The Star Wars saga has had some elementary school fun with the naming of the rebel ships that take on the evil Empire. I shall name them here for you in first grade fashion: A-Wing, B-Wing (which was just silly looking), E-Wing (Expanded Universe), V-Wing, Y-Wing. The Expanded Universe and the Prequel Saga added more letters to their ships and I bet you can’t name them—P-38 Starfighter, V-19 Torrent, Z-95 Headhunter. Did I miss one?
Just kidding—the coolest was the X-Wing. Until now.
The Rebel U-Wing was released as part of the September 2016 build up for the December 2016 release of Rogue One. And when I say it was released, this is a big deal. Disney hasn’t been supporting the Star Wars films with anything close to what fans have come to expect from a toy release. The Force Awakens toy release was less focused on the actual film and more focused on “What do we think people will spend their money on?” The initial Sept. 2015 push included figures that were not in the movie, tertiary characters that ultimately brought about no excitement. Once the film was released, there was no more follow up. No Luke, no General Organa, no Papa Han with enlarged belly-button, no Mav…it felt like Disney forgot about it. Like they literally forgot that there are millions of grown men with jobs and disposable income that each are willing to spend thousands of dollars a year on reconnecting with their childhood through “collectibles.”
So when I say that the U-Wing was released, this is a big deal. There is a new Tie-Fighter on the shelf, and it may have been enough to satisfy the marketing execs, but they went all the way on this one and put together a very satisfying and detailed toy.
The Rebel U-Wing. This thing is sleek and dangerous, but best of all, it has swinging arms! Swinging arms, I say! I was able to get a peek at Hasbro’s new toy version, and let me tell you, I was making “pew-pew” and “woosh!” sounds with it out of the box.
The packaging is exactly what one would come to expect from a Star Wars branded toy. The box is fashioned exactly like the other boxes on the shelf. Prominent on the top margin is a big “Star Wars: Rogue One” banner with a peek at a new Death Trooper. The U-Wing is in full action mode, firing off a deadly laser blast…oh, wait—it’s a Nerf Dart! Hasbro has merged these two successful lines to give the U-Wing a very cool projectile (more on that later). A tiny window displays the 3¾ inch Cassian Andor action figure (it’s not a doll!) and his blaster, a luxury that children of the 70’s would have coveted for sure. You see, youngsters, when a child received an X-Wing in 1979, if her parents weren’t aware, they would not receive an additional present of Rebel Pilot action figure. The vehicles were sold without a figure. Action Figure Sold Separately. But no longer must a child bear the burden of their parent’s ignorance.
The side panel shows a sweet illustration of Cassain, and the back panel describes the fighter in English, Spanish and French. I was interested to find that the “Also Look For” panel named our not-Chewbacca Yeti Wookiee, the white hairy gunman seen in the sizzle reel release this Summer. (It’s Mordoff), as well as a new A-Wing from the Disney Channel animated series Rebels.
The other panel lists a new service being offered in Apple Store and Google Play, an app called Star Wars StudioFX. It allows users to video their play time and then add explosions and sound fx. Surely this will add hours to the interactive play that occurs with these toys. I just hope it doesn’t kill the self-generated sound fx that come so naturally when swinging a fighter at the end of our arm-jets.
Out of the box, the fighter is in as few pieces as possible. Assembly required no tools and took about two minutes. I was happy to find that the pieces were secured with silicon bands rather than those pesky wire-ties. Four half-engines snapped into place, and two wing extensions fit into their housing and the vehicle was ready to go! All the details were painted on, so no decals, either! Those things were a bane to my father growing up. Bless his heart, he hated putting stickers on toys, and I was never steady enough as a child to put them on straight, either. (Consequently, I have spent many hours perfecting the act, seeing as how I viewed the art of sticker application as a sign of a competent and loving father. I may have spent too much time and attributed too much value to this menial task, but my childrens' toys have straight stickers, darn it all!)
The actual vehicle is a dream. Original Saga toys sort of/kind of looked like the ships that appeared on screen, but when compared side-by-side, they were nowhere close to screen accurate. As such, companies like Master Replica sold very expensive studio recreations of Original Saga vehicles to satisfy consumer demand for more accurate models. No such service is necessary here. This U-Wing looks dead on. Angles, proportion, body lines, its all there. A serious modeler might be able to embellish the paint scheme, but they won’t have to look any further than an out-of-the box U-Wing for their base model.
The U-Wing definitely draws inspiration from the X-Wing. The rear-facing engines, elongated fuselage and wide wing-span are obviously nods to Luke’s favorite transport fighter, but when the wings swing forward, you have something that looks like a cross between the A-Wing and the Revenge of the Sith Jedi Interceptor. And these wings swing!
A small sliding lever on the back end of the U-Wing allows the wings to arc forward and back into fighting and hyperspace positions. My adult body parts were able to accomplish this task one-handed, but a child may have to do this with two. Located in front of the lever is the amazing Nerf Dart button. Tucked underneath the fuselage of the craft is a hidden cannon. Pressing the button drops the cannon and allows the user to pull one of two included darts out of their well-placed storage rings and insert for maximum fun. After that, this operation gets a little tricky. You push the dart in, and then push the barrel a little more, cocking the gun to prepare it for firing. Pressing the button will release the dart. However, if you push the loaded cannon back up into the craft, you must press the button once to drop the cannon, and then once more to fire the dart. Sometimes this requires an aggressive push to make it happen, sometimes it only requires one push. It’s tricky. The “illustrated instructions” do not state what is the best practice for making this happen, a shortcoming of this multi-national how-to guide. But with some playtime, even the most confused among us will figure it out.
The cockpit has two nice details that made me happy to see. First is an elastic band holds the action figure pilot securely in place during play. No more rattling around inside while pulling unholy levels of g-force during evasive maneuvers.
The other detail is a tiny little hole that allows Cassian to store his blaster. This prevents the weapon from coming loose (during the previously illustrated gonzo space maneuvers) and becoming locked within the spacious interior of the U-Wing. There is a similar place in Cassian’s holster (more on that in a moment).
The Captain Cassian Andor figure itself is a beautiful example of how far the 3 ¾ inch characters have come. So much detail goes into these figures, it is unreal. His body is all in proportion, he has a neck, there are wrinkles on his jacket and slacks; pockets, too. You could count the horizontal striping on his sleeves, there are buckles on his boots…just amazing. I found nine different colors that highlight the character, not to mention the shading on his beard and his perfectly sculpted hair. I almost feel badly mentioning the shortcomings of the figure, but…
Cassian is articulated like the figures of old. Arms move up and down, legs bend at the hips (allowing it to sit) and the head turns, but that is it. No elbows, knees or wrist movement. We’ve come to expect amazing articulation from these characters, which is present with spades in the Black Series or the Elite Series, but I’m okay with the 3 ¾ figures keeping it simple. It reminds me of the figures I bought in the 70’s and 80’s, and that is a good thing.
Cassian does have a cool holster built into his leg to carry his blaster. It sits perfectly on his hip and thigh and gives the character a cool look. But… the hole that accepts the barrel isn’t big enough. The blaster sits too high in the holster and looks awkward. Only after much pushing was I able to get it to seat correctly. A less skilled hand might bend or break the barrel trying to do this. Not a big deal, but a possible set back to a trouble free play session.
That said, I am fully encouraged by the quality and design of this toy. I’m excited to see what they do with the new Tie-Fighters. You can find the Star Wars: Rogue One Rebel U-Wing Fighter in stores everywhere, starting at $44.95.