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Nick Martin | September 18th, 2012 | News

Review: 9496 Desert Skiff

With the absolute flood of Extended Universe (EU) and Clone Wars sets in the last few years, it’s always refreshing to see LEGO touch something in the original trilogy (otherwise known as “the good movies”). Of course, the big problem with that is that almost everything in the OT that can be done has been done (and more than a few that should never have been done have made it out too *cough* Imperial Landing Craft *cough*).

The Desert Skiff is a curious kind of ship in the Star Wars world. It’s certainly not an iconic ship like the Falcon or an X-Wing, and it’s not as obscure as a Cloud Car or the T-19 Skyhopper. Instead, it’s the kind of vehicle you never think about until you see it, and then your mind instantly snaps to Luke standing on the board doing, telling Jabba to free them or die in his big-boy Jedi pants and then going all Greg Lougains.

This is the third iteration of the Skiff. The first one came out all the way back in 2000 in the second wave of LEGO Star Wars and gave us a cheap Han and Jedi Luke, all glorious and Yellow-y. A second version was part of the Sail Barge set in 2006, which given how awesome the barge itself was, is almost an afterthought (as is the Sarlacc that also comes with it). This version takes those two little throw-ins and puts them center stage. It also gives us four figures, including a Lando in disguise one of Jabba’s thugs (apparently he’s named Kithaba).

At $25 and three good minifigures (also, Boba Fett), this set shows a whole lot of early promise… In some ways, this is a hard set to pin down, mostly because it doesn’t really exist outside the Jabba’s Palace and the upcoming Rancor set. You need to get all three of them to get the figures together (and you’d still be missing Slave Leia) to get the scene together. Also, having a Sail Barge would also help. Minifigs is where this set really jumps out to shine. At $25, we get four figures, one new, three revised, and all that were in expensive sets previously. We get a new Lando in disguise (from the Sail Barge), Jedi Luke Skywalker (from the Sail Barge, UCS Shuttle, or Death Star Playset… as well as a watch and an SDCC exclusive), and the Paris Hilton of the Star Wars Universe, Boba Fett (from the absurdly overpriced Slave I reboot). Rounding out the set is a new figure, Kithaba.

In any other movie/setting, Kithaba would have been billed as “alien who got killed number 4,” but in Star Wars, most likely has some elaborate back story that involves saving one of the main characters and teaching rancors how to love. He’s similar to Shahan Alama from Cad Bane’s speeder, and basically is another generic alien. He’s generic enough that he has some good utility outside of Star Wars. Thanks to the color, you could even drop him into other themes, say Space or maybe monsters. The unique torso is a nice touch, just too bad they had to paint the top the green color, otherwise, it’d be a great generic torso.

 

Jedi Luke Skywalker is an update that made a whiny character much less whiny. Interesting note is that these figures, unlike just about every other character in every other LEGO set (okay, a slight exaggeration) for the past few years, none of these have alternate faces. The Luke face is still generic enough to have use, and this new torso isn’t bad, but too grey in the middle. Originally, I was actually irked that one of his hands wasn’t gloved… and then I checked, and turns out, it wasn’t gloved for this part. He didn’t put on the glove until it got shot afterwards.

 

The only real changes are more detail in the printing and the lack of a gloved hand, along with the pupil’d face we’re getting now. Other than the hand, the new face also has a smile, which really doesn’t fit Jedi Luke at all. He had that “holy crap, I made out with my sister” look on throughout Return of the Jedi, at least until he saw her at the end.

We also get a new version of what was one of the hottest figures this side of Slave Leia in the Sail Barge set, Mr. Colt 45 himself, Lando Calrissian. My adoration of Lando has been well documented on this site, and I’d like to go on the record of saying this may be a highlight of the set for me.

 

I know the whole idea of the new details is touchy. I’ve been torn on them myself. Sometimes, they’re great (Watto, Jar-Jar, new Jabba), sometimes, not so much (Clone Wars, Obi-Wan). And on this torso, the jarringly different colors don’t really do it for me. The helmet looks great, however, and still keeps some of the LEGO aesthetic though. The face, however… this thing is a work of beauty. It’s as cool as the other side of the pillow…

 

I’m thinking, you put parts of both of these figures together and you have an awesome Lando figure going. Or buy a few dozen of these and use that minifigure head on everything. I’m thinking I want them on all of my space marines. That mustache would have to make any Space Marine a Super Space Marine. The last figure inflicted on us in the set was Boba Fett, the professional hide-and-seek player that killed less people in the Star Wars films than Jar-Jar Binks, C3PO, or the movie scroll.

He was a throw-away background piece that was put into a bigger position because of how he looked. And even I have to admit, despite having no real skills other than at scavenger hunts (not being able to hit anything with his blaster or getting knocked into a pit by a blind guy aren’t things you put on your LinkedIn profile)… his minifigure does look fairly awesome.

  

Also, apparently he has a face now. It’s an interesting addition…  and one that has to have a sinister side. After all, think about how many people are going to buy this set, just to get that head, in order to slap it on the Clone Wars troopers? For anyone planning on doing that, I’d gladly take the Lando heads of your hands. Anyway… this is a natural, and more detailed, evolution of the Boba Fett from the unnessary Slave I rehash a few years back.

The pauldron is nice and all, and a bit more matched, but this has started to cross into the “too detailed” realm.The torso is nearly identical to the one from Slave I (just some slight color differences and thicker lines in the printing), and the helmet is identical. The legs are now fully printed, down to the toes. Fett sure has come a long way since the original Slave I.

The set has two main pieces, the Desert Skiff itself and a Sarlacc pit. The Skiff is the skiff, and the sarlacc still looks like a something in a health class video about the dangers of STDs. In truth, this is kind of a hard set to pin down when it comes to the reviews. Make no mistake, this is a glorified, $25 figure pack, but it somehow feels more than that. Sure, you never need more than a couple of these to put next to your sail barge, but you feel fine buying it.

The skiff is a definite departure from earlier versions, with the more “rounded” front, length, and pylons that are farther “out.” There are also some little playset features dug into the set, like an opening weapons compartment that our heroes happened to overlook in order to instead use a stick and the ineptitude of a bounty hunter for their daring escape. A nice feature, I suppose, but one I’d gladly trade for a front cone that looked better.

 

While the front looks more rounded, it doesn’t look like the movie. In fact, the biggest problem with this whole set is that, while it does look good, when you look at the movie, it’s just totally wrong. The entire craft was ringed by rails, this was a work and transport platform after all. Say what you want about Jabba, he obviously cares more about worker safety than the Empire did with it’s troopers that watched the lasers.

 

The length and proportions are bit better, but the whole weapon’s locker is absurdly high. The middle section is decent otherwise, and the railings work their. The back is a lot closer than the old one, but the lack of the railings really hurt it. And I know it’s going to be strange for me to say this… but this set could actually use some stickers. The stickers that were on the Sail Barge were the best type, used for accents and to set the set apart. A few of those, like on the front of the console or details on the curves, would have really helped.

The old one was no better for matching the movie look, but at least it didn’t tack on some dark tan junk. That front piece is just… wrong. The pylons, however, look fantastic in this version, and are much better than the old ones. Anyone who owned the sail barge knows that the old skiff pylons could break apart when looked at funny. Those long antenna are the junkiest LEGO part ever made, and have never held on well, but that thing found a way to make it worse.

The bottom is about what you’d expect, basic and not meant to be looked at, but it includes one little thing… a flick fire. Seriously, LEGO? There are a few topics that we AFOLs love to beat like a dead taun-taun… stickers, price-per-piece ratio, the merits and pitfalls of the gold standard, and of course, how awful flick-fires are. If you get three AFOLs in a room, there are six opinions (yes, I borrowed that line from Mass Effect 2), but the only way we vary on flick-fires is arguing how badly they suck. Some are in the “as bad as moving to bluish grey” camp, and others are “as bad as Justin Beiber camp.” But they’re pretty universally hated. And here, it doesn’t make any sense. When did these skiffs ever fire a shot? They’re basically the Segway of the Star Wars universe, and Segways aren’t known for their weaponry.

As for our sarlacc buddy… he’s certainly come a long way… more of the “Special Edition” version than the “unmentionable part of the desert” he was before. The new solid-color canopies are one of the highlight parts in the set, something that I’m sure will make it’s way into more than a few MOCs. All things considered, they did what they could with this piece. Letting him be able to kill off Boba Fett is a great touch as well, best play feature ever! Of course, in the back of my head, part of me wishes I could get these in green so when I build it I can go “Feed me, Seymour!”

  

Now, all of that being said, I still really like this set. Sure, the skiff is just off, but honestly, these aren’t replicas or models, they’re building sets. While the set isn’t accurate, and the inclusion of a flick-fire is just baby town frolic crazy (though not as bad as the LotR Weathertop set)… as a building toy, this works. It’s got a great little mix of parts, great figures, and is a good value for the money.

What I liked

  • Great value for the set
  • Lando’s Face is awesome, even if the rest of his figure is at best average
  • New canopy parts that come with the sarlacc are great

What I didn’t like

  • The front of the skiff does not look right… it looks better, but still wrong. Needs more guard rails
  • Would have preferred to see a Gammorean guard on the skiff, or something similar, in place of Boba Fett or Luke
  • Flick fires? I’m actually shocked they didn’t put some in the Sarlacc as well, the way they’ve started to inappropriately stick them everywhere
  • Too much detail on some figs is overkill

Verdict: Buy it. This is one of the best small Star Wars set we’ve seen in awhile. You can pick up this set (and many others) at the FBTB Store on LEGO Shop@Home.