For a long time, I didn't 'get' why collectibles like The Black Series Darth Vader Force FX Elite Lightsaber cost so much. It was obvious that they were very well-made, but were they worth hundreds of dollars apiece? After going hands-on with a few different models and having seen what the competition offers, I finally understand. They're pricey, it's true. Yet Force FX fills a gap that I'm not sure many rivals - if any - can match. The effects, the build-quality, the attention to detail… for the most part, it's head and shoulders above the rest.
And if you ask me, the Darth Vader Force FX Elite Lightsaber trumps most other entries. Besides being a skilfully-made replica, it impresses with a suite of effects that put most other high-end Star Wars gifts to shame.
Darth Vader Force FX Elite Lightsaber - features
|$278.99 / £299.99
|Replica hilt, LED blade, metal display stand, kyber crystal
|Progressive ignition, battle clash, duel, battle sequence
|x3 AA batteries
Developer Hasbro claims that The Black Series Darth Vader Force FX Elite Lightsaber is its most realistic yet, and you can't really argue after browsing its spec-sheet. On top of the light and sound effects you'd expect from a collectible like this, you're getting a whole raft of other goodies that few competitors can match. There's progressive ignition for a smoother and more believable activation, 'blaster deflection' (where random spots along the blade shine as if you're batting away a laser bolt) and 'wall cutting,' where the tip of the blade glows red and yellow as if it's carving through metal.
However, the biggest addition would be the all-new duel effect introduced with this replica and the Obi-Wan equivalent. If you're holding the lightsaber upright and press a cleverly-hidden button, the mid-section of the blade bursts into a bright white as if you're caught in a bind with an opponent.
However, all these bells and whistles mean that The Black Series Darth Vader Force FX Elite Lightsaber isn't a toy. If you smack it against anything too hard, it's likely to break thanks to the LEDs running along its entire length. As such, file it firmly under the 'display only' category.
- Premium metal build-materials
- All-new 'duel' effect
- Clever screw system to insert the blade
Growing up is realizing that laser swords in space don't play by our rules - unfortunately, real life gets in the way. The Black Series Obi-Wan Kenobi Force FX Elite Lightsaber is a good example. Because of how the LED lights connect to the hilt, you've got to swap out the screen-accurate neck for a thicker one that can accommodate the blade. This isn't the end of the world, obviously, but losing that authentic look is a bit disappointing.
Vader's saber doesn't have that problem. Instead, the blade can slot straight into the hilt as is. More or less, anyway; all you need to do is unscrew some metal detailing inside the emitter with a clever plastic MacGuffin that comes in the box.
Removing the emitter's metal innards is easy thanks to the clever plastic screw system, but you do have to be careful with it. It's a very snug fit so might scratch the matte black paint if you're too rough, and the metal disc doesn't always sit flush inside the hilt. Basically, treat it with care unless you want to endanger the paint job.
Speaking of which, going hands-on with the Darth Vader Force FX Elite Lightsaber introduces you to details that you might not have realized are in the original prop. I didn't know that the emitter even had silver gubbins inside or that the black cap is covered with a rough, textured surface, for instance. It's like discovering the prop for the first time, which is neat for lifelong Star Wars nerds such as myself.
This attention to detail is present throughout the entire build. Whether it's the real metal screws it uses for decoration or the flexible wires protruding near the top, the Vader Force FX goes the extra mile - and it didn't need to.
No corners have been cut in terms of build-materials, either. It's constructed of the same heavy metal you'd expect the on-set item to use, and no cheap plastics have been subbed in to reduce costs. This is an expensive bit of kit, yes, but it's also exceedingly well done.
- Special effects are superb
- Much more impressive than the competition
- Effects button is too easy to hit by accident
I don't care how old you are; activating a lightsaber should still give you goosebumps. The Black Series Darth Vader Force FX Elite Lightsaber passes that test with ease. Its slow ignition is a subtle feature, for example, yet I'm always surprised by how much more effective - and authentic - it is. Plus, its atmospheric red light will fill the room with an ominous glow while those iconic sounds rumble from the hilt's base. Sure, there's an audible loop and restart if you listen close. But it captures the movie audio well enough to smooth over any complaints.
Happily, it seems more responsive to your movements as well. While my Galaxy's Edge saber struggles to keep up with my swings (opting for a generic 'vroom' instead, even if I'm not doing anything), this Black Series equivalent doesn't. It's perfectly in time.
The replica's effects are equally good. Blaster deflection first seen in the Leia Organa Force FX Elite Lightsaber remains a delight, adding a dynamic energy as you pretend to swat away laser shots. Similarly, 'wall-cutting' is still a lot of fun thanks to the rippling colors and hissing audio that accompanies it. Show these off to friends and you'll spend a long time doing your best Dark Lord of the Sith impression.
You may have seen a cheaper 'Legacy' version of Darth Vader's saber on the likes of ShopDisney, so why bother with the Force FX Elite? They're both identical in terms of detailing (though the Legacy equivalent is closer to the one seen in A New Hope), though the Force FX replica has more special effects to its name.
The 'duel' effect is less showy by comparison, but it's cool nonetheless. Bathing you in an intense white light that really sells the idea of your saber being locked against another, it's perfect for photo ops. Actually, it's begging to be used in a showdown with the Obi-Wan saber at Comic-Con or Star Wars Celebration.
My one complaint? It's too easy to hit the effects button that makes all this happen. Although it's well-hidden at the top of the hilt, the stubbier design and thick activation panel forces your hand upward and over it, so you're likely to knock it by accident during sudden movements. Still, this does make pressing the button subtly a breeze once you've got the hang of it.
Beyond that, I can't think of any other criticism for The Black Series Darth Vader Force FX Elite Lightsaber. It's pretty spot on by all accounts, and it looks just as good on display as it does in use.
Should you buy the Darth Vader Force FX Elite Lightsaber?
If you're wondering whether you should grab the Darth Vader Force FX Elite, don't hesitate. To my mind, it's the best lightsaber Hasbro has ever made. It looks incredible, brings together a collection of awesome effects that wipe the floor with practically every competing saber, and offers a design that might be the most accurate recreation of the prop outside of Lucasfilm's archives. Plus, it comes with a cool display stand as standard that you won't mind putting on your shelf.
Everyone else, take note: this is how it's done.
Buy it if...
You want the ultimate Star Wars lightsaber
No matter whether you want a display item, a cosplay prop, or just something you can swing around, this is a masterclass in high-quality replicas.
You like to display and play
The big difference between this saber and competitors is its wealth of lighting effects. While you can find other highly-detailed replicas, none can do what this one is able to.
Don't buy it if...
You just want something to go on your shelf
If you aren't fussed about fancy effects, the Force FX Elite saber is undercut by the cheaper, simpler Legacy equivalent.
You want a saber you can use
Because of the fancy LED lights in the blade, it can't be used in contact - it'll break instead.
How we tested the Darth Vader Force FX Elite Lightsaber
I used this replica over a number of weeks to get a good feel for its performance and compared it directly to other sabers in the Force FX line, as well as from rival manufacturers. And don't worry, many Darth Vader quotes were uttered throughout.
For more information on our process, take a look at how we test products.
This review unit was provided by Disney.