As a kid growing up with the Star Wars saga, nothing typified the magic of Star Wars more than lightsabers. The idea of "laser swords" was always a huge part of the wow factor for my prepubescent friends and me. Using Wiffle Ball bats as our makeshift lightsabers, we staged a lot of Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader battles.
Thus, Master Replicas made a lot of dreams come true when they released their Force FX Lightsabers in 2002. I had been aware of Master Replicas from the products they created based on the Lord of the Rings movies - they did a beautiful replica of Frodo's sword Sting - so I was thrilled when I heard that they were going to be making lightsaber replicas.
However, what I had seen from Master Replicas were models that you display, so I expected the Force FX Lightsabers to be the same. The reality was much cooler. Not only did the Force FX Lightsabers look like life-size replicas of the Jedi weapons from the movies, but they also had blades that lit up and were made to withstand dueling.
I saw a Force FX Lightsaber for the first time at Star Wars Celebration III (C3) in April 2005 in Indianapolis - which we attended as a gift for my son's sixth birthday. Master Replicas had a booth where you could try out the various Force FX models based on the lightsabers from the different movies. You could then purchase one at a reduced price of $99 during the event (the retail price is $119). The line at their booth was almost always at least 25-people deep throughout the event, and it seemed like at least half of the 30,000 fans in attendance at C3 bought one.
Many of them immediately took their Force FX Lightsabers out of the box and carried them around the corridors. There were lightsabers sticking up everywhere. Since many of the attendees were in costume, it was hilarious to see Storm Troopers, Han Solos, and Queen Amidalas chatting, joking, and casually wielding lightsabers.
I walked away from C3 with a Force FX replica of the Luke Skywalker lightsaber from The Empire Strikes Back. My son and I had a lot of fun with it and I used it during several Halloween events in which I dressed as a Jedi. However, we didn't fully appreciate how cool it was until TechRepublic got the Darth Vader Episode IV Force FX Lightsaber for our Geek Gift Guide 2007 and our Cracking Open series.
My (now eight year old) son helped me test the two lightsabers in tandem for this review. Here are the things we really liked, along with the caveats:
- When the blade ignites, there's a very accurate power-up sound and light effect
- Authentic lightsaber sounds from the Star Wars movies, including power-up, power-down, hum, and clash
- The humming sound is motion-sensitive so it changes pitch as you swing the blade
- Heavy metal hilt that looks very authentic and has a nice weight to it
- Sturdy blade can take plenty of dueling action with another lightsaber
- The glowing blade looks especially cool in the dark
- The glowing blade is not very visible in daylight
- Since the blade is permanently attached to the hilt, you can't hang the hilt from your belt like a Jedi
- The included plastic display unit looks pretty cheap and is not up to the standard of the lightsaber
- The replica doesn't cut through four-foot thick metal blast doors
For a visual, take a look at Photos: Force FX Lightsaber from Master Replicas - unboxed and in action. Also, don't miss Cracking Open Master Replicas' Darth Vader Force FX Lightsaber for an inside look at the technology that powers the product.
Geek Gift score
Fun factor: 5
Geek factor: 5
Jason Hiner has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.