Hasbro Black Series Yoda Force FX Lightsaber Review

Long before I knew anything of custom sabersmiths, homebuilt sabers, or Luxeon LEDs, I looked at the Master Replicas lightsabers as the pinnacle of Star Wars fandom. Based on the real screen props, the Master Replica sabers featured realistic hilts and bright LED blades (excluding the early EL models) with realistic scrolling effects and sound. As a child of the prequel trilogy, I was mostly used to the plastic, retractable blade sabers that lined the walls at toy stores, but the Master Replica offerings were something totally different.

Despite my yearnings, I never actually purchased a Master Replicas saber. Life and other interests stood in my way and admittedly, I couldn’t justify the purchase on a very limited budget. Unfortunately, Master Replicas went out of business in 2005, but all was not lost for fans of (relatively) accurate saber replicas as Hasbro acquired the rights to produce the line. Even still, I held off.

Lately however, I’ve found myself back into the saber kick. With a newfound fascination for the electronics that go into lightsaber replicas, I felt I simply needed to grab a Hasbro saber. Now manufactured under the Black Series line, these sabers still retain most of the same features as the original Master Replicas blades. Having heard from other enthusiasts that the Yoda saber replica is considered the brightest in the series, I was excited to find one on Ebay, new-in-box, for an excellent price.

The box art for these sabers is fairly attractive

The box art for these sabers is fairly attractive

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I love the extensive use of Aurebesh on the box. As you might expect, that says Yoda.

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The Hilt

Yoda’s hilt is small, but perhaps not quite as tiny as I expected. This is partly because Hasbro (and Master Replicas before them) increased the scale of the saber in order to better fit human hands and to provide space for electronics. As a result, the hilt’s overall diameter, 1.375”, is not all that much smaller than my Ultrasabers hilts. At 8” long (including the emitter guard), the hilt is also not quite as short as you might think. For reference, the overall length of the saber is 33.625″ and the blade is 26.5″ long.

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To be totally honest, I expected this saber to be exclusively a one-handed affair. However once in hand, I realized it is totally usable with both. By placing my dominant index finger just below the emitter’s guard and wrapping the rest of my hand above the switch section, I am able to leave plenty of room for my second hand to grasp the rubberized panels at the bottom of the hilt.

The area under the guard makes for an excellent choke point.

The area under the guard makes for an excellent choke point.

Chances are, even though you can probably fit two hands on the saber, you won’t want to. I’ll talk more about why this saber isn’t ideal for dueling later on; for now, let’s just say that Yoda’s lightsaber is very light. I’ve weighed the entire unit (hilt and blade) and it comes in at only 14.6 ounces. When grasping the saber, you’ll likely find that it’s much more natural to spin with one hand.

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The rubberized panels at the base of the hilt are very comfortable to hold.

As you might expect, most of the hilt is constructed out of aluminum. However, there are a few places where Hasbro has elected to use plastic. The black switch section in the middle of the grip is one such area. The sliding switch is also plastic and the faux LEDs that adorn this mid-section are just that, fake. The other major plastic component is at the very end of the emitter, where the blade holder on in-hilt LED sabers would be.

The switch section is made of plastic. I still have some residue on this part from a sticker that indicated how to turn on the saber.

The switch section is made of plastic. I still have some residue on this part from a sticker that indicated how to turn on the saber.

Since there isn’t really any other place in this review to discuss it, I’ll touch briefly on the stand that is included with all Black Series lightsabers. This clear acrylic base can be configured in multiple ways. You can simply balance the saber on top of the arched piece or you can also go for the more complex route and run the saber through the base’s hole and then balance the entire structure in a sort of stylized “T”. Lastly, the stand can be mounted to a wall, which allows the saber to be hung vertically, pointing down. The stand actually looks pretty impressive with the saber, however it is flawed. Numerous users have reported that over time, balancing the saber on its blade will cause the blade to warp. As much as I like the floating saber look, I sure as heck don’t want a bent blade.

The stand looks great, but I don't want a warped blade.

The stand looks great, but I don’t want a warped blade.

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Blade and Electronics

One of the most controversial features of the Hasbro Force-FX lightsabers is their LED string blade. Each of the Hasbro sabers, including the Yoda replica, comes with a string of 64 LEDs that run the length of the polycarbonate blade. These result in a full, evenly lit look, but they also present durability challenges. Even moderate dueling can damage or knock one of the LEDs loose, which would lead to dead spots in an otherwise brilliant blade.

This is a relatively accurate depiction of the saber's true blade color.

This is a relatively accurate depiction of the saber’s true blade color.

Another realistic look at the saber's blade.

Another realistic look at the saber’s blade.

In my opinion, the Yoda Black Series lightsaber is even less duel-worthy than Hasbro’s other Force-FX sabers. Because it is made to mimic Yoda’s scaled-down weapon, the prop’s blade is narrower than the other Black Series offerings. At just 0.83” in diameter, I can’t confidently say that it will hold up to any real abuse. It simply seems too thin and too light for that.

The saber's tip

The saber’s tip

Perhaps the best thing about the Yoda saber is that it does indeed feature the same 64 LEDs as the other Force-FX sabers. Packed into a much shorter blade than the rest of the line, the more concentrated LEDs make Yoda’s saber the brightest of the bunch. To help give the blade a solid appearance, Hasbro’s blade features an interior white plastic tube that diffuses light from the LEDs inside. This diffuser works reasonably well, but depending on how you look at the saber, it is possible to see bright spots where the LEDs sit. I have to wonder if Hasbro would have better luck using some sort of foam for diffusion, as Makoto Tsai does in his string blades.

This isn't quite how it looks in person, but the saber's brightness is even and impressive, even compared with in-hilt options.

This isn’t quite how it looks in person, but the saber’s brightness is even and impressive, even compared with in-hilt options.

I’ve already mentioned that the Yoda saber outshines its Force-FX brothers, but it also beats my single-LED, Consular Green Dark Sentinel from Ultrasabers. The base flare at the very top of my Dark Sentinel’s emitter closely matches the brightness of the Yoda replica. However, since the Dark Sentinel operates off of a single, in-hilt LED, the blade dims somewhat as you peer down its length. This is true even with high performing blades, such as those from Vader’s Vault. On the flip side, Yoda’s blade maintains a consistent level of brightness across its entire length.

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Like the rest of the Force-FX line, Yoda’s lightsaber features sound and blade extension/retraction effects. Compared to boards like those made by Plecter Labs and NEC, the Hasbro sabers feature very basic sound. This particular model features seven total sounds: activation, deactivation, two swing speeds, two clash effects, and an idle hum. That’s an upgrade over previous versions that could only detect a single swing type, but the saber does tend to favor the faster sound.

The pommel is vented for the speaker.

The pommel is vented for the speaker.

The saber’s overall sound quality is decent, but it’s a little on the tinny side. The ignition sound is sharper and louder than Yoda’s true saber in the film, but I also wonder if the lack of bass is a simple product of the hilt being so small and not providing enough space for ample resonance. The same lack of depth also applies to the saber’s idle hum, which is loud, but not very rich. The clash sounds are similar to the ones used in Yoda’s duel with Dooku during Attack of the Clones, so they actually work quite well. As is often the case with sound-equipped sabers (at least at this price point), the sound effects lag behind the actual movement by a portion of a second.

The blade activation effects are a welcome touch, but aren’t quite as impressive as I had hoped. To achieve the scrolling appearance, the blade’s LEDs are wired in several parallel groups. This allows the sound card to supply power to each group individually. Upon activation of the saber, the card sequentially powers each section, starting at the base and ending at the blade’s tip. The problem is that these LED groups are quite obvious. The light of the blade does not extend or retract smoothly, as the sabers do in the films. Custom sabersmiths have devised better, or more complex, approaches to this challenge, but their offerings are much more expensive than Hasbro’s. Moreover, the activation and deactivation sounds sync well with the light effects, so the feature doesn’t detract at all from the overall experience.

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Unlike other Force FX sabers, the Yoda replica is powered by three AAA batteries, rather than the typical three AA configuration. Hasbro likely went this route because space inside the hilt is extremely limited and in order to save room for the speaker, smaller batteries are necessary. Frankly, the saber’s brightness and volume are impressive when you consider that it’s only running on 3.6-4.5V of energy. The battery pack can be removed by unscrewing the pommel.

The battery pack is totally removable and houses 3 AAA cells along with the saber's speaker.

The battery pack is totally removable and houses 3 AAA cells along with the saber’s speaker.

The Verdict

Hasbro’s Black Series take on Yoda’s petite lightsaber is surprisingly well done. Often, folks complain that the string blades used in these licensed replicas lack the brightness of custom, in-hilt LED builds. While a tri-Cree or tri-Rebel build may indeed beat this saber in terms of vibrancy, it easily outshines single-LED sabers, thanks to Hasbro’s decision to squeeze a full 64-LED string into the Yoda’s reduced-size blade.

At the end of the day, Hasbro’s Yoda saber is still much better as a display piece than a combat lightsaber. The blade is thin and contains an LED string, which can easily be damaged. The saber is also much smaller overall than even the most diminutive hilts from other companies. Kids might well enjoy swinging the saber around, but it’s just too small to be practical for most adults.

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For a nice, bright lightsaber with basic sounds, it’s difficult to beat the price of Hasbro’s Force FX Yoda replica. While availability comes and goes with the different waves that Hasbro releases, interested buyers can usually find this saber for around $120 at retail and often $100 or less on the secondary market. That’s a solid deal no matter how you slice it.

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