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Sandtrooper

Every wave seems to have at least one army builder you can’t help but go broke picking one up here and one up there. For Coruscant there was the Utapau Clonetrooper, Geonosis had that figure as well, plus there was Sun Fac who I think is a good army builder himself. The Vintage Collection of course has the amazing Biker Scout as well, and there seems to be more well done army builders in the future too. The Tatooine Wave had its own addictive figure, and it’s the subject of this week’s review. I speak only of the Imperial Sandtrooper figure.

Hasbro gives fans something they’ve longed for now for quite a while with this Sandtrooper. They deliver a pseudo-re-release of the VOTC Stormtrooper, possibly the best and single most desirable army builder ever to grace the modern line. I mean, which figure could be more asked for than a super articulated version of the Empire’s endless supply of cannon fodder? They’re in all 3 classic films in abundance, and a figure Hasbro just never seems to have on the pegs routinely even though they should. The “new” Sandtrooper fills that role slightly. It’s not the basic trooper we all want but it’s a nice substitute till Hasbro wakes up and smells the cappuccino burning. Read on and see why this is a figure you’ll want in bulk for your collection too.

PROS

-Sculpt: Like it or hate it, the VOTC Stormtrooper’s sculpt is so far the best that Hasbro has been able to dish up for the Empire’s men in white. There are slight detail variances from the actual costumes I am told, but they’re minor differences in my (humble) opinion, and I really feel that this figure is the ideal for me. Can it be better for accuracy? Perhaps, however I am completely content with what we’re getting with this figure.

The new Sandtrooper only slightly changes up the details of the VOTC Stormtrooper. The belt and some slots on the figure’s back for his pack. Beyond that it appears there is little changed about it to note. The armor’s smooth contours with sharp raised ridges all seem very sharp and realistically sculpted. The way the ball/socket joints are sculpted, they seem to sink into the armor plates so you can scarcely point out any joint in particular on the figure. It’s really one of the higher quality toys Hasbro’s put out that combine grand visual appeal with great playability/poseability.

The little details on the sculpt are fantastic as well. The creases at the ankles/tops of the feet on the shoes for instance are very nicely done and add to the figure’s realism. There are also somewhat sharp cuts to the figure’s forearms that allow the arms to pose more sharply up towards the bicep. This is an appreciated effort on the part of the sculptor, as this helps the figure aim a blaster more realistically. This is lacking on the recent VTSC Biker Scout for instance and is a somewhat negative aspect of the figure’s arm poseability.

The date stamps on the figure’s leg are changed to show “2005” however it seems that this figure is almost completely based on the VOTC Stormtrooper. The only noticeable difference is that the figure’s belt appears to be a new sculpt. Hasbro unfortunately didn’t fix the holster so it was better and more “complete” to hold a blaster, but other than that it looks quite nice and fits with the other fine details of the figure.

Last the trooper’s helmet is full of detail. This seems to be where most will cite the armor not looking great. For my money the sculpt is suitable. Perfect as it may not be, it’s got a lot of detail in raised and recessed surfaces. If this is the best Hasbro is ever going to do, I’d be perfectly content with it, but that’s me and I’m not a Stormtrooper armor expert to know every little detail of the costumes. For my $7 though, this figure is pretty sharp from head to toe.

-Paint Aps/Decoration: Much like the sculpt, the paint applications look pretty sharp and realistic. The color is fairly limited on the Empire’s shock troopers in the films, and so goes the toy, but Hasbro added a dull bit of wear and tear from the desert terrain on Tatooine to give the figure’s their trademark “Sandtrooper” look (Though I’d argue that “Sandtroopers” don’t exist… They’re just Stormtroopers in the desert, but that’s a nerd argument for another day).

The details painted on the figure are few, as noted, but well done. There’s black here and there to show the exposed body glove underneath the stark white armor. The black portions are all painted well and don’t bleed onto the armor which would be a real noticeable flaw if they did. My sample(s) are all clean though with these applications and that’s a very positive thing. The soles of the shoes on the figure are painted black as well to show tread and that is a nice application to help the footwear’s sculpt details stand out.

The figure’s belt has no color save for the black of the holster, but the real paint details come out on the helmet. The brow ridge of the helmet is black, as are the helmet’s eye lenses. What’s nice is the lenses are a shiny glossy black while all other black paint aps are dull flat colors, showing Hasbro does catch the little details sometimes. The helmet features grey vents on the “cheeks”, as well as silver spots on the breathing tabs in the front. There are some grey panels painted on around the helmet’s top, and other small details. Hasbro sees to it that the Stormtrooper helmet gets a good amount of paint detail even if the sculpt isn’t up to everyone’s standards.

-Accessories: Hasbro arms this Imperial Trooper to the teeth with a plethora of new and old sculpts for going out into the desert. This trooper also marks the first time that the little pack on the butt of Stormtrooper armor is made as a removable piece. This piece has some background from sourcebooks too, and I’ll be sure to list what it is for your reading pleasure. When you find out, you may want some extras of them… or not. I don’t know.

The first pieces of gear we’ll look at are the trooper’s new weapons. First he comes packing a Blastech E-11 Blaster Rifle. The typical Imperial grunt’s weapon and a common Imperial sidearm as well. The sculpt is re-used since the POTJ line and holds up well by today’s standards (despite the lack of a trigger guard). The new piece of weaponry this trooper comes with though is a nicely sculpted, cast, and painted, electro-staff thing… Basically it’s a shorter version of the shock prod looking tool that the Dewback Sandtrooper came with in the POTF2 Beast Assortment. The staff is great though because it’s all-new, features a hand guard, a sculpted “wrapping” around the handle, and detailed sculpts on the tip and base. The wrapping on the handle is painted a brownish color while the staff overall has silver paint blotches to show wear and tear on the grey cast plastic. What’s best though, is Hasbro actually cast the staff in a rigid plastic that won’t wilt under its own weight. Hasbro has been known to drop the ball in the past with weapons like this so it’s great they got it right this time.

Next up, the trooper’s back gear is examined. You unfortunately can’t have both pieces for the figure’s back on at the same time however it’s not really necessary to do so either. The first up is the trooper gets an all-new sculpt on the backpack. This is surprising really, but not unwelcome. Hasbro went all-out with the new pack’s sculpt, giving it lots of detail like raised and recessed lines to show panels and gadgets amidst his gear. There are various pieces of equipment sculpted to appear as though they are modular and would be removable for use in the field. It really looks fantastic though I wonder why Hasbro doesn’t re-use a pack sculpt they already have and just save the money on tooling a new mold. I’m sure it would save something in the process and I doubt it would garner a complaint.

The next piece of back gear is for the first time ever, Hasbro has sculpted the small cylindrical shaped “pack” that goes on the back of a Stormtrooper’s belt. Not all troopers are seen wearing one in the film though, namely Luke’s stormtrooper armor lacked this pack. The accessory is finely sculpted and easily removed. For the curious, this pack is a small Imperial explosive (A Thermal Detonator to be specific), for clearing out those particularly pesky rebel pockets of resistance. As a customizer I love having these accessories, but maybe I’m just easily entertained too. I dig it though.

And lastly the other piece of gear that makes this trooper recognizable as a “Sandtrooper” from the films is his removable Pauldron/Ammo Pouch. The pauldron is painted black with no known variations at the time of this review’s writing. The details on the pauldron seem spot-on to the films, and it fits the figure very well while still letting the head retain movement with little obstruction. This is the first time a black pauldroned grunt trooper has been offered in the basic line too, and since black indicates the basic troopers I’m sure that adds to the army building mystique this figure already has.

Other pack-ins then are the usual suspects that have come with figures in 2006. There is an embossed stand featuring the film the character appeared in raised on its surface and a silver name of the character painted on the one edge. There is also a randomly packaged holographic miniature figure snuck into the packaging as well. While the stand and miniature are nice, both required molds and effort to be produced and it’s my opinion that the money put into these “gimmick” accessory pack-ins would be better put into the figure itself. I prefer quality toys over gimmicks

-Articulation: Hasbro knocked the VOTC Stormtrooper out of the park as far as articulation goes. At the time in 2004, that figure was easily the most popular Star Wars figure to hit retail by my estimations, and it remains a much sought after figure by collectors today, so needless to say that poseability it had will carry over to help the Sandtrooper’s popularity today.

The new Sandtrooper features articulation at:
- 2 ball/socket shoulder joints
- 2 ball/socket elbow joints
- 2 standard wrist joints
- 2 standard hip joints
- 2 ball/socket knee joints
- 2 ball/socket ankle joints
- 1 ball/socket neck joint
- 1 ball/socket torso joint

That’s a grand total of 14 points of articulation, mostly ball/socket joints, making this a definitely super articulated Star Wars figure. The poseability is insane, and this trooper looks great running, gunning, hand-to-hand fighting, standing at attention, standing at ease, lying dead in the battlefield, kneeling, firing blasters… You name it, and this figure probably can be posed for it. It’s just a great army builder, and one you will definitely want more than one of.

I’ve managed to nab a number of the Sandtrooper already and I’m pretty happy to have done so as they go fast around me. The figures look great though attacking or just chilling in the street with my new Garindan figure. This figure is simply the kind of figure you wish you got all the time as far as articulation goes. I wish Hasbro would deliver more of this quality is my only real complaint here. This is what the fans want irregardless of how difficult the process is. Considering the cost of figures these days, I think this kind of articulation is what we deserve too.

-Customizability: A “Pro” that not every collector may appreciate is that the Sandtrooper is fairly easy to customize into basic Imperial Stormtroopers. The technique is to use a material called “Goof Off” (for removal of graffiti, paint, etc.). The material is strong though so be careful as it can damage plastic if you’re not cautious.

The technique is simple… You just rub the brown marks off the Stormtrooper armor, and soon you’ll have a pristine white trooper for your Imperial ranks instead of a Tatooine specific trooper. Like I noted, this may not be for everyone, but it’s a pretty simple effort and a positive a lot of fans have found in this figure since Hasbro’s so damned reluctant to give us basic Stormtroopers in the modern line that are of this quality and are in any abundance.

-Packaging: The Saga Collection packaging for each figure is an interesting mix of styles. You can definitely see some elements of the ROTS line mixed with elements of the OTC line, and that makes for a unique package on the shelves. I really enjoy the black cardback with silver lettering, and I hope it’s something Hasbro is willing to stick with for a long time to come.

I also highly enjoy the unique backgrounds for each figure. Pulling an element from the OTC line, the new Saga Collection packaging uses a film shot that pertains to each unique character, and really individualizes the figures. This is drool-worthy for the carded collector and it makes even the die-hard openers want a figure here and there to keep carded just because of how special the backgrounds are.

The bubble is a little closer to the ROTS line in its overall size and shape, but should lend itself more to staying mint for the carded guys. There’s also an insert depicting the specific character and the character’s name, packaged into the bottom of the package just as the Revenge of the Sith figures had. The insert features the bold blocky silver lettering of the Saga, and lets fans know that this is the universal collection of figures encompassing the entire Star Wars universe.

There’s a lot to like with this packaging so I hope it stays as the standard for a while. I would say that The Saga Collection and Original Trilogy Collection will go down as some of the most liked packaging by collectors for quite some time if Hasbro gives it a while, and this is coming from a guy that rips almost everything off its card at some point or another.

CONS

-Loose Fitting Gear: The negatives on the figure aren’t what I consider major problems, so we should be able to breeze through all this fairly quickly. Still, no figure in the line is perfect, not by a long shot it seems, and the Sandtrooper has his flaws for certain.

The first point is that the gear for the trooper’s back is less than stable. This issue is a design flaw, plain and simple, and really the kind of flaw that shouldn’t get past the planning stage before it’s caught and changed so the figure can go into production. In this case, the backpack in particular isn’t sturdy on the figure’s back, and it’s very prone to falling off.

The simple fix for this would’ve been sculpting the tab on the backpack with a small “lip” so it somewhat snapped and fit snugly into the backpack while retaining the ability to be removable. The figure’s explosive for his belt fits more snugly and is less prone to falling off, but it’s still not the sturdiest piece of gear on the belt either, and can fall off if you play with the figure too much. As I noted, this is a design flaw that easily could’ve been caught and fixed before production, and really should have, but just wasn’t for whatever reason, so it’s definitely a negative worth noting.

-No White Variant: A minor quibble, and yes you can remove the paint if you want to, but not everyone has the urge to go through that kind of effort. It seems to me that fans would’ve loved if this trooper came in all white. Perhaps one day it will, as it would be a great re-release even with the pack, pauldron, and other gear that makes a Sandtrooper unique looking. I’d have loved if this figure came in all white with no sand markings in the first place though. For me though, I’d rather add weathering than take it off, so this is more a gripe of convenience and hardly worth mentioning.

If anything I think just a basic Stormtrooper on the pegs is long overdue. Fans long for the ability to buy the VOTC Stormtrooper in bulk, and Hasbro just keeps holding off for unknown reasons.

-Unimproved Holster: The sculpt of the holster on the VOTC Stormtrooper was less than stellar the first time around. The holster is actually half a holster with a key-notch type of cut on the inside of the holster. It’s sculpted so the barrel of the blaster pistol fits into the “key” shape. Unfortunately the design is a failure to keep the bulk of the holster down while retaining a working holster feature on the toy.

The original VOTC trooper’s holster was the exact same design and it didn’t work well then, so it’s obviously disappointing to see it re-used when the trooper’s belt SEEMS like it’s a new sculpt. It would’ve been nice had Hasbro resculpted the holster to work, however at the same time I appreciate the holster being there for what it is rather than not having any holster at all. Especially with the Sandtrooper, who also comes with his pike accessory, it’s nice for him to be able to put his blaster away and wield his stick of doom. So while I wish there was a resculpt of the holster to function better, it’s better than no holster at all.

-No Rank Variants: The pauldrons on Sandtroopers are basically just a way for stormtroopers and/or civilians to be able to identify ranks quickly in the field, or so it would seem anyway. Hasbro’s made all the ranks available now in one form or another, but to me I’m always happy with some variety. Unfortunately Hasbro didn’t give paint variations to show the different ranks on the pauldrons.

However the positive is that Hasbro’s offering the black pauldron for the first time in the basic line, and since they’re the grunts it really is the best for troop building I believe. A grey and white variation would’ve been cool I think. Hell you could keep offering this figure all year long and squeeze those variants out, and I highly doubt many people would complain about it. Certainly not me anyway. Still, the black pauldron is as good a choice as any, so I’m happy that’s the one they went with this time at least.

-Availability: So far, availability of the Sandtrooper is suspect. While I’ve found a handful at retail, I can’t say I’ve found the Sandtrooper in grand abundance as I would like. I’ve bought many of the ones I’ve seen, only passing here and there, and yet I know I want more. I’m hoping these will be available for quite some time and in quite some abundance, however I have my doubts that Hasbro is going to be that logical about it.

Stranger things have happened though, and the #41 Clone certainly got shipped in good quantity last year. Maybe I’m hollerin’ before I’m hurt here with this one, I just easily see the Sandtrooper becoming a highly sought after figure a month from now because not enough made it to retail in the first place to satiate the army building demand. Here’s hoping for the best though!

-Price Hike: Star Wars figures have taken a jump in price at most all retailers in 2006, and while we paid $5 - $6 for most of our Revenge of the Sith figures throughout most of 2005, figures are up to $7 after tax at most retailers, even the usually stalwart for cheap prices, Wal-Mart. Hopefully Hasbro and Retail will see the light that price increases in this day and age means that people may become more tight with their spending.

I know a price hike will affect my buying habits, and I’ll buy fewer extras of any figure I maybe wanted extras of. I’ll cut back on army building, custom fodder buying, and other areas that I otherwise maybe would have spent more freely. That $1 or $2 starts to add up over 60 or so figures though. With no retailer seemingly wanting to budge on their standard price, things aren’t looking good for a decrease anytime soon. So keep your eyes peeled for sales because when they happen I’ve noticed that figures that were sitting suddenly fly off the pegs.

The price hike sucks, and what really is tough to accept is that in 2006 we’ve seen many fewer figures with “great” articulation like we saw in last year’s line for ROTS. This decrease in overall “quality” coupled with the price increase just hasn’t sat well with me about this year’s line-up. Though those nicely articulated gems like the AT-AT Driver or whatnot do sneak in there.

OVERALL

Well that wraps up the grand army builder of the Tatooine Wave’s review. This figure is easily one of my favorites so far in 2006. I love army builders, but more than that I love super articulated army builders. For this reviewer, I’m all about paying for the same figure twice if it’s of this kind of quality. That’s why I wish Hasbro would re-issue figures more logically. Why dump another Cantina Han on us (irregardless of what improvements are made) when the VOTC Han is waiting to be re-released. It’s vastly superior, and if you just painted the hands grey to simulate Han’s gloves on, or gave him a Falcon Headset, you’d sell the figure again and fans would eat it up because it’s a toy worth re-buying. Anyway though, where was I?

Well the Sandtrooper is pretty great, and obviously I’m a strong advocate of buying this one in bulk if you have the means. I know there are those out there that cite the army builders as a problem in this hobby, but the fact is you need to cite Hasbro as the problem. The Sandtrooper’s already getting cut back in revision cases of the Tatooine Wave! I mean, how is that even happening? Hasbro should be increasing the figure’s distribution, not cutting it. I’ve still not reached my quota on these I know, and nor have many of my army building buddies still on the prowl for Sandtroopers. Nevermind the customizers who plan on stripping the sand weathering down on the figure to make their Stormtrooper ranks grow.

Anyway, this trooper’s an easy purchase. You need at least 2, if not more. All your orange and grey troopers need someone to boss around of course. So get thee to the stores, find where these figures are hiding, and pick some up for yourself. You’ll be glad you did, as Hasbro doesn’t make army builder figures much better than this guy.

 

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