I can hear the teeth gnashing from here, but hear me out on this!
Let’s take a little trip back to the world of 1995. See, I’m 31 now, so in a lot of ways I ended up between the Star Wars generations — a little young for the original trilogy, and a little too cool for the second one. But 1995 was the year that Star Wars snuck it’s way into my life using what would become two of my greatest vices: action figures and video games.
The former, of course, was the infamous Star War Roid For-er, the Power of the Force line, of which I still have very few, but will always remember fondly. But the latter was in the form of a game that is still surprisingly fun to play even today, and that was Dark Forces. These two really formed the basis for my appreciation of the brand, and were instrumental in changing it from some movies I enjoyed to an integral part of my geekdom. Well, these two and Dark Empire, but that’s for later. And best believe we gonna talk about that later…
Anyway, Dark Forces is a first-person-shooter from the days of Doom, and it immediately distinguished itself in that fledgeling genre by being much more involving than your standard run-and-gun. Things like being able to jump and crouch, use flashlights, use a breathing apparatus, to have enemies alerted to your presence — “There he is! Stop him!” — and the search for key cards and access are pretty pedestrian by today’s standards, but they were damn revolutionary in 1995.
You take control of one Kyle Katarn, an ex-Stormtrooper with an axe to grind with the Empire, and a man who the Rebels come to with some dirty jobs. Your first trip with Kyle is playing an integral part in Operation Skyhook, the daring Rebel plan that culminated in destroying the first Death Star during the Battle of Yavin. Shortly thereafter, Kyle is sent to investigate the carnage of a new Imperial weapon deployed at Tak Base — the test phase of the Dark Trooper project.
One of the more endearing parts of Dark Forces that I came to appreciate was it’s copious use of existing Star Wars lore and characters to populate the game. As such, where the Black Series is concerned, hell, I’ve already got a fair amount of the “game characters,” and I bet we’ll see plenty more, especially where the Empire is concerned. So, rather than worry about Officers or Trandoshan bounty hunters, I’ll just cover the mostly game-focused big names. And it’s worth noting that the guys I’m talking about did get figures in the 3.75-inch lines, and good on them for doing so.
Sooo … yeah, I know he ain’t the most exciting leading man in the ‘verse. And as the saga goes on, he becomes … pretty damn typical. But, in the days of the game, this cynical gunslinger came from a shadowy past of lies and betrayal to begrudgingly ally with the Rebels. He was an outsider (and, at least to begin with, not a Jedi-in-waiting) who had once believed the Alliance responsible for the death of his dad, only to have learned that it was a black-flag deal, thus shifting his allegiance. As such, he looked more smuggler than Jedi. For a Black Series figure, I’d much rather have this type of look, with his jacket and chestplate armor. He would need a small arsenal in package, including his trusty Bryar pistol and maybe a lightsaber for you Jedi Knight fans. Beard would be optional.
It’s funny, only when talking Star Wars can a list of two or three figures or characters be sufficient to write an entire article on them. The Dark Trooper is a little bit of a cheat, though, since there are essentially four versions to play with, although technically only three appear in-game.
Phase Zero: We only see the damage done by this model in Dark Forces, but it’s certainly cool enough to be mentioned here. Unlike the versions you fight later in the game, the Phase Zero soldiers are actually cyborg Clone troopers restored to combat readiness in Darth Vader-like fashion. I include it because it’s an excellent bridge between the bigger droid troopers and the standard Stormtroopers, and it makes great appearances in games like Battlefront. I also enjoy the thought that some of the clones we grew to love in Clone Wars might have survived to fight another day as these fearsome cyborgs. Truthfully, though, I don’t think these are a significant enough visual draw to make these a first pick, since they just look like amped-up Stormtroopers, but they’re worth mentioning.
Phase 1: They may not look like much, but the Phase 1 Troopers were innovative in their use of lightsaber-resistant shields and armor. They didn’t see widespread combat use, but they were that necessary first step, and their skeletal droid-Stormtrooper appearance is very toyetic.
Phase 2: These versions, allegedly joined by some Phase Zero versions, were responsible for the destruction of Tak Base and are fearsome battlefield weapons. This version can apparently also be used as an exosuit, and comes very heavily armed with cannon, missiles, and jump pack. In toy form, this is another substantial departure that could help provide armaments and size to a trooper collection. This version was also the most produced, and some survived the destruction of the project (spoilers!) to fight another day, meaning they can theoretically hang with most movie crowds.
Phase 3: The biggest, most well armed, and meanest of the group, the Phase 3 Troopers were made in sparse numbers and were employed mostly as exosuits. Still, this has “deluxe” written all over it for sheer size alone. Add to that their massive assault cannons, rocket launchers, blasters, and grenades, this would be a one-stop shopping center for weapon-hungry figures, like a Kyle Katarn figure, for example …
There’s always a question of necessity when it comes to lists like this, right? As in, “What the hell do I need ‘X’ for? It wasn’t in the movies/only in the movie for five seconds/only a concept!” type of thing. And I get that. But you wanna know what else I get? For the first time in almost 20 years, I’m buying Star Wars figures, and I’m remembering all the great things that got me into them in the first place. And I’m betting I’m not alone there. So, while I would absolutely jump at a Kyle and some Dark Troopers, I’m almost just as excited to be just discussing the potential of seeing something from an old, if not landmark, video in a toyline like this. Because just like in 1995, I’m looking at the possibilities, and, baby, they are looking endless!
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