I’m opening some Star Wars figures this week, so I should be getting some related features up throughout the course of July, and I decided to kick it off with one of my favorite unsung heroes of the Expanded Universe… Mr. Kyle Katarn! The first half of the 90’s presented us PC gamers with all sorts of great outlets for our Star Wars love. I shudder to think how much time I spent, fingers gripping a flightstick, playing the X-Wing and Tie Fighter games. But when LucasArts took the first-person shooter gameplay of hits like Doom and Duke Nukem and interjected it into a brand new narrative set in the Star Wars universe, I was in heaven. If you wanted to know what a mid-90’s era Star Wars fanboy orgasm on the PC looked like, here it is…
Yup, it’s a pixelated mess… but it was the shit! I can still hear the glorious midi soundtrack building to a crescendo as I take out Stormtroopers with my E-11 Blaster. Yeah! Take that, bitches! Getting my hands on this game was a HUGE deal to me and I played it like crazy… over and over again. You know those hardcore Korean gamers that have to be ripped away from Starcraft to save them from dehydration? Well, that’s crazy… this wasn’t anything like that… forget that… I just really loved Dark Forces and played it a lot. And while sadly Dark Forces has yet to get the action figure attention of Shadows of the Empire, it wasn’t left out completely.
Vader looks so damn cute on the POTF2 cards. He looks like a pug wearing a helmet. While it doesn’t say so on the package, Katarn is basically part of the Power of the Force 2 line. Instead, the figure gets the “Expanded Universe” moniker, and while the package also suggests Kyle is from Dark Forces, I’m pretty sure he didn’t sport the beard until appearing in the subsequent pseudo-sequel Jedi Knight. I would have preferred a clean-shaven Kyle. Jedi Knight was a fine game and all, but I always liked the blaster-toting, space pirate mercenary aspect of Star Wars better than the mystical Jedi Knight bullshit, hence my love for Dark Forces. It was a shooter with no mystic bullshit. As much as I liked seeing Kyle come back, did he really need to become a Jedi? DOES EVERYONE NEED TO BE A JEDI??? Anyway, you’ll also note the package proclaims it can be converted into a 3-D diorama! We’ll get to that in bit!
Kyle himself is a decent looking figure for the period. He isn’t nearly as ridiculously buff as some of the POTF2 figures and the sculpt really strides that line between vintage and modern. I dig Kyle’s outfit a lot. It definitely has a little Han Solo smuggler vibe to it, particularly in the belt and holsters, but the rest of the design is rather distinctive. He’s got an armor vest, kneepads, and some chunky boots. It’s an original looking ensemble, but one that definitely fits the Star Wars universe. There’s some unfortunate paint splatter on the back of my figure, and I’m not a fan of the spray used on his boots, but all in all, not bad!
The likeness is good enough for a character that is based off a computer drawing, although later Katarn would be depicted in the flesh through FMV and the figure is even passable for the actor. The paintwork on the eyes and beard is all quite solid too. Granted, you don’t see a whole lot of Kyle in Dark Forces, as it’s a POV shooter, but the character has had plenty of face time since, and this figure does him proud. In the context of POTF2 figures, this is a pretty fantastic head sculpt.
Kyle features only six points of articulation. You get the usual head, shoulders and hips of the vintage figures, with an additional swivel in the waist. He’s a tad pre-posed with a wide stance. It makes him look great on the shelf, like he’s ready for action, but sadly it also makes him rather incompatible with most vehicle cockpits. But hey, it’s not like Hasbro ever gave us a Moldy Crow for him to ride in. By the way, Moldy Crow is the worst name for a spaceship ever. If Shipwreck from GI JOE had a spaceship, I’m pretty sure that’s what he would name it.
Weapons! Dark Forces was all about weapons, but Kyle only comes with two. First, you get his modified Bryar blaster pistol. It’s somewhat close to the pistol in the game, but it doesn’t have the magazine on the side. In terms of default FPS weapons, this one was pretty nice and accurate. The other weapon is either the Imperial Repeater or the Packered Mortar Gun? It doesn’t look much like either weapon model, as I remember them. Of course, my favorite weapon in the game was the E-11 Rifle. It’s understandable he doesn’t come with one and only fitting that he should have to kill one of my Stormtrooper figures and take theirs.
And then there’s the 3-D Play Scene! Yes, if you carefully follow the instructions, the cardback will fold out into this little display area with a landing bay and an Imperial Shuttle. Look, it’s a cool concept and pretty ambitious for a package that is just a cardback. It’s also a concept that Hasbro has made better use of since with boxed figures and vehicles. In practice, it’s not all that impressive, but I give Hasbro major points for the effort.
I picked up Kyle a couple months back at a toy show for a fiver, along with some other POTF2 era EU figures, all of which I’ll try to get to over the course of the coming weeks. Katarn later got an updated figure as part of a Comic Pack, which I probably would have picked up if it paired him with Jan Ors, as opposed to comic book adversary, Yuuzhan Vong. In hindsight, I probably let my bitterness over the lack of a Jan Ors figure overwhelm me on that decision, and I wouldn’t mind having a better version of Katarn in my collection. I’ll have to keep an eye open for him on the Ebays. But seriously, Hasbro, where the hell is Jan Ors?
Oh man! Dark Forces is the game that got me to buy my very first CD-Rom drive. I also played it through over and over again (in between wearing out yet another joystick on TIE Fighter). LucasArts Games were the shit in those days. I would give my left nut for a Kyle Katarn and a Dark Trooper in 6″ Black.
So many great memories around those LucasArts games. Must have played Tie Fighter through dozens of times. Recently played it on Steam and I think it still holds up fine.