TMNT Gold Ninja Knights

What would the modern action figure market be without limited edition retailer exculsives? A whole lot more pleasent. But for now we seem to be stuck with them. Even Playmates and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle line which has been squarely focused on the mass market, is not immune. The latest of the exclusive offerings is a box set of the four Ninja Knights figures with a spiffy gold color scheme. (No word has been released yet on who will be awarded the exclusive bronze set.)

Packaging - 5/10

I think I've described the packaging for the basic TMNT figures in about seven other reviews already so I won't dwell on the description much. The Ninja Knights figures don't vary much from the packaging for the basic figures. The TMNT logo insert at the bottom of the bubble has been replaced with a medieval style banner graphic specific to the Ninja Knights figures. The TMNT logo is still present though in the form of a smaller insert at the top of the bubble. The back of the card remains faithful to the design of the other basic figures save for the fact that there are only images of the Ninja Knights figures and none of the other basic figures. While it has all the elements I like to see in an action figure package, I still don't find this packaging to be attractive. The packaging seems to be designed more to stand out than to be admired.

Sculpting - Raph 4/10 others 1/10

I'm basing my evaluation of the sculpting on just the figures themselves with all their armor removed. Let me tell you, it isn't a good look for any of them due to the various bits of armor that are permanently sculpted onto the figures. Raphael is the only one of the four that can pass muster without his armor. He is sculpted with a short sleeve turtleneck (What other type of shirt would you expect a fashionable mutant to wear?) as well as sandals on his feet. His left leg is also wrapped in cloth. Raph's sculpt wouldn't be bad, except that the Turtles don't wear clothing save for the occasional disguise, so seeing one with a shirt on is just odd. The other turtles all suffer from sculpts that are half normal and half armored. Donatello is the closest to a plain turtle, with just the collar to his armor and the larger arm bands as part of the figure. Both Mike and Leo are near total wastes. Both have capes that are not removable and retain the sleeves and back half of their chain mail as part of the figures. The ankles for the three are also unusual. Mike and Leo just have their ankles turned inward too much resulting in awkward poses. Donatello's right ankle is also turned out in a strange matter but both of his ankles are very thin compared to the feet and calves. Most of the problems for the Ninja Knight figures are eliminated or at least minimized when the armor is attached, so to make a long story short, leave the armor on!

Paint - Leo & Don 5/10 Mike & Raph 3/10

The paint work for Leonardo and Donatello is adequate though minimal. But Playmates cut corners on Mike and Raph. Raphael's shirt is painted down the front but his sides were left green. As a result, it looks like Raphael is wearing a dickie rather than a real shirt. But the biggest drawback for both figures is that their sandals were left almost completely unpainted save for one strap. Even the wrappings on their legs were left unpainted. It would be one thing if these areas were covered by the armor, but to get lazy on such visible areas is pathetic.

Articulation - 3/10

Each of the Ninja Knights figures have twenty three points of articulation:
  • rotating neck
  • rotating and hinged shoulders
  • rotating elbows (just above the elbows)
  • rotating wrists
  • hinged fingers
  • rotating and hinged hips
  • hinged knees
  • hinged and rotating ankles
  • and hinged toes
With that much articulation, you would expect these to be some of the most poseable TMNT figures of the new line. Sadly, you would be very wrong. The armor makes the hinged hips unusable except on Raphael. And the odd angles at which the legs were sculpted makes even getting a simple flat footed standing pose difficult.

Accessories - Raph & Don 3/10, Leo & Mike 5/10

Leonardo comes with two swords, a shield, a helmet, chest armor and a shin guard. The swords are broad swords rather than the traditional katanas to match the medieval theme and can be stored in the sheaths on his belt. The hilts are a bit too large for my tastes but otherwise they're ok. His shield is quite large which combined with the limited range of motion of the arms is very difficult to pose. The shin armor is fairly simple and snaps into place on Leo's right leg. It is quite snug so there shouldn't be any problem with it falling off for those who just display their figures, but I'm sure the repeated play will cause it to loosen up. I love the helmet. Playmates skipped a fancy helmet for a more realistic bucket head helmet. Finally, there's Leo's chest armor. This is where Playmates fell flat on their face with the Ninja Knights figures. They must think kids will love any shiny object so they gave all of the turtles' chest armor a vac-metal finish. That's alright for the chain mail part of Leo's armor. But the belt across his chest and the leather skirt panels are also have a vac-metal finish which doesn't do the sculpt justice and it looks extremely silly next to the painted armor on the rest of the figure. The chest armor fits well, but its thickness further restricts the already limited articulation.

Raphael has four pieces of armor, his helmet, a shield and two sais. The sais strike a nice balance between a sai and a more traditional dagger as far as design. The shield and helmet are similarly well designed and sculpted and the shield is a more manageable size than Leo's. His chest armor is Roman style like something out of the movie Gladiator. Like Leo's armor, it is well sculpted and has the same pointless vac-metal finish. Raphael's other armor includes two bracelets and a guard for his right shin. The shin guard is alright though it does restrict the ankle articulation on a figure that already has limited articulation. The bracelets are a disappointment. They're designed to just cover the outer half of each wrist, clipping themselves in place. Their design is flawed in two respects: they look silly and fall off easily. Since they only cover half of the wrist, that leaves half uncovered which looks very strange. The design means that only the tension on the small indentations on the wrists hold them on and that isn't very reliable. The figure looks better without them any way.

Michelangelo has two morningstars (ball and chains), a box and arrow, a quiver with removable bundle of arrows, a shield, a helmet and his chest armor. The chest armor, helmet and shield all follow the same pattern as Leo and Raph's: nice sculpts but with a lack of paint. The morningstars are a nice substitution for Mikey's traditional chuks. But they should have been made of a softer plastic to allow at least some movement. The quiver is great, and the removable arrows is a nice touch. Though the fact that all of them are molded as one piece reduces your options to either a full quiver or empty. The only thing that holds Michaelangelo's down to just average is his bow. As with the Foot Soldier and Deep Diving Leo, Playmates did a nice job of making it a "working" bow without being unsafe. So what's the problem? It's the size of the bow. Michaelangelo is dressed like an english long bowman, that's LONG bowman. But his bow is so short it looks like someone took the handle off of a cross box. His bow is so short there isn't even room for him to grip it with his hand.

Donatello is heavy on armor as the most traditional knight design. His accessories include two shin guards, two gauntlets, a shoulder cover, his chest armor, a helmet with movable visor, a shield, a lance and a banner that can clip onto the lance. The shield is nice. The banner turned out really well, with vinyl for the banner itself and a hard plastic clip to attach it. The lance is OK but has one drawback. Donatello has a clip on his back to hold a weapon, but the design of the lance makes it impossible to use it. But hey, he can always carry the other turtles' weapons. Donatello's armor is the real disappointment. Donatello is the only figure for which the vac-metal armor works well. But the design of the armor, specifically the exposed arms and legs make Don look more like a pot belly stove than a knight. The shoulder cover is the one piece that fits snugly but it seems very asymmetrical just having one and it imposes severe restrictions on the shoulder movement. The gauntlets snap onto each hand but not very securely. and their sculpt limits them to being used only when the wrist is turned to just the right angle or they pop off. Well, they still pop off even at the right angle. The leg armor fits reasonably well, but once again restricts the ankle movement.

These scores are perhaps a bit deceptive. If you just do away with the extra pieces of armor and stick with just their weapons, chest armor and helmets everyone but Michealangelo would score much better. (That won't save Mikey and his diminutive bow.) But if Playmates is going to include the extra accessories, they should at least make them decent ones.

Value - 3/10

It is a shame that these figures turned out like they did. They had real potential. Still, foregoing some of the smaller, problematic armor pieces and just sticking with the figures equipped with their weapons, helmet and chest armor and the Ninja Knights could still be a fun toy for any child that likes knights in armor. The fact that the basic TMNT figures, including the Ninja Knights, are some of the cheapest figures on the market right now at between $4.50 and $7.99 is a major saving grace for the score here.

Happy Hunting:

The Ninja Knights figures are currently shipping with the basic TMNT figures. They should be readily available at just about any store that carries the TMNT line. Wal-mart has been stocking the TMNT line heavily, as has Target and Toys R Us.

Leocarded Mikecarded

Raphcarded Doncarded

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