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By Thomas Wheeler

Although my admitted preference in collecting Star Wars Clone Wars action figures is for the Clone Troopers themselves, I've been known to occasionally welcome a Droid or two into my collection. And one recent addition, which has tended to be rather elusive, is known as the AQUA DROID.

Some months back, prior to this review, I saw this droid all of once -- and passed on it at that time, only to learn a few days later that this was an extremely popular new droid that was getting snapped up faster than you could see Threepio wherever it turned up. And of course the one I saw was long gone.

However, there was word that the Aqua Droid would be worked back into the action figure assortments at some point. And sure enough, with the package overhaul now emphasizing Darth Maul to give the re-release (in 3D) of Episode I some attention, even on the Clone Wars packaging, here came the Aqua Droid again.

And very much in accordance with the old saying "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me", I didn't hesitate to acquire him this time around.

The Aqua Droid is obviously one of the more specialized droids used by the Separatist forces. The Clone Wars, as we have certainly learned, focus largely on battles between the human Clone Army of the Republic, and the Droid Army of the Separatists. The first time we encounter any sort of Battle Droid was during Episode I, when the Trade Federation utilized them in battle against the planet Naboo. They were ultimately put down by the combined forces of the Gungan army, a bunch of brave Naboo pilots, and a lucky shot on their control ship by Anakin Skywalker.

By Episode II, the so-called Super Battle Droids had been developed. Far bulkier, these posted a distinctly greater threat. The Aqua Droid is considered a rather extreme spinoff of the B2 Super Battle Droid, so let's have a little background on both, with a little help from the Web Site known as Wookieepedia.

The B2 super battle droid (SBD) was an upgraded version of the B1 battle droid, with superior armament and armor. They were manufactured after the battle of Naboo proved need for stronger droids. B2s were used by the Trade Federation, the Techno Union, and later, on a much larger scale, the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Some units were later reactivated on Mustafar by Gizor Dellso and other members of the Separatist holdouts, and the Galactic Alliance also used some B2 units during the Yuuzhan Vong War.

One of the main design flaws of the standard B1 battle droid was its reliance on a Droid Control Ship to provide a signal; if the ships were disabled, the battle droids would become useless. To remedy this, the super battle droid did not rely on such a signal and had a greater capacity for independence. However, the droid still operated best with a command signal, otherwise they tended to forget about enemies as soon as they moved out of visual range. Also, the sturdy frame of the super battle droid was larger and more heavily armored than those of a B1.

Unlike its predecessor, the B2's delicate processing unit and signal receptor were buried deep inside the torso, offering much more protection from enemy fire. Small dual laser cannons were mounted on their right and/or left forearms, along with a tri-shot weapon system. The B2's forearms could also be replaced by rocket launchers. They could use external weaponry (except in rocket launcher configuration), though their large hands had difficulty with smaller blasters. Instead, they were equipped with special blaster rifles that only responded to signal emitters built into the hands. For the sake of efficiency, they used many B1 parts. Their feet were also outfitted with specialized equipment for difficult terrain, such as climbing claws. Their arms also were modular, capable of exchanging their laser cannon for grenade launchers and other specialized weaponry.

When they were not using their built-in laser cannons, they had their right forearm locked upright.

As heavy infantry droids, B2s could take much more punishment than their flimsy predecessors. Even after being defeated, they could detach their torsos and keep up an attack although this was detrimental to their combat skill. Despite such traits some models seemingly suffered low heat tolerance and were subject to bursting into flame upon contact.

Most post-Battle of Geonosis B2 droids were capable of communicating with each other using an oversimplified version of Galactic Basic Standard.

The B2 was preceded by the lesser-used prototype beta version. Soon after the Invasion of Naboo, the Trade Federation was researching a new type of battle droid. Commandos from the Royal Naboo Security Forces seized the research facility and discovered the data about this new battle droid.

During their first deployment at the Kashyyyk Trade Rebellion in 28 BBY, the new B2 designs proved to be a match for the local Wookiee warriors.

Super battle droids saw use throughout the Clone Wars as soldiers for the Confederacy along with its smaller cousins and the dreaded droidekas. Though the first super battle droids seen on Geonosis wore an unpainted dull silver tone, many of the droids used in later battles of the Clone Wars were painted dark blue, likely to differentiate them from the tan coloration the Confederacy used for its standard battle droids, or perhaps due to varying manufacturers.

Some Super Battle Droids were used as scouts to observe the plains of Geonosis, mostly because of their brute strength and their ability to destroy modest ground targets. This pleased many of the local Geonosians affiliated with the CIS, thus sometimes using the B2s as "spire guards."

The droids eventually were able to express certain emotions, though having catastrophic grammar. They possessed a more violent temperament than the B1 model, to the point they would even strike down allied units in order to quickly intercept enemy targets, as seen in the Battle of Geonosis. As well as that, they were also considerably more durable and intelligent, capable of easily withstanding light blaster bolts.

Super battle droids were often retrofitted with adversarial specific parts. However, this method was introduced late in the war and had little effect on the outcome of the conflict. One known model change was the introduction of the grapple droid, which had heavier armor and a larger frame. This droid was programd to be a close combat model able to receive primary lightsaber slashes and disable enemies through its electrified claws. Another specialized variant was involved in the release of the swamp gas toxin on Ohma-D'un. The D-60 assault droid, another variant, was used in the Battle of Cartao by CIS forces. two jetpack-equipped variants of the droid, the jump droid, and the rocket droid, where also developed.

The B2 battle droid was designed by the Techno Union using the existing B1 design as a template. After prototypes were successfully tested, Count Dooku struck a deal with Poggle the Lesser, Archduke of Geonosis, to mass produce these droids.

Further orders were placed on worlds controlled by Baktoid and quadrillions of B2s were soon running off the assembly lines. Despite their advantages and ease of production, however, they were not manufactured as extensively as their inferior cousins, the B1s.

During the Clone Wars, B2s would become an important component of the Separatist Droid Army. They participated in most battles in that conflict including the Battle of Geonosis, Battle of Muunilinst, Battle of Coruscant, and Battle of Kashyyyk, and innumerable others throughout the galaxy. B2s were used as shooting range targets as part of the training of clone sharpshooters. A training model was used on Kamino for the training of Clone cadets.

Following the execution of the Separatist Council by Darth Sidious's new apprentice, Darth Vader, the B2s were deactivated.

A few years after Order 66, Gizor Dellso reactivated a Droid Foundry on Mustafar. Among the reactivated production lines were a few lines that produced B2 battle droids, providing Dellso with an acceptable amount of B2's in his droid army.

After the Clone Wars, a few entrepreneurs found warehouses filled with the droids. Many were sold to gangs or major crime lords for enforcement. Others would be used by the various Separatist holdouts. Like some B1 battle droids, B2s were also used as guards inside the Death Watch Bunker on Endor.

During the Yuuzhan Vong War, many B2 droids used by the Galactic Alliance made up a force known as the Orange Panthacs, which beat back an occupation force of fire breathers on Mantessa.

As to the Auqa Droid, this was a model of battle droid able to fight both on land and underwater. They were used in the Separatists' attack on Kamino. They also were used in the Separatist's attempt to control the planet Mon Calamari. They were armed with a retractable laser cannon. For propulsion underwater, their feet could fold into propellers. They were about as tough and powerful as a standard B2 droid, despite their skeletal look.

So, how's the toy? Extremely impressive, and that comment about "skeletal" look certainly fits. I'm no engineer, but between the original B1 battle droid and the B2 super battle droid, I tend to wonder whether either one would swim all that well, assuming either one of them was especially waterproof in the first place. I'm of the opinion that the B1 is such a scrawny piece of work that it would have trouble making any sort of headway in the water, and the B2 is so bulky that it might sink real well, but I'm not sure about swimming.

The head and upper body is the largest section of the droid, and it has a rather flat, fan-shaped appearance on the top, tapering quickly to a narrower upper body. There's any number of forms of marine life that this reminds me of -- stingrays, the front section of a hammerhead shark.

Something that the online profile didn't mention, is that the actual head of the robot is recessed into the upper torso. It can be extended, much as B1 battle droids tend to have recessed necks. The head is similar in shape to the upper torso, just smaller. But it readily pops up and turns around. According to the information on the package, they recess their heads for quicker movement underwater. Makes sense.

There's a single eye in the center of the front of the head, recessed inside a curved slot, a little bit of red surrounded by black.

Maintaining that "skeletal" look is the main torso, which has the look of a mechanical spinal column, a narrow tube with several "vertebrae" attached to it, tapering into a lower torso that honestly has a sort of mechanical/skeletal look to it as well. There is an articulation point here on the figure, directly beneath the head/upper torso segment.

The arm design is interesting. There are two long, ornate cylinders on either side of the underside of the head, that expand outwards diagonally before really coming to the shoulders of the actual arms of the Aqua Droid. The upper and lower arms of the Aqua Droid are very long. The arms actually reach below the knees. And the arm sections are oblong shaped and rather flat. Although the Aqua Droid has mechanical means of propulsion, and wouldn't necessarily need to use its arms for swimming, I can well imagine that it can use its arms underwater for steering very effectively.

The arms have a surprising amount of articulation, that is designed very intriguingly. The initial posts as they emerge from underneath the head have a back and forth movement, while the arms themselves have an inward and outward motion. The elbows are also articulated, and quite remarkably have a rotational swivel.

The legs are designed somewhat similarly to the arms, although the articulation design on the figure is somewhat different. Here, there are shorter posts than those of the arms, poised at an angle, positioning the legs somewhat away from the lower torso. They needn't be as long, however, because unlike the arms, they don't need to clear the wide head.

The leg articulation is entirely located at the lower torso, and allows for back and forth as well as inward and outward motion. The upper legs are somewhat similar to the arm design, in that they are rather oblong in shape, and rather flat.

Below the knees, however, the leg design changes. The "flatness" faces forward, rather than sideways, and has a rather triangular appearance. The knee joint allows the legs to move forward and backward, but there is no rotational swivel.

This would be somewhat on the order of overkill, however, given the feet. The feet consist of two curved triangular shapes, with a hinge in the center, and a full ankle rotation. Remember what the background profile of the Aqua Droid said? "For propulsion underwater, their feet could fold into propellers." The toy is entirely capable of this. It's a very cool feature, although it does have one slight drawback. The Aqua Droid is a rather top-heavy figure, with relatively very small and more flexible than usual feet. He can be a little tricky to get to stand up of his own accord. He will stand, but it's not always easy.

Some might ask -- how does he function in water? Well, the toy is entirely plastic. There's no metal parts on him that might rust. But this is something that I haven't tested myself and don't really intend to. I really have no idea whether he'd float, sink, or swim. At a guess, given where most of his weight seems to be, I'd expect him to go head first right to the bottom.

The Aqua Droid doesn't come with any separate accessories, except for a plastic die, display base, and character card for the ongoing Galactic Battle Game (the only new difference being they've recolored the die and the base), but he does have his laser cannon attached to his lower right arm. Unlike the "actual" droid, it's not retractable, and the additional length means that the total length of the right arm actually goes beyond the end of the legs. You'll have to bend his elbow a bit to get him to stand.

The Aqua Droid is slightly taller than average human height in the Clone Wars line, but not by much. He's about 4-1/4" tall with his head recessed, and almost 4-1/2" with his head up.

The Aqua Droud has a very appealing and appropriate color scheme. The Aqua Droid is mostly gray. His appendage posts and spinal column are dark gray, as are his hands and laser cannon. His gray body has a certain amount of light blue trim on it, including narrow lines on the head, broad stripes down the arms, and most of the lower legs. It's an excellent overall design that somehow really manages to accentuate the fact that this is a Droid intended for aquatic use.

So, what's my final word? Well, I can see why this droid is so popular. It's a great design, and certainly distinctive. The toy is well made, and has a generous amount of articulation, and some interesting features, like the retracting head and the adjustable feet. It really is a superb rendition of the droid as it appears in the Clone Wars animated series, and I would expect that any Star Wars Clone Wars fan would welcome it into their collection. Hopefully, it'll be a little easier to find this time around.

The STAR WARS CLONE WARS figure of the AQUA DROID definitely has my highest recommendation!