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Stormtrooper

The Vintage Original Trilogy Collection kicked off with a mix of emotions from collectors. Luke’s coat, Obi’s robe and lacking articulation, Leia’s likeness, and other similar issues deflated the hopes of many collectors. Leave it to Hasbro to save the best for last though, and subsequently make the last harder to find due to the first waves saturation of the market.

In today’s review we’re going to wrap up the VOTC by looking at what turned out to be the hottest figure of 2004. Hell, this figure’s been the most demanded figure since people first saw photographs of it. Super articulated Stormtroopers? How could Hasbro screw these up?

Well, nothing is perfect and that includes this amazing army builder. Sure he’s the best Stormtrooper out there, but there are some flaws. Some minor by my standards, but major to others. No matter how you slice it though, the VOTC Stormtrooper marked Hasbro’s first step in Imperial perfection. He really sets the bar high for Hasbro’s future Imperial ranks, regardless of flaws, and fans just can’t seem to get enough of this figure in their collection.

The VOTC line has been a fun set of figures to review because they generally have been Hasbro’s best foot forward. The best way to cap it off is with an army builder fans have wanted for years, and finally now can gloat that they have it in their collections. So read on for the full review to find out if you need one, or one hundred of this Stormtrooper in your collection. You really won’t want to pass on it all together.

PROS

-Sculpt: As with all the figures in the VOTC line, you were supposed to be getting premium everything, and sculpt always comes first in my reviews if it’s living up to expectations. The Stormtrooper matches up to the better figures in the VOTC line as far as sculpts go in general, though it’s probably not on par with Chewbacca or perhaps Lando.

The costume details of the Stormtrooper uniform are a matter of some conjecture. There are some subtle differences between the helmets in all 3 films, and to the expert they can become pretty big issues. Supposedly the VOTC Stormtrooper’s only real flaw is the helmet sculpt, but to this reviewer I see nothing wrong with it.

The Stormtrooper from the neck down doesn’t offer a lot of room for intricate detailing but yet the sculptor of this figure found some little things to highlight so fans can pick them out when examining their figure. For instance the soles of the shoes are sculpted to look as separate pieces on the boots. The boots themselves feature wrinkling/folding at the ankles as well instead of a smooth, flat foot.

The Trooper’s armor detailing is pretty straight forward… It’s smooth in the right spots, there’s raised ridges on the tops of the thighs, shins, and on the arm pieces as well. The hand guards feature the overlapping plates and ridges that you don’t see on the Clone armor as well, the belt features all the clip detailing and little pouches and whatnot.

Also, the belt’s got a holster on the left hip that’s intended to be functional (though has some poor design). It’s an “A” for effort though at least, and contrary to popular belief there are Troopers seen in Jedi with the holster, though the holster is more commonly seen in A New Hope (and thus some complaints were made since the figure is on a Jedi card).

The figure’s got a nice little bit of detailing at all of its “chinks” in the armor. The black body glove sticks out between each piece of armor a little, and at each joint the Hasbro sculptor made the body glove look a little wrinkled and folded. It’s a nice realistic detail to show there’s a man under the armor plating, and really adds something to an overlooked piece of the Stormie costume.

The last bit though, and where 90% of the sculpt’s detailing is I believe, is in the helmet. The truly anal Stormtrooper fan easily finds flaw with the helmet sculpt of this Trooper citing a number of flaws. To the layman though, the sculpt looks sharp and better than any Stormtrooper to-date. For me, it doesn’t deter my opinion of the figure in the slightest but it does get gripes from others.

I like the detailing in the helmet personally. The ridge on the nose is recessed, the eyes look just right in how far apart they are, the “mouth” details seem nice to me. I’m not overly picky though as well and do not know every nuance of this costume and its variations from the films. To me, this figure is a fine sculpt from head to toe, and I’m happy to have as many of the figure as I can find in my collection.

-Paint Aps/Decoration: No figure’s sculpt is complete without a good paint application, and Stormtroopers are pretty darn sparse with paint aps. Still though, they have some little detail work that is worth noting when it’s done right, and Hasbro gave this trooper the paint aps he needed while avoiding any extra effort to grime up the super clean troopers you saw for the most part.

The black of the body glove is nicely applied on my samples and doesn’t stray onto the white, which would be the most distracting flaw I’d think. The hands especially are nice, as they are most noticeable and don’t stray onto the armor on the back of the hand at all.

The Trooper’s trooper’s middle of his torso has some little “control” detail bits sculpted into him and features a few grey dots placed to highlight these bits. They’re all small, very “uniform” in their placement, and are not sloppily painted at all.

The helmet’s where most of the sculpt is, and most of the paint applications as well. The nosepiece features a pattern of black and grey paint aps that is pretty intricate and detailed with no sloppy application on any of my samples. The black lenses could stand a little glossy paint on them instead of the more flat color they are, but that’s fairly minor to me. The helmet’s brow ridge line is painted smooth and even, there’s grey “vent” lines on the sides of the cheek areas on the helmet, silver and black detailing around the mouth, and the grey panel markings around the crown of the helmet as well. All details nicely applied and none of them straying onto the white. The figure’s paintjob is fairly simple, but a clean super articulated, nicely sculpted Stormtrooper is what everyone wanted, and Hasbro delivered.

-Articulation: Hasbro’s super articulation doesn’t get much better than what they deliver. Short of adding ball/socket joints to the hips, the Stormtrooper is set to pose any way you could want him, from standing at attention to firing an array of Stormtrooper weapons at Jawas, Ewoks, or anything else.

The folks at Hasbro tried to deliver something special in the Commtech Stormtrooper, and that was nice at the time. The ball/socket shoulder added a bit of mobility, there was a good bit of articulation to enjoy and fans loved the figure at the time. It was lacking a lot of poseability though, that was obvious, and the VOTC Stormtrooper only serves to highlight that flaw a good bit more. Wrist joints being a key to a trooper holding a blaster properly, it’s probably the biggest improvement over the Commtech Trooper’s articulation levels. All the other joints just piled on the improvements to everyone’s favorite army building fodder though.

The Stormtrooper features articulation at the following points:
- 2 ball/socket 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 waist/torso joint

That’s an impressive total of 14 points of articulation, and almost all of them are ball/socket joints as well. Again the hips are really the only points you can improve this figure’s poseability from where it is. Will Hasbro ever take that step? Hard to say, but VOTC Luke had the hip joints so it’s within their grasp obviously.

The poses are seemingly endless too. The Stormtrooper’s great lying on the ground dead, running and gunning, hand-to-hand fighting, throwing Ewoks, standing at attention, aiming a rifle, firing from the hip, looking curious with his head tilted to the side, or whatever the hell you want to do with him. He’s easily the best army builder in the modern line and surpasses even the Clone Wars SA Clone Trooper who had a little limitation at his hip joints.

This figure isn’t just an improvement on the Commtech Trooper; it really makes the old figure obsolete in many ways. The Commtech will make a decent placeholder in scenes, but I think many collectors will have a large army of older Troopers they now just aren’t sure they’re happy with anymore. That’s fine by me though as the VOTC Stormtrooper is everything an army builder could want in a poseable Star Wars figure. He’s one of those figures you’ll have on your desk because you can’t stop playing with it long enough to put him on your display shelf. Darn near perfect work by Hasbro.

-Packaging: The packaging on the VOTC figures is probably the most ornate and eye-catching package for a Star Wars figure to-date. While the basic OTC line that shipped alongside the VOTC figures was nice, the VOTC definitely drew your attention as being something special.

A downside to the dazzling packaging was the cost, which like other features I’ll touch on that shortly in the “Cons” portion, however it was a cost a lot of people were willing to bite for “ultimate” versions of various figures.

The packaging is a recreation of the original vintage Kenner action figure cardbacks from the 1970’s and 1980’s. If you were like me, and can recall these figures adorning your local toy store (Ah, Children’s Palace… The days when a trip to the toy store meant something), then you no doubt have a feeling of nostalgia, just as Hasbro intended. The old style cardbacks are nice to see on the pegs, and they really do catch the eye like no modern packaging has been able to.

While Hasbro went to great lengths to recreate the front of the packaging, the back of the packaging was a modern style displaying 3 other figures from a specific wave. The waves were broken down into a Star Wars wave with the original Star Wars style card, an Empire Strikes Back wave styled accordingly, and then a Return of the Jedi wave.

Hasbro’s work to recreate the cardbacks was nicely done, and appreciated. This has so far been the only packaging I’ve wanted to save really. And Hasbro made saving the packaging easy if you were careful in getting the figure off the bubble, as they included a reseal-able protective clamshell over the figure’s card/bubble. Just perfect for keeping everything minty fresh, aside from that X-Acto knife slice along the bubble to get the figure out.

The end result is some nicely displayed toy on the pegs. A full set of the 12 VOTC cardbacks looks really nice displayed amongst your figure collection.

CONS

-Accessories: The accessory count of many of the VOTC figures has been a little sub-par. Chewbacca’s issue was his bandoleer of course, while a figure like Lando sported a simple blaster accessory. For the $10 price point the weak accessory count with some of the figures in the line deflates you slightly and the Stormtrooper packs a simple little blaster, not unlike Lando.

The blaster is the “E-11” Stormtrooper standard you see pretty steadily throughout the trilogy. It’s the small accurate sculpt of the weapon and that’s pretty great and expected. It would’ve been cool had Hasbro slipped in maybe a separate accessory like the longer rifle seen used on the Death Star, or perhaps even a small different weapon of some kind.

This is generally a minor gripe, and not a gripe at all except for the high price tag on these figures. The fact that these are an homage to their vintage counterpart doesn’t escape me, and that the vintage figure had a blaster and that was it. That’s fine, but they are still modern Star Wars figures, and $10 for any 3.75” figure makes one expect, or at least hope, for something extra. I think something like an extra rifle or whatnot would’ve been appreciated but by no means does it sour my opinion of the figure.

-Holster Design: The concept of functional holsters on Star Wars figures is great unto itself. It’s a simple plus to add to any figure who has a holster as it really doesn’t impact the cost of the figure but adds a little feature to the “play value” of the toy. It’s just a positive little thing that I love when Hasbro incorporates it into the figure’s design.

The Stormtrooper has a “functional” holster, but unfortunately the design of the holster didn’t work out as intended, and so blasters don’t sit in them well at all. The holster is designed to actually hold the barrel of the blaster like a key into a keyhole. There’s no back on the holster to keep it thin and natural looking, and the blaster is just intended to slip into a slot that locks it in place.

Unfortunately the holster doesn’t hold the blaster barrel well at all, and the barrel sticks out in the back. I still use the holsters on my troopers and tend to ignore this flaw but I’d be kidding myself if I said this was a perfect design that worked great. I think a full Stormtrooper holster that can hold the blaster is possible without looking overly bulky and awkward without the weapon in it, but Hasbro was trying to appease aesthetics over function with this one and thus we have a holster that now doesn't work well.

The H gets an “A” for the attempt from me, but an “F” for the execution. Maybe it’ll get fixed in the future if this figure sees the light of day again, as that would be appreciated. Some Stormtroopers don’t even have them so maybe the holster will get omitted completely in the future, who knows. Either way it’s a gripe many people have had about this figure since it came out.

-Helmet Sculpt: -Helmet Sculpt: Backtracking to the sculpt portion, I felt I should mention that a vocal group have voiced a substantial displeasure with the sculpt of this Stormtrooper’s helmet. Some going so far as to say it’s the worst looking sculpt ever. I would say to them that I disagree completely, but I do not know everything about Stormtrooper gear to say that they’re wrong either.

All I know is, watching the films and looking at this figure, I see no glaring differences really. The only gripe I can see right away is that the helmet does appear slightly small compared to the rest of the figure, as though it’s not proportioned EXACTLY to the body. That’s not to say it’s incredibly tiny either though, it just appears slightly smaller than perhaps it should be.

Again, this is an incredibly minor flaw to me. It’s not like he’s missing knee joints, or his helmet isn’t painted with all the proper colors and details or some such. It’s a minor gripe perhaps, one that I don’t even see to be totally honest, and so thus I list it with a little bit of an asterisk beside it as I don’t totally agree with the complaint myself.

If you wanted to hit home more for me, I guess it would be like a new Fleet Trooper figure not having his visor or communication box sculpted on him maybe. Though, I can safely say if it was an overall well sculpted, super articulated Fleet Trooper with all the features I enjoy (holster, removable helmet, etc.), I’d actually not care about that detail being left off. That’s me though, I guess.

-Retail Cost: Without a doubt, and probably the worst aspect of the VOTC line, is the cost that came with each figure. Some have been lucky to buy their VOTC sets on clearance, however most people paid the retail price which came to approximately $10 per figure or so. Not the cheapest price to pay for a single figure.

The cost of the figure can be blamed on a number of reasons. The VOTC line was touted for its “limited” nature, for instance, driving up costs due to lower production runs. The packaging was ornate, recreated by hand, and it required a lot of extra work for it to be done appropriately. The coffin blisters on the packaging even, to recreate the vintage look, were also “special” and added very slightly to the packaging costs. The special protective case surrounding the figure also would’ve been a noticeable increase in overall costs in producing these figures also. And that’s really only starting on where increases in costs could be hiding with the VOTC figures over basic modern figures.

I personally feel that VOTC figures are no more intricate or complex in their design than a basic figure is, as far as costs go. If you put VOTC on basic cardbacks, and at basic production numbers, you’d see a figure that would sell profitably at a basic figure’s price. But with the packaging, you have something that, unless it becomes the line’s standard, it definitely inflates the production costs of the figures.

The cost seemed to noticeably hurt the VOTC line as well, as it also has hurt the Ultra/Deluxe lines over the years. $10 is a lot to pay for a figure, and it showed at stores that ordered the VOTC line heavily like Wal-Mart who couldn’t move the later waves out quickly. I love the VOTC concept though, and think that either a better price or case ratios would have alleviated all issues with product movement.

-Availability: I think the one gripe almost everyone can agree on is that, even at $10-per-figure, there just weren’t nearly enough VOTC Stormtroopers to go around! I know many people who never once saw the Trooper, and yet I know others who found 50 or more at retail. Some people seemed blessed finding this guy while folks like myself did mostly trading to get what I have at this point. I will say though I’m better off than many people are, as folks are still trying to track this one down. I’d say it’s a strong candidate for re-release from Hasbro just for those reasons, or at least it should be.

The area I live in was flooded with the first two waves when the third ROTJ wave of VOTC started to ship, so getting them to retail was difficult to say the least around me. I did manage to find a few at full price, mostly at KB Toys though where they were $13 instead of $10 so even the scalpers seemed to be passing on them at that lofty price. I did score 4 one evening for $7 each on clearance at Wal-Mart, seemingly dumped out from the back room as the line was being written off with a price-cut.

Beyond those few though I did a lot of trading and begging for help to amass what to me is a modest little group. I know some that have wound up with well over 50 of these though, maybe a lot more, and it’s a shame Hasbro didn’t see to it this figure was just more heavily distributed to retail. Much like the SA Clone Wars Clone, Hasbro totally dropped the ball on distribution to the masses, and it’s so obvious to anyone who even slightly paid attention that this figure would be in huge demand. Hasbro let fans down on this though, not retail. Hasbro’s got to figure out someday that the super articulated army builders just simply do fantastic at retail, and deserve extra attention in the case packs.

OVERALL

So the Stormtrooper armies are built, or still being put together by collectors around the world. How many will any of us end up with? I still list them as a priority want in my wants list, and should Hasbro re-release the figure I’ll still buy as many as I can afford to. While I don’t often say any figure is worth more than retail, this one pushes even my staunch collecting beliefs. I’ve yet to pay more for one, and I’m sure I never will, but I also wouldn’t sell mine off either so their value to me is pretty great.

The way Hasbro made this figure is really impressive. The little sculpt things, like how the elbows are made so they can pull tight to the chest, or all the points of articulation for all the action poses, and all the other little details that make this a great action figure are really what you’re paying for. It’s something I think we should always expect, even in the basic line, but somehow on the Stormtrooper here it feels like the $10 just doesn’t bother you as much.

I cannot imagine any of the vintage line’s figures lying dormant in Hasbro factories for too long. The work put into them is so great that it would be a shame to never see these figures released again, though some might complain that they paid $10 when others will pay a basic figure price for them down the road. Either way though, I think putting your best figures out again is the best way to get fans the Han they want, or Lando, or almost any of these VOTC figures.

The Stormtrooper is rivaling Chewbacca for my favorite of the entire VOTC line so far. I find his army building greatness to be a big draw for me, while Chewbacca is just a visually stunning action figure. They’re equally fun to play with/pose. I’ve got Chewie tossing my Stormtrooper around right now actually and they look great together like that. If any fan is bailing on the VOTC Stormtrooper for any of the “Cons” I listed, then I don’t think they’ll ever be content with a Stormie Hasbro puts out I’m afraid. It would be real tough to top what they’ve done with this figure.

And with that it would be tough to top this line, though some figures still do need a bit of work (Luke, Ben, and 3PO, I’m looking at you 3 idiots). The packaging, the articulation, the cloth gear, the sculpts… there’s some close to perfect work going on, and nothing in this line’s ever been perfect nor do I expect it to ever reach that level of quality. So for me, the VOTC line has been a pleasure to collect and really add “definitive” figures to my collection finally. Kudos to Hasbro on the job well done (mostly) and I hope to see this line grow and the figures get re-released (especially the Stormtrooper of course).

Enjoy this one if you find him. The Stormtrooper is like potato chips. If you buy one I think you’re not going to want to stop there, and probably not even after your first dozen. He’s a great, fun, action figure of the iconic anonymous soldiers of the Empire. Thanks Hasbro, just what I always wanted!

 

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