Longtime readers of this blog might have noticed something in my review of the Turtles in Time Bebop and Rocksteady – they were paired up with the Turtles in Time Leonardo and Raphael. I’ve never reviewed those figures and they’ve been out for a long time. Well, I held off. Initially, I just wasn’t convinced I needed them. They’re straight repaints of figures I already have, but those figures feature some dated engineering. And initially, I wasn’t sure how deep I wanted to go on NECA’s video game line. I never got the original comic con exclusive sets, and I thought I might be happy with just select figures from this line. Eventually, the display widened. Another figure I added, but never reviewed, is Leatherhead simply because he was the only missing piece (aside from the Foot Soldier). What changed my mind on the turtles though was an exchange I had with NECA’s Randy Falk on Twitter. It had been noted that re-releases of Slash featured the updated articulation the company introduced with the Turtles in Disguise set so I asked if the current pre-orders for re-releases of the Turtles in Time turtles would feature the same. The answer was “Yes,” and that was enough to get me to pounce.
NECA’s Turtles in Time line of action figures are specialty shop exclusives that present some familiar figures in pixel-deco to simulate the look of the classic video game, Turtles in Time. The actual turtles are designs by NECA’s Trevor Zammit for the cartoon line, even though they were first released as figures based on the original arcade game. They’re unmistakably Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but I’ve always wondered what the actual reference art was. Their head shapes and expressions strike me more as Playmates inspired, but they’re coloring and body proportions are definitely in-line with the toon. I’ve always liked them, never loved them. I think the Turtles in Disguise look better captures the spirit of the cartoon’s later years, though we could still use some true Season One, or opening credits, turtles.
Since these sculpts were intended to function as cartoon turtles, they’re basically being repurposed here for Turtles in Time. The look of that game is pretty close to the show as advances in sprite-based graphics since the original arcade game’s release had progressed quite well. The actual expressions worn by these figures though aren’t really representative of the game. Basically, all of the turtles look the same when walking in that game, a sort of neutral, concerned, look. The idle pose is likely what most fans, and certainly I, remember most from the game. Donatello, with his somewhat stoic expression, probably works the best and if you squint Mikey looks close too, though he should be sporting more of a smile. Leo has this weird look in the game where he’s got his head tilted at an angle, and admittedly, it probably wouldn’t translate well to a figure. Raph is practically off model in the game as he has this huge smile that he turns into a pointed “O” mouth expression. That’s the one I miss the most, maybe not so much the weird proportions, but the smirk. This Raph is instead rocking that toothy grimace.
The headsculpts are not perfect for the source material, but the rest of the figure pretty much is. This is that same turtle body we’ve seen for years now and it still looks fine. On it, this time, is the pixel deco from the game. These figures are a bright green with dark green “pixels” painted on. The shell follows the same look with pixels down the middle of the chest and all over the rear shell. The presence of the deco means these figures present best when posed like they would be in the game: frontal view, posed like they’re moving from left to right. A lot of the dark green is on the back of the limbs and from some angles can look like too much. That perception is minimized when on a shelf. Like a Monet, these figures look better from a bit of a distance just like those sprites look better on a CRT television. In addition to the pixel deco, the colored masks and pads are slightly different from the toon release. Donnie, Leo, and Raph basically just have a brighter look, while Mikey is more muted. The original arcade game gave Mikey yellow accents, which was weird, while Turtles in Time corrected that to his traditional orange. The figure is barely orange though and he definitely would benefit from a more saturated look. The paint apps are mostly clean, with some slop here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary. My Donatello does have this odd blob on his inner thigh that looks like glue or something that’s unsightly, though not bad enough for me to try and seek a replacement.
In terms of accessories, these guys are pretty familiar with one obvious new addition. Each figure comes with their weapon of choice. For three of the turtles, the weapons are the same as the toon release. Mikey’s nunchaku and Donnie’s bo have a lighter paint job, but are otherwise the same. Mikey even retains the spinning ‘chuk effect piece which is always fun to have. Leo’s swords are the same, only painted all gray. Raphael, on the other hand, gets new sais. They’re painted gray with some pixel deco on them shaded in dark gray, but the sculpt is all new. They have a much harder look as opposed to the loopy toon ones. They remind me of classic Playmates sais and I think they look terrific, though not at all accurate to the game. Raph’s sais in the game are these awkward, wide, things where the center blade is barely longer than the other ones. I think the toon sais are a better representation of the game, but I prefer how these ones look, if I’m being honest, so I’m fine with the change. The other inclusions are a set of extra hands for each turtle. The default are gripping hands (Leo and Raph have vertical hinges, Mikey and Don have horizontal) and between the four you get two sets of pointing hands, one set of open hands, and one set of thumb’s up hands. The choices aren’t really reflective of the game, but I’m not really missing anything. Maybe one more set of open hand for a group high five? The only thing I feel we are missing is an effect part for Raph. His attack animation featured a twirling sai at the end and that would have been a neat inclusion. It would basically be the same idea as Mikey’s twirling ‘chuk effect, only pinned into an open hand.
The big accessory though is the hoverboard included with each turtle. The board is from the third level in the game, Sewer Surfin’, and each includes a stand. The sculpt looks spot-on to the game and they color coordinate with each turtle. The stand is a simple, and effective, structure that’s just transparent plastic with a ball peg at the top. The board snaps on, and the ball design allows it to tilt in basically any direction. The board is relatively thin so the ball can only sit so far into it which limits the tilt to some degree, but overall I think you get a solid range here. Each board has one foot peg and it’s definitely on the snug side, but once on, the turtle is unlikely to fall. It’s pretty cool, and it’s going to be hard to resist just posing all four on their included board.
Lastly, we have the articulation to speak on. These guys articulate exactly the same as the Turtles in Disguise set. If you got the original release for these, then they articulate like the older Target two-packs and comic con releases. The difference is minor as above the waist everything is the same on both, it’s just the hips and ankles that have been altered. NECA swaps the old hips for the new ball and socket joint and it works great here. Nothing is too lose and the range is plenty adequate. The ankles are the new hinge and rocker joint and they too work just fine. My only articulation complaints with these four is just the tightness in the arms. The elbows are a bit scary to get moving and for some reason the right biceps doesn’t sit as flush as the left. It’s especially problematic on my Donatello and I keep having to push it in. Some of the pins in the legs aren’t perfectly aligned either and it’s a little bit of an eyesore in places. Raphael’s belt wasn’t seated properly in the cut-out behind the belt buckle before it was glues so he looks like he’s been stabbed. Worst of all though, is my Leonardo is a pain to stand. I couldn’t figure out why initially, since the others were okay and they’re all essentially the same figure, and then I finally noticed: he has two right feet! I bought these through Big Bad Toy Store and I reached out to them following my discovery. They didn’t have any spare parts, and didn’t offer to replace the figure, but did issue me a refund. That has left me to try and get a new foot/leg from NECA directly and they weren’t any help. They just referred me back to BBTS. In the end, I got a free Leonardo, but I would have preferred to pay full price for a non-defective one. I could put the refund towards a Raph or Michelangelo at BBTS, but they cost slightly more than I paid originally and I’d essentially be spending 28 bucks or so for a little, green, foot. Overall, excluding the foot issue, the articulation is good enough, but there is a part of me that wants to see NECA do a complete redo of the turtle engineering. At the same time though, there’s a reason why these are 25 bucks and not 35.
The NECA Turtles in Time edition of the famous heroes basically do enough to get the job done, on the surface. They’re not a perfect match to the game, but it’s also obvious what the company is aiming for by virtue of the deco and included hoverboards. They pose as well as any other 1/12 version of the turtles from NECA, but the quality control seems a little lax and that’s something I’ve noticed with this line as a whole. Again, they’re not priced like the company’s Ultimates line of figures so they are a cheaper product, but it’s a shame that shows in the quality as opposed to just a reduced accessory count or something. Three out of the four turtles had what I would consider quality control problems, enough so that I don’t think I’d recommend anyone buy these sight unseen. One thing working in this line’s favor is that these are pretty easy to get ahold of, though they may not be much longer as NECA pivots away from the Turtles in Time figures. They’re all sold separately, single-packed in the Turtles in Time themed box, and should be around 25-28 bucks from most places, though I’ve seen some local shops try to upcharge them more severely. And a few are only offering them in bundles. For this line, it pays to shop around.