Monday, 24 March 2014

A New Millennium

Can there be a vessel in the Star Wars universe which has been the subject of more official LEGO versions than the Millennium Falcon ? By my reckoning, Han Solo's Corellian freighter has graced at least eight LEGO sets to date, from the mighty 5195-piece UCS version to the teeny micro scale advent calendar model, and that's even before we consider LEGO-branded Millennium Falcon Bag Charms, Messenger Bags and other tat. And yet, just when you thought that LEGO's designers had surely exhausted all conceivable options, they still somehow manage to come up with yet another variant, Set 75030 Millennium Falconwhich is one of a series of six Star Wars Microfighters sets released earlier this year. These sets, consisting of a Star Wars mini-build and a related minifigure, are surely the spiritual successors to the recently departed Star Wars Planet Sets; I was keen to check them out, and was predictably drawn first of all to the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.


At just 13 cm x 12 cm x 4.5 cm the box is laudably compact. Interestingly, it doesn't share the dark blue 2014 Darth Vader Star Wars branding, instead sporting a distinct Microfighters identity and logo.  As you can see from the picture above, the box art is dominated by a picture of the set contents superimposed on an end-of-Episode IV background featuring the Death Star and some explosions and blaster fire. The back of the box (below) shows Han Solo dismounted from his ship and highlights the set's main play feature - a pair of flick-fire missiles. It also advertises the six Microfighters sets and a Microfighters app, of which more later.


The box is designed to be opened via the single thumb tab that you can see on the right side of the rear of the box above. Opening the box reveals a couple of un-numbered bags of elements and a small instruction booklet. There's no DSS and no loose elements in the box.


The instruction booklet is wider than the box and is therefore supplied folded in half. The image on the cover of the booklet (above - click to enlarge) is largely the same as that on the front of the box, although strangely the explosion graphics are missing. A whole page of the booklet (below) is dedicated to advertising a Star Wars LEGO Microfighters app; a visit to Apple's App Store revealed that the app is surprisingly not free, but in the interests of research and for you, dear reader, I stumped up the princely sum of £ 0.69 and downloaded it to my iPhone and iPad. It's actually not too bad, basically a top-down vertical scrolling shooter quite reminiscent of games from my youth such as Capcom's 1942. I wouldn't go so far as recommending it - it's a bit of a one-trick pony - but if you're a fan of scrolling shooters and a fan of Star Wars then you'll probably get some enjoyment out of it as I did.


At this point I'd usually share a photograph of unusual or rare parts contained within the set. On this occasion, however, there isn't really much to show you - the majority of the constituent elements are pretty commonplace. There are a couple of exceptions to this generalization - a light bley 2 x 2 truncated cone featuring a printed Millennium Falcon cockpit pattern which is unique to this set, and a couple of trans-light blue 1 x 1 plates which have appeared in only 4 sets to date - but that's pretty much it.


The set contains one minifigure, a version of Han Solo. The back-printed torso, featuring Han's classic tan shirt and black tunic combo, also appears as part of the Han Solo minifigure included in Set 75003 A-wing Starfighter and Set 10236 Ewok Village. His head and legs are unique to this set, however. The light flesh head, with a smile on one side and what Bricklink describes as a "determined pattern" on the other, features wrinkles which are presumably supposed to make his expressions look more realistic but actually just look messy and seem a bit unnecessary to me. The dark blue minifigure legs in this set are similar to those found in the version of Han Solo included in Set 7965 Millennium Falcon but there's now a greater level of print detail on the gun belt; again, I'm not entirely convinced that the increased detail is really necessary, although the quality of printing is certainly good.


Once Han Solo has been assembled it's on to his ship; the building instructions for the Millennium Falcon occupy fully 22 pages of the instruction booklet, believe it or not, which is pretty remarkable for such a small model. Construction is quick and straightforward, and you can see the finished ship below (click picture to enlarge). Despite the small scale, some key features such as the forward mandibles, cockpit and radar dish have been reasonably approximated, although I don't think anybody's going to be making a case for the model being an accurate representation of the subject matter anytime soon. You can see the truncated cone with printed Millennium Falcon cockpit pattern that I mentioned earlier in the picture below. A couple of flick-fire missiles are included to increase playability, and there's a recess behind the cockpit to accommodate the Han Solo minifigure (see later). The model sits on 4 boat studs which serve as the landing gear.


From the rear (picture below - click to enlarge) you can see that the radar dish attaches via a pneumatic 'T' piece; this clicks into a modified 1 x 1 tile with clip, allowing the dish to tilt up and down. The characteristic blue glow from the engines is recreated with trans-light blue round 1 x 1 bricks plus a couple of 1 x 1 plates mounted sideways on modified 1 x 1 bricks with headlight. A light bley round 2 x 2 tile serves as the port docking ring, but there's no starboard docking ring due to the need to extend the cockpit backwards to accommodate the minifigure.


The Han Solo minifigure slots in just behind the cockpit as you can see in the pictures below (click to enlarge). The massive disparity in scale does admittedly make the finished model look rather ridiculous when the minifig is in place, but I think that the ability to integrate the minifig if desired does add some play value, in marked contrast to the Planet Sets which, with their various different elements mounted separately on a base, seemed more like display pieces than something a kid could actually play with.


The Falcon is pleasingly chunky and swooshable; its chibi stylings bring to mind the limited edition Comic Con Landspeeder that I reviewed on Gimme LEGO a while ago, and while I'm generally drawn to more 'realistic' and accurate LEGO sets, I think I'm going to find it hard to resist picking up the other 5 Microfighters sets at some point.... Set 75030 Millennium Falcon contains 94 pieces and has a recommended retail price of £8.99 / US$ 9.99; if you're in the UK you can currently pick the set up for a few pence below retail at Amazon (click here to buy).


While I'm on the subject of Star Wars, here's a thing.... I was in the Watford LEGO brand store recently, and Assistant Manager Kevin alerted me to something interesting. Below you can see one of the 2014 Star Wars Battlepacks, Set 75036 Utapau Troopers to be precise. Do you notice anything unusual about the packaging ?


No ? OK, take a look at the picture below of the left end flap instead. See it now ? In case you're still wondering what on earth I'm going on about, this small battlepack has tape seals, rather than the usual thumb tabs. There's also a small cutaway on the bottom left corner of the end flap, revealing a patch of light blue printed with a white triangle. The right end flap is also closed by way of tape seals, but there's no cutaway.


So when did LEGO start putting tape seals on small sets like this ? The Watford store had a few of the Utapau Trooper sets; some were sealed with tape, and the rest were of the thumb tab variety; furthermore, there's a review of this set on Eurobricks and the pictures clearly show the thumb tab version. I could only find one other small set in the Watford store which was closed with tape seals - Set 60056 Tow Truck - and again the store had a mixture of tape seal and thumb tab versions. It therefore seems as if LEGO may be in the process of transitioning to tape seals on some smaller sets, or at least tesing the water. As some of you will no doubt have realised from previous reviews on Gimme LEGO, I hate using thumb tabs to open sets due to the destruction that this wreaks on the boxes. I'm therefore absolutely delighted to find tape seals appearing on smaller sets, and I hope that this practice becomes more widespread.

4 comments:

  1. As someone who once bought a LEGO set that looked perfect from the outside but contained 2 sealed bags, 2 open bags, 1 or the two instruction sets and a lot of missing parts ... well lets just say I'm a big fan of the thumb tabs! They prevent scumbags, sorry - other consumers, from returning defective merchandise which then makes its way back onto the shelf. I managed to get an exchange from the store but it was quite clear from the amount of arguing required that they didn't believe me and thought I just was the one at fault. Very unpleasant really, and not something that'd happen with a "tamper resistant" box.

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  2. Where you say that "I think I'm going to find it hard to resist picking up the other 5 Microfighters sets at some point" - does that mean you are no longer collecting every single SW Lego set?

    I used to be mad on SW Lego (have 80 of the sets) - but I've been quite underwhelmed by the last couple of years. A lot of the rehash models (Sand Crawler, Millenium Falcon, AT-AT, Sail Barge) are worse to me than the previous models from 5+ years ago.

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    Replies
    1. Great question.... I continue to be fully up to date on the retail releases up to and including 2013, but I can feel my resolve starting to weaken.... I haven't yet decided whether or not 2014 will be the year that I finally stop being a Star Wars completist, but it's a possibility.

      I didn't much like the look of the Microfighters sets at all initially, but the MF won me over. Looking at the bigger picture, however, there are only so many rehashes that I can take, particularly if they don't IMHO improve on previous versions. A more selective (and sensible) approach to my LEGO Star Wars collecting definitely beckons I think....

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