FORCE LINK 2.0 STARTER SET (W/ HAN SOLO)
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (HASBRO)
When Hasbro launched their tie-in offerings for The Last Jedi, they launched alongside them a new play gimmick…well, an old play gimmick with a shiny new coat of paint, anyway. Dubbed “Force Link,” it allowed for all compatible figures and vehicles to enhance their playablitity with sound effects and dialogue. The whole thing required a reader to activate, and I reviewed that reader back when it was first made available. It was an amusing enough gimmick, but the whole thing ran into trouble just a few short months after its release, since Hasbro had failed to build in figures beyond the TLJ offerings planned when the reader debuted. Not wanting to completely abandon the concept, but also not wanting to make all of the prior figures obsolete, they used the launch of Solo to offer up a “2.0” version, designed with updates in mind. This, of course, meant another reader, and thereby another starter set, which I’ll be looking at today.
THE SET ITSELF
The Force Link 2.0 starter set was released alongside the rest of the Solo-themed product in April of last year. Not quite the grand hurrah of prior toyline launches, but there it was. The set includes the new version of the reader, as well as standard Han Solo figure. Both of these items remained unique to this set throughout the line’s run, unlike the first starter set. As with the first set, the three AAA batteries needed for the reader’s operation are not included.
FORCE LINK 2.0 READER
If you read my review of the first Force Link reader, then there’s not much new about the basics of this one. It operates using the same NFC partnering between the reader and the figures. The basic physical design is also the same, albeit with some slight cosmetic changes that better match it to Solo‘s aesthetics. This mean’s it’s operation in conjunction with the figures is also the same, for good and for bad. It’s still a tight fit on the wrist, and getting the figures to work as Hasbro intended doesn’t so much go; I again found holding the figures up to the reader directly to be more efficient. There’s one new feature, which is kind of the selling point of the 2.0, but is also it’s biggest problem. The new reader is tied-in with a Force Link app (which can be downloaded onto mobile devices), allowing for periodic updates. This is supposed to fix the issue of the prior reader’s fixed selection of characters to interact with by allowing for new figures to be added via these updates. So, what’s the problem? Well, right out of the box, the reader is compatible with the Han Solo it comes packed with…and no one else. No launch figures, no 1.0 figures, nothing. Every figure beyond Han will simply give you a “Firmware Update Required” message. You have to download and launch the app, pair the device to your phone and go through a rather frustrating interface process, all to start a very lengthy firmware update (Hasbro says it can take up to an hour, and mine stuck right to that). The fact that they couldn’t even have the 1.0 and initial figures ready to go is a real problem, and it’s further hurt by the updates not actually being available when this thing hit shelves.
The second half of this set is a Han Solo. But not just any Han Solo; it’s actually the standard Solo Han Solo. Yes, unlike the first Force Link reader, which supplied us with a Kylo variant, this time Hasbro decided to make it a more worthwhile figure. For those planning to buy the set, this is great, since they don’t have to worry about some extraneous offering. For those not? Well, it kind of means that Hasbro made a Solo line without a single-carded Han Solo, which, in retrospect, may not have been their finest move. Moving past that, though, how is the line’s standard Han Solo? He stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 7 points of articulation. He’s rather similar in design to the Han included with the Falcon, but obviously with the jacket added. He uses the same head, legs, and hands, with a new torso and arms. It’s a nice, sharp sculpt, and definitely my favorite of the various Hans available in the line. His paintwork is clean, which is good, since you actually can’t see him in the box. In fact, he’s probably the best of the Hans…again. He’s packed with his usual blaster pistol, which he can hold or keep in his holster. His Force Link sounds are: “They call me Han Solo.” “We’ve got company!” “Blast ’em!” “This better be worth it.” “I don’t run from a fight.” “Huh, I’ve got a really good feeling about this.” “Okay, stay sharp!” “Wa-hoo!” and then a blaster sound.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
It took a $10 off coupon to get me to buy the first Force Link starter set, so it’s probably not a huge surprise to find out I wasn’t eager to drop full retail on a second one, especially so soon after the first. So, I clearance-waited on this one, which paid off quite nicely for me, since I was able to snag it for $4 just after the holidays. Not great for the prospects of the concept continuing, of course. I can see Hasbro really trying with this set, with the potential for updates instead of having to buy a new reader with every movie, and the avoidance of double-dipping on Han figures like they had with Rey and Jyn. Unfortunately, the need to update right out of the box, coupled with how mind-numbingly frustrating the update process can be really hinders the fun factor on the reader. The Han’s a nice figure, but he was stuck in a $30 set, and that’s a real hard sell. And, ultimately, the fact that you couldn’t get a Han Solo figure in his own toyline without dropping $30 minimum really shot the line as a whole in the foot, which is a real shame, since they weren’t bad figures at all.