REVIEW: STAR WARS 501st LEGION AT-RT with ARF TROOPER and TX-21 TACTICAL DROID
I'll admit, the Star Wars line is one that I am very selective towards, and don't pay as close attention to as some other lines. So I really wasn't sure what new toys might be turning up anytime soon. I'd also been rather disappointed with a couple of recent Clone Commanders whose articulation had been distinctly lessened.
So, I was very pleased to discover a vehicle-and-figures set that had a newly-colored version of both a very nice small vehicle, and a very nicely articulation Clone Trooper, as well as a droid that I did not own at the time.
The package design was easy enough to spot, too. The package design had shifted from an image of Darth Maul, up against a blue background on otherwise largely white packaging, to an image of Yoda up against a green background, on otherwise largely white packaging. Given Darth Maul's predominantly red coloration, the difference was readily apparent.
The set represents the 501st Legion, certainly a well-known group of Clone Troopers, and features a distinctly colored AT-RT vehicle, along with an ARF Trooper, as well as a TX-21 Tactical Droid.
I still think that between ARF Troopers and BARC Troopers, Lucas needs to come up with a WOOF Trooper, just for the heck of it.
Anyway, let's consider the history of the 501st Legion, ARF Troopers, the AT-RT vehicle, and the TX-21 Tactical Droid, from a standpoint of within the Star Wars universe, courtesy of the web site "Wookieepedia", and then we'll have a look at this toy set.
The 501st Legion, also known as the 501st Battalion during the Clone Wars and later known as "Vader's Fist" and the Five Hundred and First, was an elite unit of clone troopers commissioned by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine during the Clone Wars that later became a stormtrooper unit. Made up of units like Torrent Company, the 501st fought in many battles, such as the Battle of Teth and the Battle of Coruscant, becoming one of the most well-known legions. In 19 BBY, the 501st became Darth Vader's personal unit as he led them during Operation: Knightfall, in which the clones helped take down the Jedi, whom they believed to be traitors to the Republic.
Following the rise of the Galactic Empire, the 501st transitioned into a stormtrooper unit, like other clone units. Given new armor and weapons, the 501st faithfully served the Empire, operating under the direct command of the Sith Lord Darth Vader. After the Battle of Kamino, the 501st became the last remnant of the Grand Army of the Republic fully composed of Jango Fett clones, as opposed to the ever-growing and more diverse Stormtrooper Corps, where the Fett clones became a minority, with the inclusion of a pool of clones from different templates and birth-born recruits, while others were not clones, but humans from an Imperial academy; by 0 BBY though Vader was known to comb through the ranks of all stormtrooper units and transferring the very best to the 501st.
The legion fought in a number of battles during the Galactic Civil War in an effort to defeat the Rebel Alliance and bring peace to the galaxy. Though the 501st was disbanded after the Battle of Endor, the Chiss Grand Admiral Thrawn resurrected the designation by forming a new 501st Legion. He also added more diverse recruits to the 501st, including non-Humans. The reconstituted 501st was stationed in the Unknown Regions, where they protected Thrawn's Empire of the Hand. Over a century later, the legion was in the service of a new Empire, by then under the rule of Emperor Roan Fel.
When Fel was deposed by Darth Krayt shortly after the conclusion of the Sith–Imperial War, the 501st Legion fell under the control of the Dark Lord of the Sith in the year 130 ABY. Seven years later, however, Fel returned from exile and joined in the war against Krayt in order to reclaim his throne. Under the leadership of General Oron Jaeger, the 501st deserted the Dark Lord's Galactic Empire in order to join the Fel faction.
Although this Clone Trooper obviously represents the earlier days of the 501st, it's interesting to take note of how long they endured. Here in the real world, the 501st is the designation of a large group of Star Wars fans who have created their own Stormtrooper armor, and participate in various fan-based and charitable causes. Lucas finally acknowledged them by using their designation in the Star Wars universe.
Now let's consider the history of ARF Troopers -- 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.
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. (Especially if it was easier to make their action figure)
They proved to be valuable assets to the Grand Army of the Republic due to their ability 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.
A number of them later participated in the brutal battles that involved the retaking of the planet Geonosis under the command of Clone Marshal Commander Cody.
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. They managed to kill all of the droids, but they were all killed by a Nightbrother named Savage Opress.
Under the command of Jedi General Anakin Skywalker, a large force of Advance Recon Force troopers participated in the Battle of Umbara driving AT-RTs and played a key role in taking out a Umbaran occupied ridge defended by tanks and Umbaran militia. The Advanced Recon Force took heavy casualties through out the battle as they were easy targets for the Umbaran militia.
In terms of equipment, ARF troopers were often provided with DC-15A blaster rifles, DC-15S blasters, chainguns, and missile launchers along with thermal detonators. They wore also a light weight recon armor made of plastoid material as well as were equipped with surveillance gear. The belt contained spare ammunition and a medical syringe. On the left arm they had a comlink and a life-form scanner. Their helmet had an infrared camera so that they could operate in dark places as well as recognizing friends or foes. They often carried a backpack with some basic stuff, such as survival rations,C.S.E.L. (Combat Survivor Evader Locator) and explosives, but it was possible to have a rope, a macrobinocular, ice-axe and a first-aid-kit. They would often wear armor that fit the environment of the planet they were on.
In addition, they often rode All Terrain Recon Transports which could be a dangerous assignment as these walkers required their operator to show dexterity as well as considerable skill. This was largely due to the fact that they were exposed to enemy fire while they conducted their missions. These vehicles meant that ARF troopers often considered themselves a breed apart from other clone troopers as they believed riding an AT-RT was more akin to riding on a living animal than driving a vehicle. Their training often started with first riding living mounts before they were allowed to operate an AT-RT walker.
And speaking of that particular vehicle... The All Terrain Recon Transport (AT-RT) was a one-man bipedal walker used for reconnaissance and patrolling, first by the Grand Army of the Republic during the Clone Wars, and later on by the Galactic Empire and Alliance to Restore the Republic and was made in Kuat Drive Yards.
One of several precursors to the AT-ST walker, the AT-RT was 3.2 meters tall and 2.9 meters long, with a saddle-like seat for a single clone trooper driver. Its open cockpit design made the driver especially vulnerable to sniper fire, a notable flaw, but low costs and good visibility of the battlefield made up for this shortcoming. While other walkers like the AT-PT eliminated the flaw of the exposed driver position, the AT-PT was slower, and this made the AT-RT competitive with the former as it was capable of tremendous speeds and could also leap quite a distance thanks to its light construction .
The recon walker was equipped with a nose-mounted repeating blaster cannon and mortar launcher, both of which made the walker a formidable anti-infantry unit, although a group of 4 walkers could easily overpower a single AAT. The AT-RT was fitted with a motion detection scanner and sensor equipment capable of providing Forward Command Centers with updated situation reports from the battlefield.
AT-RTs Could be deployed to the Battle field in various ways. They are usually deployed from landed Acclamator-class assault ship, but this isn't always practical for size reasons. When this occurs they can be deployed by LAAT/is, 1 per gunship stored on the speeder bike ramp, 2 can be carried if crew bay is empty.
The Walkers can also be deployed from modified AT-TEs with special cargo lifts in their back section. They could transport 2 Walkers and their riders.
Due to its light construction, AT-RT walkers were especially vulnerable to heavy weapons. This led many commanders to use them in fast scout packs, such as Lighting Squadron, a team that consisted of ten ARF Troopers specially trained to operate AT-RTs. They were also used in the role of civilian (police or military) support. Commonly, these walkers operated as picket and pathfinder units.
AT-RT walkers were used on several worlds during the Clone Wars. In the Battle of Christophsis, Three AT-RTs made a gallant charge into the advancing enemy lines, 2 were destroyed, and it is unknown if the last walker and it's rider returned. Prior to the battle, they were stored in the Republics forwards command center, but many were destroyed when the traitorous clone trooper Slick sabotaged the base.
In the Battle of Ryloth, AT-TEs got trapped on ridge by AATs firing at their position. Mace Windu ordered the deployment of Lighting Squad. The Squad and their walkers were deployed from specially adapted AT-TE with lifts in they're rear section. Led by General Windu, the Squad advanced on the Enemy Tanks, the Walkers were too fast for the tanks and out flanked them easily, which allowed Lightning to attack the tanks from behind targeting their week spots.
Shortly after the skirmish, Windu took two Advanced Recon Force troopers, Razor and Stak, to Cazne to find the freedom fighters of Ryloth, after encountering a droid patrol they met up with Cham Syndulla, the leader of the resistance. After the leader of the resistance agreed with Senator Orn Free Taa to ally them selves with the Republic forces, the Syndulla and Windu came up with a plan to take the occupied city of Lessu. Mace Windu stowed away inside an MTT headed for the City, as they were crossing the bridge, however, they were detected by the Droids. The Jedi made a break for the end of the bridge while AT-RTs and At-TEs along with the Ryloth Resistance provided cover fire from the ridge over-looking the bridge. After fighting off the droids, the force made its way across the bridge, the AT-RTs took out the Tank guard then made their way into the city.
In the Battle of Kiros, AT-RTs were deployed by the 501st. These were later used by Anakin Skywalker and Ashoka Tano to find the bombs hidden around the city. After defeating the droids guarding each bomb they manged to disarm them.
Many AT-RTs of the 501st were deployed on Umbara when trying to capture the capital City. When beginning their assault on the surface, the Walkers were launched from the back of LAAT/is. The Walkers were ideal for the rough, uneven terrain of the planet, and because of their size could move through the thick forested areas with relative ease. However, they were no match for the hi-tech armaments of the Umbaran separatists, and were easy pickings for the likes of the Umbaran hover tank.
As with the Umbaran Campaign, Great numbers of these walkers were deployed for Battle of Kashyyyk, and were later used in an attempt to track down Jedi Master Yoda following the execution of Order 66. They also saw action on Outer Rim planets such as the conflicts on Utapau and Mygeeto.
These light-weight walkers would also be utilized in the attack on the Jedi Temple. Over a year later, during an attempt by ex-Jedi Fy-Tor-Ana and Ferus Olin to retrieve a cache of lightsabers from the occupied Temple, AT-RTs would back up teams of stormtroopers that were hunting them. However, it appeared that the AT-RT was phased out in favor of the AT-ST.
Elite Imperial units like Lightning Squadron continued to utilize their AT-RTs during the Galactic Civil War. Modified AT-RTs were also utilized by the Rebel Alliance and fringe groups. Many of these walkers were painted with camouflage to better blend in with their surroundings. A floodlight often replaced the repeating blaster cannon, providing additional aid for the walker on night-time missions, but making the vehicle more vulnerable in the process.
And finally, we have the TX-21 Tactical Droid... TX-21 was a T-series tactical droid that served under Geonosian Archduke Poggle the Lesser in his droid foundry on Geonosis. The T-series tactical droid, formerly known as the CDE-T unit, was a model of advisor droid serving the Confederacy of Independent Systems during the Clone Wars. The super tactical droid was later created as an upgraded model.
This model was more intelligent than standard battle droids and was deployed to command Separatist troops. They had advanced combat-analysis software and were very intelligent. Tactical droids were observed to be impatient and demanding. They believed themselves superior to other droids, as evidenced by their poor treatment and insults to battle droids, such as during the battles of Quell and Ryloth. They often issued conflicting orders due to their sense of superiority. When pushed, tactical droids would even order the destruction of their own allies if they got in the way, as seen at the Sky Battle of Quell. Some of these droids were also in charge of entire fleets and land forces.
Around 22 BBY, during the Clone Wars, TX-21 was stationed within the foundry during a battle on the planet of Geonosis. Outside the foundry, the Republic force was planing on destroying the foundry. TX-21 revealed to Poggle that the foundry had ten garrisons of new battle droids ready to be deployed. The Geonosian structure also housed new Confederate super tanks, a ray shielded tank capable of withstanding enemy fire, which were released on the attacking Republic forces outside the foundry. Soon, however, Poggle and the droid were alerted by a Geonosian that intruders had breached the foundry. The droid and Poggle confronted the intruders — Jedi Padawans Barriss Offee and Ahsoka Tano — and and had their forces deactivate the thermal detonators planted on the foundry's generator. In the ensuing combat, Tano tossed a detonator at a super tank next to TX-21 in an attempt to destroy it; TX-21 boasted that the tank was impervious to the weapon but neglected to consider his own safety. When the detonator exploded, the tank was indeed unscathed, but TX-21 was destroyed.
Nothing like an overconfident droid with a nasty attitude, is there?
So, how are the toys? Really, it's a very cool set, and although the various components have appeared before, they have been given very distinctive incarnations here.
I believe this is the third time out for the AT-RT, but this 501st version of it seems especially impressive. As the backstory indicates, the AT-RT was, in some respects, the predecessor to the far larger AT-ST, or "chicken-walker" as some people have described it, that was featured prominently in the Battle of Endor in "Return of the Jedi".
The AT-RT, while having a stylistic similarity, is a good bit smaller, and is strictly a one-passenger vehicle with an open cockpit, instead of the two-person enclosed command center of its big brother. However, the basic principle of a cockpit of some sort perched atop two rather large, backward-kneed legs remains intact.
This particular AT-RT is mostly a pale gray in color, with dark blue trim, denoting its assignment to the 501st Legion, which uses a similar trim color on their armor. The front of the cockpit is dark blue, with stylized numbers reading "501" on either side.
The numbers are interesting, in that a style has been chosen that looks quite similar to the alien "Aurebesh" alphabet that crops up throughout the Star Wars universe, except that in this case, the numbers are fully readable as "501". One could logically assume that within the Star Wars universe, there's more than one way of writing numbers, and one of them just happens to resemble something recognizable to us humans living in a galaxy far, far away, while at the same time that particular style of numbers isn't too far removed from the "Aurebesh" style of rather angular, squared-off symbols.
The blue trim also appears on the back of the cockpit, and along the outsides of the various leg segments. The AT-RT stands seven-and-a-half inches tall, including a pair of antennae that need to be snapped in once the product has been opened. I assume this is some sort of communications antenna.
The AT-RT does have some moving parts. Although the legs aren't as articulation as the vehicle design itself might indicate, they do move at the "hips" and "ankles", and the vehicle can assume a number of poses and still remain upright. Also, the large blaster gun on the front below the cockpit rotates. On the whole, it's an excellent small vehicle to add to one's Grand Army of the Republic, and since it's a good bit taller than it is long or wide, it doesn't take up much floor or shelf space. If you can accommodate its feet, you can accommodate the vehicle.
The ARF Trooper has also been seen before. He was first released a few years ago on an individual card, and really, the original ARF Trooper was what got me to take a second look at the Clone Wars line at the time. There have been several ARF Troopers since then, most of them with very distinctive and unusual camouflage patterns.
This particular ARF Trooper of the 501st Legion probably comes the closest to looking like the all-white-armored original, since while he does have some distinctive markings on his armor, he's not camouflaged.
The 501st Legion ARF Trooper has a blue stripe running along the top of his helmet, and a blue mark above the mouthpiece of his helmet. There's an angular vertical blue stripe down the center of his chest, with two small white marks at the base. This is especially distinctive of the 501st. And the shoulder portions of his armor are also dark blue, as are small lines around the base of the lower arms, near the wrists.
The helmet design of the ARF Trooper is not that of a typical Clone Trooper. As much as anything, it looks like a cross between a Clone Trooper helmet and that of an Imperial Biker Scout. The mouthpiece area is entirely different from that of a Clone Trooper, there's a shaded visor over the eyes, and the sides and back of the helmet are moderately sleeker in design.
The rest of the armor is pretty much in keeping with that of Clone Troopers. The figure is superbly articulated, fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, including a swivel, wrists, mid-torso, legs, including outward movement which most of the Clone Trooper figures did not have, knees, including a swivel, and ankles. Needless to say, with this range of motion, the ARF Trooper is abundantly capable of taking a seat on the AT-RT vehicle.
Finally, let's consider the TX-21 Tactical Droid. I suspect this figure has turned up somewhere before, if only because of the 2010 date on the back of one of his legs. However, he's not familiar to me, so either I didn't pay much attention to his original release, or he turned up in some other set that I just never saw for some reason or other.
TX-21 stands 3-15/16" in height. I've always wanted to use a fraction like that... So he's very slightly taller than the average human, if we take the ARF Trooper as an average human. TX-21 has a rather flat, angular head, dark gray on top, with a wider turquoise section that includes a brim that shades two narrow yellow eyes underneath. He has a sort of oval, beige-colored muzzle below the eyes. The remainder of his head underneath the turquoise section is also dark gray.
The head almost looks like somebody took Master Chief's helmet from the Halo video games and flattened it a bit somehow.
TX-21's chest is light beige in color, curved on the front, and flat in the back. He has some dark brown and turquoise ornamentation on the front of his torso. I tried to think of what this torso reminded me of, and the closest comparison I could come up with is that it looks a bit like the top half of some jukeboxes I've seen.
TX-21's mid-torso is dark gray, ridged, vertically, and frankly looks like the grill off the front end of a truck. Not too much trouble coming up with a comparison there.
The droid has very narrow arms. The upper arms are dark gray and exceptionally thin. The lower arms are slightly thicker, beige with turquoise stripes, and his hands each have two fingers and a thumb.
The droid's legs are also very thin, but not quite so much as the arms. They are mostly beige in color, with turquoise stripes down the front of the upper legs. His feet have rather wide heels and narrow fronts.
There are several known models of Battle Droids out there. TX-21 looks something like a sidestep from the conventional designs. It's like he almost fits, but almost doesn't. Overall, though it's an interesting design of a droid.
The figure is decently articulated, if not spectacularly. TX-21 is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, and ankles. No knee joints, which honestly surprised me. However, the figure's ankles are on a ball-and-socket design, so it's not difficult to get him into a stance where he can maintain his balance.
Any complaints? Just one -- some of the paint work on both figures was a bit sloppy. I had to do some extensive touch-ups on TX-21's head, and some of the black trim on the ARF Trooper could have been aimed a little better, especially since it was clearly painted through proper stencils, instead of by hand, which can really lead to sloppiness. The ARF Trooper fared a lot better than the droid, but even so, it needed to be mentioned.
So, what's my final word? This is a cool set. You get new and impressive versions of both the AT-RT and the ARF Trooper, which are distinctive to this set, and you get a cool and I suspect not frequently seen droid to go with them.
And let me add this. At the 2013 International Toy Fair, new Star Wars figures were shown with very limited articulation. This is apparently the direction the 3-3/4" line is going to go. I won't get into the stated or presumed reasons for this, since that would take far too long, and ultimately, wouldn't change a thing. I have to say that I am very disappointed by this direction, which is also affecting some other non-Star-Wars lines, and I really hope it won't be a growing trend. There is a forthcoming 6" line of Star Wars figures which will boast excellent articulation, and I am looking forward to that, but as far as the 3-3/4" line is concerned...
Let me put it this way. This particular set, with the AT-RT, the TX-21 droid, and the ARF Trooper especially, may be one of the last times we see a fully-articulated Clone Trooper, or much of any other Star Wars characters, for who knows how long. On that basis alone, this set is certainly worth picking up while you have the chance. But even setting that aside, this is an extremely cool set, and certainly a worthwhile addition to your Grand Army of the Republic, which I am certain you will enjoy.
The STAR WARS 501st LEGION AT-RT with ARF TROOPER and TX-21 TACTICAL DROID definitely has mu highest recommendation!