Every so often I hear collectors lament the lack of action features in modern action figure lines. Fortunately for
those individuals there is Playmates Toys. While I'm not always a fan of the results, I have to give them credit for being
willing to try new things in that department. Their latest foray into the world of wind-ups, spring loading and trigger
buttons are the Combat Warriors figures. This set of five figures features Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo and
Shredder with mechanical ninja moves and the weapons to show them off.
Packaging - Shredder 6/10, others 8/10The Combat Warrior figures come on the slightly oversized blister card packaging that has been a hallmark of the deluxe figures throughout the new line. Playmates gave the blisters a serious overhaul. The blisters are shaped like a turtle shell around the figure. The bottom is contoured to accommodate the insert. There is also a small tab that sticks out at the top of the blister with a second insert with the figure's name. Playmates did a nice job of displaying the Turtles and their weapons. Shredder didn't fair so well. His pose looks like a poor imitation of Superman's flying pose and the way in which the figures and accessories overlap themselves ensures that you don't get a good view of any of them. The cards themselves are a slight variation of the new style packaging. The round icon for each character has been enlarged and moved to the center. The color coded streaking pattern at the top has been partially replaced with a traditional oriental pattern. The back of the cards places a heavy emphasis on highlighting that figure with a large photo of the figure and accessories as well as photos to show off the action feature. Each character has an a unique, albeit short, write up as well. Finally there are photos of the rest of the Combat Warrior figures at the bottom.
Sculpting - Turtles 3/10, Shredder 4/10The Combat Warrior figures are new sculpts, but don't represent any real improvement over past figures. In fact, the are generally a hair worse than the past figures. To begin with, all of the figures now have multiple screws visible on the back of their arms and legs as well as Shredder's back. The turtles lack the separate piece of soft plastic for the plastron or front shell. While the difference wasn't immediately noticeable to me, it does slim the figures down across the chest too much. The mechanicals in the arms also lead to joints which don't line up as well as they have on previous figures. The skirt armor on Shredder is softer plastic as well in order to accommodate the action feature. But it doesn't allow for the level of detail that the previous figures have had.
Paint - 5/10The paint work on all five figures is very simple. There are not attempts to add any highlights or paint washes. And generally the results are pretty good. But each of the figures does have a trouble spot or two. For the turtles, it is the border of the plastron. Since there is no definitive line for the border made by the sculpt, the edges are a little sloppy. For Shredder, it is the paint for the leg armor that is a little sloppy around the edges. But the problems are very minor and not very noticeable.
Articulation - Michelangelo 1/10, others 2/10I won't bother to list exactly what articulation each figure has as the vast majority of it is pointless any way. None of the figures have any useable articulation below the waist. The turtles' legs are tied into the action features as the trigger. Donatello and Leonardo are notable as the first Turtle figures to have a waist joint, but as with the rest of the articulation, they are unusable beyond the action feature. In fact, aside from a wrist joint or two, Donatello's left shoulder is the only free moving limb on any of the figures. While it is possible to adjust the other joints, the mechanicals render them fairly unposeable.
Accessories - 7/10Each figure comes with three weapons or sets of weapons and a pair of throwing stars. Each figure has their signature weapon and two variation on that weapon with real cloth attached. Leonardo for example has three pairs of swords. In addition to his usual katanas, he has a pair of curved sabers and a pair of straight broad swords. All of the Combat Warrior Turtles have the same two throwing stars which are the same as those that came with the original Raphael figure. Donatello has the same throwing stars and his bo which oddly enough is silver to make it look like it is suppose to be metal. His two new weapons include a staff with a crescent shaped blade on the end and another with spear tips on both ends. Raphael of course has his sais and throwing stars. His new weapons include a pair of hook swords and a pair of long handled sickles. Michelangelo has the best, and worst new weapons of the five. In addition to the nunchakus and throwing stars, Michelangelo has a spear point on a string and variation of his nunchakus with three sections. While they are very well made weapons, they don't work with his action feature at all. The strings quickly get wrapped up around his wrist. Shredder has two Swords of Tengu, a pair of square throwing stars, a staff with a large blade on one end and a three pointed staff. I really like the addition of some more traditional martial arts weapons to the line. The addition of the cloth is a nice idea, but the thickness of the fabric used together with their small size means that they are as stiff as they would be had they simply been sculpted as part of the weapon. A thinner fabric would have been a better choice. Never the less, I consider the accessories to be the highlight of the Combat Warrior figures.
Action Feature - Donatello 1/10, Leonardo & Raphael 2/10, Michelangelo 4/10, Shredder 6/10The biggest selling point of the Combat Warrior figures is supposed to be the action features. Each figure has a unique action which is triggered either by squeezing the legs together or in Shredder's case by a button on the figure's back. Leonardo's feature causes both of his arms to rotate around at the elbows. The waist also turns about 45 degrees before returning to the default position. Both arms will rotate a full 360 degrees, but the feature has to be triggered four or five times to create a full rotation. Raphael's feature causes the head and both shoulders to turn 45 degrees. The elbows and the hinges for the shoulders are purposely made to be loose so that the limited movement the feature produces is enough to generate substantial albeit erratic movement of the hands. Donatello's feature causes his waist and right hand to turn about 45 degrees before returning to their default positions. This is simply the lamest action feature I have seen in a long time if ever. I understand what they were trying to do, but holding a weapon over your head and rotating it back and forth wouldn't be enough to stop a swarm of gnats much less win a fight. The hand really should freely spin around 360 degrees when the feature is triggered to emulate spinning a staff. Michelangelo's feature actually has several parts. The arms can be placed at the figure's side and when the feature is triggered they will spring straight up into the air. The left hand also turns as well as the neck and will continue to do so if the feature is triggered repeatedly. Shredder actually has two action features. First the figure can be bent over at the hips and locked into position after which the right arm can be locked into position at the figure's side. When the legs are squeezed together the figure will stand up straight and the arm will spring straight up. Secondly, the button on the figure's back can be pressed to cause the figure's left arm to raise and then lower and the right wrist to turn roughly a quarter turn and back. The first feature makes him look rather silly, hunched over like he has the dry heaves. But the second one works well.
Value - Shredder & Michelangelo 3/10, others 2/10The Combat Warriors are deluxe figures and as such carry the usual price tag of $10 to $11. While I really like some of the new accessories, they are not enough to justify spending $50 to get the set. The real selling point of the figures should be the action features. But only two of the figures have features that work very well to begin with. And none of them have a feature that couldn't be replicated just as easily with the previously released figures and a little imagination. But if like me, you just have to have all of the figures, there is some good news. With the holiday sales getting underway the Combat Warriors can be found for 20 to 25% off. At that price they probably deserve an extra point.
Happy Hunting:The Combat Warrior figures are fairly widely available anywhere that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys are carried. All of the usual suspects should have them in stock through the holiday season including Toys R Us, KB Toys, Kmart, Target and Walmart. Toys R Us has them on sale as part of their Big Toy Book promotion through Thanksgiving for $7.99 each. From what I've seen, most Walmart stores that have a Toys R Us store in their market have also dropped their prices to match or beat that price. The sale prices are also available at both Amazon.com and Walmart.com. But that is likely to end when the sale ends after Thanksgiving.