REVIEW: STAR WARS CLONE WARS ARF TROOPER
I haven't been widely collecting the Star Wars Clone Wars line. I don't have a problem with the animated series, certainly. I think it's very well done, and a superb extension of the movies, from an interesting point in the Star Wars timeline. Now, I'll admit that I wish that the character designs for the show were more realistic in design. Certainly the technology is there for it. But that's just not how it worked out.
Obviously, the action figures for Star Wars Clone Wars are going to be based on the animated likenesses of the characters, and that may be one reason I've shied away from it. But it's the least of the reasons. The Clone Troopers aren't too far removed from their more realistic, movie-based brethren. And I really do enjoy the various types of Clone Troopers, and have quite a healthy collection of them. And that, in an ironic sort of way, may be one of the more major reasons why I haven't gotten involved with the Clone Wars line. I simply don't have the various resources necessary to start up a whole new branch of Clone Troopers around here. And it's not like they don't still pop up from time to time in the Legacy Collection.
As one would expect, there's no shortage of Clone Troopers in the Clone Wars line. It only makes sense. And they do have a few advantages over their Legacy counterparts. Still, I resisted. And then, they had to go and create a whole new Clone Trooper division that didn't even exist in the Legacy Collection. Okay, enough already.
I think two things finally convinced me to buy an ARF TROOPER. One was the cool design of the figure. The other was the Legacy Collection figure of Commander Cody. I'd been looking for him for a while. Finally found him. Glad to have him. But -- that figure used a whole new set of molds that not only had painted battle-weathering on it, but molded damage to the armor.
So what, precisely, is an ARF Trooper? The Web Site known as "Wookieepedia" provides us with some online research to answer that particular question:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
You know, that's a heck of an arsenal to be carrying around with you when your primary mission is short-range reconnaissance. Just how important was "stealth" to these guys, hmm?
So, how's the figure? Really very impressive. Although the Wookieepedia entry makes mention of the fact that ARF Troopers sometimes wore specialized armor depending on the environment, I'm quite certain that what we have here is a good, basic, straightforward ARF Trooper. The "no-frills" variety, at the risk of sounding insulting.
The description of the helmet if being similar to an Imperial Scout's, but more "curvaceous", is not inaccurate. For starters, it has a very different visor relative to most Clone Troopers. We should consider the evolution of the Clone Trooper helmet here. The early designs, as seen in Star Wars Episode II, bore some resemblance to the Mandalorian helmet design as worn by Jango Fett and later his son, Boba Fett, in that the visor was basically a dark "T" shape across the front. By Episode III, the helmet design had developed into a sort of "bridge" between Clone Trooper and Stormtrooper, in that the visor was still a single unit, but it clearly had wider lenses for the eyes, although it still had the slit down the center, which would disappear by the time of the Stormtrooper.
I'll admit, I tend to prefer the Episode III-style helmet over the Episode II. It just looks like it has a bit more personality to it, as much as anything. However, the Clone Wars animated series takes place between Episodes II and III, so at the moment at least, they're using the Episode II-style helmets. It hasn't really been established when during the Clone Wars the switch was made. However, I think in the minds of some, the Episode III Clone Troopers are seen as those who followed Palpatine's Order 66, and turned on the Jedi, which brought a very unexpected end to the Clone Wars. So maybe that helmet design isn't likely to be incorporation anytime soon -- unfortunately.
Of course, if you have certain specialized soldiers like the ARF Troopers, they can wear whatever helmet design might be appropriate for them. And indeed, the helmet does look moderately similar to that of a Scout Trooper. "More curvaceous" is probably a little too fancy a term. I might be inclined to say, "More detailed and ornate". It has an eye visor very similar to that of the Scout Trooper, with a similar front where the nose and mouth would be. Additionally, it has the shaded visor over the eye area. It's the sides and back of the helmet that are different from the Scout Trooper. A wide, curved ridge runs around the sides and back of the helmet at its base, and there is a wide fin on the top of the helmet, ending in an angle in the back.
The helmet is also more decorated than a Scout Trooper helmet would be. Granted by the time of the Classic Trilogy, unit decorations and such seemed to be a thing of the past. A Stormtrooper was a Stormtrooper, a Snowtrooper was a Snowtrooper, and a Scout Trooper was a Scout Trooper. I'm sure each one knew which unit he belonged to, but there was no great visual difference. The ARF Trooper has four broad lines on the left side of the top of his helmet, and a little red insignia on either side of his visor, that as best as I can describe it looks like a partial moon symbol with several thin lines jutting out at the base.
The ARF Trooper is otherwise wearing traditional Clone Trooper armor. Here's one of the reasons that the Clone Wars Clone Troopers work as well as they do -- except for their physical build, there's really not that much difference between them and the movie Clone Troopers. The armor pieces are relatively smooth in design. We're not talking Halo or Iron Man here, folks. Unlike some of the other characters in the Clone Wars series, neither LucasFilm nor Hasbro had to do all that much to fit the Clone Troopers into the show. Certainly LucasFilm had to create new animation, and Hasbro had to create new molds, but from a design standpoint, it was, I suspect, one of the easier transitions.
The armor lends itself very well to action figure design, as well. This is one of the reasons I've always enjoyed the Clone Troopers and Stormtroopers from the Legacy Collection. The armor placed in such a way that it leaves the normal places of human body movement -- arms, legs, elbows, knees, that sort of thing -- open and easy to move. That certainly lends itself well to an action figure, which can incorporate the articulation points in those areas of the figure where the armor isn't, thus maintaining the look of the armor without "breaking it up" for the purpose of an articulation point. Even the mid-torso articulation point works well with the design, and that's not something that can always be said about action figures that do that.
The ARF Trooper's helmet is not removable. I think this is just as well. I've never quite understood why any of the Clone Troopers in either the Clone Wars or Legacy Collection line come with removable helmets. Or, for that matter, most of the Stormtroopers, many of whom were apparently still clones, as it turns out. As such -- we know that they look like under the helmet, and I've seen too many incidents where making the helmet removable also makes the helmet too large relative to the rest of the body, thus affecting the overall look of the figure. I don't mind at all the fact that the ARF Trooper's helmet IS the figure's head.
The ARF Trooper has excellent articulation, actually superior to that of the Legacy Collection Clones. He is nicely poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), wrists (more on that in a moment), mid-torso, legs, knees (including a swivel), and ankles (including a swivel). The leg articulation has a pivot as well as a back and forth movement. Although it's a little tricky to figure out how to get this figure into a sitting position, it's not impossible, whereas on most Legacy Collection Clones, the one articulation complaint that a number of fans have had is that the legs aren't especially poseable.
As for the wrists, along with having a rotational point, they also have a back and forth movement, something the Legacy Collection Clones don't. But it's different on each wrist. On the left wrist, it's a normal back and forth. On the right wrist, the movement is forward and backward along the length of the hand, rather than the front and back. I personally find it a lot more difficult to move my hand like this. However, with a figure, it is an aid to holding larger weaponry, and the movement does have a precedent among Hasbro toys -- they also used it for some of their 12" G.I. Joes, in the latter years of the modern Classic Collection.
Speaking of larger weaponry, the ARF Trooper comes very well equipped. Remember that list of assorted hardware that Wookieepedia claimed the ARF Trooper was known to carry? Looks like he comes with a fair amount of it. There's a fairly large blaster pistol, and an even larger something or other that's about chest-high to the ARF Trooper himself, and fires a spring-loaded missile. That Wookieepedia entry did make mention of rocket launchers... The weaponry is very well made and nicely detailed, and the ARF Trooper can handle it most effectively.
For me, the question must be asked -- how compatible is the ARF Trooper -- and by inference any of the animated Clone Wars Clone Troopers -- with their counterparts in the Legacy Collection? The answer is, unfortunately -- not very. While I have little doubt that any of them could use any of the vehicles from any of their respective lines, they don't really work too well standing side by side. Apart from the fact that the animated Clone Wars Clone Troopers are distinctly thinner in overall build relative to the more realistic movie-based Legacy Collection Clones, the animated figures are also taller, measuring very nearly a full four inches compared to the 3-3/4" for the Legacy Collection.
Additionally, I had the thought that maybe I could pop the head off of the ARF Trooper and attach it to a Legacy Collection Clone Trooper, since both looked to use a similar ball-and-socket attachment. Unfortunately, they're entirely different sizes, and the ARF Trooper's is smaller. Now, a customizer with sufficient skill could with all probability and relatively little difficulty either hollow out the head of an ARF Trooper a bit or sand down the "neck ball" of a Legacy Collection Clone Trooper somewhat, and indeed have himself a Legacy Collection style ARF Trooper. But that's getting into levels of customization and modification that I prefer to steer clear of. I'm not quite that good with it. And it's not something that I believe the average collector would be inclined to do. So for general purposes, I'd have to call the Clone Wars and Legacy Collection Clones more or less incompatible. Which, I'll admit, is no reason you can't collect both. If you want two armies of Clones, why not?
Any complaints? Two. I noticed some very visible mold creases in the ARF Trooper's helmet. I believe this tends to happen when the plastic used isn't liquefied enough, and so it doesn't push into the mold as effectively as it should. This used to happen a lot more than it does now, in a number of toy lines, and I really thought we were pretty much past it. I was not happy to see it turn up again. I'm not saying every ARF Trooper is like this, but give it a good looking over. Since it's white plastic, it can be hard to detect.
Secondly, some of the black "undersuit" trim on the figure has obviously been painted by hand, rather than through a proper paint stencil or mask. This really annoys me, since it's inevitable that there will be some sloppiness, and there's just no good reason for it. Granted, I've seen a lot worse than this happen. But it needs to be eliminated entirely, as far as I'm concerned.
However, the ARF Trooper is still a very cool figure, I'm glad to have him, and -- well, might he inspire me to pick up a few more Clone Wars Clone Troopers? I really, really don't want to start up what would really be a whole new line of figures. But -- I may have to start giving them a second look. Time (and future reviews) will tell.
There's just one other observation I'd like to make. This fellow is called an ARF Trooper. It's been established for some time that there's another specialized type of Clones that are called BARC Troopers.
So, what's my final word here? I'm impressed. I'm more impressed than I thought I'd be, really. I was almost reluctant to pick up this figure, but he looked so cool I just had to give him a chance, and I'm very glad I did. Maybe he's not terribly compatible with all of my Legacy Collection Clones, but he's perfectly cool in his own right, and just maybe he'll get some company. If you're a Star Wars fan, and especially if you have an affinity for the troopers, give the ARF Trooper a chance. I think you'll be glad you did.
The STAR WARS CLONE WARS figure of the ARF TROOPER definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!