Pretend to be excited! Hasbro will likely be unveiling the B-Wing Fighter, a just-released Kmart exclusive in The Vintage Collection at Comic-Con this week. I expect lots of applause from people in the audience who weren't paying attention to store shelves-- but not you, good reader, as you are an astute person with their ear to the tracks for this kind of thing, and good for you. I appreciate that. How is this fourth release of a 1980s mold? Pretty good, actually-- it's basically a redeco of the 2008 Dagger Squad version.
As far as toy vehicles go, the B-Wing (courtesy of its packaging and how it ships) provides one of the best user experiences around for Star Wars spacecraft. Kudos to Hasbro's packaging department for a well-engineered series of inserts, but more on that later.
And wouldn't you love to know what the 1984 ship cost and if the 2011 one is a bargain adjusted for inflation? Click through for images and impressions, after the break.
Kmart Exclusive Star Wars The Vintage Collection B-Wing Fighter
The B-Wing Fighter was one of those toys that creeped up quickly in the post-Star Wars marketplace. I snagged mine in 1989 for $30 at a collectible toy show which, at the time, I muttered was pretty pricey. This new version looks just about the same in the box, with all mention of the electronics excised as that feature had been removed. Kmart charges $39.99 for the beast, which includes no figures and I've seen it stocked high in the top of the shelves as well as at the bottom with the shelf tag near your feet. So it pays to look around for this one, assuming you actually want to get it, and you probably do. In short: it's very, very good.
I don't think the phrase "user experience" comes into play enough when it comes to toys. Sure, it's maybe more appropriate for a piece of software, but Hasbro made sure you have a great experience with this toy. Not only are there no labels to apply, but the vehicle is packaged fully-assembled with the default non-firing cannons in place. Once you cut some tape, you can have this toy in fully play-friendly mode inside a minute. We so often praise Hasbro for making pretty packaging, but it would be bad of me to not point out that someone in Hasbro's packaging department did a fantastic job making sure any kid or collector can go from 0 to 60 in a few seconds.
This doesn't even take into consideration the gorgeous package design, which may be one of Hasbro's finer efforts. Loose collectors can still enjoy the box due to its lack of windows, once you open it, it still looks great. A wonderful illustration on the front and back showcases two fighters in space fighting the Death Star, while the top and bottom highlight the familiar action features. The photography is very close to the Kenner original-- one notable exception is Hasbro elected not to include the 1998 Orrimarko (Prune Face) or the 2009 Major Panno figures, but instead substituted in Luke Skywalker in the 2011 release. On the box bottom, a shot of the ship with figures surrounding it has been replaced by a new image of the firing cannons-- but it's so much in the style of the original, it fits right in. The copy is also slightly different, but the rest of the pictures are so close to vintage Kenner I doubt most people would ever notice.
At 22-inches long (or high) the ship is one of Kenner's big releases from the old days. I've heard numerous complaints about the scale from fans but it's unlikely a larger version of a minor ship will ever be produced. The in-universe ship is said to be around 17 meters, and if Darth Vader is your point of reference and he's about 4 1/4-inches tall (2 meters), let's say 2.0125-inches=1 meter. Hasbro isn't ever going to make a 34 1/4-inch B-Wing Fighter toy, and the Kenner mold holds most of the toy features you could reasonably expect such a craft to have, so as a toy nut I'd say it's extremely likely that this will be the definitive action figure-scaled B-Wing Fighter toy. It's still pretty good.
Action features: the cockpit rotates, the wings open, and the retractable landing gear are all remnants of the original toy, while the swappable cannons are a more recent innovation. Spring-loaded rocket launchers can be swapped in, or you can keep the original style of blaster if that's your thing. I really appreciate the option, and I love the idea of "powering up" toy vehicles like the AT-STs in 2009 and 2010. (And more specifically, the many Zoids in Japan over the years.) The wing mechanism is particularly smooth, this sort of thing is often overlooked as most collectors don't notice (or care) that the gears tend to be quite stiff on some of the reissues.
If I had to nitpick, one place where the ship could have benefitted from stickers is on its wings. You can see some holes which were originally designed to be stickered-over, plus the labels gave the ship some added detail. I assume most fans won't notice or care, but it is interesting how a simple old technology was used to effectively minimize manufacturing limitations at such a low cost. Stickers, you are missed.
As a youngster, chasing this down at garage sales and toy shows was one of the things that got me in to toy collecting as an activity-- thankfully, all you have to do is find a Kmart in your neighborhood, but that might be just as difficult given the nature of the chain these days. But hey, it's worth your while-- some stores have clone Captain Lock down to as low as $3.50, so you may get one of those while you're there.
The canopy is the retooled version, so there are more gears and panels plus a couple of places for your pilot to grip so he can "steer" the ship. I had no problem fitting the pilot inside.
Other releases: This basic design was released in 1984 (Kenner, Return of the Jedi), 2001 (Hasbro, Power of the Jedi Target exclusive), and 2008 (Hasbro, The Legacy Collection Toys R Us exclusive.)
Fun fact: The 1984 Kenner original toy was sold in the Sears catalog for $24.99 around 1984 and was reduced to $19.99 in 1985. Adjusted for inflation, the toy is actually quite the bargain. $25 then is about $52-$54 today, depending on what you use as a resource.
Need a pilot to go with it? The packaging shows Palso Thern, a 2011 Toys R Us-exclusive Battle Over Endor figure, but Hasbro will be re-releasing Keyan Farlander in the coming weeks (and months) as well-- so you've got options.
|Additional Kmart Exclusive Star Wars The Vintage Collection B-Wing Fighter Images|