Hasbro's Unleashed line of figures, sort of a "what if McFarlane got their hands on the Star Wars license," has a strange history. Fans love it or hate it, and the hit-or-miss character choices leave some figures warming pegs for years while others are almost never seen in stores and fetch triple-digits on eBay. But by far the oddest event in the history of Unleashed came when Hasbro shrunk the scale, revealing "battle packs" of four figures in a 2" scale, down from around 7". Think of them as the Star Wars equivalent of Play Along's Armies of Middle Earth line, but without the playsets.
Much of the uproar came after initial rumors had Hasbro completely doing away with the 7" scale in favor of the tiny four-packs. The final wave of larger figures, composed of repaints and retools of previous figures, was rumored to be cancelled, and fans went crazy, terrified that they would never be able to own their precious rehashed Episode III Chewbacca (a slight repaint with different weapons than the previously released Original Trilogy Chewie), their Episode III Shocktrooper (a repainted Episode II Clone Trooper with a new head and base), and their Han Solo in Stormtrooper disguise (a Stormtrooper Unleashed with a new Han head and a trash compactor-themed base). However, it wasn't too long before Hasbro set the record straight, and assured fans that the larger Unleashed figure line was merely on hiatus, and soon enough fans would be able to get their rehashed statues.
But what of the diminutive Unleashed Battle Packs? They're hitting stores now, so how do they compare with their older siblings?
While the price of around $10 originally steered me away, I eventually caved and bought a pack called Battle of Utapau: Commanders. Despite the title, this set actually only has one commander. Two of the three figures are generals, and one is a mere bodyguard. They all did fight during the Battle of Utapau though, so at least the name isn't completely false. The set features Clone Commander Cody (seeing action figure form for the first time), (General) Obi-Wan Kenobi, General Grievous, and one of Grievous's droid Magna-Guards.
Cody was what got me excited about this set, since this is a toy collector's first chance to own the wise-cracking clone.
He's got an animated-style figure in the upcoming Clone Wars DVD Commemorative 3-packs, and a proper 3 3/4" figure coming in 2006, but this tiny Unleashed Cody will go down in history as the first. How does he measure up? Rather nicely, actually. His sculpt is indeed, as the package states, captured in "exacting detail", including all the doodads and antennae that separates him from the run-of-the-mill Clone Trooper. Sculpted in his right hand is a DC-15 Clone blaster, while his left hand holds a tiny, tiny communicator/hologram projector, though sadly there is no millimeter-high Emperor Palpatine hologram included (unless I threw it out with the packaging... [kidding, kidding - it's really not there, guys]). He's sculpted onto a rocky base with bits of busted machinery littered about.
His paint is also very nicely done for such a small scale. Or at least, it is on the pack I bought.
I'd say about one in four of these packs has a decent paint job, and most of the flubs are on Cody, whose paint scheme is the most intricate. There was no shortage of these guys at the local Wal*Mart though, so you should be able to find one that doesn't suck. All in all, his sculpt and paint is far better than many of the 3 3/4", standard-size SW figures Hasbro produces. Originally I thought these were just tiny statues, or "awesome miniature-scaled sculptures" in the words of the package, but thankfully I was wrong. Each figure actually has some useful articulation, and Cody gets the most. He moves at the neck, shoulders, and waist.
General Obi-Wan is next on the chopping block, and he's...well, Obi-Wan.
Not the most exciting character, but definitely an iconic one. He's sculpted holding his lightsaber, robes a-flowing, just waiting for the pitcher to lob that baseball. His lightsaber is actually a separate piece, or at least the top of it is, since the blade is clear blue plastic. The blade is quite flimsy and most I saw were bent in the package. It's easy enough to bend it to your liking, but that might eventually produce problems if it gets bent one too many times. Kenobi's paint is the least thrilling of the bunch; while it's technically well done, it's all browns and lighter browns, with the occasional silver. His articulation is also the worst of the bunch, with only his neck being moveable, and not very much so at that. He also has a base, but he doesn't appear to be sculpted into it. Instead, his left leg features a peg sticking out of the bottom that is glued into his base. The base itself is nicely done, featuring a battered Super Battle Droid torso and some rocks. They love their rocks on Utapau.
Moving on, we come to my second favorite of the bunch, General Grievous. Sculpted with all four arms extended, Grievous is hunched and menacing. He brandishes a lightsaber in each hand (the same flimsy design as Kenobi's), and he looks to be lunging toward his opponent.
Unlike most of the other, larger Grievous figures, this one is appropriate stooped low instead of standing up straight. Additionally, unlike most of the other, larger Grievous figures, this one can stand up for more than 2 seconds, although it's still no small feat to keep him upright. He's aided by his base of course, which is probably the nicest of the bunch, with a Clone Trooper helmet lying among the - you guessed it - rocks. Is there a head inside? Nobody knows for certain. Grievous has some nice paint apps, especially on his cape and eyes, although I'd prefer it if the black lines on his face weren't so thick. I'm not sure they could go a whole lot thinner in such a small scale though. Grievous moves at his shoulders, and before you ask, the answer is no, he does not move at all four shoulders - just one on each side, don't be ridiculous.
Finally, we have Grievous's bodyguard. Of all the figures in this set, he's the only one who seems appropriately weathered by the battle going on around him.
He's got a paint wash over his entire body, and his cape is tattered. He wields his electro-staff thingy, complete with tiny light blue streaks painted around the ends, so you know it's electric, baby. He appears to move at the shoulders and neck, but only freezer time can tell us for sure, since right now only his left arm wants to move. As a kooky fighting droid thing, he should be much more interesting than he is. I'm not sure why, but on my personal excite-o-meter, he fares only slightly better than "Kenobi at the bat." It might be his dull paint scheme, or his hopefully-stuck-but-possibly-non-existant joints, or the fact that not only is he not a commander, but he's hardly a leader of anything. He's a bodyguard, and a mass-produced one at that. This guy's a dime a dozen. Or, more accurately, he costs about $2.50 (that's ten divided by four, right?). Oh, and he gets a rock base.
Either way, no one is buying this set for Grievous's bodyguard. You're buying it for Cody, because right now, he's the only Cody you're going to get, and you can't wait a few weeks for those DVD packs, or till next year for the standard figure. The Grievous is a nice bonus, but the Kenobi and Magna-Guard are both pretty meh. Still, this is probably the most interesting Battle Pack in the first release, which also includes a set of Utapau Clones, a set of Separatist Droids, and a set of Utapauan Warriors. The only one of those that's even a little interesting is the Clone set, mostly because one of the included troops is the only figural version of the mysterious Parjai Squadron Paratrooper. Overall, these sets are nicely detailed, if a teensy bit overpriced. Even so, they hardly take the place of, or even serve the same purpose as, the original Unleashed line, so it's a relief that we'll see more of the larger scale figures in the future. I just hope Hasbro gets over the rehashing, though.
Which size do you prefer for your Unleashed figures? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.