Astromechs are a figure type that I really thought Hasbro couldn’t improve upon. The original R2-D2 from the POTF2 line gave way to the R2 w/holographic Leia figure, and steadily they just kept improving the astromech design. We wound up with many variants, maxed-out articulation on the droids, and crisp/clean sculpts that looked fantastic... Could Hasbro improve on perceived perfection? R4-G9 just showed that even the best can be tweaked to be better though... Read on and explore the reasons
-Sculpt: While not a vast improvement over past astromech sculpts, R4-G9’s sporting some incredible detailing and he seems to be a little more crisp perhaps than recent (and fantastic in their own right) astro’s like R4-M9 or R3-T7... That’s a plus, and really this figure only had the task of matching the quality of previous figures that I considered to be top-notch. I like to think that when Hasbro sets a precedent, it’s really in a sense their obligation to match it, and they did just fine this time.
The body of the figure features many recessed panel lines and detailing. It’s all very uniform and symmetric, just as the droids are in real life. Like the body, the head features plenty of panel lines, and the “eyes” on him are very prominent.
The “light pipe” feature on many astromechs is back, and this time an orange tinted eye lights up very brightly when a light is shining above. I love this feature, though you do notice the color difference of the light pipe on the figure. To me, it’s a fair trade-off.
The one jump in sculpt that our loyal little R4-G9 features over previous astromechs is the cables on his feet. Astromechs in the film have these cables that run from their ankles to their feet (for lack of a detailed description on it), and in the past they were basically just a part of the foot’s sculpt. Hasbro first tried sculpting the cables as a realistic separate piece on the VOTC R2-D2 figure, and R4-G9 sports the same super detailing by having the foot cables a separate sculpt attached to the figure’s feet.
A nod to Hasbro for recognizing probably the last major way to improve a figure like this, and implementing it! It’s simply fantastic looking.
-Paint Aps/Deco: Another area of astromechs that have been fairly well executed (especially in the latest versions of these figures) is their paint applications. R4 is no different, and thanks to a really innovative color choice from Lucasfilm, the figure stands out in an astro-droid line-up!
Actually though, the fans got to vote at one point during Revenge of the Sith’s production on an astromech color choice, and this is what they picked. Technically it wasn’t Lucasfilm that made this decision, but the fans. And the fans got a figure of their astromech figure right away in the Preview Wave which is a really nice nod to the general public to allow them some votes on something, even if it’s as minor as this droid in the film.
With that said, the paintjob on the figure is relatively simple but well executed. My sample has lots of bronze-ish paint highlighting panels all over the body of the figure. The lines are all crisp and clear, and there’s very little bleeding or overspray anywhere that paint was applied. Some silver highlights here and there also help the figure’s paintjob pop out, and make it a little more complex than it otherwise would have been.
The dome features the same bronze-ish and silver highlights, and they’re just as clean. Again, the orange light-pipe in the dome stands out in the overall decoration, but I like the feature enough that I personally overlook the pipe’s slight aesthetic intrusion.
Beyond all that, there’s a very faint blackwash on the figure to highlight some of the sculpt details. It gives the droid the “used” feeling of the Star Wars universe, and I like that. In short though, the paint’s good if not a bit simplistic, and that’s about what you have come to expect.
-Articulation: Astromechs can be shorted on articulation… Hasbro’s proven this in the past. R4-G9 doesn’t suffer that fate, as he sports what I consider to now be the bare-minimum total for all astromech figures.
He has articulation at:
-2 basic shoulder joints
-3 hinged ankle joints
-1 extendable 3rd leg joint
-1 rotating (360 degrees) dome
With a total of 7 points of articulation, he’s doing better than the earliest figures in the POTF2 line. For an astromech droid, that is simply all you can hope for, and I’m pleased to see R4 sport all the articulation he can handle. Only additional appendages could feature additional articulation really.
-Wheels In Feet: I’m counting the wheels in the feet as a “Pro” and a “Con”… You’ll see later why I personally feel it’s a negative. For now, I’m listing the wheels in the feet as a positive because I know some people look at this as favorable.
The figure, when all 3 legs are extended, can roll somewhat easily on a smooth surface, ala the POTJ R2-D2 figure. That’s a plus in the eyes of some, and for Hasbro to go out of their way to include this says something about the effort they took in trying to improve the basic astromech figure as we knew it. An “A” for effort to Hasbro at least, and for the fans of the mobility the wheels offer to the figure, they’re getting a major plus with this one.
-Action Feature (Extending Center Leg): Rarely does one read where I praise an “action feature”. I’m not even sure this is an action feature in its truest sense, but I’m going to label it that way for my own sanity.
The feature I speak of is the leg… When you turn R4-G9’s dome clockwise, the center leg actually extends on the figure. It’s an ingenious feature, and one I’d personally like to see incorporated into more astromechs. The reason it works so well though, is the fact that it doesn’t obstruct the figure in any way. The dome turns completely, retaining its full motion, and the feature works flawlessly. The leg extends and retracts with ease.
Hasbro really went above and beyond on this astromech to make him something special compared to others. For a droid that ultimately saw little screen time, R4 got the royal treatment it seems. The bar has been set a bit higher now, in my point of view.
-Accessories: Astromech figures in general have been shafted when it comes to accessories. On that end, I should really probably praise R4-G9 that he even comes with one. However, I think Hasbro’s proven they can pack quite a bit in with a figure to make him a bit more interesting while he’s hanging there on the pegs. I mean, look at the ROTS Clone Commander figure after all? He’s brimming with articulation, and accessories.
With that said, R4-G9 comes with one accessory. It’s a small hologram of the planet Utapau (or so the film goes), and it connects rather nicely to the figure’s holo-transmitter eye (that all astro’s seem to have). It’s neat in concept, but kinda lame in execution. And I wouldn’t complain had something else been packed in with him… Anything, even if not in the film, would’ve been appreciated… Like a mini-holo Obi-Wan or something? I don’t know.
R4’s little holo-Utapau is kind of lame. It is translucent blue plastic, which is fine, but the planet has some green splotches painted on it. It’s so blue one would think they’re attacking a water planet instead of one just filled with giant pot-holes. The accessory’s other flaw is that it falls under its own weight more often than not. Flimsy accessories are nothing new, but also annoying.
So, between a simple lack of “stuff”, and the sorta “meh” feeling you get from the little planet (it’s neat in its own way, just not eye-popping), this is a little blight on an otherwise grand figure.
-Wheels In Feet: Here’s why I DON’T like wheels in the feet of my droids… It hinders their standing.
Now, to the defense of the figure, My R4-G9 still stands. Either 3-legged or 2-legged, he can stand. The wheels aren’t too obtrusive, but to be perfectly honest, I would’ve been just as happy to not have them. I think they maybe would make the figure more appealing to a kid, but one never knows.
A minor gripe, again, like the accessories… So that’s that.
First, I’m a fan of astromech droids in general. If I had my way, Hasbro would pack a repaint of this sculpt (or R3-T7, R2-Q5… One of the “better” astromech sculpts) into case assortments at random. Various paintjobs, as there are plenty to pick from just from the films (never mind the EU material), and maybe even made up paintjobs for droids that just could’ve been there but you didn’t see. I’d buy them all.
Hasbro’s sitting on a popular idea with astromech repaints.
And with that said, I highly recommend the R4-G9 figure if you don’t have one. He’s got a minor part in the film, but he’s still a great figure, and the kind you can never have too many of. He’s still available in some areas, even around me, though he seems to have dwindled off since just prior to the ROTS release. It could be that people just wanted to fill their Obi-Wan Kenobi Starfighters with him.
He’s a good one, and Hasbro deserves credit for improving on a figure type that was as close to perfect as it gets!