I think we can all agree that the inclusion of Jar Jar Binks in Episode I was one of the low points of the Star Wars franchise (though this partially redeems him). But to let that one terrible character ruin your enjoyment of the film? That's just silly. Especially when there's so much good about it, like the cute little Fighter Droid starships.
Screaming through space in formation, invading Trade Federation droid fighters pose one of the greatest threats to the peaceful citizens of Naboo. Highly engineered to excel in a variety of combat situations, these heavily armed, automated space fighters maintain the ability to convert into walking droids with ground-combat capabilities. They became an integral element to the Trade Federation's massive and ruthless invasion of the planet Naboo.
After Padme and the Jedi retook her royal palace, the pilots went after the droid control ships in orbit around the planet. In order to fend off the Naboo starfighters, the control ships spit out hordes of these awesome little things to act as defense. If you believe the Expanded Universe errata, each battleship carries 1,500 of these fighters - which means you can build a complete force by buying only 500 sets!
Yes, in this box you get three spaceships at once. When it was released in 1999 (as part of the Phantom Menace merchandising blitz, natch), the set cost just under $20,
which means each fighter cost about the same price as the individual figures; with current disinterest regarding all things Episode I, the deal is astoundingly better.
The T-shaped handle that connects the Fighters means that these three ships fly in formation, and makes it really easy to do some cool tricks. Dives, barrel rolls, every little movement just looks that much cooler when you're commanding three ships that follow each other perfectly. Personally, I'm fond of the "backflip and catch" maneuver, but half the time I try that I end up dropping it on the floor (good thing the fighters are so durable - parts snap on and off easily, but do so without breaking). The bar connecting the two flanking ships is opaque black, while the swoosh that lifts the leader is translucent.
The control buttons on the handle
allow you to do some pretty fun stuff as well: the rear droids can fire their missiles individually; the springs that control the missiles are pretty strong, so the plastic projectiles really travel a good distance when you fire them, and they actually have enough force to knock down the 3¾" figures. Also, the ships can be knocked out of formation; press a button, and both rear ships pop off the handle and go spinning away, leaving only the squadron leader to fight on.
While the front ship doesn't fire a missile
or blast off from the handle, it does detach and convert into "walker" mode. The ship's wings become legs, and the canopy slides forward to become its head; this metal warrior is then poised to loom over the other Star Wars characters, threatening them with impending doom! Really, throwing in this little bit of transformable versatility adds a lot to the very idea of droid fighters, so it's excellent that this set duplicates it.
Completely assembled, the fighters are 11¾" across, 13" long, and 5" high. The fighter in the lead is positioned slightly higher than his wingmen, and all three ships have their wings "open" to expose their small guns. The original plan for droid fighters was standard ships, piloted by standard battle droids - changing them to fully self-contained android ships was a clever move. This box set gives you three droid fighters at a great price, makes for a nice display piece, and is generally a good toy.