Bandai's Darth Vader is my 5th Bandai Star Wars model after successfully building their Stormtrooper, R2-D2, R5-D4 and C-3PO over the past few months.
Vader arrives in the standard Bandai box, which is not shrink-wrapped externally but is sealed inside with all the various sprues you will need. Once unpacked there is a large amount of black plastic as expected as well as some coloured instructions and two sets of decals - one stickers, one water transfers.
As with any Bandai model the pictorial representations and the numbering system are good enough to get you through the model with ease. My hints are to watch out for where a decal needs applying mid-construction. You will also need a clear work area, some clippers, craft knife and a pot of glue handy for emergencies.
After C-3PO, Vader was a breeze to put together. There were very few tiny pieces and everything clicked into place in usual precise Bandaii fashion assuming you had trimmed them accurately off the sprue.
The only issues I had were the cloak, who didn't want to click into place on mine. And finding out that the hand had to be unassembled to add the lightsaber.
Then there is the decals, which have been fine on other models I have built - but on Vader are so small they are (remember I have fat hands) almost un-usable on areas like the chest box switches. With a steady hand, tweezers and some good magnification you will be fine - but I took the alternative route and painted mine - which added a good £10 to the kit once the paint had all been purchased. You will need Silver, Green, Red and Blue. And if you want to paint the unmasked head you will need some pale flesh colours also.
Excluding the painting Vader came together in about 90mins.
Once built you can then admire the sculpt on this thing, which is exceptional. The helmet in particular is very nice, especially so when you compare side by side with the Hasbro Black Series version. However, the cloak is a poor job and doesn't look right at all - customisers should be looking at a fabric replacement.
The whole thing is black plastic, so I can't comment on paint finish. He certainly needs the decals or paint applying - it is amazing how a drop of colour brings out the figure. The light saber is a bit disappointing as it is too dull compared to the more vivid colour of the Hasbro version
Articulation is average. The head certainly looks left and right, but turn it too far and it pops off. The arms are the best bit, with good joints at the shoulder, elbow and wrist. He can certainly get in a 2 handed light saber pose or with outstretched hands for a force choke. There are a variety of hands supplied and they pop in and out easy enough.
The legs do move, but not far so you wont be doing much posing with Vader. The cloak, which is in about 4 segments looks like it is meant to be articulated but doesn't move at all - a solid piece would have been better, a rubber or soft goods cloak even more so.
I have already made comparisons's to Hasbro's figure. At essentially the same price point it would be difficult not to line them up side by side.
Bandai's sculpt is better, particularly the helmet. Hasbro wins on articulation and I actually prefer the soft goods on the Hasbro version over the clunky Bandai cloak. The Hasbro light saber is nicer in colour, but the variety of hands supplied by Bandai allow for better poses. Bandai feels really light and he is relatively easy to knock over, where as Hasbro has a bit of weight about it. With pro's and con's on both there is no clear winner, other than perhaps if a clever customiser can kit bash a hybrid of the two.
I always try and rate Bandai as an experience rather than just as a figure. In Vader's case the build is fine, but the decals are too tricky for average joe's like myself. In terms of a finished figure the Bandai suffers from a lack of weight, lack of articulation (with parts popping off) and that awful cloak. 2 out of 5 from me.
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