Playmates continues to crank out more secondary characters for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle line. The latest wave of figures includes six figures: Drako, Dark Assassin, Ultimate Ninja, Ultimate Daimyo, Traximus and Zat (called Butterfly Swords on the packaging). If you haven't guessed yet, the series is themed around the Battle Nexus Tournament. It fills in the major characters and gives us a couple of third string characters too.
Packaging - 6/10These figures have the standard packaging for the basic TMNT figures. The figures are nicely displayed in the bubble with their accessories around them. The TMNT logo is at the bottom with the figure's name and action feature in the circle to the left. The four Turtle's heads at the top of the card make it easy to spot the secondary characters even on pegs filled with figures. The biggest drawback to the packaging is still the ugly background design and with smaller figures like these, it becomes even more visible. The backs of the cards haven't changed in design either. The figure is pictured with its various features pointed out. Several of the other figures in the wave are displayed on the right side. And there is the usual file card at the bottom. Aside from that same ugly background, I do like these cards. I can't wait for the new ones to do away with that background.
Sculpting - Drako 2/10, others 6/10Drako is actually a pretty accurate figure and not a bad sculpt, for the mini-figure line. As part of the basic figure line, his diminutive size and the alterations made to make him safe for children manage to turn what should be a huge, imposing figure into a spindly wimp. The scale is certainly a major factor in that. But the head had to be altered as well. The long horns were moved closer together and curved back thus making them look more like antennae than horns, as were the smaller horns behind his cheeks. The texture for the scales is also disappointing. There is even less detail on the figure than on the cartoon where they at least show random groupings of complete scales. The figure only has traces of random scales. It is a pity, all the details are there, but the figure just doesn't pull them together the end result is poor.
The other figures all turned out relatively well, with only minor short comings in terms of accuracy to the show. Scale is out of the question of course, as it has been for most of the line. Fortunately none of them are even close to being as far out of scale as Drako is. Ultimate Ninja is generally pretty good, with only the minor details such as the gloves being wrong. (The right hand should be bare and the diamond shape on his other glove should not stick out but be part of the color pattern.) Even the face sculpt is pretty accurate. Like his son, the Ultimate Daimyo is fairly accurate to the show. The only real problems are with the face which most people will generally have covered anyway. The face isn't horrible, but things like the missing symbol on his forehead and the full beard where there should only be a goatee are details that Playmates should have gotten right. The Daimyo's hair is also worth noting since he is the first figure in the line to have rooted hair. I would have preferred that Playmates used sculpted hair instead, in part to match all of the other figures and partially due to the fact that the effect of the strands of hair that fall across the front of the shoulders is too hard to replicate with rooted hair. The Dark Assassin is probably the best of the series, but then it is hard to screw up a figure of such a simple form. But that is not to say that there aren't any problems. The suction cups on each wrist are certainly not on model, and sadly not removable. The Dark Assassin also has two possible body shapes, the thicker one seen in the package, and a slimmer one revealed by removing the plastic chest cover. Neither is quite right. The uncovered body is too slim and with the cover he is bulkier than he should be. The uncovered form is probably more accurate, but since there is a noticeable ridge along the waist if the chest cover is removed, I'm sure most will leave the cover on. Traximus is another figure that comes VERY close to being perfect. Most of the errors are very minor in nature such as the square spikes on his shoulder pad instead of round and the wrong texture being used for the left arm armor. (It should have been more of a mesh.) But there is one oversight that is significant. They forgot to include the scar over his left eye. Since this is a pretty distinctive feature of the character, its oversight is far less acceptable. They also made two changes for the sake of the action feature. The obvious one is of course the dial on Traximus' back. But they also added the triangle symbol to his chest. Since they were adding the symbol anyway, they could have at least used the Triceraton symbol instead. Oddly enough, the best figure in the series is the no name guy, Zat. Playmates took some liberties in adding an extra sword to his stump arm. While not accurate, I understand them feeling they needed to do so to make the figure more interesting to kids. The face is also off model. The figure is basically sculpted without a nose. The round section between his eyebrows should continue down further to form a nose above the two 'upper lip' sections.
Paint - Zat 1/10, Ultimate Daimyo and Ultimate Ninja 3/10, Traximus & Drako 4/10, Dark Assassin 9/10Ok, Playmates got off easy on the Dark Assassin. He is completely monochromatic except for the eyes. So as long as they could paint inside the lines the paint is done right. They did. Playmate's choice of color for the body may not appeal to everyone, but since they were shown as anywhere from grey to solid black in the show depending on the lighting, it isn't really wrong either.
Neither Traximus nor Drako have any serious problems with the quality of the paint work. Traximus should have his shoulder spikes painted and the armor on his left arm should be red, not silver. But those two items are quite minor. However the finish of the paint for both figures is such the figures have a cheap appearance. They look like happy meal toys rather than mass market toys.
Ultimate Daimyo and Ultimate Ninja fair better than Traximus or Drako in terms of their finish, but Playmates skimped on the details. For the Ultimate Ninja that means getting the design of the gloves right and painting the trim of his loincloth. The loin cloth in particular would make a big difference by adding some contrasting bright colors to the darker purple and blue of his body. The paint doesn't really do the face sculpt justice either. The green of the eyes is too overwhelming and there probably should be something to indicate his chin hair. Ultimate Daimyo has the reverse problem of his son for his waist armor. The trim color is correct, but they didn't paint the sections black as they should be. Again, that missing contrast makes a significant difference.
Butterfly Swords is the ultimate screw up in terms of paint. If you don't understand, just watch the Battle Nexus DVD and look for the big pink guy. You won't see him because Zat isn't pink. He should be bluish gray. Call me crazy, but if they made a beach blonde Splinter or blaze orange Turtles I would think that was stupid too. And on top of the obvious problem, they also cut corners on the details. The lower section of the shoulder pad on his left shoulder was left in pepto bismol, er skin tone. They didn't paint the kneepads either.
Articulation - Dark Assassin 2/10, Traximus 6/10, others 3/10The Dark Assassin figure has five rotating joints: his hips, wrists and waist. The V cut for the hips make them all but worthless. The upper body has no articulation since the entire thing is a single soft rubber piece. The wrists are not actually articulated, but since the hands are hard plastic and inserted into the soft rubber of the arms they can be twisted around as if they were joints. The bendable body is an interesting idea, but doesn't offer much in term of posability.
Ultimate Daimyo has just four points of articulation: waist, shoulders and neck. That's pretty minimal. But the Daimyo is not a character that needs a great deal of articulation. The ability to sit on his throne would have been nice, but since we don't have his throne, that feature wouldn't be much good anyway.
Ultimate Ninja has eight rotating cut joints: hips, waist, shoulders, elbows and neck. The articulation doesn't offer a lot of range of motion. The loin cloth, while made of soft material, does limit the range of motion of the legs and the cape does the same to the left arm. But it is the right arm that really hurts the figure's score. The elbow is permanently bent at just over a ninety degree angle. Plus there is no wrist joint so the hand is permanently in a clenched, palm up position. Even the original shredder from 1988 could move his wrist.
Zat (Butterfly Swords) has seven points of articulation. The hips, shoulders, right wrist, ribbon on his stump and neck are all rotating joints. You could count the sheath on his hip as a eighth joint since it does rotate as well. But once again the hips are a V cut that renders the articulation all but useless. And the shoulders are connected to the action feature which means they can't be turned freely. They can be turned to reposition them relative to each other though.
Drako has eight points of articulation. The base and tip of the tail, hips and shoulders are rotating joints. The neck and jaw are hinged as part of the action feature. For a character that should be as flexible as Drako, this is really poor. He can't even raise his neck up all the way. I would like to have seen Drako made as a wire frame bendie.
Traximus is the most articulated of the series with eleven rotating joints: knees, hips, waist, tail, shoulders, wrists and neck. The articulation is severely affected by the action feature, but I'll get to that later. The tail and waist both rotate freely. The rest of the joints ratchet between twelve positions. If not for the loose joints due to the action feature the articulation wouldn't be too bad.
Accessories - Drako, Ultimate Ninja & Ultimate Daimyo 2/10, Zat & Traximus 4/10, Dark Assassin 5/10Zat has just one accessory, a butterfly sword. It looks pretty good and can be stored securely in the sheath on his belt or held equally securely in his hand. Making the sword that is attached to his stump a removable accessory would have been nice improvement for the figure. But as it stands his one accessory is appropriate and well made.
Traximus has three accessories: two swords and a large helmet/face guard. The helmet is well designed. It slides over the two horns on top of his head and then clips onto his nose. The swords are new. The blades get wider about half way down their length. It gives them a sense of heft that any Triceraton weapon should have. But in the end, they are a poor substitute for the battle axe he actually used in the show.
The Dark Assassin comes with three accessories, four if you count the clip on body armor. There is a clip on helmet, a chain and a sword. While the weapons are accurate and nice, they are poorly scaled. The sword is so short that it looks more like a long knife. The chain is made of a soft material so that it can be bent and wrapped around figures or weapons, but it is so small that the assassin cannot hold either end in his hands. The helmet is an interesting bonus, but who wears a helmet with a big opening across the forehead?
Drako is a figure that really doesn't need accessories, but of course he got some anyway, spiky ones. He has a large shield, chest armor and a wrist guard. They are really out of character for Drako and just further the image of weakness created by his scale problems. One accessory he could have used is an interchangeable tail. The end of his tail is sculpted with two bits of armor in it. A new tail without the adornments would have been a nice addition and allowed you to create a regular looking Drako.
Ultimate Ninja and Ultimate Daimyo both get low scores not due to the accessories that they come with, but because of what they don't have. Both characters always wear a mask and despite coming with three masks each, neither has a mask that is even close to accurate. The best you can really manage is to take the red mask from the Daimyo and give it to his son. It doesn't fit and is only really accurate in terms of color. But it does at least bear a passing resemblance to being correct. Ultimate Ninja does at least come with some decent weapons. He has two swords and his hand claw. The swords are pretty generic and the hand claw is so big and bulky that it just looks silly. Plus the fact that he can't straighten his arm means that it would only be useful while hugging his enemies. Ultimate Daimyo has what passes for his war staff. It is far more elaborate than in the cartoon. A simpler but accurate war staff would have been better.
Action Feature - Not RatedThe Daimyo and his son don't have any action features, just their accessories. The Dark Assassin figure just has the suction cups on his wrists. They are strong enough to hold the weight of the figure easily, but his lack of articulation means he looks pretty silly hanging from a wall. Drako's action feature allows the neck to raise and lower and the jaw to open when a wheel on his back. It isn't a bad feature, but it does result in major limitations to the articulation. Zat has a slashing action. When the thumb wheel on his back is turned, the arms move forward and back.
Finally there is Traximus and Playmates newest action feature, fall apart figures. The entire figure is held together by strings running from the chest out to the feet, hands and head. Pressing the button on the figure's chest releases the tension on the string causing the figure to collapse like a marionette with its strings cut. The tension can be restored by turning the knob on the figure's back, allowing the figure to stand once again. I really expected to hate this feature. But it is not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. Enough tension can be added to the strings to allow the figure to stand and the ratcheting joints still hold a reasonable pose. I am concerned about the life span and quality control of the feature though. If a string were to break or worse yet be cut by a child, there would be no means to repair it. The feature also relies on all five strings being in the correct lengths so that they tighten evenly. In time there is the possibility of the string stretching or the strings not being measured quite right in the factory resulting in limbs that do not tighten completely when the others do. Still it is an interesting idea and works remarkably well for their first attempt. That being said, I'm horribly disappointed in Playmate's choice of character in which to use this feature. The mechanics of the feature require a significant amount of room inside the figure's body I'm sure, so it is understandable that it would be used in the bulkier figures. But as a character, a "collapse in defeat" feature is completely wrong for Traximus. It is a great idea for the cannon fodder type characters that tend to be depicted as attacking in groups and being defeated easily. I would love to see Playmates produce some of the Purple Dragon characters like Two Ton with this feature. Or if Playmates could refine it enough to make a collapsing Foot Soldier accessory for a deluxe wave of figures that would be wonderful. In the future just put some thought into where you are going to use it please.
Value - 5/10Each of these figures has some serious drawbacks that are going to turn off a lot of buyers, but fortunately the price isn't one of them. The basic TMNT figures usually sell for between $5 and $7 each depending on the store. At that price they are a couple of dollars less than most of what is on the market today. For a licensed line that is impressive.
Happy Hunting:Ultimate Ninja, Drako and Dark Assassin have been shipping since just before Christmas. Ultimate Daimyo, Traximus and Zat followed about a month later. By now they should be readily available in most areas of the US. Online options for the line are fairly slim. Amazon and Walmart.com are the only sites I have found that have kept up with the line and neither of them have the wave six figures listed. Fortunately, brick and mortar alternatives should be plentiful for most people. Walmart, Toys R Us, Kmart and Target all carry the line as do most stores that sell action figures.