Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Basic Series 1 + 2: The World’s Best Retro Figures

By bill - September 17, 2015

SW-basic-s1-2-featIt’s time we talked about  Hasbro’s controversial The Force Awakens 3.75″ action figures.

A few years back, a trend began at Hasbro in regards to their 3.75″ toys, one that saw figures lose their points of articulation, a reversion back to the five basic points of vintage figures from the 70s and 80s.  It started with GI Joe vehicle drivers, whose movement was argued by Hasbro as debatable since they were meant to be seated in their vehicles, but then it extended into single carded figures in both the Marvel and Star Wars collections.  It was a jarring change from the keen focus to sculpt AND articulation that had governed Hasbro’s previous products over the last five years.

For thew past few Marvel movie toy lines, the basic, 5 POA figures have become the main toy line, with the higher end 6″ figures and more articulated 3.75″ figures offered in support of this core line.  Hasbro is following that same model for The Force Awakens toy line, meaning the figures currently at retail follow the same simple, minimally articulated design.

Yea, it’s sort of cheap.  And yea, it’s disappointing that the more articulated Black Series 3.75″ figures are being relegated to a Wal-Mart exclusive line.  But while I’m sure this statement won’t really win me too many friends in the toy collecting community, I’ve gotta say I really like Hasbro’s basic Force Awakens figures.  Like, I’m actually glad these are the figures we’re getting.

It all comes down to a matter of perception– yes, it’s cheaper to produce figures whose production only involves six pieces (head, torso front, torso back, arms, legs), and I am sure that’s been a major influence on Hasbro’s design choices.  But it’s worth noting we’re also living in an age where other companies are charging a premium to produce intentionally low-tech action figures in the style of vintage toys from decades ago.  That’s my point of reference for The Force Awakens figures… these are the toys Kenner would have made, a logical extension of their later, better sculpted but still rudimentary figure designs.  And with the shadow of the Original Trilogy resting like an umbrella over every aspect of The Force Awakens, I think a Kenner-esque line of action figures is sort of perfect.

SW Force Awakens Basic S1-2 020Even if you don’t share my perspective on these guys, it’s hard to deny we’re seeing an impressive depth of characters, right out of the gate.  Like pretty much every Star Wars line, The Force Awakens series can be broken down into three categories– good guys, bad guys, and weird-ass aliens.  Each bucket certainly has its place in the Star Wars universe, and all are well represented in Hasbro’s new line.

Our two main heroes are both included, naturally, and Finn and Rey both look pretty good in their Jakku outfits.  The portraits aren’t quite as strong as their 6″ Black Series counterparts, but they’re easily identifiable, and feature some very nice sculpting on their costumes.  Finn includes a blaster, while Rey gets her staff and a removable backpack.

The villains are quite well represented, as well.  Kylo Ren and Captain Phasma both make for imposing, menacing figures, two of the more visually arresting in this collection.  Phasma’s armor isn’t chrome plated here, but the finish has a brighter sheen than many other toys I’ve seen based on the First Order commander.  Kylo is loaded with coarse details, and I love his lightsaber, with its uneven and fiery detailing.

SW Force Awakens Basic S1-2 021And what would the First Order be without an army?  The first two waves of The Force Awakens delivers three troop builders, as well– a Stormtrooper, a Tie Pilot, and a Flametrooper.  They all look good, especially the Flametrooper with his slatted helmet and heavier, fireproof armor.  This figure includes a flamethrower which connects  to his backpack with a hose.  The standard Trooper looks really good, and includes his blaster which can plug into his leg.  I was really happy to see that, like the Black Series figures, the 3.75″ Finn and Stormtrooper share the same neck ball peg size, meaning you can do an easy swap to add a custom Finn in armor to your collection.

We only get one strange alien in these first two waves, the enigmatic Constable Zuvio, a character we know very little about.  Apparently some kind of peacekeeper on Jakku, this guy has an interesting look.  He’s short, and at first sight seems quite humanoid, but odd little details like his small hands and strange head shape guarantee this guy has something strange going on underneath his desert attire.  Zuvio isn’t the flashiest figure, but I’m happy to see at least one intriguing new character make their debut with the newest Star Wars toy line.

SW Force Awakens Basic S1-2 006There’s a few more figures in these inaugural waves, as well, like a Resistance troop builder, pilot Poe Dameron (of whom there is a much better version packed with his X-Wing, FYI), and– oddly– some OT figures, as well, making The Force Awakens the first Star Wars movie toy line not 100% dedicated to its own film.  I guess that makes sense, considering we’ll be seeing a new Star Wars movie (and likely a new toy line) every year for the forseeable future… Past movie lines had a lifespan of two to three years, meaning our window here is much smaller, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see side movies like Rogue One get “waves” in the existent collection, rather than a fully rebooted line year over year.

The other reason the OT figures are an odd choice is due to the action feature Hasbro has included with these figures.  While each figures comes packed with their standard, movie accurate (I’m assuming) accessories, they also include another weapon, typically larger and more garish.  These pieces can combine together to form larger weapons, which is a neat enough concept considering they don’t really have an adverse effect on the figures themselves.  I can’t say I care a lot, as I don’t intend to do very much with these extra weapons, but it seems strange that you need another Darth Vader in order to complete the giant cannon looking thing, or Luke Skywalker to finish off the giant buzz saw looking thing.

My only other issue with these figures is the price tag.  Despite your sentiments on the reduced articulation of Hasbro’s recent offerings, one thing is undeniable– the price drop was very good.  Instead of floating above $10 per figure, the basic toys featured a retail price more in the $6 range.  However, that has spiked up to $8 for The Force Awakens figures, which to me, honestly seems too high for what we’re getting.  The standard $6 seems much more in-line with these toys to me.  But what do I know?  Even at $8, these toys are flying off the shelves fast and furious, and they’re still clocking in at $2 less than other retro toy lines like Funko’s ReAction.  And when you consider The Force Awakens as a retro toy line, fashioned after the Kenner figures of yore, it’s no contest– these are the best retro figures on the market.

Did Hasbro take that sense of Star Wars history into account at all?  I honestly don’t know.  It could have been a decision governed only by production cost.  But either way, while I will be the first to say they’re not going to please everyone, The Force Awakens basic figures are pretty cool.  We’re getting a good selection of characters, nicely detailed sculpts, and a whole new corner of the Star Wars universe, one that can blend in quite well with the classic Kenner figures we grew up with.

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