#1980: Force Link 2.0 Starter Set (w/ Han Solo)

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.

HAN SOLO

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.

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#1431: Force Link Starter Set

FORCE LINK STARTER SET (w/ KYLO REN)

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

Hey guys, remember how I wrapped up my Force Friday II reviews like not even a week ago? Well, I knew I’d be getting around to more of that stuff eventually, but I did sort of expect more than a 5 day break.  You can’t always get what you want…or expect…or something. 

Anyway, I’m plunging back into Hasbro’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi line, and taking a look at one of the central items from the line, the Force Link Starter Set, i.e. the thing that provides the gimmick to every TLJ I’ve looked at so far.  Yes, as much as I hate to admit it, up until now all of my Last Jedi figure  reviews are incomplete.  It’s okay, I’m fixing it today!

THE SET ITSELF

This set was released alongside the initial product launch for Force Friday.  Included in the set is the Force Link Reader and a Kylo Ren.  The Reader is also available in the big BB-8 playset, and will also be offered in a TRU-exclusive pack later down the line, but this will remain the cheapest way to get one.  As of right now, this Kylo figure is exclusive to this set.  Not included in the set are the three AAA batteries that you’ll need to get the Reader up and running.

FORCE LINK READER

Obviously, this set’s main focus here is the reader.  The thing what makes the other toys do what they do.  Like the Comm Tech gimmick from the Phantom Menace toys, each toy in this line includes a small NFC chip (imbedded in the figures this time, instead of an exterior stand).  The Force Link reader contains the main chip with all of the actual sound information, and each smaller chip just serves to “unlock” that particular set of sounds.  Unlike the Comm Tech reader, this one’s wearable.  Wooooo!  Different!  The reader’s a fairly simple design; a bracelet with two bits and a strap.  The battery pack goes over your wrist and the actual reader part goes forward, sitting against the back of your palm.  There’s a hing between the two segments, which has a spring in it to keep the reader part forward, and thus always against your hand.  The whole thing’s not a terribly large contraption, which is certainly for the best; this is meant for kids after all, and they need to be able to actually use it.  The flip side is that it’s a bit of tight fit on anyone who isn’t child-sized.  The strap is adjustable, but it only goes so far.  I suppose you could change out the strap for a longer one if you really needed to, but it’s ultimately not a big deal.  Why isn’t it a big deal? Well, mostly because I’m not sure how many people are going to end up using this thing the way it’s intended.  The way the instructions and the back of the box show the reader in use, it’s strapped to the back of your wrist, and you hold the figure in your hand and move it about.  In order to get the reader part to best line-up with the chip in the figure’s torso, you pretty much have to entirely envelop the figure in your hand, and even then, it’s not always super reliable.  I found it much easier to just hold the reader in one hand, or even place it on a flat surface, and touch the figures to it directly.  I’ll give Hasbro some credit on this, though; I did find the wrist set-up was far more practical when using the vehicles, so the strap’s not a total loss.  I do have one minor complaint about the reader: there’s no on/off switch, so it just turns on when you tap a figure to it.  This can be unreliable, and a bit frustrating at times.  Once you get it going, the sound quality on all of the effects is fairly decent, at least for something of this size, and once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy to get the sounds going.  For the ships, there’s really just one sound for each, which includes the engine starting up, followed by some sustained flight sounds, which will pretty much go until you set the ship down.  The Imperial Probe works in a similar fashion, getting some sustained hovering sounds, but he does also get the distinctive robot chatter from the film, which will pop-up occasionally.  Each of the figure’s gets a whole list of dialogue, as well as one sustained battle sound, which will eventually culminate in an explosion of some sort.  A lot of the dialogue seems to be archive dialogue from the movies (including some new lines from Last Jedi), but a few figures, Luke and the unmasked Kylo most noticeably, get re-recorded lines with “soundalike” actors.  Luke’s is a little off, but not terrible.  Kylo’s, on the other hand, is downright laughable, and made worse by the fact that the masked Kylo is still using Adam Driver’s real voice.  I’ve gone through all of my figures now and made a list of the bits of dialogue each of them played.  It’s possible there are more for a few of them, since the clips are accessed at random.  There were a few times I thought I was done with a figure, only to find one last sound.  Unfortunately, while going through my figures, I did find that one of them, the Praetorian Guard, had the chip from A-Wing Pilot Tallie, instead of his own.  I foresee this being a recurring issue.  Here’s the list of dialogue by figure:

LUKE: “May the force be with you,” “Trust your instincts,” “Come, I’ll show you the true meaning of the Force,” “Leave this place!” “Stay Back!” and a loud whooshing sound.

REY: “I’m with the Resistance,” “You’re going to pay for what you did,” “The First Order are everywhere,” “I can do this,” and a lightsaber sound.

CHEWIE: Wookie sounds, as far as the eye can see

KYLO (SINGLE): “I feel the power of the Force,” “I know what I have to do,” “Traitor!” “You will bring Luke Skywalker to me,” and a sustained lightsaber effect.

POE (SKI SPEEDER): “Now we have a chance,” “We got a lot of company!” “I’m gonna get us in position!” “Red 4, Red 6: Cover us!” and a sustained blaster sound.

HUX: “We shall destroy the Resistance,” “Bow to the First Order!” “Capture the droid if we can, but destroy it if we must,” “We have their location,” and a blaster sound.

POE (SINGLE): “I’m Poe! Poe Dameron!” “I can fly anything,” “We’re gonna do this,” “Take my lead,” “Let’s light it up!” and a blaster sound.

ROSE: “I can fix anything!” “We have a mission to complete,” “You can’t give up on the Resistance,” “Bullseye!” “Blast ‘em!” and a blaster sound.

PAIGE: “Orders received,” “We have to tackle the First Order head on!” “My sensors are picking up TIEs; Brace yourself!” and a blaster sound.

TALLIE: “Reporting in, Squadron Leader,” “Protect the bombers!” “Here they come!” and a blaster sound.

FINN: “The name’s Finn and I’m in charge!” “Stay low! It confuses their tracking!” “Oh, you gotta be kidding me!” “Do exactly as I say, I can get you out of here,” “YAAAGGH!!” and a blaster sound.

BOBA FETT: “He’s no good to me dead,” “Don’t bother hiding,” “Orders are to finish you off,” “You’re on borrowed time,” and a jetpack sound.  (His flamethrower extra also makes a flame throwing sound.)

HAN: “Han Solo.  I’m captain of the Millennium Falcon,” “I got a bad feeling about this,” “They’d be crazy to follow us, wouldn’t they?” “Never tell me the odds!” “Great shot!  That was one in a million!” and a blaster sound.

VADER: “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side,” “Sweep the asteroid field until they are found,” “Prepare your troops for a surface attack,” and a lightsaber sound.

KYLO REN

Alongside the reader, this set also includes yet another variant of our boy Kylo.  This Kylo is distinct from the two other Kylo figures released at launch in that this one has his mask.  I can certainly get behind that.  Like his predecessor, he stands about 4 inches tall and he has 5 points of articulation.  Though you wouldn’t guess it at first glance, this Kylo figure is actually a completely unique sculpt from the single release.  The details here are all consistent with the single release, but he’s posed ever so slightly differently.  It’s a more intimidating, advancing sort of pose, with his legs a bit more spread apart, and his hunch more pronounced.  The hand poses have changed as well, with the right one in a grip, and the left in a slight Force-using pose.  The cape’s also been tweaked ever so slightly, so that it leans more to one side, thus exposing his right arm a bit more, and allowing him to better hold his lightsaber.  Of course, the biggest difference between the two figures is the head, what with it having the helmet now and everything.  It’s a very nice sculpt, and presents all of the details quite sharply.  Like the single release, the paint on Kylo is fairly simple; lots of black, with just a little bit of silver thrown in.  It’s certainly accurate to the source material, and they do what they can to keep it from being too bland.  Kylo is packed with his lightsaber, which appears to be the same piece from the single release.  This Kylo gets his own unique Force Link dialogue, which includes: “Show me again, the power of the darkness” “I will let nothing stand in our way” “I’ve been waiting for this day a long time” “Find them” “You know what I’ve come for; where is it?” “Put every hangar on lockdown!” and a lightsaber sound.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

So, why didn’t I just review this with the rest of the Force Friday II stuff, right?  Because I just bought it Monday, that’s why.  Here’s the deal: I was going to hold off of getting one of these readers until the TRU-exclusive set with the Executor Trooper and Praetorian Guard was released. Then I found out that General Mills was offering a coupon for $10 off the starter set in some of their cereal boxes, and found one of said boxes. The reader is rather gimmicky, and I don’t really know how much use anyone’s going to get out of it.  That being said, I much prefer this sort of thing to the random bulid-a-whatsits from The Force Awakens.  Of course, by the very nature of it’s design, it’s pretty much limited to whatever figures and ships Hasbro had slated when it went into production, so I doubt it’ll survive past the new year.  The Kylo figure included is actually surprisingly cool, and quite different from the one I already had. At $25, this set seemed a little high; at $15, it feels like a really nice deal.