Playmates seems to have a real hit on their hands with the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy line. But the basic
figures I reviewed a few weeks ago aren't the only ones Playmates are putting out. Once again they have created a
second, slightly more expensive line of TMNT figures to sell along side of the regular line. As in the past, this
second line has a theme or gimmick shared by all of the figures. Throughout the 2003 line, they used similar lines for
new versions of Mutating figures, Ninja Action figures and a number of other action features. With the Nickelodeon
line, they are starting out with a modern version of a classic feature: talking figures. The Power Sound FX series
gives us the four Turtles and Shredder each with multiple sound effects and phrases built into a six inch figure.
Packaging - 7/10Playmates did something quite unusual for a TMNT figure with the Power Sound FX figures, they are neither carded nor boxed. Each figure comes attached to a cardboard backer card with a partial box at the bottom. But the figures are not in the "box" section, they are firmly attached to the card but left open for kids or parents to move their limbs and try out the talking feature. Graphically the packaging shares the same color palette as the basic figures: a green background behind the figure and shades of purple to replicate the appearance of the night sky from the cartoon elsewhere. There are images of each of the Turtles on the lower, box portion. The back of the card is a generic design used for all five figures. Most of the space is used for photos of each figure with the activation points for the talking feature marked on each.
I have heard it said that toy companies and retailers love "try me" features. The theory being that if you can get a customer to pick up a toy, once it is in their hands, the chances of it going into their shopping cart instead of back onto the shelf is greatly increased. And pretty much everything about this packaging seems to be centered around that idea: get the toy into the hands of a kid or their parent. And in that regard, it works. They have made it as enticing as possible. That said, while I acknowledge that the design works well to sell the action feature, it brings with it a number of issues. The first issue is durability. The packaging is made of much thicker material than the cards for the basic figures, but there are a lot of exposed edges here to get dinged or bent. It also seems like a considerable waste of space. Leonardo's swords are packaged lower on the card so that they are partially in the boxed in area, but that is the only thing in that area for all five figures. Essentially the box structure is there for nothing other than allowing the packages to stand on their own when placed on a shelf. The back of the cards use almost the entire card to show each figure and mark the activation points. But they still aren't marked very clearly. I may just be slightly red/green color blind, but the red dots used on each photo do not stand out very well. Finally, as a MOC collector, or at least a collector with an assortment of MOC figures, I find it very annoying that this design encourages employees and kids to pull out the white plastic strip that breaks the connection at the batteries during shipping and then the limbs tend to move around and activate the sound effects if the figure is not stored in an upright position. Not only does it mean that the figures are making random noise if they are in storage. And anytime you have batteries stored in a toy like this over the long term, there is a significant risk of damage to the toy if the batteries leak.
Sculpting - Turtles 3/10, Shredder 5/10The sculpts for the four Turtles are a pretty poor effort. On the plus side, they got the design of the feet right unlike the basic figures. The downside is pretty much everything else. The heads aren't even close to being accurate to the show. All four share the same body which means that Raph is missing the crack in the front of his shell. The body is too big so they all look bloated. They did add in some variation in their heights just like the basic figures. But the difference is barely noticeable. Power Sound FX Shredder is better. His chest is a bit too large, but it isn't as bad as with the Turtles. His neck is really screwed up though. It is as wide as his entire head and seems to connect to the head somewhere just behind the eyeballs. In order to make room for the electronics, speaker and batteries, they had to put a huge hump on his back. While it is ugly, it isn't unexpected and at least it is relegated to his back and hidden under his cape. The saving grace for Shredder is his armor. The shoulder armor is the same size as that of the basic Shredder figure. But it fits this larger scale figure better. The forearm blades are extended on the Power Sounds FX figure which changes them from big and clunky to something that could actually be considered threatening. The leg armor is still comically boxy. But with the thicker proportions of the rest of the figure, it sticks out less. If I can get over the scale issue, this might actually replace the basic Shredder figure.
Paint - 3/10The paint work on these figures represents a pretty poor effort on the part of Playmates. The one advantage that they have verses the basic figures is that the pupils and irises of the eyes are painted. (I know some fans don't like that design, but it is more accurate to the show.) Unfortunately, Playmates couldn't even put in as much effort on these figures as they did on the basic figures. Details like the metal rings on Leonardo's and Donatello's shoulder straps are left untouched. They painted the gap between Donatello's teeth, but not between his other teeth. So instead of looking like a gap, it looks like he has one tooth blacked out. The quality control is poor as well. The masks on all four of my Turtles are sloppy. And considering that the masks make up a substantial portion of all of the paint work done on the figures, those errors really stand out. Shredder is a bit better. The only reason I didn't give him a better score is his right eye. They left that pupil unpainted to represent the damage he has in the cartoon. But since the face isn't painted to show the scarring around it, it looks more like a mistake than an intentional bit of detail.
Articulation - 3/10The articulation on the Power Sound FX figures is pretty minimal:
Accessories - 3/10The accessories is another area where the Power Sound FX figures manage to fall short of the benchmark Playmates already set with the basic figures. And that benchmark wasn't very high to begin with. Each Turtle has his signature weapons, none of which are painted. Leonardo also has a removable set of scabbards for his swords. Shredder comes with the same two throwing stars as the basic Shredder figure, but not his sword. Playmates managed to put the absolute minimum amount of effort into the accessories here without just leaving the figures completely empty handed.
Action Feature - 3/10Talking features are not new. Even Playmates has been doing them since the early nineties. But they always seem to be a bit underwhelming. The Power Sound FX figures are not the figures to break that trend. Each figure has two limbs, one arm and one leg for Shredder, Leo and Don and both arms for Raph and Mike, which trigger the talking function when moved. Each figure has about five phrases which cycle somewhat randomly. In addition, if you hold the arm or leg, the phrase will be drawn out. There are a number of issues with the feature. The sound quality isn't great. Even now I can't say for certain if they used clips from the actual voice actors from the show. (I think they did, but they are barely recognizable.) The clips selected are decent, but the voice acting can be terrible. Many of the phrases have an unnatural pause in the middle. I beleive that this is the result of the ability to draw out the phrases. That function is not worth sacrificing the quality. Actually the feature would probably be better off without it. Most of the phrases sound down right silly when extended. And controlling whether the phrase is extended or not is hit or miss, in particular with Leo, Don and Shredder since the leg can move enough to affect the function when you are only trying to move the arm. It also means that if the sound effects are triggered when the toy is in storage, it may not just go off for a few seconds and be done. When I bought mine, I had to stop and dig out one of the figures from the shopping bag as I got back to my car because I could hear the sound effect going off and not stopping.
Value - Shredder 4/10 others 3/10The Power Sound FX figures sell for $13 in most discount stores such as WalMart or Target and could run up to $17 in some stores. The only advantage they have over the cheaper basic figures is the talking feature and perhaps their size. If you have smaller kids, I could see buying these and pulling the batteries out so that the talking feature doesn't drive the parents crazy. The larger size and simplified articulation could make them a great option for young kids. Otherwise stick with the basic figures. Shredder is another matter. The Power Sounds FX Shredder has issues, but he does have a few advantages over the basic figure. He is taller which makes him batter scaled for the basic Turtles. His armor also looks better. If you are a budding customizer, taking his arm blades and putting them on the basic figure could be an option as well.
Happy Hunting:The Power Sounds FX figures are available in most stores that sell the TMNT line... if you can find them. Everything Playmates has put out seems to be selling out in my area. I see more empty pegs than figures in a lot of stores. They are listed on the web sites of a lot of stores. But a lot of those sites are sold out as well. If you wait until after Christmas, they could be easier to find if they aren't replaced with a different deluxe line.