Let’s talk Novi Stars! + Nita Light w/ Energy Pod review

novi22Let’s talk about Novi Stars – it’s an American line of  “fashion” dolls released by MGA Entertainment in 2012, and it’s one that I really like.  The dolls are all adorable little alien girls!

There are currently 9 basic Novi Stars dolls, a budget “Orbit Beach” line with the first 4 characters in swimsuits, 2 “Stellar Skins” dolls that are taller and have rubber “skins”/clothes, 2 “Super Novas” that are a little larger and just generally more awesome, 2 “Curl n’ Coil” dolls that are taller and have a robot/hair gimmick, an “Energy Pod” playset that comes with a basic doll, and there are four fashion packs and a line of blind-bag pets as well.

Each doll has a special feature, such as lighting up or glowing in the dark, that is promoted on their box, and has a bio which gives (generally rather insipid) details about the character. Every Novi Star comes with a pet and a glow-in-the-dark doll stand, excluding Nita Light, who comes with the energy pod.

Unfortunately the whole doll line seems to either be discontinued or on some kind of hiatus;  the most recent wave of Novis, despite the dolls being like 20% cooler, was very sparsely distributed in the United States and never made it to Canada at all.  The Novi Stars website used to have all the toys and character bios, and some kind of blogs or something, but now there’s only a small handful of Novi Stars themed games and nothing else.  Hopefully this isn’t the end of the line – it’s a great concept and the products are solid, with interesting designs and good sculpting on the dolls themselves (their little faces are so goddamned adorable).

The only problem I felt the line had was that it seemed like they put energy toward the gimmicks and shiny packaging instead of making the toys and their fictional world as great as they could have been.  Those plastic headband/handles are totally unnecessary and not all that appealing, and they didn’t need fancy-ass metallic boxes, and the dolls are unique enough that they could have done without light-up eyes and fruit-scented hair and shit – instead I feel the dolls should have been more articulated and play-with-able, or just less expensive.

Some of the dolls have legs that are totally stiff and even fused together; maybe it’s just me, but even as a kid I always thought dolls were more fun when you could move them around and pose them and make them do things…  I think the Novi Stars concept got a little too broad; it’s like they couldn’t decide whether to make a great little doll or a gimmicky kids’ toy, and ended up with a mashup.

What’s funny/sad to me is that it’s obvious from some of the promo pictures and box art that at least some of the dolls were, in fact, intended to be much more poseable, with additional joints at elbow and wrist and knee.  If they’d actually made the damn dolls that way, Novi Stars would be some of my all-time favorite toys and it would have made them worth the asking price – and maybe the line wouldn’t have petered out…

Another unfortunate thing about Novi Stars is that the flavor text and bios come off as a little hackneyed and uninspired – some decent characterization and writing to get people interested and invested in the Novi world would have been nice.  Lines like Ever After High are really good for that – the webisodes and backstories and book are all really good and make me want the dolls more, and it would have been smart if they’d done a better job of that with the Novis.  I guess they tried, but the writing I encountered just felt so trite and soulless that I didn’t even want to look farther into it.  Maybe part of the problem is that I’m seeing the condensed international text on the boxes, but the website didn’t pull me in, either.

The character art is a little strange as well, and not very much like the dolls.. the way they illustrate the Novi Stars looks like something that would appeal more to older kids – the dolls themselves are so kawaii-cute, I feel like the artwork should be too.  Maybe that’s just me though.

Anyway, now that I’ve dissed the whole doll line, I should probably mention some of the good things, ’cause I really do like these toys.  The best thing about them, in my opinion, are their heads – the sculpts are very simple but extremely cute, with little pointy ears and big inset eyes, and they all have these long eyelashes that make them look fantastically doe-eyed.  I’m pretty sure all the head sculpts are the same, except for the cyclops and triclops, but MGA did a good job of making each doll look very unique regardless.

The clothing is another thing I dig about Novi Stars – they’re really successful at being at least quasi fashionable and futuristic, and the designs are all very creative and detailed and fun to look at.  The quality of all the clothes and accessories is also quite nice, especially for stuff this small, and again, the sculpting is really good.

I’m really ambivalent about the bodies on the Novi Stars.  The shape and sculpting are nice – I love how pear-shaped these dolls are, and their little feet and hands are so cute – however, the articulation on these dolls leaves a lot to be desired, since many of them have movement only with their heads and shoulders.

*~*~*~*

You can still find some of the first couple of waves of Novi Stars in stores, and they are of course on Amazon.  They seem to all be going on clearance now and will probably disappear from stores very soon, so if you’re intrigued by them grab ’em while you can.

I had actually thought that all the Novis were gone from my locale in Canada, but earlier this week I found the last dregs on a clearance endcap at Toys R Us.  I was able to pick up these two for less than $20:

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I was super excited to see the energy pod on that sale shelf, because I have been waiting and waiting for that damn thing to go on clearance – the doll that comes with it is so cute, but I had a feeling the pod itself wasn’t worth paying for.

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This doll’s name is Nita Light, which isn’t even the least creative of the Novi Star monikers.  Her face glows in the dark. Damn, she’s cute.

Deboxing was super easy and actually did not require the use of scissors, which is a freaking miracle when it comes to dolls.

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No plastic tabs or pain the the butt bullshit, just some twisties and tape!

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She’s attached to the plastic with some little rubber bands, which are held on by those black things.

Here’s everything that comes in the box:

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I didn’t find any elastic hairbands, but I’m not too concerned about it.

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Let’s start by looking at the “energy pod.”  It’s a little silly, but charming.

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The clear front piece pops on and off very easily, and stays put nicely.

There is a tiny bit of assembly required – there are two “console” pieces that sit loosely in slots in the floor of the pod, plus there is a doll holder and a pet holder that fit into holes in the back wall.

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Nita is the same size as the other basic Novi dolls (about 6″ tall), and the instructions for the pod state that any Novi Stars doll can be used inside it, so that’s nice that it’s made to be used with more than just this one doll.  Unfortunately, when the pod is in motion Nita’s head hits the little plastic planet that dangles from the ceiling, so it seems that only the basic Novis will work in this playset, since the other Novi Stars dolls are all taller.

The pod requires three or four AA batteries, and you need a screwdriver to access the battery compartment.  There is an on/off switch on the back of the pod’s base.

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When you turn on the pod, a series of color-changing lights comes on and the doll and pet stands wiggle and spin (making them “hover”), and the whole thing emits a fair bit of buzzing noise (not unlike Monster High’s “hydration station”).  I guess Nita energizes by raving alone or something.

PicMonkey CollageAs I expected, the pod is really not an item I’d feel happy paying full price for, but it is kinda fun and will be a cute way to display a doll.

And speaking of the doll…

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This is Nita Light.  Apparently she is a “ghostly artist,” according to the (kinda terrible) wiki; that’s pretty cool.  The doll doesn’t look much like the character art, but her bio is actually cute and her character likeable, which I haven’t really found to be the case with the other dolls.

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This doll is much like the Orbit Beach Novi Stars in terms of look and quality – just slightly more basic than the basic dolls.  Nita has a yellowish-white glow-in-the-dark face and a clear plastic body; she has waist-length purple hair with v-cut bangs, sparkly blue inset eyes, and pale pink & purple makeup.

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Her hair is nicely rooted – it’s very tight around the hairline and then thinner in the back, which is normal for her type of hairstyle.  The scalp is not visible anywhere unless you actively lift up all her hair to look for it.  The quality of the hair seems ok; it’s not silky or soft to the touch, but it also doesn’t seem prone to too much frizz or tangling.

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Each Novi Star doll has different glittery inset eyes, and each one has some kind of little symbol in the pupil; I’m not exactly sure what Nita’s is supposed to be.

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She comes dressed in a silvery sleeveless jumpsuit with a sewn-on silver belt, and she has sparkly black open-toed boots.  I enjoy the fact that the shoes match the base of the energy pod.

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Nita’s accessories include headphones, a bottle of soda, a plastic “magazine”, and a tv monitor that fits into a hole in the console of the energy pod.

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Here’s Nita in the nude (and missing one arm.. it kept falling off):

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I was very disappointed to see that this doll has the fused-leg body; the only other Novis that have this are because they light up or are filled with liquid, so Nita here is obviously a cheap-out because she comes with a playset.  Lame.  Really freaking lame.  Let’s not talk about the arm that keeps falling off.

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Nita’s body is identical to the other fused-leg Novi Stars, but without a good reason.

What I’ve decided to do with mine is re-body Nita’s head.  I went back to TRU and picked up one of the “Stellar Skinz” dolls, Gail Lexi, which was also on clearance; those dolls have a larger body than the standard Novis, but they’re the same clear plastic as Nita and they have jointed hips.  The Stellar Skinz dolls also have a hard plastic head lacking the nice inset eyes, so I won’t be sad about ditching it.

If you wanted a body that’s more poseable and sized more like her original small one, it’s possible to put the Novi heads on a Picco Neemo bjd body, though the body would have to be painted – it’s totally do-able however:

It’s also popular to put Novi Star heads on Monster High bodies, since they are nicely articulated and many of the skintones are similar; I’ve done one of these myself and plan to do several more, but Nita’s skintone doesn’t match any MH dolls, and it’s very hard to do a full-body repaint on MH that won’t scratch easily.

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For now, Nita is staying in her own petite, stiff-legged body.  Once I open up the Stellar Skinz and do the surgery, I’ll probably take some photos and post them here.

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20140214_131947As I mentioned before, all the Novi Stars dolls have a gimmick and Nita’s is that her head glows in the dark.  According to the instructions, the doll’s face just needs to be exposed to light for 1-2 minutes before putting her in the dark to glow.  The instruction sheet cautions not to leave the doll in sunlight for protracted lengths of time, as the glow in the dark feature will lessen.  It also says that the glowing feature has a “lengthy but limited lifespan.”

Nita’s face glows quite well, pretty similarly to the Bratzillaz beach dolls, and it seemed to last a long time.

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All in all, I like the Novi Stars and am happy to have picked up Nita with the energy pod when they went on clearance.   It’s frustrating that she is less articulated; as-is she’s not very play-with-able to me, and once you figure the Stellar Skinz purchase into the equation I will have ended up spending a fair bit of cash for what was one clearanced doll.  Nita is super cute though; I just love that face and those eyes, not to mention that her hair, color scheme, outfit and accessories are all pretty great.  The glow in the dark gimmick is irrelevant to me, except that it gives the vinyl of her face a translucent, luminous quality that’s very pretty.

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that Novi Stars aren’t dead in the water, and we will continue to see more of this line in the future; the most recent releases included some cool improvements on an already very decent product, and it’d be awesome to see what else they’d come up with for these adorable little toys.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kitty
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 13:08:07

    I hope they aren’t gone, I always thought they were interesting, but I can’t find them in stores here except the occasional lonely doll at like Walmart. I really hope they start improving on the articulation of these dolls if the are continuing the line, though, their articulation is the worst.

    Reply

  2. sailingmartha
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 13:27:13

    You are right on target with all the things I love/hate about the Novi Stars dolls. I think their faces are adorable but their bodies leave a lot to be desired. I fell in love with the two Curl n’ Coil dolls, so I went ahead and bought Alie, who’s OK, but then Mae and Ari ended up being huge fails for me. They kind of turned me off the line, at least for now. Your assessment of what went wrong with this line is right on – the idea is unique but the execution didn’t live up to it. I’ll be interested to see if they come out with new dolls, and if they can improve them and make them more playable.

    Reply

  3. Elaine Morgan
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 12:57:51

    I’ve been really intrigued by the Novi stars, but the unarticulated bodies and loose limbs have stopped me from taking the plunge.
    They’re not sold here, so I’d have to import them, and they just do not seem worth the shipping. :oS

    I do love their alien look though. I’d love to see a round-up of all Novis you got?

    Reply

    • DollNerd
      Feb 24, 2014 @ 16:51:00

      Oh, that’s a good idea! I’ve been wanting to take some comparison photos with the different types of Novis and I’ve been putting off deboxing the robot Novi for a long time, so maybe I’ll do a short review + a roundup of my Novi collection. 🙂

      The only Novis I would consider worth the cost of international shipping would be the Super Novas, Mimi Merize and Vera Tabray. I don’t own those two, but I played with a friend’s, and they are very cool, not to mention larger and more detailed than the other Novis.

      Reply

  4. Trackback: Review: Novi Stars Tily Vizon doll (+ Novi bodies comparison) | Doll Nerd
  5. Yelinna
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 19:49:42

    Two years ago Novis were being sold in Perú, but nobody bought them (me included). I think the main problem was the bulky shinny package: it screams “I’m super super expensive!!”. We weren’t wrong: Novi Stars dolls were more expensive than regular MH dolls, plus being so small in comparison, less articulated and having a poor body sculpt, they ednded up as a selling failure and dissapeared from shelves after some weeks.

    Another problem I found with the Novis was the lack of creativity on their bios. All of them are fashion-centered despite they are space-time travelers or astronauts. They could be space pilots, engineers or scientists, but NOOO! we got the same boring fashion dolls again 😦

    Reply

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