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Japanese Star Wars toys make Darth Vader and Boba Fett look fiercer than ever

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Square Enix, the Japanese video game publisher behind the Final Fantasy series, has developed a range of Star Wars toys. Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and the generic Imperial stormtrooper have all been given a miniature makeover by the Japanese company, shrunk down to action figure size and released as "Variant Playarts" models, complete with plastic plumes of fire, force energy, and jetpack propellant.

This isn't the first time the Japanese company has tweaked the design of an American classic — an updated Iron Man is coming later this year, and last yearFinal Fantasy designer Tetsuya Nomura produced a Variant Playarts version of Batman. But unlike that redesign, which gave Batman vast wings, an impractical helmet, and two monster-ish arms growing from his shoulders, Square Enix's Star Wars remixes actually look pretty good. The stormtrooper looks menacing and capable, his dull and scuffed armor more functional and believable a carapace for a space marine than the gleaming white plate equipment employed by the movie's Imperial forces.

Darth Vader's all-black outfit has changed the least from the original source material, but small tweaks make the fallen Anakin Skywalker a more lithe lord of the Sith. The chestplate cuts away at a higher point, allowing Vader to do useful things like bend down to pick things up and turn his body slightly, and boxy shoulder-pads fit better with the blinking life support panel bolted to his chest. The Variant Boba Fett, too, keeps the color scheme and general silhouette of his movie counterpart, but adds the kind of dings and scratches to his armor that you'd expect from someone clumsy enough to have fallen into Tatooine's Sarlacc pit not once, but several times.

The figures are retailing for around $108.

It'll be interesting to see whether characters such as Boba Fett get this kind of visual update when Episode VII is released later this year. The bounty hunter wears Mandalorian armor — canonically legendary gear obtained only by a few incredibly skilful and brave individuals that offers immense protection from gunfire and the elements, yet somehow looks like a battered garbage can coupled with a grimy bedsheet on screen. Square Enix's Fett Variant makes the armor look chunky and heavy, with pockets and holsters for the array of grenades and gadgets the bounty hunter likes to hurl at foes. You could even argue that the Variant Fett fits into the (now defunct) expanded universe canon: the bounty hunter put together at least three full sets of Mandalorian armor in his years of adventuring, including one owned by his dad's tutor. Maybe he's trying on another suit?

Boba Fett and the stormtrooper are set to be released in July, but Vader comes earlier, hitting otaku shop shelves in May. The Variants might be called "Playarts," but they're not toys so much as expensive collector's editions — the detailed figures are set to retail for 12,960 yen ($108).