Review : Astromech Droid 3 Pack
Star Wars Black Series (Hasbro)
Wave/Series : Toys R Us (US) Exclusive
Released : August 2016
Price : $54.99*
* there has been no release of this set outside of the US
One certainty with any Star Wars figure range is that once a sculpt of an R2 unit is established in the line, a bunch of variants are sure to follow. The original 6-inch R2-D2 sculpt came back in 2013 with the launch of the Star Wars Black Series. From that original figure, it took 2 more years until in 2015 we got the first variant - the Imperial R2 Unit R2-Q5 who was packed in the Entertainment Earth 4-pack exclusive. Roll forward another year, and in Summer 2016 this Astromech 3-pack was announced as a Toys R Us exclusive.
The set, which has only ever been released officially in the US, uses the R2-D2 sculpt to give us two new R2 units. We then get our first R5 unit, with a revised head section designed for this set - and that would go on to be released as R5-D4 in the 40th Anniversary packaging.
Like everything else in Phase 3 packaging, the set arrives in a gloss black packaging. There is the grey Black Series logo heading up the box, and grey lined images of the three droids across the bottom In between is a smaller than usual window showing off the figures. Usually the figures are not set against a bright red backdrop, but instead a gloss black one. I get that this stops the two red coloured droids from getting lost against the background, but it means the grey & black R2-F2 does not stand out all that well. It also means the packaging doesn't quite fit the uniformity of all the other Phase 3 boxes. Thank fully the red spine survives, and on here we have a repeat of the droid names.
Round the back and the rear is split into three panels, one for each droid. The panels are headed with the same grey scale art from the box front - and then an overview of the droids place in the Star Wars universe. The box blurb is good, but limited, and the simple sentence is repeated in three other languages underneath.
The following blurb is taken from the promotional text and is a little more in-depth. It would have been nice to see this somewhere in the box with a carded insert like the one packed with the SDCC Obi-Wan Kenobi.
R2-F2 served as an astromech droid for Biggs Darklighter, a Rebel Alliance starfighter pilot in the elite Red squadron. Flying a T65 X-Wing starfighter, both R2-F2 and Darklighter perished while aiding Luke Skywalker in the assault on the Death Star during the Battle of Yavin.
R5-K6 was the R5-series astromech droid on the Red Leader X-Wing starfighter alongside Garven Dreis, leader of the elite Red Squadron. During the assault on the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin, R5-K6 and Dreis were shot down while attempting to destroy the Death Star by launching proton torpedoes into a vulnerable 2 meter wide exhaust port - a feat later accomplished by Luke Skywalker.
R2-A3 was an R2 series astromech droid who assisted Rebel Alliance pilot, Wedge Antilles, during the Battle of Yavin. While aiding fellow Red Squadron pilots Biggs Darklighter and Luke Skywalker during an assault on the Death Star, R2-A3 and Wedge Antilles were forced to retreat after damage was dealt to their X-Wing's engine.
The box opens from either side panel, and rather than a clear tray the droids sit in a gloss black tray. There is a plain cardboard trim to keep the tray in check. The three droids are held in by the tabs of the tray, and the two R2 units are surrounded by their attachments. There is nothing to go with R5-K6.
All the droids use the same basic Astromech sculpt from 2013, and as has already been established - this is a little undersized to the actual size of the prop. The size difference is not too excessive that the droids look undersized when placed alongside figures, but it is there and will frustrate those who prize themselves of accuracy of scale. It does seem that despite the sizing, Hasbro are sticking with the sculpt.
R2-F2 is the red & white droid that flew with Biggs at the battle of Yavin. Essentially this droid is cast in white plastic, although its not as bright and glossy as the white used on R2-D2. The red panels are picked out neatly and the silver on the dome is a decent metallic colour. The legs are trimmed in a red panel, and as a throwback to the original R2-D2 this panel pops off. On the R2-D2 it would be replaced with the boosters he uses in the Prequels, but here there is no pack in to do this. The two legs end with the copper wiring into the feet.
The dome can be rotated to lower the third leg, allowing you to put R2-F2 into a travelling position. The outer two legs are articulated at the top and foot to support the posing into this travel position.
The two front panels pop open like the original R2-D2, and in here are the welder and claw. Both of these arms swing up and out of the body.
The R2 units come with the life-form scanner and periscope attachments. On the dome there are panels that pop off to accommodate these. One panel is the hangover from the light-saber insert on the original figure, this is not usable on this release. The other two holes can be used to fit either attachment - front or back - and once inserted they can be rotated to any position.
The one thing missing on R2-F2 is some weathering. Like the R2-D2 release he is too clean for a rebel droid who is in action with the alliance. Had Hasbro applied the same weathering as they managed to put on the more recent R5-D4, then this droid would have looked a hell of a lot better.
Moving to R5-K6, and this is the first R5 unit in the range - beating the original R5 unit R5-D4 to release. K6 is a very impressive looking droid thanks to the contrasting colour scheme. It is cast in a red plastic, with black trim and panes painted on top with the panels white lined with a very good degree of accuracy and neatness. Round the base of the larger R5 dome, we also get this reflective 3D sticker trim. The dome is topped with an aerial which is cast in a softer plastic to avoid breakages.
The R5 units work in the same way as the R2 in that by rotating the dome, the third leg drops down. Articulation remains the same with hinges at top of the leg and again at the ankle/foot joint.
K6 also comes with the pop out welder and claw arm, but there are no dome attachments. Again, the finish of the droid is clean and crisp with no weathering - this is not as bad on a deep red droid than on the bright white R2-F2, but is still a miss as a black wash would have really added some character.
The final droid is R2-A3. This droid is a deep grey cast plastic with white and black detailing on the various panels and across the dome. He also appears to get the largest range of paint in the finish, with red panels on the dome alongside a blue circle to the side of his eye piece. Round the back there is also a further red panel and yellow circular decal.
Articulation is the same as the other three with the wind down central leg. A3 also has the pop off leg panels, the opening front panels with welder & claw arm, as well as the dome attachments that we saw on F2.
The life-form scanner on mine had sadly been misshapen in the box and as you will see from the images is a touch bent.
For me the F2 droid is the nicest looking, and although it also lacks any weathering - the darker scheme means it is less noticeable.
In summing up I would say that for droid fans, or for a Black Series collector wanting to add in some colourful background droids - this set is really good. All three droids are one wash away from being taken up another level. The R2 units come with the bulk of the dome accessories that came with R2-D2, something that was dropped on that Imperial R2-Q5 release.
The issue for me is the exclusivity of this set, which was sold only in the US for $54.99. Now that is a very reasonable £43 when you convert directly, and a price that most fans would pay for three variant droids. Sadly, when this set did hit the UK independents as imports the price was nearer £80, making the set a very expensive for paint variants. Now there is still a chance this set could make its way over to Toys R Us UK stores, and there are still US sellers who will ship this internationally for circa £55-£60.
At £50 or less, this would easily be a 4 out of 5 set. Unfortunately the price and exclusivity is working against it and I have to award the Astromech Droid 3-pack a 3 out of 5.