REVIEW: STAR WARS CLONE WARS ARF TROOPER with SPEEDERBOARD
One of my favorite types of Clone Troopers from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars line are the ARF Troopers. The first ARF Trooper was what got me involved in the Clone Troopers from the animated Clone Wars line in the first place. The ARF Trooper had a distinctive helmet that was unlike anything I had seen before among various armored troopers, and I was very impressed.
To date, there have been, as far as I have been able to determine, five different versions of the ARF Trooper. I might have missed one somewhere along the way if there was a store exclusive I overlooked, but I am aware of five of them -- including this new single-carded one with the Speederboard. The others include the original "plain white" one, a camouflage one, a tan-armored one, and another new one with red trim that comes with a small vehicle. I hope to obtain and review him in the near future.
Some people don't like repaints or recolorations. But few figures lend themselves as well to it as Clone Troopers -- which might be one of the great staggering ironies in the action figure world these days. And given the direct tie-in to the excellent CGI animated series presently in its fourth season on Cartoon Network, all of these various Clone Troopers, specialists, Clone Commanders, and whatever else, are all entirely legitimate to the series, so there's no reason not to make figures of them. And as long as they do, I'll be doing my best to pick them up along the way.
So, I discovered this new ARF Trooper with a new accessory. Let's consider the background and history of the ARF Troopers, with a little help from the Web Site known as "Wookieepedia"
Advanced Recon Force Troopers, also known as Advanced Recon Fighters, or simply ARF Troopers, were specialized clone troopers that carried out short-range reconnaissance for Jedi Generals and clone commanders.
These clone troopers were often tasked with scouting out the enemy position on the battlefield. Although stealthy and well-trained, recon troopers' duties differed from that of clone commandos or Advanced Recon Commandos as their focus was on gathering information about the enemy or carrying out surprise attacks.
Before the introduction of the AT-RT drivers, ARF Troopers would often be pressed into service in that capacity.
ARF troopers were equipped with DC-15A blaster rifles, DC-15S blasters, chainguns, and rocket launchers. They also rode on All Terrain Recon Transports and carried thermal detonators with them on missions. They wore also a light weight recon armor made of plastoid material as well as being equipped with surveillance gear. They would often wear armor that fit the environment of the planet they were on. One such example being the ARF troopers who were stationed on Teth.
Advanced Recon Force troopers were first introduced during the time of the Clone Wars and like most of their clone brethren; they were created on the planet Kamino which served as their "homeworld" and swore their allegiance to the Galactic Republic.
ARF troopers were valuable assets to the Grand Army of the Republic because they were able to carry out reconnaissance and deliver accurate, eye-witness reports of enemy activities, without alerting them to their presence.
A pair of ARF troopers were deployed on the planet Teth before the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker and his apprentice Ahsoka Tano arrived to rescue Rotta, Jabba the Hutt's son. ARF troopers were also deployed during the Battle of Ryloth, under the command of Jedi General Mace Windu, to scout out the Twi'lek freedom fighters and infiltrate the capital city of Lessu. They were used in a more aggressive capacity, driving AT-RTs to attack the AATs that were firing at the AT-TE walkers, and later were in the charge to retake Lessu. They later participated in the Retake of Geonosis. A large squadron of Advanced Recon Force troopers led by Clone Commander Trauma and Jedi Knight Halsey were seen fighting at the Temple of Eedit on the planet Devaron around 21 BBY.
The ARF Trooper's helmet is similar to the later Imperial Scout trooper's helmet and Clone swamp trooper's, though features more of a curvaceous design.
I wasn't able to find out anything specific about the Speederboard, except that apparently they're not exclusively used by ARF Troopers, as I found several references to certain Jedis, including the notorious Quinlan Vos, using them. The back of the package for this particular ARF Trooper says that he is among the ARF Troopers specifically assigned to Kamino, and uses the Speederboard as fast, easy transportation across the watery surface of the planet.
So really, the Speederboard isn't so much a hovering skateboard (besides, Michael J. Fox did that years ago), as it is a sort of surfboard. Although I can't quite picture an ARF Trooper wearing a tacky pair of flowered shorts or proclaiming "Cowabunga!"
So, how's the figure? Immensely cool. For the most part, the ARF Trooper uses the better set of body molds commonly used for most Clone Troopers in the Clone Wars line. There's two main sets out there of which are used for most of the Clone Troopers, that differ by articulation in some respects. The lesser of these body molds, in my opinion, lacks the mid-torso articulation point, and also lacks ankle joints. For whatever reason, this makes balancing the figure somewhat difficult. Additionally, the elbows and knees have a sort of ratcheting articulation that -- ultimately, just doesn't work as well as the other set.
The preferred set of body molds has smoother articulation, mid-torso articulation, and ankle articulation. I know that sometimes I have protested the inclusion of mid-torso articulation over waist articulation, but on the Clone Troopers, it works well, because it can be incorporated into the design of the armor.
The ARF Troopers have an additional aspect to their articulation that is not featured on all Clone Troopers. The legs move outwards as well as back and forth. Now, admittedly, the legs on most Clone Troopers are a little tricky. There's just not a lot of room to move the legs given the design of the leg armor. This doesn't bother me all that much, but I am aware it is an issue with some collectors.
On the ARF Troopers, the outward leg movement isn't all that much, and the overall leg articulation comes across as a sort of diagonal movement rather than a straight forward and backward movement, however limited that may be. To what degree it's an improvement I'm really not sure, but it does seem to have allowed the ARF Troopers to make greater use of certain vehicles, as one of them did come with an AT-RT.
What sets the ARF Trooper apart from other Clone Troopers is the helmet. The rest of the armor is relatively standard. But the helmet is a very distinctive design. The eyes are more like goggles, and there's a sort of vertical muzzle protruding from the mouth. There is a much more angular, broader fin on the top of the helmet, and a distinct shade over the visor, that wraps around to the back of the helmet, with a distinctive ridge. There is also a second ridge sculpted on the back of the helmet.
This particular ARF Trooper comes with mostly white armor, although he does have some distinctive decoration on him that sets him apart from his previous incarnations. This ARF Trooper has thick burgundy stripes down both arms, from shoulder to gauntlet. He also has a very decorative helmet. The shade over the visor is gray, and wraps around to the back of the helmet. The muzzle of the helmet is also gray, and there is a broad beige stripe on the back of the helmet. Additionally, there is some sort of stylized emblem, looking like eyes upswept into some sort of animal-like ears, that appears on the top of the visor shade and across the top of the helmet, and again, far smaller, on either side of the visor shade. There are some smaller black and red markings, in the form of small triangles, on the helmet as well.
Of course, the figure is superbly articulated. Apart from what I've already discussed, the ARF Trooper's complete articulation includes the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. Many of these points of articulation have rotation as well as back and forth movement, and -- again, one of the things that especially impressed me about the best of these Clone Troopers -- the articulation is especially well incorporated in the design of the armor.
Paintwork is excellent. If Clone Troopers occasionally suffer from one thing, it is that the black "undersuit" details are sometimes hand-painted on these figures, especially the legs. This tends to inevitably result in a certain amount of sloppiness that is just going to be the natural consequence of trying to hand paint details on who knows how many action figures in a mass production environment. That's why paint stencils and spray paint exists. I see some evidence of hand painting on this ARF Trooper, but it's neatly done, and neat enough that, honestly, I'm not 100% certain.
Let's discuss the Speederboard. It's a very impressive accessory. Or should I call it a vehicle? Its just about 3-1/2" in length, and very slightly over an inch wide (now where's my ruler that measures 32nd's of an inch...?)
The basic design of the Speederboard really does look like a cross between a skateboard, or a small surfboard, and the sort of Landspeeder that Luke Skywalker used across the desert wastelands of Tatooine, before he sold the thing.
The Speederboard is gray, with rounded corners, and a surprising amount of sculpted detail. There are four ridged indentations on the sides, burgundy in color, more ridges on the top of the board -- some sort of non-skid surface, perhaps? -- and the emblem of the Grand Army of the Republic in the center. The underside of the board is similarly detailed.
The front of the Speederboard has two small raised areas on the top, gray with burgundy trim, and looking sort of like bumpers as much as anything. The rear of the Speederboard is where its resemblance to a Landspeeder especially comes through. There is a circular jet raised on a short post, with two short wings protruding from the side. The Speederboard also has a couple of foot pegs for the ARF Trooper to stand on.
The ARF Trooper comes with a number of other accessories. Of course, he comes with a plastic die, display stand, and card for the Star Wars Galactic Battle Game. I've got enough of these plastic dice by now to scare a Vegas casino. But the ARF Trooper also comes with two sizeable rifles, and a large black item that, I'm honestly not entirely sure what it is, but I think it's meant to be a weapons rack. I just haven't quite figured out how to put the rifles in it. Still, it's a nice accessory.
There's an interesting little mention on the package, that reads "See this gear online!", and refers the buyer to "clonewarsadventures.com". This option is apparently valid until March 1, 2012, so if you're reading this review after that date -- sorry you missed it.
So, what's my final word? I'm impressed. I like the ARF Troopers, even if, after these guys and the BARC Troopers, I don't quite understand why Lucas hasn't given us a WOOF Trooper, just to round things off a bit. Bad jokes aside, the ARF Trooper is an interesting and very distinctive Clone Trooper division, and I don't object in the least seeing another one join the ranks of the CloneWars action figures. And certainly the Speederboard is an interesting new accessory. I would be very surprised if this will be its only use.
If you're a Clone Wars fan, and especially enjoy building your own Grand Army of the Republic, you'll certainly want to add this latest ARF Trooper and his accessories to your collection.
The ARF TROOPER with SPEEDERBOARD from the STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS collection definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!