsaber from The Empire Strikes Back (ESB). This is the saber given to Luke by his mentor, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, who let the young Skywalker know that it was Luke's father's weapon and that he wanted his son to have it. Luke later used this lightsaber to defend himself from a Wampa, help down a massive Imperial AT-AT, and eventually confront the evil Darth Vader - where in the resulting battle he ultimately lost the saber... and the hand holding it. (Luke's replacement lightsaber in ROTJ was released as a Force FX saber by Master Replicas last year.) I was very impressed with the Vader Force FX saber, so I'll be comparing this Luke ESB model to it from time to time in this review.
The Luke ESB FX Lightsaber comes securely packed in its shiny black box with an image of the saber on the side as well as the familiar Star Wars logo and other information, faithfully complimenting the Vader FX Lightsaber's box - simple and classy. At 45.25 inches, the box is just over an inch longer than the saber itself, yet is quite capable of protecting its cargo. Inside, the saber is well-protected by a thick plastic bag and 2 styrofoam inserts which keep it from moving around, and under the middle you will find the main section of the display stand. Like the Vader FX saber, the box here mentions an included instruction guide but I have yet to find it, not that it's really needed.
The lightsaber's hilt has 2 removable yellow stickers that explain everything you need to know to get started: where the activation switch is located and how to unscrew the endcap to insert the 6 AA batteries. Taking care to follow the polarity of the batteries, the saber is ready to go in under 2 minutes. Flick the activation switch and one is greeted with both the familiar snap-hiss of the saber power-up sound and a brilliant blue light quickly crawls up the blade. The Force FX Lightsaber comes with a display stand which can be set on a table or, if you have 44" of free wallspace, can be mounted horizontally to a wall; the stand is black plastic with a raised gold Star Wars logo and uses 2 clear arms for the hilt and blade to rest upon.
The saber's weight is a hefty-yet-comfortable 1.8 pounds just like the earlier Vader FX version; and like its evil red counterpart, it measures in at 3' 8" - taller than an Ewok. Luke's FX Lightsaber may not be a dead-on exact replica (MR's designers had to make the hilt slightly bigger to hold the electronics) but it is incredibly close, the hilt has a few plastic accents - such as the 2 knobs, part of the activation box, and the screw-on endcap - but almost the whole exterior is metal which has a great feeling to it, including smaller parts, including nearly all of the multiple emitter parts and the D-ring at the bottom. The design is amazingly accurate to the ESB prop (which differs slightly from the ANH version), so faithful that even at a quick glance of this FX Lightsaber it's easy to see the original prop's Graflex 3-cell flash gun origins. Everything from the D-ring location to the activation box band to the recharge openings near the top are precisely designed to emulate the real McCoy right down to the silicon circuitboard piece set into the activation box; my favorite part of the hilt though is the detail of the complex emitter and shroud which gives the saber its character and requires more parts than the Vader saber.
The Luke ESB FX Lightsaber isn't just a display piece though, it's meant to be picked up and powered-on. The activation box on the prop is only for show, the FX saber's real activation switch is well-hidden so as not to alter the look of the hilt, so turning the FX saber on requires flicking the upper knob slightly forward. The long, white plastic blade tube is lightweight yet sturdy and encases a 64-LED core; turning the power on causes the LEDs to light in sequence creating a solid lit blade, crawling up to the tip in just under a second. The blue LEDs are as brilliant as the red ones of the Vader FX saber, which if you've experienced that piece you know is very bright even in regular indoor lighting; unlike the EL blade design, the LEDs light in the core so even looking straight down at the blade tip shows a bright light. Because of the emitter shroud design, the lit blade can be seen between the parts, Master Replicas didn't need to go that extra inch yet they did and made this saber experience that much more realistic. When done, slide the switch back and the LEDs quickly shut down in sequence, a hair faster than the Vader version.
Of course, the Luke ESB FX saber also has the corresponding lightsaber sounds, digitally sampled from the movie - specifically from The Empire Strikes Back as this saber's sound effects in A New Hope were significantly different. In fact, the sound effects used for this Force FX saber are taken from Empire's climactic duel rather than earlier scenes, the activation sound and idle hum on Luke's saber change throughout the film. The FX saber's sounds are crisp and clear, and are tied into various features of the saber: activation and deactivation are the most obvious (the saber deactivation is quicker than the Vader version just like in the film), but there are also several motion-activated sounds as well. The Vader FX saber occasionally experienced small issues in the sensors used to detect swing - sometimes that saber wouldn't detect swings while others it would sound like a wild battle from the tiniest movement - this Luke ESB FX saber is more responsive and accurate, and minimizes extra swing sounds. Where the Vader saber both in the movie and the Force FX version had but 1 clash sound effect, this Luke ESB FX model has 4 different exciting clash sounds and they're even randomized, making this the perfect compliment to the Vader FX saber; the clash sensor here is scantly less sensitive than the one in the Vader version, but it works aptly none the less. The saber is set at just the right volume coming out of the speaker in the endcap, loud but not obnoxious; due to the D-ring design of the prop, this FX saber is a bit quieter than the Vader saber.
The only nitpicks I have with this Luke ESB FX Lightsaber are the idle hum and swing sounds, both notes of which seem a little lower than in the film - not quieter, just lower register - it's minor and probably open to interpretation, but I wanted to mention it to be fair. Also, the Master Replicas promotional images showed subtle weathering at a few spots on the hilt that are not present on this production version, I actually prefer this clean look though.
Overall, the Luke Skywalker ESB Force FX Lightsaber is a fantastic Star Wars collectible by itself, yet also the perfect compliment to the Darth Vader Force FX saber. The Luke FX saber has a beautiful blue LED blade and fantastic sound effects, it truly embodies one of the key elements of Star Wars and brings the movie to life right in the palm of your hand. Dedicated fans will be amazed at the attention to detail on the hilt, and everybody nearby will be delighted and awed when it powers up before their eyes. This is one of the most influential lightsabers in the Star Wars saga, it personifies the Light side of the Force, and imbued an instant-backstory from the moment wizardly Ben Kenobi brought it out of that old chest, through Luke's Jedi training, and right up to the Cloud City battle -- and Master Replicas has thoroughly captured that with this incredible Force FX Lightsaber.