Pizza Power! A flying saucer of delight! Pizza Power! Yeah, that’s what makes it all right!
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a major part of my childhood, and that is strong understatement. What was the last “major” action figure line I collected as a kid, not only did the property dominate my life in plastic, but also in cartoons, movies, and video games. Sure, that is no coincidence to be sure, but looking back and taking stock of it all at this point, I think I was more into TMNT than I even realized at the time. Sure, MOTU was my first love, and properties like Marvel and DC, Ghostbusters, ThunderCats, WWF and others were also big players in my youth, but man, I think TMNT was the ultimate full-court press in terms of taking looks of ducats from both me and my parents.
As you know, NECA has been doing the sensei’s work with their TMNT action figure lines over the past couple of years, and by all indications, it looks like things are only going to get better. I have had such satisfying updates of properties like MOTU, Marvel, DC, and others over the years, and now NECA is giving me Turtles figures like I never would have dreamed. Not to be content with one type of offering though, NECA is bring the goods for those cartoons, movies, and video games listed above, and I could not be happier. Their cartoon, movie, and video game figures have all had the spotlight as convention exclusives, but the toon and film figures have also found new distribution channels via Target and GameStop as well. Thinking about it the other day, the video game deco Turtles did come first at SDCC, but since then, they have not had any kind of availability since then. Well, until now.
The video game figures have now found a wider distribution channel via online and specialty retailers like Dorkside Toys and BBTS, and NECA is kicking off their line with a new assortment. All based on the designs of one of the best TMNT video games of all-time, Turtles in Time, this series includes updates to the previously-released Donatello, Leonardo, and Foot Soldier, but also an all-new figure in the form of fan favorite Slash. I was fortunate enough to get an early set from NECA (thanks guys!), and I have to say that it feels really good to have the video game figures back in the fold. I absolutely loved playing the original arcade, NES, and SNES games when I was a kid, and even though as a line these probably aren’t quite as impactful to most people as the cartoon and movie lines, this is a big deal to me, and I think there will be a lot of opportunity for some cool releases.
I was there for the original SDCC sets featuring the four Turtles, Shredder, and the Foot Soldiers, and it should be noted that those sets were modeled after the original TMNT arcade game, while these new releases feature Turtles in Time. Now, I realize that, due to the exclusivity of the previous sets, this will be the first time for many to get the video game figures, but speaking as one who does have the originals, Donatello, Leo, and the Foot are ALL improvements over the previous figures. Sure, they all feature giant new hoverboard accessories (more on that in a minute), but the construction and paint deco updates to all make these superior offerings in my opinion. Regardless, if you are building a unique Turtles in Time display like I am, these will be essential anyway.
I want to start by saying that the overall construction and engineering on these figures is some of the best work NECA has done in the TMNT line thus far. The plastic is strong, but it is also not rigid, and the joints are very fluid (especially with Slash), but hold their poses very well. The only spot where joints needed some help was with the elbows on Leo, Don, and Slash as they were pretty tight right out of the package and needed a bit of heat to get them going. The good news is that, once that was done, they moved freely, and these were just tight, at no time did I feel any risk of breakage due to the good plastic used for the arms and joints. I simply wanted to give them a little help to get going, and it worked like a charm, so you might want to do that, too.
Past that though, I couldn’t be more delighted with Leo, Donnie, and the Foot. Each comes with their required Katana blades, bo staff, and sword and gun, respectively, and long with a set of alternate hands. The Turtle hands are carryovers, but the Foot hands are actually different from the previous releases as they do not have the guards on the top, making them more accurate to Turtle in Time (I keep wanting to shorten that to the acronym, but I am sure you understand why I can’t do that). That is a nice nod and shows some pretty damned keen attention to detail, so kudos to Randy, Trevor, and the team for giving us the usual laser-focus in their releases.
The paint work is also better here, I believe, and that comes not only from refining the style of the “pixelated” video game patterns, but also in some of better aesthetic choices. The patterning on the Foot is actually dramatically different from the first game release if you look closely, and that is not only in the now solid yellow eyes, but in the square paint work pattern of the costume. It really is completely different and makes for a nice touch of variety on the shelf, but also in giving some uniqueness from game to game. The Turtles themselves have some patterning differences, too, but they are more subtle to my eyes, but, speaking of which, the eyes on D&L look better here to me as well. The pupils are just bigger or something, and that helps support the furthering of the video game aesthetic. You can also see some added pixel detail in the necks and other places so NECA is continually improving, even where we probably didn’t realize it was needed.
The biggest change with these guys though, is the inclusion of their ‘In Time style hover boards, and man, these are so much fun. NECA is not playing around here – they have gone all-out with these in that they have not been cheated in size (as often happens with accessory release like this in some lines), and we have been provided functional stands to make the most of them. The versions included with Don and Leo (naturally) have the same sculpt, but there is a ton of detail within them, and the color palettes are different to match what they use in the game. All of the figures stand well on the boards and the pitch and angles can be changed on the stands to offer some dynamic posing. I think I actually prefer the overall design of the Foot board even more due to the more elaborate engine/exhaust portion, but you cannot go wrong with either.
Overall, these figures are a very nice improvement over the originals in terms of construction, but they also offer a more accessible channel for those who missed the first releases, while holding try to the Turtles in Time designs. I am obviously going to need at least one more Foot for my display, but man, when all four Turtles are together on their boards, it is going to look RAD. Now, that said, I have a feeling that despite their best efforts, these three figures will be playing second (and third and fourth) fiddle to their series mate…
SLASH. Making his much-anticipated debut in this line, as well as a NECA figure in general, Slash has been around in prototype form for a while now, and we have been teased at various conventions. Well, he now has his home, and honestly, he is most certainly the highlight of this wave, but it is not defaulted to him just because he is a new character, this figure EARNED it. Look, at the risk of getting lambasted by his many devotees, I am not even really a “Slash guy” (his personality never really did it for me as a kid, and I was wanting more diverse mutants since we already had four turtles), but this is one of the finest TMNT figures NECA has ever released, and his quality is only eclipsed by his “fun factor” because, this figure is a blast, you guys. Everything has gone right with this figure, and once I got those elbows loosened up, I have not been able to put this guy down. It’s funny, while the game design was very similar to the vintage action figure look, it has taken this figure to get me to really appreciate this guy, and that, my friends, is Turtle Power!
Slash is the “Prehistoric Turtlesaurus” from the home console edition of the game, and that makes a lot more sense than the muck monster who was the boss of the level in the arcade version. This Slash design is much more my preference over the cartoon version (though, we will get a chance to compare them shortly), and not only does it fit the personality of a wild turtle, but also a prehistoric one. The color scheme is very eye-catching and varies from light to dark, and one thing I HAVE always liked about Slash is his more teal skin color, and NECA preserved that here.
I will say that from an articulation and engineering aspect, Slash is probably the best TMNT figure yet. He feels like such a solid toy with (again) great plastic, but he is so expressively poseable with fluid range of movement, he almost feels like a Marvel Legends figure, and I mean that in an extremely complimentary way. If this is the construction expectation for the TMNT line(s) going forward, we are going to have it so good. Slash does have a bit of part carryover from the other Turtles, but it blends into the new pieces so well, it becomes ostensibly invisible. His pixel pattern fits well amongst his series mates, so there is good continuity there, and all of the paint is extremely crisp and clean with zero issues to report.
It is hard to pick a favorite aspect of this figure, but that is a good problem to have because everything from the head, to the shell, to the belt is just so well executed, we might already have a sleeper figure of the year here. Seriously. The head sculpt and expression are pretty much perfect and you can almost hear Slash talk just by looking at him. Trevor Zammit continues to be sculptor in charge of making these TMNT figures as awesome as they can be, and while his record is pretty much unblemished at this point, Slash can even standout as a highlight. His shell is so detailed and cool I almost want a second figure just to pose backwards-facing on the shelf, and something as low-key as his belt might be the most interesting and detailed spot on the whole figure, it just makes you say, “no way!”
Slash also includes his trusty, but crazily-designed, sword, as well as a grenade to help him crack some shells. While that puts him at the bottom in terms of the sheer quantity of accessories included in this series, those he does have are spot-on. In fact, I don’t remember seeing or hearing about the grenade until this figure actually arrived, so while I might have missed it, it still stands as a fun surprise and an appreciated extra accessory.
This first assortment of Turtle in Time figures is so much, Turtle fans. I know it might be easy to think this is made up of mostly rereleases, but it really is not. Donatello, Leo, and the Foot all have new and improved decos to match the specific game, and the hover boards are DOPE. Slash is going to (deservedly) be the highlight here, but do not sleep on the others, especially if you did not get your green mitts on the original SDCC sets. These should be hitting specialty shops very soon, and since there are pre-orders open at places like DorkSide and BBTS, it should be pretty stress free. I am really looking forward to seeing the formal line-up for the second (and third!) assortment soon, so hopefully we will see those at Toy Fair in a few weeks.
*Thanks to Peter, Randy, and the team at NECA for sending this early set for feature, we really appreciate it!