Monday, January 21, 2013

SWU Reviews - 501st Legion AT-RT with ARF Trooper & TX-21 Tactical Droid


Well here's an interesting release! Easily the coolest set in the first wave of 2013's Class I Fleet assortment, 501st Legion AT-RT from the fan-favorite "Umbara arc" is a new addition to the very small list of items released based on Season 4 of the show. This set also gives us another shot at owning a Separatist tactical droid figure with TX-21, a character who was blown up two seasons earlier on the other side of the galaxy; and a totally inaccurate "Phase I" 501st Legion ARF Trooper. It's also (oddly) the first item to be released in the "animated" format without any Star Wars: The Clone Wars branding visible on its packaging. Read on to learn more about this very strange but very cool set and decide for yourself whether or not it's worthy of stomping its way into your Clone Wars collection!  

501st Legion AT-RT with ARF Trooper & TX-21 Tactical Droid
Year Released:
Late 2012/Early 2013
Assortment: Class I Fleet ["Yoda" line look]
An ARF Trooper in the elite 501st Legion pilots an AT-RT into combat against Battle Droids commanded by TX-21 Tactical Droid. An AT-RT (All Terrain Recon Transport) is a one-man walker armed with a repeating laser cannon. With its height, mobility and speed, the walker allows the trooper to support the Republic forces during the battle.
Overall Rating:

How do you know when the Hasbro Star Wars toy line is in trouble? One indication might be when the nicest thing we're getting until the fall is a vehicle we've seen several times before packed with a completely inaccurate clone trooper and a droid character that's from an entirely different season. A lot of people fear that the tactical droids at Hasbro are experiencing some sort of malfunction as we enter 2013. The collector-focused "realistic" line is cancelled altogether and the "animated" line has been severely cut back with a more limited range of character selections than ever. (The most exciting figure in the first wave is a repainted clone trooper that's never even appeared in the show; things are bad, and I tend to be more optimistic than most). But I digress; let's take a look at this good set and enjoy it for what it is.

The AT-RT vehicle is the same thing we've already seen before in the three previous Class I sets featuring it with Teth, Geonosis, and Ryloth paint jobs. It's a solid sculpt that definitely blows away its 2005 predecessor in terms of detail and accuracy. Its two main features are four points of leg articulation and a functional rotating chin cannon. The walker's handle bars are also adjustable which makes it a more accommodating ride for various pilot figures. The 501st Legion deco we're seeing with this release is based on the vehicle's appearance in the action-packed "Umbara arc" back in Season 4. That makes the AT-RT (not the included figures; I'll get to them in a moment) one of very, very few uniquely "Season 4/Season 5" items Hasbro has produced. (The only others I can think of right away are Ahsoka with SCUBA Gear, Commanders Wolffe and Fox, the Republic Assault Submarine with SCUBA Clone Trooper Class I set, and the Target exclusive Darth Maul Returns set.) Therefore, the new 501st Legion AT-RT is a very welcome addition to our collections even if it is just a repaint. The 501st Legion markings are very well done, but I do wish a darker wash could have been applied to the gray areas to give it a more battle-worn appearance. 

The AT-RT in this set may be from the Umbara episodes, but the other two figures are from completely different sources. The ARF Trooper included here has all the awesome looking 501st Legion markings on his armor; however, the clones we saw piloting AT-RT walkers in Season 4 were actually "Phase II" ARF Troopers, based largely (but not entirely) on the soldiers we've come to know as the AT-RT Drivers as they appeared in Revenge of the Sith. Apparently since the show is drawing closer to the end of the war, all of the other "Phase I" designs we had been regularly seeing in The Clone Wars are being replaced by their "Phase II" counterparts. In the case of the ARF Trooper, the "Phase I" design that was first introduced to us in the 2008 The Clone Wars film has been replaced by a new design featuring the "face," helmet antenna, and thigh armor of the AT-RT Driver we've been familiar with since 2005. (See the attached comparison photos for further reference.) The 501st Legion "Phase I" ARF Trooper seen in this set never appeared in The Clone Wars (although it makes sense that a similar looking trooper would have been just 'off screen' during any episodes featuring the 501st that take place during the early part of the war). The ARF Trooper figure included in this particular set might be getting some grief from his comrades for being a "shiny," but that's not the only problem with his paint job. Hasbro continues the super annoying trend of mismatched shoulder and ankle joints, an issue that's been present in many figure releases over the last few years. I'm not sure why Hasbro so often fails to paint certain joints the same color as the surrounding areas of the figure, but hopefully they'll take notice soon if we the fans keep complaining about it in our reviews. Mismatched joints really do detract from a figure's overall appearance. As with the previous ARF Trooper releases, this trooper has tons of articulation, even including the ball-jointed wrists and ball-jointed hips that are essential for any action-oriented humanoid character. The complete articulation count is listed below:

-1 ball-socket neck
-2 ball-jointed shoulders
-2 ball-jointed elbows
-2 ball-jointed wrists
-2 ball-jointed hips
-2 ball-jointed knees
-2 ball-jointed ankles

One of the best things about this set is the fact that it gives fans of The Clone Wars another chance to add a Separatist tactical droid to their collections. Like many, I never found the Commander TX-20 basic figure release at retail (and didn't want to pay the absurd secondary market prices), and I somehow missed its first Class I repaint re-release as well. So this is the first time I've gotten to enjoy this figure, which is labelled in this set as "TX-21 Tactical Droid." Since the rest of this set is (supposed to be) based on Season 4's "Umbara arc," TX-21 is actually very out of place here. TX-21 is the droid who gave Ahsoka and Barriss Offee so much trouble as they tried to destroy a Geonosian weapons factory (in the cleverly named episode, "Weapons Factory") all the way back in Season 2. Of all three tactical droid releases, TX-21 has the most interesting and detailed paint job. It's still pretty simple but it features neat turquoise stripes over a light shade of tan and a cool looking set of emblems on his chest, in addition to the glowing yellow eyes that are largely concealed under the droid's visor. Like most droid figures in The Clone Wars line, TX-21 has plenty of articulation. The only thing making him just shy of "super articulation" (14 points) is the exclusion of knee articulation, which I think might have detracted from the sculpt and was therefore omitted as an aesthetic choice. TX-21 includes the following articulation.

-1 ball-socket neck
-2 ball-socket shoulders
-2 hinge elbows
-2 swivel wrists
-2 ball-socket hips
-2 ball-socket ankles

Both figures are a bit lacking in the accessories department, each coming with only one blaster weapon. It might have been nice to see the ARF Trooper with an extra blaster rifle or the TX-21 Tactical Droid with one of those cool mini-holograms of Dooku or perhaps even Poggle. However, the figures in these new Class I sets will most likely continue to include the bare minimum amount of accessories to cut back on tooling costs. Paying an average of $23.99 for a small vehicle and two figures is still a pretty sweet deal in this day and age, so a lack of extra accessories isn't a major complaint of mine as long as the main components of these sets are quality releases (some of the other figures in this first wave of 2013 Class I sets are in for a major verbal beating).

Overall despite all its weirdness, the 501st Legion AT-RT with ARF Trooper and TX-21 Tactical Droid is still honestly the nicest thing we're getting until the fall now that Droid Factory's been cancelled. Fans of The Clone Wars should definitely buy it and enjoy it; mine looks fantastic standing with the rest of my "animated" Republic forces. If you're not a "one-of-everything" collector and you're bored with clone stuff, then it might not be for you. TX-21 is an excellent way of getting a rare figure out there again in a cool new flavor, and I hope to see the Class I line continue to be used as a way of re-releasing some hard-to-find figures. Give us another BARC Speeder and throw in Commander Bly and a new Lok Durd figure. Give us that obscenely rare Ahsoka figure again with a speeder bike and a commando droid and base it on the Season 4 episode "Kidnapped." For Season 5's "Death Watch" arc, give us the Mandalorian Speeder Bike again with a repainted Mandalorian Warrior and re-release Darth Sidious. These are just a couple quick examples. Oh, and hopefully we'll eventually get to see a proper "Phase II" AT-RT Driver released in "animated" form (I wouldn't hold my breath). The Class I sets of figures and "mini-rigs" could be a line that has some pretty incredible potential at a very reasonable price point if Hasbro makes consistently smart choices with it; and if they continue with sets that are AT LEAST as good as this one.

Review by David Delgado.


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