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Captain Toy/Michael's Review of the Week

Review of Darth Vader - Star Wars A New Hope
Sixth Scale Action Figure

Hot Toys
Date Published: 2016-01-18
Written By: Michael Crawford
Overall Average Rating: 3 out of 4

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Star Wars Darth Vader sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

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Introduction

When Hot Toys announced they'd be producing sixth scale Star Wars figures, it was no surprise that we would see a ton of Force Awakens characters from them. With some new favorites and several old reliables to choose from, collectors were assured of getting plenty of figures from the newest installment.

What was surprising, at least to me, was the fervor and determination that they exhibited in going after A New Hope. We've gotten Obi-Wan, Luke, Han and even Chewbacca, a figure I never expected to add to my collection. The first great Princess Leia is due any day, and a few weeks ago they started shipping the focus of tonight's review: Darth Vader.

Vader has been done in sixth scale a number of times, and it's always a treat. He seems to get the utmost care and consideration from any company, and Sideshow's deluxe version of him (released about two years ago) won the Poppie award for best figure in this scale for 2014.

Hot Toys version is based on the designs and style of A New Hope, allowing it to fit in seamlessly with the other designs from that film.  He started shipping several weeks ago (I'm on the late side with this one!), and retails for around $300.

Click on the image below for a Life Size version
Star Wars Darth Vader sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

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Packaging - ***
This is the usual shoe box design, with a printed cardboard insert cover that adds a bit of color and beauty to the otherwise basic style.  There's a single plastic tray, and all the accessories fit inside thanks to some intelligent package engineering. It's all collector friendly of course, but getting the plastic wrap 'booties' off the boots will probably require a knife. I wish they'd do them so you could simply slip them off - I hate working around my figures with a sharp blade.

There are also instructions, which can be helpful when figuring out the complexity of the light and sound features.

Star Wars Darth Vader sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

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Sculpting - ****
There are fans much more obsessive than I when it comes to the helmets of Vader and the Troopers. To my eye, this is a damn good match to the look he had in the first film, including the size and shape of the helmet itself, how it sits on the lower section, and the overall shape and depth of the face plate. I suspect the overall shape of the head could be a smidge squatter (which isn't a word), but that's me picking nits.

While the helmet itself has that super buffed clean metallic surface appearance, I love the addition of the brush marks on the 'metal' around the mouth and nose. You'll only notice them in just the right light, and it creates a realism that I think works quite well.

I also really like the way they created the gloved hands on this figure. Instead of the usual, where the entire gloved hand is sculpted, they used actual cloth for the lower half. This cloth attaches to the back of the hard plastic hand via a small patch of Velcro. It looks great, and works even better, allowing unrestricted wrist articulation.

The majority of the sculpted armor looks great (I will complain about the greaves when I get to the Outfit section), and the size of this figure seems just about right. He has plenty of bulk, and comes in at just a hair below 13 1/2".

Star Wars Darth Vader sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

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Paint - ****
The jet black color varies from metallic shine (like on the helmet) to a flatter matte on the neck and face. This variation looks great, and even smaller details, like the silver tips at the edges of the mouth, are clean and neat. Getting this coverage super clean and consistent was the most critical aspect, and they've done an excellent job.

There are some other small details on the control boxes and chest panel, and once again, these are super clean and sharp. There's very little slop, even with the tiny buttons.

Star Wars Darth Vader sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

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Articulation - ***1/2
The large underlying TrueType has all the usual articulation, and some areas work far better than you might expect.

For example, while you might expect the neck to be hindered by the armor, they've done a nice job designing the sculpt to allow for a decent range of movement, including side to side and forward/back tilting.

The shoulders are a bit restricted by the armor, but you can still get some great arm poses thanks to the excellent elbow and wrist joints.  As I said, the gloves don't effect the posing of the hands or forearms at all. Even the torso joints inside the thick padding work quite well.

The thick material on the legs will hinder deeper stances, but Vader was never a guy to squat. The hips and knees work well, and my only real disappointment is the ankles. While they went with soft, pliable boots, the ankle joints inside didn't want to respond to pressure very well. I wasn't about to get too crazy trying to get the kind of rocker movement I wanted (and expect), but you might have better luck.

Also in this section, it's worth nothing that the inner robe has a thin wire inside the edge around the bottom to allow for some basic posing. It can't hold any extreme poses, but you can use it to provide a little more dynamic flow to some stances.

Star Wars Darth Vader sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

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Accessories - ***1/2
Vader comes with quite a bit out of the box, although the majority of it involves the Interrogator droid.

He does have 9 individual hands: one set of fists, one set of saber grips, one set of loose grips, and one set of splayed gesturing hands, along with a single gun grip right. They swap easily enough (remember to undo the Velcro!) and there's a couple extra wrist posts just in case.

There is also the saber hilt and red blade. This hilt can be worn on the belt, and the hilt can be removed and used with the extra light up right arm.

This arm is the same arrangement that we saw with Luke and Obi-Wan. The lower arm, hand and hilt are all a single piece, but the wrist articulation does work relatively well.  You get forward and backward movement, along with SOME turn...just not a full 360. Swapping arms is a huge pain in the neck however - more on that in the Light Feature section.

The Interrogator Droid is a huge plus with this release. The droid 'floats' on a clear rod with a small plastic base. This small base - identical to what we saw with the training droid that came with Luke - is too tiny to hold the large droid up on its own reliably, but it does snap into the larger grate display base that comes with Vader.

The droid has five separate 'tools' that attach at various spots on its body. Using the instructions you should be able to figure out where each goes, and they attach without danger of damage.

The final item is Vader's base, complete with small removable name plate.  This grate is a little small for both the droid and Vader to stand on at once, but it's more critical for the droid than for Vader.

Star Wars Darth Vader sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

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Sound Feature - *1/2
Here comes the rub. A huge reason you're spending $300 on this figure - which is extremely high even for Hot Toys - is the sound feature.  There is a small remote control, and pressing a button (the remote has the words 'Star Wars' imprinted on it, and the 'W' is the button) activates one of seven different lines.  These are all very clean, in James Earl Jones' voice, and the speaker is loud and crisp. So why the super low score?

Because the feature is *almost* worthless. The battery compartment and switch are located on his back, just above the waist.  To insert the batteries, you must remove the head, the cape, the inner robe, the shoulder armor, and the chest panel. Then you must open the Velcro on the outer ribbed suit and an inner fabric body suit.  You spread these two layers out as best you can, pulling them downward at the waist to get to the screw on the battery compartment panel.  Once you manage to get the batteries in place and closed back up, you flip the on/off activation switch located next to this compartment, close up the two layers of Velcro, replace the chest panel, shoulder armor, outer robes, cape and head, and using the remote, you can now play the various sounds.

That is, unless you don't use it for about 15 minutes. At that point, the sounds will no longer work until you flip the on/off activation switch from on back to off and back to on. To do this requires all the steps I outlined above - now you get why it's pretty much useless?  You'll use it once, and that will be the only time you do.  I tried it out to hear how well the speaker and sounds worked, then immediately pulled the batteries and put everything back, never to use it again.

This is the worst design we've seen from Hot Toys with their light or sound features (I don't have Thanos yet, but I hear there are some issues there as well), and I don't understand why they dropped the ball.  I assume this convoluted design was to allow the remote to be used, since Hasbro included simple push button talking features with their 12" Vader and Obi-Wan, and never required this sort of gymnastics.

Light Feature - **
Along with the sound feature, there are several working lights. Of course, his saber lights up red, illuminating the red plastic blade, but there are also several small lights on the two control boxes on his belt. 

The light up saber works the same as both Obi-Wan and Luke, but the red color means that it isn't as bright in normal light. You'll have to darken the room quite a bit to see it, but this isn't a fault of the feature, but rather the color. Perhaps if they had used a white LED and depended on the red plastic to give it the color, it would have worked a bit better.

The small lights on the control boxes work well enough, although they are so tiny that once again you'll need to be in a pretty dark room to notice them. They have their own switches on the bottom of each.

The biggest problem is swapping the right arm. Unlike the earlier two figures, Vader has that restrictive thick body suit, making it hard to see and line up the elbow joint properly. It's important to get it right, since putting too much pressure on the hand and wrist could damage the wiring. I swapped arms once to take a couple lit photos, and swapped back, never to swap again.

The batteries for the light and sound effects are all included, but you'll need to insert them in the appropriate compartments.

Star Wars Darth Vader sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

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Outfit - ***1/2
I'm loving this outfit.  The padded body has properly sized arms (a shortcoming with the Sideshow version), and overall the proportions are excellent.  The codpiece sits up at the right height (another problem with the Sideshow version), and there is Velcro on the belly to properly align and maintain the position of the belt.

The cape is one of my favorite features, made from a very high quality, heavy material. It hangs beautifully, and is a critical aspect to the realism of the overall appearance. That's not to say it's perfect, and I did have two nits.  First, the chain is plastic instead of metal, and considering the price point I felt that was inexcusable. The chain isn't required to hold the cape in place, thanks to a smart design by Hot Toys. There's an elastic band that actually goes around the neck post that keeps the cape on, so there's no weight on the plastic chain.

The second issue is actually caused by the elastic band, so I suppose this is a classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don't. While using it allows the cape to rest and hang much better, it also makes it tough to get the edge of the cape and chain over the edge of the neck armor. Whether this is a big problem or not will probably be a personal taste issue.

The only real issue I have with the outfit - and the reason for the half star drop from perfect - is the greaves.  They are a hard plastic, held in place with Velcro on the front of the soft boots. Something about their feel, their look, and the way the soft ankles on the boot bunches up and sticks out in back, seem out of place on a figure in this price range.

Star Wars Darth Vader sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

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Fun Factor - ***
While a figure like this isn't quite as posable as Luke or Obi-Wan, he does have a great enough range of movement to get some very classic, very iconic poses. You should have plenty of fun re-posing him with other characters, either battling with Obi-Wan or marching with Troopers. He'll also go great with Leia, once she starts shipping.

Star Wars Darth Vader sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

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Value - *
Three hundred dollars is a whole lot of money, even for a talking figure. If the figure had a light up feature and a sound feature that were four star material, this score would have been much better, and spending that kind of money would seem appropriate. However, with a useless sound feature and a weak light feature, there's simply no way you can feel you got your money's worth.

Star Wars Darth Vader sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

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Things to Watch Out For -
Swapping that right arm can be quite tricky. Whatever you do, remember to put the cloth glove on the saber arm before attaching it, otherwise you'll be taking it off and starting over.

Overall - ***
This was a tricky one, because I almost dropped him another half star.  The light up feature and sound feature, both of which are theoretically driving the extremely high price point, are frustrating or useless. That's not a good way to sell me on a figure.

However, the sculpt, paint, outfit and accessories are all excellent stuff. Thanks to the beefier look, new glove design, and gorgeous cape, this guy is more impressive on the shelf than the deluxe Sideshow version.

It's true that many people won't care about the sound and light features.  But the simple fact is that you paid for them, and if you pay for them (whether you're going to use them a lot or not), they better damn well work. Drop the sound feature, design the arm so it doesn't have to be swapped blind, and price it out at $240 - there's a four star figure.

Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ***
Sculpting - ****
Paint - ****
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - ***1/2
Sound Feature - 1/2
Light Feature - **
Outfit - ***1/2
Fun Factor - ***
Value - *
Overall - ***

Star Wars Darth Vader sixth scale action figure by Hot Toys

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Where to Buy 
Online options include these site sponsors:

- comes in at $288.

- is at $300.

- Sideshow also has him at $300.

- or you can search ebay for a deal.

Related Links -
The most recent release of Vader in this scale was the Sideshow Deluxe Return of the Jedi Vader from a couple years ago.

Hot Toys has also done Tatooine Luke Skywalker, Luke in his Stormtrooper Disguise, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Han and Chewbacca from the Original Trilogy. If you'd like a bit more of a regular Stormtrooper, they've done him as well, along with a Blackhole version. Sidseshow has helped out this year as well, with their Hoth Han, Hoth Luke, Tauntaun, Speederbike, and Scout Trooper.

You should also hit the Search Reviews page, in case any other applicable reviews were done after this one was published.

Discussion:
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This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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