Yesterday was Force Friday so after work and school, London and I went to Target to check out the new Star Wars toys. It’s a good thing we’re more interested in vehicles than action figures – the place had been absolutely stripped. But there were tons of Micro Machines, and that’s what London was mostly interested in. He got the three-pack of ships from A New Hope shown above: a TIE fighter, Corellian Corvette, and Imperial Star Destroyer.
I had a zillion or so Star Wars Micro Machines back in the day, before they went on their long hiatus. When London was about six, I discovered that some of the of old school Micro Machines are still available at non-ruinous prices, so I got him a big pack of 20-odd vehicles. He still has all of them, so we pulled out the old ships that correspond to his new ships to see how the new generation compares. Here are the TIE fighters – the new one is larger, more blue than grey, and has straighter wings.
Here they are from the back. The sculpting on the old TIE fighter (left in this image) is a bit more detailed, as is the paint job: the top cockpit windows are black and the ion engines are red on the old model, but unpainted on the new one. The new one is a bit bigger and a proportionally more accurate with its larger wings. If you zoom in on the first picture, you can also see that the texturing on the wings is better. Don’t read anything into the deformation of the wings on the old TIE – it’s been sitting at the bottom of a bin of Star Wars toys for years.
Here are the old (left) and new (right) Star Destroyers. In this view you can see that the sculpts are slightly different, and as with the TIE fighers, the old sculpt records finer details. But also notice that the old SD is not perfectly straight – the hull has a shallow upward bend toward the prow, like a surfboard. This bend is not from having other toys piled on, it’s been there since the ship came out of the packaging.
This shot from the back shows a couple of interesting things. The engines on the old model (left) are better sculpted, but check out the shield generators (the ball thingies that stick up from the bridge tower). On the old model, an attempt to sculpt in more detail is largely ruined by clumsy casting, with lots of flashing left around the seam. The new model doesn’t even attempt to detail the shield generators, they’re just featureless white balls, but at least the casting is clean.
Now, the monster Corellian Corvette comparo. From left to right, and largest to smallest, we have:
- The old Titanium Series metal corvette
- The old regular Micro Machines plastic version
- The new plastic version from London’s three-pack
First off, the old plastic version is off proportionally – it’s too short and fat. More of a Corpulent Corvette. The new plastic version wins on that score. But as usual for this set, it’s less detailed than the old version. It’s the smallest of the three vehicles in London’s pack in terms of volume. The overall sense I get is that having made the TIE fighter and Star Destroyer marginally larger, the designers had to take something away to keep the costs reasonable, and the corvette suffers a bit in terms of size and detail. (Or, a more charitable thought that occurred to me later: they deliberately made the corvette small to get you closer to re-enacting the capture of Princess Leia in A New Hope.)
One more thing I should note: the old vehicle three-packs always came with the clear plastic stands I used in shooting these photos, but the new ones do not. Happily they still have little sockets on the bottoms so they work with the old stands. Maybe Hasbro will release new stands at some point, but in the meantime you can make your own with a little ingenuity and some glue: the sockets are just the right size to fit onto cotton swap sticks once you’ve cut off the cotton tufts.
To sum up, here’s how the new vehicles stack up against the old.
- Less detailed sculpts
- Less detailed paint jobs
- No included stands
- Better plastic. I didn’t mention this above, but the old Micro Machines are made out of something that feels more rubbery than brittle. Slight asymmetries and distortions are very common. The new ones are made out of a different material which definitely feels more like hard plastic, and which feels more pleasant in the hand.
- Better casting. As shown by the Star Destroyer shield generators, they new machines have essentially no visible seams or ‘flash’. Maybe we just got lucky here – we’re working from a sample size of one pack, after all – but the machining, although less detailed, feels better executed.
- Better proportional accuracy, at least for the TIE fighter and Corvette.
- Still only $4.99 for a three-pack. The prices for lots of toys are going up because the cost of plastic has soared over the last decade. I was very happily surprised when I saw that the new vehicle packs were only five bucks – I was expecting them to be $7.50. I think it’s great that Hasbro held the line on prices, even if it means that we don’t get stands and that the paint jobs are a bit less detailed.
Verdict: well worth the five bucks. Man, I’m glad these things are back.