For a Star Wars Day 2021 special, I’ve decided to go back into the past for another LEGO Retro Review with a set that has a special place in my personal LEGO journey – 7121 Naboo Swamp.
The year was 1999, and the atmosphere in the world was electric, with the anticipation for the cinematic release of The Phantom Menace at fever pitch.
The world was simply Star Wars mad, and young Jay was 10 year old, caught up by the hype and cultural firestorm that was the return of Star Wars to the big screen – he was also an avid LEGO fan, and the Danish toymaker had just released its first licensed tie-in – LEGO Star Wars sets.
As a kid, the collision between LEGO and Star Wars was mindboggling, and I knew I wanted to get the sets, however my parents weren’t that well-to-do (and LEGO was expensive), so we couldn’t really afford the X-Wing, but I was pretty pleased to have picked up 7121 Naboo Swamp, which included Qui-Gon Jinn.
This set has a special place in my LEGO journey as it the last set I remember purchasing before slipping into my dark ages, and a couple of years ago, I re-bought a copy to relive some of that nostalgia.
Here’s a quick stroll down memory lane to 1999, and my very first LEGO Star Wars set! For something a lot more contemporary, be sure to also check out my review of 75308 R2-D2 or the Darth Vader & Storm Trooper helmets.
7121 Naboo Swamp Set Details
Name: Naboo Swamp
Set Number: 7121
Price: US$10 (at launch) – Buy now from Bricklink
Exclusive to: N/A
Theme: Star Wars
Release Date: 1999
Rebuilding this set, I was quite taken aback to discover that it only contains 82-pieces, but boy did it feel like so much more to 10-year old me. At only 82 pieces (the size of polybags these days), the LEGO designers were quite adept to use what they had at their disposal to re-create the lush Naboo Swamp where Qui-Gonn and Obi Wan encounter Jar Jar Binks for the first time.
But first, let’s take a look at the instruction manual, which feels so quaint – like it’s from another lifetime. From the LEGO System logo, to the Star Wars-esque font for the set name.
Here’s a look at the insides – I love how vibrant the colours were, and those numbered step designs.
And the back, which in true vintage LEGO form, had a B-model for Jar Jar’s scooter, as well as that LEGO stamp in the corner.
For a US$10 set in 1999, the fact that it came with 4 minifigures was impressive in its own right, and at the time, I chose this set because I felt like it packed quite a lot of value, as well as the fact that it had a good mix of Battle Droids, a Gungan and the heroic Qui-Gon Jinn.
US$10 would be worth about $15.90 in today’s money, and if this set was sold for US$16 today, I’d probably grab it as it still seems like good value, and puts it squarely in Battle Pack territory.
More than 20 years on, Battle Droids remain unchanged. Modern Battle Droids lack those plates on their back, but for the most part, LEGO’s design team achieved perfection on their first try, so why fix (or update) what ain’t broke.
Jar Jar’s mould has also remained unchanged, except modern versions have printing on it, but it’s been a while since we’ve had a Gungan minifigure, and I don’t own any of the newer ones to compare.
Jar Jar Binks manages to look advanced for its time, yet suitably primitive without any printing on his moulded head, which to LEGO’s credit, packs some really nice details, especially on his eye stalks.
Last but not least we have Qui-Gon Jinn, which I was utterly obsessed about thanks to his heroics, and stoic demeanour in The Phantom Menace. Also, in my mind, he had a green lightsaber, and Luke had a green lightsaber in Return of the Jedi, so I instantly thought he was way more powerful.
I do like the yellow Star Wars minifigures, and Qui-Gon’s features, are captured reasonably well, thanks to his believable hairpiece which was new.
Of course, the coolest thing about LEGO Star Wars were the lightsabers, which again, remain unchanged.
I did forget that we had chromed lightsaber hilts, which looks so bad-ass now, but I then remember that LEGO had a habit of chroming all sorts of elements back then.
Very eye-catching, and such a timeless minifigure accessory.
Both Battle Droids rode STAPs or Single Trooper Aerial Platforms which cleverly used transparent elements as stands to give the visual impression that they were floating.
Basic, but they do the job, and gave the Battle Droids some extra playability.
And here’s the swamp – so simple, but works pretty well. The construction techniques are so basic by today’s standards, just basic bricks and clips, but I do like the use of seaweed and green whips that were all the rage in the 90s to give it that proper swampy look.
I believe the scallops were relatively new at the time, having only made appearances in Scala / Belville sets, but really makes great use of contrast in this context.
And that was it – simple, effective and the most excellent use of 82-pieces that a Star Wars-obsessed 10 year old boy could want.
What I liked:
- You had 4 minifigures
- Lots of playability thanks to the minifigures
- Qui-Gon Jinn and his chrome lightdsaber
- No stickers
- Battle Droids are evergreen
- Good value for US$10 in 1999
What I didn’t like:
- Swamp build was quite basic
- No guns or blasters, but they weren’t invented yet
For a 1999 set, Naboo Swamp holds up pretty well from a value perspective. It had all the elements needed for 10-year old me to be obsessed with the set, and the “complete package” of Jar Jar, 2 Battle Droids and 1 awesome Jedi minifigure was very well considered.
It’s funny rebuilding this set to discover how so little has changed, yet so much has evolved, especially with advanced techniques employed to even the smallest of sets, however LEGO Star Wars’ DNA remains strongly present here.
As one of the few sets that kick-started LEGO Star Wars, this was a joy back in 1999, and remains a joy today.
What I like is the chromed lightsaber, which just looks terrific, and the fact that it’s a self-contained diorama that you can set up in a myriad of ways to re-enact moments from The Phantom Menace.
Jar Jar is maligned and largely hated by the fanbase, but I would like to see a modern interpretation of everyone’s favourite Gungan.
It might be hard to believe, but this is only the second Jar Jar Binks variant to exist, and it’s also coming up to quite some time since we last saw Qui-Gon Jinn (in 75169 Duel on Naboo), so I’d like to see LEGO give the Phantom Menace a bit of a reboot. Possibly the Gungan Sub to give us a new Queen Amidala, and the rest of the Episode 1 gang.
That said, 10 year old me loved this set, and I too had a blast putting this retro review together.
Thanks for reading this Retro LEGO Review of 7121 Naboo Swamp! Hope you enjoyed this slightly personal and nostalgic look at my own journey with LEGO Star Wars, and if 10-year old me knew that we’d be still getting awesome and highly detailed sets like the new R2-D2, he’d be stoked.
Happy Star Wars Day and May the 4th be with you!
What was your first LEGO Star Wars set? Let me know in the comments as I love hearing about people’s collections!
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