I recently acquired a 2003 Luke ROTJ saber, and thought I'd post a review of it, since it seems to be one of the more overlooked and under-rated of the FX sabers out there.
So, looking at the hilt first. It is certainly unique, and very different from most of the others, which are based on Graflex or MPP flash tubes, with the exception of the Mace Windu AOTC. The feel of it is very smooth and polished, and it sits very well in the hand. It is very light and manoeuvrable, and twists and twirls and suchlike can be very easily performed. It also seems to be much lighter than most other FX hilts. Whether it really is lighter or just feels much lighter due to its simple, streamlined design I'm not honestly sure.
On the downside, the hilt is certainly not the most accurate in terms of faithfully replicating the look of the original. It is quite a bit bigger, and this is most noticeable at the neck. The tapered, thin neck of the on-screen saber and the LE/SE hilts is not carried across to the FX. Due to the amount of electronics that have to be crammed into it, and the necessity of securing the blade properly, the neck is much fatter than the actual on-screen saber. But it is still thinner at the neck than elsewhere on the main body of the saber, and in all other respects it does faithfully resemble the actual saber hilt in terms of the design, look and feel.
Moving on to the actual behaviour of the saber. The sounds are very loud and crisp, and surprisingly the power up, power down and idle hum seem identical to that used in the later Mace Windu AOTC FX. The idle hum has the exact same stutter when it cycles around that the Mace does, and the power up and power down samples are also seemingly identical. However, the sound is far louder than the Mace (which is notoriously quiet), and so even though it is an earlier saber than the Mace the sound of the Luke ROTJ is actually better. It is much clearer, more vibrant and not of the same 'muted' character as that of the Mace. The swinging and clash sounds are also loud and clear, and the overall motion and collision detection is about on a par with that of the Vader ANH FX. This sound playback behaviour is also similar to the Vader ANH, however, in that if the direction of the saber changes mid-swing, for example, then the alternate swinging sound effect will start playing right away without waiting for the previous effect to finish. This was the case in all sabers released up to this point, however, and so is not an issue unique to the Luke ROTJ.
On to the blade. The blade in the 2003 Luke ROTJ is an EL (electro-luminescent) blade, and not the later LED technology. This means that the blade does not have the same power-up/power-down effects that the later LED sabers have - when switched on, the entire blade lights at once rather than the light travelling quickly from the hilt to the tip. Similarly, when switched off the entire blade snaps off at once when the sound-effects finish, rather than sliding back down into the hilt in time with them. Interestingly, the blade does not have the 'fade out' effect that the original Anakin AOTC blade had - rather it simply snaps off sharply. Perhaps people felt this was closer to the actual saber experience than fading out when switched off, or maybe there were other electronic reasons for not including this effect - who can say ?
The colour of the blade is the main sticking point that most people have with this saber, saying that it is more aqua blue than green. I personally don't feel this to be the case. Photographs almost never do this saber justice - true, in a photo it does invariably show up an aqua blue colour. In person, however, the blade is indeed green, and does not have so much as a hint of blue to it. It is also true that it is not the same shade of green as the on-screen saber Luke wields in ROTJ, but it is still clearly a definite green, though more of a lighter, apple/lime green than a strong, burning, deep green. I have taken some photographs that don't honestly do the saber justice, but you can see them at the bottom of this review nonetheless. The blade is also because of its EL technology not as bright as the later LED sabers, but it is certainly bright enough to cast an eerie green glow around a darkened room without any difficulty.
On a final note, a lot of people tend to think of the Anakin AOTC and Luke ROTJ as being of a similar design from a technology standpoint, since they are both EL sabers. However, there are very large differences between them. In particular, the wrap-around point of the EL sheet in the blade is just a faint line in the Luke, and not the glaring crack/tear that it looks like in the Anakin. As already mentioned, the sounds of the Luke are vibrant, crisp and clear, and there is more than one swinging/clash sound. The biggest design difference, though, is the battery compartment. The Luke has the more modern compartment found from the Vader ANH onwards - you only have to unscrew the pommel and slide out the battery holder, rather than practically dismantle the entire thing to get at the batteries as you had to do with the Anakin AOTC. So it really is very different from the Anakin - I generally recommend not thinking of it as Generation 1, but rather as a Generation 2 with an EL rather than LED blade, since aside from the type of blade it is from a technology standpoint just as good as say, the Vader ANH.
So, that's more or less that. I feel this is a greatly under-appreciated saber, and would have no hesitation recommending it to anyone. It has a green blade, a hilt that looks as close as the technology of the day permitted to Luke's saber in ROTJ, and sounds that are just as good, if not better, than some of the later sabers (the Mace AOTC in particular). So if you have been thinking about getting one, don't be put off by the tales of a blue blade or oversized hilt - it is, in my opinion at least, a very worthwhile purchase.
Full size: http://i82.photobucket.com/albums/j248/drysdalk/LUKE-ROTJ-1.jpg
Full size: http://i82.photobucket.com/albums/j248/drysdalk/LUKE-ROTJ-2.jpg