Updated: Nov 26, 2018
Review : Imperial Royal Guard Star Wars Black Series (Hasbro) Wave/Series : Wave 11 (Phase 3) Released : July 2017
Pros : Visually impressive and the bonus of a whole different Expanded Universe (Legends) figure underneath Cons : The cloak is fragile compared to most soft goods. The Force Pike is misshapen. The ankles are a touch too loose.
After 34 years, I've pretty much made up my mind that Return of the Jedi is my favourite Star Wars movie (to date). While I love Empire, I look at ROTJ and look at how many brilliant characters and troopers came out of that film - Jabba, Scout Troopers, Bib Fortuna, Gamorrean Guards and the figure we are going to look at here - the stunning Imperial Royal Guard.
Even back in the Kenner days, this guy was one of my favourites. Not just because of the design - but the mystery of the trooper and how awesome he must be in battle to be guarding The Emperor - something that was obviously later explored in the Expanded Universe with Crimson Empire.
The Imperial Royal Guard is number 38 in the Black Series, Phase 3. As a Summer release he is in that difficult position of being in a wave that doesn't quite make it to UK retail and that made him quite sought after initially. He's since got a repack in the Guards of Evil 4-pack and looks to be being re-packed in the first wave of 2018 (wave 15).
While the red design of the box backdrop works well for some figures, it does work against the Royal Guard in terms of visibility and he is a little lost against that gloss red background.
The name is quite specific on the lower part of the box as the Imperial Royal Guard, I think that may be slightly deliberate to move away from the Emperor's Royal Guard title this figure often goes by - and therefore the release becomes one that can fit in both a Return of the Jedi and Rogue One display - the latter having him guard Vader rather than Palpatine.
The grayscale artwork on the box front and repeated on the rear is perhaps a bit pedestrian compared to the usual illustrations, although there is not a lot of expression and dynamism you can put into a helmet and a cloak.
The bio text talks about the guards being "resplendent in robes of crimson" and then goes on to flash me back to the curiosity of my 7 year old self with the line "rumours abounding about the sentinels backgrounds and combat capabilities".
Out of the box, via the top or bottom flap, the guard is strapped into the inner tray by means of a clear elastic band that is holding his robe secure more than anything. The Force Pike sits to one side and to the other side next to the head a small blaster pistol.
Be careful taking the elastic band off as the robe is not as robust as some of the other soft goods we've had in the range.
Hasbro have always done very well in bringing armoured figures to the range. The Royal Guard is no exception, and the helmet cast is impeccable with sweeping smooth lines, the mysterious gloss black visor and the red overall paint job. There is no need for anything else paint wise as the light reflections do the rest to bring this head cast to life.
The robes are the best soft goods we've had on a Black Series figure, with a material that flows and looks natural to the scale. This comes at a price and the material is very fragile and can be pulled or snagged with the smallest touch - I snagged a line down mine with just the end of my finger nail. The band that holds the robe in place in the pack also leaves a mark that has yet to come out of mine after a good couple of weeks. I am not brave enough to try and iron it flat, so will see how it goes.
Handled with care, and the robe is very rewarding in terms of posing and displaying the Guard.
While no-one would have blamed Hasbro for sticking a basic buck under the cloak - or indeed red Stormtrooper armour - they have gone significantly further and given us a full sculpted armored guard underneath, a look they have taken from the Dark Horse Crimson Empire Comic Book Series. While they haven't gone as far as saying this in any of the promotional text, there is no reason that fans of the EU (Legends) can't use this figure as Kir Kanos.
The armour is designed like most Imperial armour. It starts with what would be a cloth body suit or uniform, and this is painted a deep crimson on the figure - flat colouring, no detail or shading. Over this are a number of segmented armoured parts. We have a chest plate that covers both the front and back of the torso and extends with further segmented parts down to the belt. Here the belt has some familiar pouches (Stormtrooper) and some other parts which are more ornate like the cod piece. There is also a holster which is useable.
The arms have shoulder armour, while the leg armour starts at the thighs and goes all the way down to the armoured boots. Here we do get a touch of paint detail as the boots get black painted buckles. All the armoured parts are the same hard plastic and gloss red like the helmet.
If you want to display the armoured guard, then the cloak is designed to rotate under the head and can therefore be slung over the shoulder. It takes some work as there is a lot of material to hang at the back, but looks great and is a decent feature.
Articulation on our Guard is excellent, even with his hidden armour. While the head is fixed, the shoulders are ball jointed and can be raised up fully as the shoulder panels slide under the chest section as they are raised. Elbows are rotating joints and there is a pivot joint on the wrist. A torso joint is hidden under the chest armour and allows a small degree of forward and backward lean as well as being able to rotate the torso.
With no armour at the hips, there is a good level of leg movement - including the ability to kneel in the presence of his master. This is possible thanks to the thigh swivel, double jointed knees and ankle rockers. Interestingly the thigh swivel see's a paint variation between upper thighs which are glossy and lower thighs which are a matt finish - an issue we've seen on other figures this year? The ankles are too loose for my liking, and there are stability issues. The Guard comes with the EC-17 Hold Out Blaster, the same weapon wielded by the Scout Troopers. This is a new cast and more robust than the one that came with the Black Series scouts which had a tendency to snap. It is a simple black plastic cast with no paint apps. It fits reasonably well into the left hand, but not as easily in the right. When not in use it sits in the belt holster. The blaster was never seen on screen, and therefore is a bonus from Hasbro and is potentially the sort of hidden blaster I'd expect on these guys.
The other weapon is the Force Pike, the more common weapon we see in both Rogue One and Return of the Jedi. This is cast in a softer plastic and is prone to coming misshapen (see image above). It is held in the right hand and with some teasing the cloak then flows around the exposed arm to replicate the stance we see in the films. The Force Pike is painted in black and silver and has some intricate sculpted detail up close like the rings at the top end and what seems to be a control button near the base.
There is not a lot to complain about with the Royal Guard. He looks awesome and the bonys of the CrimsoN Empire armour underneath, the rotating robe to expose said armour and the hidden blaster & holster are brilliant. Be careful with the robes which are fragile, but its worth it to have them hang naturally rather than some of the stiffer robes we've had so far in the range. The minor criticisms are therefore with the loose ankles (a common issue on Black Series) which may have longevity issues with standing - and that misshapen Force Pike, which can be fixed with some warm water treatment.
I score the Imperial Royal Guard a 4 out of 5 and look forward to adding more to my ranks in coming months.