Tag Archives: bebop

Super7 TMNT Ultimates! Rocksteady

Bebop’s got a buddy.

We saved the big boy for last! The lone villain of wave 3 of Super7’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ultimates! line is the mutant rhino, Rocksteady. He follows in the footsteps of the monstrous Bebop who was released in wave 2 and is the crown jewel of the young line for many collectors so far. Rocksteady follows a similar path as he too has seen an upscaling in his size. Unlike Bebop, who’s original figure was squat and thus should have been taller, Rocksteady was not. His Playmates figure, which this figure is based on, was pretty much straight up and down so had Super7 wanted to make him shorter they had a reason to, but I am glad they decided against doing so.

That can’t be a very comfortable way to travel.

Rocksteady arrives in the purple slipcase cover that all of the villains get to wear. If you really like this package soak it in now, because there is no villain planned for wave 4. Now, I didn’t really talk about the packaging in my reviews of Michelangelo and Metalhead because it’s the same as all of the figures in the Ultimates! line, which is to say it’s quite nice, but a tad excessive. Rocksteady is worth pointing out though because he looks pretty ridiculous, in a good way, in box. And that’s because his head is so massive that he needed to be packaged looking over his should in order to fit in the box. His profile is roughly 3 inches long and it certainly is an eye catcher. When looking at him in box, I was a little concerned that Super7 may have gone overboard with his head, but once I got him out of the box and looking straight ahead I found my concerns were baseless.

His ENT doctor either loves or hates him.
The dermatologist definitely isn’t a fan.

Rocksteady is a big boy. That’s the main takeaway anyone is going to have when handling this guy. He stands at about 8″ tall and certainly commands respect with his impressive stature. The body is basically the exact same as the vintage Rocksteady this figure is based on, only with the details embellished. His skin has a texture to it that adds a bit of realism to this guy. All of the warts and scars are still in place, except now they’re either fully painted or Super7’s black wash they added to the figure really brings them out. His black tank top also has some added texture to it and the camo on his otherwise brown pants is plentiful. Unlike Bebop, he does not feature a tail, but neither did the original figure. He has his helmet, which is non-removable, and still sports the same, stoic, expression as the old toy. The paint on his eyes is nice and glossy giving it a natural sheen that really adds a lifelike quality to this guy. He’s easily the most “alive” of any of the figures in this line so far and it’s a testament to the quality of both the sculpt and paint.

That’s quite a profile.

In terms of articulation, Rocksteady is quite a bit like his mate, Bebop. The head can rotate and pivot a bit and has a decent amount of range looking up, but almost none looking down. Normally, that’s not something that bothers me, but with a figure who towers over the others, it would have been nice to see him able to look down more. At the shoulders, he has ball-hinges that are at a good tolerance. He can lift his arms out to the side and rotate all around. There’s no biceps swivel, but he does have a swivel and single hinge at the elbow to make up for it. Like the other figures in the line, he can’t quite achieve a 90 degree bend at the elbow, but he gets closer than the turtles at least. There’s no articulation in the torso, but he does have a waist twist. The belt is permanently affixed to him so there’s no fear of losing it this time, which is nice. At the legs, we have ball joints that let him kick forward and back a generous amount and he can basically do a split too. There are thigh swivels below it and one arrived stuck on my figure. A quick twist though was all it took to free it up, so crisis averted. At the knee is another swivel and a single hinge that gets him to about 90 degrees. There’s a boot cut below that, and at the ankle there’s only a rocker joint because of the way his boot cuffs are sculpted, so no hinge there.

Well, hello little buddy!
The new model isn’t as proficient a nose-picker as the original.

Rocksteady moves well enough. With Bebop, I felt he really could have used a diaphragm joint, but with Rocksteady the need is less since he has a shirt. They could have attempted to make the shirt an overlay, but that usually negates articulation in that kind of joint anyway. Where Super7 definitely missed an opportunity is at the jaw. A hinged jaw would have really added some personality to this guy. My biggest complaint with Bebop and Rocksteady is that they’re so stoic looking to the point of coming across as passive. Neither looks ready to obliterate a turtle. With Bebop, a hinged jaw would have been harder to do without harming the aesthetic, but with Rocksteady his lower jaw is a separate piece already. It’s just glued on. Why not slip a hinge in there? Plenty of companies have proven at this point that you can do it and hide it extremely well. The seam is already there!

At least he’s got a knife for those hard-to-reach places!

Considering this guy contains a lot of plastic, it would seem Super7 had to pair back the accessories a bit even when compared with Bebop. Rocksteady comes with a pair of gripping hands in the box and he has a second pair of fists. I really miss some kind of style pose hands with this guy and I would have taken those over fists, for sure. In terms of weapons, he has his trusty Retro-Mutagen Gun which is basically a scoped rife of some kind. In what has become an unfortunate trend with this line, there’s virtually no paint on the gun. Super7 gave it a graphite finish, which distinguishes it slightly from the weapon sprue version also included, but it’s still just a big, gray, gun. There isn’t even a dab of blue or white paint on the scope lens, which is unfortunate. Rocksteady also has his knife, which would look huge in the hands of most, but looks a lot smaller in Rocksteady’s hands. It’s bigger than Bebop’s though so it still looks fearsome. The blade is also painted silver, thankfully. His manhole cover shield, unfortunately, did not receive an upscaling. As was the case with Bebop’s trashcan lid, it looks pretty silly in Rocksteady’s hands and it’s a pain to fit into them because it uses the same backing as Bebop’s trashcan. It’s at least bigger than the vintage one, which basically takes up the smaller “disc” inside it, unlike Bebop’s which somehow turned out smaller. Lastly, Rocksteady has a trio of grenades to wield. Much to my surprise, they’re different form the ones that came with Metalhead. These ones have some silver paint on the metallic portions and look a whole lot better as a result. His belt also has a lip on the rear part of it so you can stick the knife in there if you want or clip the grenades in as well. I love weapon storage on figures! This is also good because he doesn’t really hold the grenades that well. You basically have to just kind of position them on the openings of his gripping hands and hope for the best.

You would think that’s Bebop’s shield by looking at this picture, but it’s not.
From the front, the shield looks like the vintage model, but it’s easily the dud of the accessories since it’s too hard to hold and it lacks paint.

It’s a solid assortment for Rocksteady, but the big omission is obviously a second head. Bebop got one, but it was the same sculpt just with a different deco. Rocksteady didn’t need one in that sense, but I still wish he had an alternate portrait like the turtles. I just wish Super7 viewed that as a feature of this line and not one reserved for the turtles alone. It looks like some of the upcoming non-turtles will get that though, like Mondo Gecko and Ray Fillet, but it’s too late for Rocksteady. Again, a hinged jaw would have accomplished the same for me. And I already mentioned my disappointment at the hand allotment. Especially considering he can’t really hold his grenades in a natural manner. Just one, open, hand would have been fine, but oh well.

Bebop’s got his buddy.

Rocksteady ends up being a lot like Bebop, and that makes perfect sense. The issues I had with Bebop are present with Rocksteady, but so are all of the things I liked. Rocksteady relies on his size and impressive sculpt to get attention and he does a great job at that. Where he stumbles is just in how passive he looks in basically any pose. A jaw hinge, style pose hands, or an alternate portrait would have solved that issue while retaining the look of the vintage toy for those who want it. Super7 could have even looked to some vintage versions of Rocksteady that they’ll likely never reproduce to find an alternate portrait like Mutations Rocksteady or the kickboxer Rocksteady. It’s just enough of an issue, for me, to view this as a very good figure that could have been truly special.

It’s shell-shocking time!
It can’t be undersold how big these dudes are.

I am happy with Rocksteady and very happy to pair him with Bebop. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, and even though I was able to pass on Shredder, there was no way I could pass on Rocksteady after getting Bebop. I love his size and I love the paintjob he was given. I do still prefer Bebop to Rocksteady, but that has little to do with how the Rocksteady figure turned out and everything to do with how much fun the design on Bebop is. The red vest, skeleton turtle shoulder pads, high top sneakers – he’s just a product of his era. By comparison, Rocksteady is the no nonsense soldier just hear to blast turtles and maybe get paid. He’s not the dimwit he was in the cartoon, but he’s also not a genius either. He’s just a soldier who wants to pulverize some turtles, and he looks like he could!

Lets bring Baxter in, since I so often leave him out of these group shots.

That is going to do it for me with wave 3 of Super7’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ultimates! collection. I decided to pass on the fourth figure, April O’Neil, as I never liked the look of the figure she’s based on and I felt no attachment to the Super7 offering as a result. As of right now, the fourth wave for the line is aiming for a December release. They’re scheduled to leave the factory by the end of September and Super7 is asking people to plan for a 60 day transit given the global shipping crisis. Considering they’re going to come in around December, things could get even more backed up given the holiday shopping season will be well underway. Hopefully, the wave reaches us in 2021, but whenever it gets here, I’ll have some thoughts to share on two of the figures: Donatello and Muckman. Until then, the other turtles are just going to have to make do as a trio. At least they have a party robot to keep them company.

It’s a minor miracle my Mutations Rocksteady survived the great purge of 1998. The only other TMNT toys from that era I have are the original ’88 figures and the movie ones.

Super7 TMNT Ultimates! Bebop

He don’t get mad, he gets stabby!

This is a big figure. That’s the take-away and the thing any reviewer has to mention when reviewing Super7’s take on the classic warthog from Playmates. Back in ’88, Bebop was bigger than the turtles, but he was also really hunched over to the point where it was like his neck was coming out of his chest. This made sure the figure would fit on the blister card and not break the mold of a line that was just starting out and probably needed to keep costs down as much as possible. With Super7’s line of Ultimates! based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, no such compromise needed to be made. Bebop can be his big, beefy, self and it’s quite a sight to see.

I won’t make you wait for the big comparison shot with the turtles in this line.

The turtles in this line come in at 6″ in height. It’s a 7″ scale line so the turtles are a bit on the short side in this universe. Bebop is definitely the opposite as he comes in at 8″ at the top of his mohawk. More so than the height though is the fact that this guy is chunky! Just picking up the box after handling the Leonardo one drove the point home that there was a lot more plastic in this package than before. It’s a bit awe inspiring to behold this figure as it just so fundamentally changes how one views the character.

It only took the better part of 30 years, but Bebop finally has something he can call a logo all to himself.

Bebop comes packaged in the same window box style we’ve seen with the other releases. Even though he’s much larger than what’s been released so far, he still fits into the same sized box, though he certainly takes up more room in the window. The slipcover that goes over his box is purple, as all of the villains are, and features a Bebop face on a manhole cover on the front with drill bits on either side of his head. It’s a small thing, but I love how each character gets their own logo of sorts for this line.

That’s a tight fit.

This Bebop is, like the other figures in this line, a throwback to the old Playmates toy released in 1988. He’s very similar in terms of sculpting, even though he looks quite different at first glance. That’s due to that old figure having so many sculpted details that were left unpainted. Some may see the knee brace on this figure and struggle to remember if the vintage one had that. And it did, as it did the turtle skeletons and stich pattern pants. By far the biggest benefit to this new scale and approach is Bebop’s red, leather, vest. The texture and the saturation of the paint is just exquisite. It might sound ridiculous, but it was how this jacket looked in promotional shots that got me to buy into this figure. It’s a separate piece of soft plastic that fits over the torso which just adds nice depth to the figure. Especially considering a lot of the other effects are sculpted into the main body. The necklace, bracelets, belt – that’s all sculpted which is in contrast to the more recent NECA offering which went with chains for the belt and bracelet. It gives this figure a bit of a juxtaposition in terms of the presentation as the separate pieces (jacket, shoulder pads) really bring this guy to life while the sculpted-in parts preserve the toy aesthetic of the original.

I don’t know if it sounds stupid, but I’m obsessed with how good this jacket turned out.

The paint job on Bebop also walks that line a bit. There’s a lot of pink utilized on his snout and the underside of his neck. The original figure did feature a pink tint as well, though not to this extent. If it’s too much for you, Super7 did include a second head which is the same as the default one, but without the pink air -brushed on. The hair, shells, and shoes look terrific with their paint app, while the chain bracelet came out a bit chunky. We should probably see some of his flesh through the chains, but it’s just solid gray. The arms and the main body of the figure are just brown plastic and he does have a bit of a shine to him. He’s just so big that when you have something that’s low detail like his arms it really stands out. Maybe a wash or some fur sculpted into him would have improved this. His old, purple, mohawk is now more of a hot pink and it looks like they failed to paint the elastic at the end of his ponytail. It’s not a big deal, but again, with such a big figure everything stands out.

I think this drill gun showed up in the cartoon and it fired a laser, in case you thought it was just a power drill. That would explain why it has a scope on it.

In spite of those critiques, I will say the overall sculpt and look of Bebop is pretty fantastic. If you prefer your Bebop to look more like the old toy and less like the cartoon then this is going to make you happy. As a kid, I was the opposite as I wanted Bebop and especially Rocksteady to look like the characters I saw on TV every day. And yet, I am floored by this sculpt and am completely smitten. It’s just so demonstrably different from the NECA offering that I don’t even think they’re comparable. The NECA Bebop is my favorite figure in that line because they so perfectly nailed the aesthetic of that cartoon. And this one is terrific because he’s just not that character. This is a more monstrous Bebop. I assume if he were in a cartoon he wouldn’t be as dim as the one we got. He’d actually be something to fear rather than laugh at.

It’s a lot easier to put him in a “knife toss” pose than a conventional knife pose given how tight those gripping hands are.
The rare two-headed warthog.

A big figure like this presents some opportunity for articulation. Even though he’s a brute, he still needs to move. Bebop’s head is on a big ball peg. I was worried it would be hard to remove, but it actually pops off pretty easily. He can look up, down, tilt, and swivel. It’s a lot better than expected and also plenty sturdy. The shoulders are just ball-hinges and those big shoulder pads will limit how high his arms can come up. They’re also pretty tight, but that’s good for a big figure and the bonus of him being big is he at least feels less fragile. He has a hinge at the elbow and his arm also swivels there. The wrists swivel and have big, horizontal, hinges in them. Like the head, they’re surprisingly easy to pop on and off. There is a waist swivel, but it’s just a swivel and there’s no other torso articulation. The thighs are on ball-joints and they can swivel there. The knees are single-jointed and the right leg can swivel at the knee. The left cannot and that’s because he has that big knee brace and it’s pretty cool that Super7 respected that brace and didn’t just ignore it. He can also swivel above the ankle, below the cuffs of his pants, so the knee swivel isn’t missed. The ankles are hinged and can also rock side-to-side. Lastly, Bebop’s tail is now articulated. It’s just a swivel, but it’s cool to be able to position it a bit now.

The second head basically just omits the pink wash on the snout.
A close-up of the alt head.

Bebop’s articulation is just okay. The range of motion at the elbows and shoulders isn’t very good. You can argue it doesn’t need to be great, but it’s disappointing. More disappointing though is the lack of something in the torso. He really would benefit from a diaphragm joint that would allow him to twist a little and tilt. The articulation just makes him quite static. He really needs his size to command attention on your shelf because his posing just isn’t going to do it. What also works against him is his very neutral expression. It’s accurate to the vintage toy, but there’s just no personality there. Bebop relies on his attire and the fact that he’s a big, ugly, warthog to form an identity. It makes the second head feel like a wasted opportunity as since it’s just the same head, but with less paint, it took away a chance for Super7 to create something more expressive as it’s been able to do with Leo and Raph. Imagine a Bebop with a snarling mouth or even a hinged jaw, that really could have taken this one to another level.

As you can see, Bebop may have increased in size, but his accessories have not.

Somewhat playing into the nonchalent posing of Bebop are his accessories. He’s a lot of plastic and his tooling is unique. Maybe some of this will work for Rocksteady, but I am assuming Bebop is a high cost figure when compared with Leonardo. That probably plays a role in his accessories, which are limited. He comes with just one extra pair of hands and they’re fists. His standard gripping hands are so close to fists that these just feel like a waste. I would have much preferred a style posed hand in place of fists. Bebop also has his drill gun which is almost comically small in his massive hands. Super7 should have probably considered upscaling the gun to go with the figure, but instead, it’s actually a little smaller than the vintage one which makes no sense. The trash can lid is the exact same size and getting him to properly hold it is nearly impossible. His hands are super stiff and I had to heat them to get them to bend a little to try and force that handle into his hand. At best, I basically just got it to hook on his thumb. It’s so small though that it looks stupid. His knife is his best accessory. It’s a little tough getting it into those tight, gripping, hands of his, but once there it looks fine. It does make me wish they added a sheath for it on his belt though for storage. Or if he had an actual belt we could have slipped it behind that. Oh well. Like the turtles, there’s also a set of unpainted weapons on a sprue. Bebop’s are gray and I don’t know why you’d ever want them, but they’re there if you do.

The pink on the new figure is definitely a lot more pronounced than it was on the vintage figure.

Super7’s take on Bebop is both incredibly impressive and also a bit disappointing all at the same time. It averages out to a really good release though because what’s most important are the overall aesthetics of the figure, and that’s the part Super7 handled the best. The only reason to not like it is if you disliked the Playmates figure, and if that’s the case, why would you buy this? I suspect those who just want this line to match the vintage one piece for piece are very happy. I’m more of the type that wants Super7 to key in on the nostalgia, but also improve things where possible. I accept that they have a different philosophy when it comes to articulation too, as I know they dislike double elbows and probably aren’t fans of torso joints either. I’ll continue to call out where I think those joints make sense though, and maybe one day they’ll come around.

Here’s the one for folks who like to put Super7 against NECA. I love both of these figures for different reasons.

Bebop is a tremendously fun figure, and you still have a shot at getting him. Super7’s Ultimates! line is a made-to-order line, but retailers are free to order as many as they want and sell them and he’s still available in some places. The MSRP is $45, but you’ll probably have to pay a small markup at this point. And it’s small compared with what this figure will fetch going forward so if you want him, grab him. He’s the last of Wave 2 that I’ll be reviewing as I just wasn’t feeling Shredder or Mutagen Man, but when Wave 3 drops I’ll have at least 3 reviews coming your way so there’s something to look forward to!

Good luck, boys! This isn’t the moron you’re used to!

TMNT Loot Crate #3 – The Cartoon One!

It’s finally here!

When the second of 3 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed Loot Crates arrived in December it had me thinking that #3 was pretty far off. To my surprise though, the gap between #2 and #3 ended up being less than what was initially forecast had the release schedule held true. And that’s great because the third and final crate in this series was the one I was looking forward to the most because it’s the cartoon themed crate. Crate #1 had a Mirage Studios theme while #2 had a video game theme (there was also a one-off crate before the first one that was movie themed), but Loot Crate chose to save the most anticipated crate for last.

And it’s a big crate!

The cartoon crate, which is based on the original 1987 cartoon series, was probably always going to be the most popular because it’s the cartoon that folks seem to have the most attachment to from a nostalgia point of view. That doesn’t mean it was destined to be the best though. For me, it was my most anticipated because I was in love with the exclusive NECA figure included: Bunny Rocksteady. And if you prepaid for all three crates from the start, you got a bonus figure: Bunny Bebop. At the time, we actually only knew about Bebop who was teased with a silhouette image while we knew Rocksteady would be the figure in the actual crate. It made sense that it too was Rocksteady in an Easter Bunny costume as seen briefly in an episode of the cartoon. It’s just the sort of goofy variant that I enjoy. While a repaint of the Mirage Shredder for crate one was pretty bad ass, it was the bunny boys that sold me on the entire crate subscription.

My view upon opening the crate.

Since this is Loot Crate, the figures are not the only thing featured. We’ll save those for last, but first let’s talk about what else is included. These things, in my opinion, are largely just junk. The stuff isn’t cheaply made or anything, it’s just not practical, for the most part. There’s always a shirt, which is fine, but then an assortment of things like pins and keychains. If you like that stuff, great, I personally do not desire it. Still, Loot Crate has surprised a bit by including a decent tumbler in the first crate and by including the fun television accessory in the second crate, so what’s crate #3 have in store for us?

Oh boy, a coffee mug!

First of all, this crate is huge. It’s much bigger than the other two and I assume that’s mostly due to the fact that it has two figures in it instead of one. It has a sticker on it featuring Bebop and Rocksteady as Easter Eggs. For those who are only getting Rocksteady, I don’t know if they got a smaller crate with a different sticker or if they got the same. As mentioned before, it’s cartoon themed and also apparently Channel 6 themed as well. This is similar to the first crate where a lot of the stuff had a TCRI theme and that logo was repurposed throughout. For this one, Channel 6 appears in three places: in the window box for the bunnies, on a trucker hat, and on a mug. The mug comes in its own box which features the Chanel 6 logo and the same artwork of April we saw on the two-pack release of her figure. It’s kind of an ugly April, but the box for the mug has the same Turtle Van coloring the figures come in along with the Channel 6 blue, white, and red logo. My box was pretty beat up which is unfortunate because I want to display this in-box since my house is full of coffee mugs. The mug itself is your standard mug with the Channel 6 logo. It’s not bad, but I feel like every house has a surplus of mugs and there are better TMNT mugs out there anyway.

For anyone who wants to cosplay as a Channel 6 cameraman.

The Channel 6 trucker hat is pretty basic. It’s just a snapback with the Channel 6 logo on the front. The logo is clean and attractive, but like the mug, I have a ton of baseball hats so I’m probably never going to wear this. I’ve placed it on top of my glass cabinet which contains some of my action figure collection for the time being.

This mug is fine, but it has virtually no chance of unseating my Donald Duck mug pictured in the background.

We also get some pins (you can see them in the first pic of the open crate)! These have been in every crate and this one comes with two pins on the same backboard. One features the baghead of a Crooked Ninja Turtle gang member and it’s kind of funny. The other is the somewhat forgotten mutated form of one of Bebop and Rocksteady’s cohorts, Scrag. He’s the sunglasses wearing, mutant, bat, punk, from the second or third episode of the series. He and the other punks are only shown once on a monitor and never seen again.

A pretty cool Shredder, not consistent with the theme, but cool nonetheless.

Next up, we have a notebook and sticker sheet. The notebook seems pretty thin and small, but it does feature some cool artwork of Shredder on the cover by artist Freddie Williams III. It’s not a depiction of Shredder from the show, but his interpretation of the character. The sticker sheet features a bunch of wanted posters of various gangsters from the show: Don Turtelli, Big Louie, Mr. Big, Mad Dog McMutt, Jersey Red, and human Scrag. These might be fun to incorporate into the cartoon diorama whenever it releases, but at the end of the day, they’re just stickers.

Stickers…cool.
Arrived in time for the figure, so you can match!

Lastly, we have the shirt. I was kind of hoping for another long sleeve shirt, but we get a t-shirt. It’s a yellow Mondo Gecko shirt and it’s designed to just look like Mondo Gecko’s actual t-shirt from the show which was basically the same as the one worn by the vintage Playmates action figure. It’s cool, and I like that they didn’t just put some TMNT licensing art or whatever from the cartoon on a shirt and did something unique.

It’s been a long wait, but it’s finally over!

All right, let’s get to the bunnies! These guys arrived in the same crate, but packaged in their own window box which largely resembles the packaging for the two-packs sold at Target. The backdrop this time is an exterior shot of Channel 6 and there’s product shots on the sides. On the back is a huge cross-sell that would have been up-to-date had it dropped in November (as originally intended), but is now missing the recent Rat King vs Vernon set. Bebop and Rocksteady are essentially the same figure with a different head. This isn’t at all surprising given the costumes they’re sporting and also because their regular release in NECA’s cartoon line was essentially the same figure just with different stuff layered over it. For this release, NECA redid the shoulders to include that tuft of fur on each and also redid the feet so they have oversized, rabbit, feet. The legs are recycled from Leatherhead as he had a smoother sculpt compared with the original Bebop and Rocksteady. The grooves in the wrists where their bracelets were previously have also been filled with white plugs. It’s noticeable up close, but I wouldn’t call it an eyesore. The main torso has been outfitted with a soft, plastic, overlay to simulate the rabbit costume and a cowl has been attached to each head. You could probably get this cowl off if you wanted to, but it’s glued on and who knows what would be left behind. The back of the head has been painted to match the cowl and it’s even possible the sculpts were cut to better fit the cowl. I doubt, for example, Bebop has his mohawk and ponytail. Plus, there’s already an uncovered head with each of the regular figures so why bother?

I love that cross-sell. I wish they would do this on all of their releases rather than just include the four most recent releases.

If you saw my NECA rankings a few weeks ago, then you know I love the Bebop and Rocksteady figures that NECA put out. Much of that love is for the overall aesthetics of those figures because they look ripped from the cartoon. It’s not necessarily for the engineering. Unfortunately, these figures are the same in terms of engineering so prepare yourself for some stuck joints. It’s probably exacerbated by the face that it’s pretty damn cold out too so my boys arrived feeling quite frosty. Considering these are limited release figures, you will want to be extra cautious. If you can stand to do it, maybe even let them just hang out for a day at room temperature before opening. If any joint though is even the slightest bit stuck, take it to a heat source. Be it a heat gun, hairdryer, or simple hot water – it helps. And if you’re like me, you might just do that anyway before attempting to really move anything because cold plastic can snap with little warning. And if these guys snap or break in any way, there’s no guarantee that Loot Crate will be able to replace it. My Bebop also came with a partially broken nose ring. It’s cracked, but not quite all the way through, but cracked enough that there’s a gap. If I could match the paint I could possibly seal it with paint. It’s a bummer, but not a big enough issue for me to seek a replacement or anything, and I doubt one would be available if I did. As long as I don’t mess with it I think it will be fine, but it just makes me a little more nervous about falls so these guys are going on the bottom shelf of my cabinet, for now.

This makes me happy.
Look at those adorable little tails!

When you do get these guys all loosened up, you’ll find their articulation is okay, but maybe not great. The head is on a ball peg and can rotate a bit, but the cowl is going to impede movement. They can’t really look up or down much as a result, but they still have articulated jaws and Bebop’s eyeglasses can flip up to reveal the horror beneath. The shoulders are on ball-hinges and will probably be quite tight. The elbows are double-jointed and the hands just peg in so they rotate and have hinges. There is torso articulation in the diaphragm, at least I assume there is because there was with the original figures. It’s rendered moot because of the way NECA did the costume. They didn’t want to create a new torso, so they made a soft, plastic, shirt of sorts that covers the joint. The hips though are the worst part because these were strangely engineered from the start. They’re a mix of a peg and disc system with ratcheted edges. This makes them hard to work with and also really limited. The figures that came after these boys that used the same base switched to a double-barbell system and it’s bizarre to see that wasn’t carried forward here. The knees though are double-jointed and the feet might be on balls now, but they hinge and rock fairly well.

The busted nose ring makes me sad.
Ok, now I’m happy again!

What it comes down to, is we have two figures that aren’t particularly dynamic, but are certainly far from being statues. What’s important to me is the aesthetic of this ridiculous bunny costume which the articulation doesn’t interfere with. They’re meant to just sort of hang out and look silly, or maybe pose with a gun to emulate what was seen in the actual show. I do wish they used the updated hips and I also wish they had just re-painted the torso so we still had a functional diaphragm joint. That probably would have required at least one, new, sculpted piece if NECA wanted their bellies to protrude like they do here as the base abdomen was absent a potbelly. It’s obvious that the cost of one of these crate figures needs to be under the standard release, so it’s not a surprise, but I can still be a little disappointed by it. What they did do well was paint these guys and match the hinges to the proper base color. Rocksteady, in particular, seems to have denser line work on his face when compared with the first release and he really stands out. I should also note they’re a little bigger than before since they’re using Leatherhead’s legs. I have Bebop at close to seven and a half inches with Rocksteady at an even seven. Once you factor in the ears they creep over eight inches. And I love that their cowls are unique to each and Rocksteady has a bent ear like he did in the show. Both also have little, pink, bunny tails on the rear and overall NECA just nailed the look with hilarious results.

A close-up shot of the accessories.
I prefer guns to the remotes.

What’s an Easter Bunny without a basket? NECA certainly felt it was necessary to include such as each figure comes with a basket full of eggs. It’s the same accessory, but painted different to distinguish the two. I like Bebop’s a little more as his eggs are more colorful, but it’s a sharp, little, accessory. They also come with this remote-like device that Krang outfitted them with. I think it hypnotized people or something, but it basically just looks like an old school TV remote. It’s a tiny piece of plastic that likely didn’t cost much and it’s cool to have. They also come with the same array of hands as before. Each comes with fists in the box, plus a right trigger finger hand, a left gripping hand, and a set of open, stylized, hands. The open hands feature additional pink paint on the palms which is a nice touch. They can hold their baskets with either the open hands or the gripping hands and both gripping hands are suitable for the little remote. Chances are though, you have some extra rifles laying around you can outfit the pair with. I have them with the Triceraton guns for now, but I might switch them to the laser rifle which is a better match for what they were wielding in the cartoon.

Let’s bring in the old figures. You can really see the change in height here.

In the end, this Loot Crate is a lot like the others, which is to say it’s dependent on the action figures contained within. The shirt is something I will wear and I may have a use for the stickers since I did order a cartoon diorama for my display, but other than that I don’t expect to use anything in the crate. The figures though are awesome and the fact that the bonus figure was integrated into this crate makes it an easy pick for best crate in the series. I signed up for the Loot Crate subscription based on that one, single, silhouette, of bunny Bebop and I have not been let down. I very much enjoyed the Shredder as well, and the Shell Shock turtle is at least unique, even if it’s not something I probably would have bought at retail. These two I definitely would have purchased as a two-pack at Target or wherever. NECA’s approach with these figures is to make them fun, but not essential, but for me a goofy variant like this is damn near essential. It harkens back to the days of fun Playmates variants, only this pair actually appeared in the cartoon and wasn’t just made up to sell a toy or promote the invasion of Iraq, or something weird. Hopefully everyone who wanted these guys placed an order, because the after market is the only place to get them now and it’s going to cost you.

“Hey Boss, we brought you some colored eggs!” “I’m surrounded by idiots…”

This concludes the Loot Crate subscription for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but another is surely on the way. When will it be announced? Probably fairly soon. I think this one was announced in early spring 2020, so the next could come around then too. Based on an interview with NECA’s Trevor Zammit via the Fwooshcast on YouTube, it sounds like a batch of four with the same or similar theming is on the way so that means movie, comic, video game, and cartoon. It could change, but that seems like a safe bet. And my mind is already trying to imagine what figures will be included with those crates. It will likely be awhile before we know, but my overall experience with this series was a positive one so I will certainly sign-up again when the time comes.


NECA TMNT Loot Crate Wild Speculation Post!

mirage_shredder_crateIt was announced earlier this week that a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles branded Loot Crate was incoming later this year. NECA, or NECA’s parent company to be more exact, rescued Loot Crate from bankruptcy last year and has been aiming to revamp the subscription service by incorporating NECA product into the boxes. If you’re not familiar with the scheme (some would argue scam), Loot Crate is basically a blind box service. Each box usually retails for about $50 and the only thing the buyer knows is what the general theme of the box will be. They’re almost always advertised as being a greater value than what they’re charging, which is a ludicrous statement, and instead they’re full of junk that would be a hard sell on its own. That’s likely why the service went bankrupt, but NECA appears at least committed to making this thing worthwhile.

There was a series of essentially trial Loot Crates with the NECA branding. One such crate was the Spirit of Splinter set. It came with a variant of the Splinter action figure from NECA’s TMNT movie line that was colored blue to resemble the character from the scene in the woods where he appeared as a ghost, or spirit, to encourage his adoptive children. The crate was $50, so if you’re in it for the figure it’s not the greatest value since NECA figures retail for around half that amount. It also had a shirt, patch, pin, and a Foot bandana based on the same from the film. It’s not an awful set, but I wasn’t really into the figure so I passed. Since the property is hot though, the resale value appears relatively high on eBay so anyone who did purchase it could probably turn it into a small profit, if they so desired.

spirit_splinter

If you wanted a blue Splinter you missed your opportunity.

That Splinter set apparently was successful enough to warrant a new round of crates. Announced Wednesday, a trio of TMNT crates are set to arrive this year with the first one arriving sometime in June. The featured action figure for that set is a first appearance Mirage Shredder. This is only the second time this figure is being released as the first time was as part of a four-pack with some Foot Soldiers for San Diego Comic Con. That Shredder was also colored based on the color version of the debut issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This version is basically all blue and black and looks pretty neat. He’ll have some accessories as well and the crate will come with additional items that likely tie into the original comic line in some way.

bunny_bebop_tease

I can’t believe how much I want this.

What we don’t know, at this time, is what the featured figures will be in the next two crates. For those, NECA has provided only the theme and a few hints. Crate #2 is an arcade themed crate and the placeholder image is the Turtles battling the Foot in the first stage of the original arcade game with April in the background. NECA confirmed via its Twitter account that the figure will NOT be an arcade deco April, and since the Turtles have been released already, it won’t be them. The third crate is based on the 1987 cartoon and the placeholder image is Rocksteady. The only other info we have is that it will not be a variant of Casey Jones (some had guessed at a version of Casey in a suit). Patrons who are all-in on this trio of crates and pay for all three upfront receive a bonus figure of Bebop in a bunny suit from the cartoon. No images have been shown yet so we don’t know how much re-tooling is needed for the existing Bebop figure to conform to this. He could just have new hands and a cloth suit.

That silly Bebop was actually the thing that pulled me in. I love goofy variants, and while I’m less enthusiastic about the First Appearance Shredder I decided to take the plunge with the safety net being if I don’t really want one of the other figures, I can probably at least sell them for cost online. Even though the Bunny Bebop is the figure I covet most, it hasn’t stopped me from speculating on what the other two figures will be. The guessing game is so fun for me that I decided to put my thoughts down here, so let’s see if I can get these thoughts organized.

For the arcade wave, NECA has released or shown the following for retail:

  • All four Turtles
  • Multi-colored Foot Soldiers
  • Shredder (Turtles in Time Arcade)
  • Shredder (Arcade)
  • Slash (Turtles in Time SNES)
  • Leatherhead (Turtles in Time)
  • Granitor (Arcade)
  • Traag (Arcade)

arcade_crate

The lone hint provided by NECA for crate #2.

And as mentioned, we can rule out April. The image NECA provided as a clue is the Arcade version of the first game. It’s also the first level which featured a boss fight against Rocksteady. Also of note, NECA showed off Granitor and Traag a long time ago and has never come back and confirmed them for release. The current figures at retail are based on Turtles in Time, and Krang’s loyal rock soldiers did not feature in that game. In other words, I think they’re in play. Cartoon versions are on the way as part of wave 4 too, so we’re just talking a simple repaint here. With all that said, let’s speculate! I’m ranking based on the likelihood of who gets released:

neca_dimensionx_trio

NECA showed off this trio almost three years ago and we just now received Slash. Granitor and Traag have mostly been ignored since save for the cartoon reveal.

  1. Granitor/Traag – This seems like a good spot for one of these two guys. There’s nothing separating the two, hence why I rank them together. It’s also a smart marketing idea as one could be included this round, and the other figure could follow in the next wave. Anyone who has Traag will want Granitor and vice versa.
  2. tmnt_arcade_level1

    Rocksteady is the boss for the pictured level, though if he’s the subject of crate #3 it seems less likely he’d be featured in crate #2 as well.

    Rocksteady – we kind of half to assume he’s high on the list because the image provided features the rhino as the boss character. And Rocksteady would just be a simple repaint of the current figure, perhaps with the added benefit of including his helmet. And like the scenario I outlined with Granitor and Traag, it opens up the possibility of featuring Bebop further down the road. And both characters were unique to the first Arcade game as far as their attire is concerned. For the SNES version of Turtles in Time, the two appeared in pirate attire which would necessitate all new sculpts. I think it’s safe to say, whatever is included in these Loot Crates will be repaints of existing figures with only minor re-tooling. I’d actually list Rocksteady as the most likely figure if he wasn’t the placeholder image for crate #3.

  3.  NES Rocksteady – Not to be confused with the figure above. The image provided is clearly from the arcade version of the game, so I think it’s more likely the figure comes from there than from the NES, but the NES version of the game does present some additional opportunities. Considering NECA already did Slash who was unique to the home console version of Turtles in Time, it suggests the NES version of the arcade game isn’t off-limits. When that game was ported, some concessions had to be made as the NES was not capable of outputting the same amount of colors as the arcade game. And for that version, Rocksteady appeared in basically a black, white, and gray attire. It actually makes him look a little more like the Playmates figure than the cartoon, and it’s not an ugly look for the character. It’s also an easy thing to accomplish as NECA could just re-color the existing figure. Though again, he’d need a helmet.
  4. tora

    a Tora figure would be pretty damn fun.

    Tora – If that name isn’t familiar then that’s okay, as we’re not talking about a very popular character. Tora is the white dog/wolf boss from the snowy level of the NES game. He’s never appeared anywhere else, as far as I know, nor was he ever done as an action figure. Because of his obscurity, it makes sense for him to be featured in a subscription service like Loot Crate. He could probably utilize some of the parts made for Bebop and/or Rocksteady with the only challenge being he’d require a unique headsculpt and he had a leather jacket. If given the choice, I think I’d most like to see this happen as it feels fun, though all signs point to the figure being from the arcade version of the game and not the home console port.

  5.  Roadkill Rodney (s) – We know Roadkill Rodney is on the way as part of the cartoon line, so a pixel deco version would also make sense at some point. The character appears in both arcade games, so it’s possible it could show up in the Turtles in Time retail wave. This would probably be the cheapest option as the figures aren’t particularly large, though if they feature rubber tires or something then I could be mistaken. This strikes me as the least exciting option though and I don’t know that it would be met with much enthusiasm.

That’s my top 5 most likely for the arcade crate. I kept my guesses to just the original arcade game and the NES release, but if it also could include Turtles in Time figures then that expands things considerably. That game features Tokka, Rahzar, and Super Shredder which are all getting released as part of the movie line. Would NECA do a pixel deco on any of them and release them? I think so, but I also think they would rather release them as single-packs to retail and not in a Loot Crate. Baxter the Fly also features in the home NES arcade port and both versions of Turtles in Time. He has a figure on the way in the cartoon line, though he’s considerably larger in the games and I’m not sure if that figure is really appropriate for a game version. Maybe NECA isn’t too concerned though. Metalhead is also in that game, so he would be possible. Krang is featured in both, but I ruled him out as his android body is probably too big for this kind of release, but I’d love to be wrong!

UPDATE May 5, 2020 – Well, the identity of the figure has been revealed and I can say that I was way off. NECA promised some oddball releases for Loot Crate, and the Arcade themed crate certainly fits that bill. The website was just updated with a picture of what appears to be a ninja turtle getting electrocuted. It either has a light built into it or it’s merely glow in the dark and the character appears to be in mid scream. It’s not super exciting, but I suppose it will pair well with the eventual Roadkill Rodney release.

cartoon_crate

The lone hint for crate #3. Seems like Rocksteady is a given, no?

Let’s turn our attention now to crate #3. We have even less to go off of here as the image is just Rocksteady and it’s the same licensing artwork featured in NECA’s action figure release, so we don’t even have an episode or season to go off of. It wouldn’t exactly be much of a hint if the figure wasn’t Rocksteady, but for completion’s sake, here’s what NECA has done or is prepping for release at Target:

  • All four Turtles
  • Shredder
  • Krang (Bubble Walker and Android Body)
  • Foot Soldiers (regular and damaged)
  • Bebop
  • Rocksteady
  • Casey Jones
  • April O’Neil
  • Baxter the Fly
  • Splinter
  • Granitor
  • Traag
  • Leatherhead
  • Metalhead
  • Foot Alpha
  • Triceratons (Various colors)
  • Bunny Bebop
  • Roadkill Rodney
  • Slash

bunny_minions

Could figure #3 simply be a Bunny Rocksteady to complete the pair for those who are all-in? Maybe, though it seems like NECA would reserve him for a future release.

That’s a lot of figures, and I may even be forgetting some. NECA has also strongly hinted that Ace Duck and Mukman and Joe Eyeball are forthcoming, and the assumption is that neither would be featured here. Again, we’re mostly assuming this figure will be a variant of an already released or soon-to-be released character. And since this crate may be arriving in the fall, virtually all figures to be released are in play. Though since the image is Rocksteady, I have to go with him first:

human_rocksteady

Might a human version of Rocksteady be on the way?

  1. First-Appearance Rocksteady – Rocksteady didn’t show up as an existing mutant, he had to first be some regular dude who wasn’t very nice. He basically featured the same outfit as his rhino form, only with a vest and no helmet. NECA could simply retool the existing figure and give him a new head to accomplish the job. It would then setup for a future crate figure of human Bebop.
  2.  Bunny Rocksteady – if the bonus fourth figure is Bebop in a bunny costume, then fans are going to wonder when they can complete the pair. As a result, a Bunny Rocksteady makes sense as once again it’s an existing figure with a few new additions. And as a bonus, since the two-pack continues to be hard to find at retail, it gives collectors another opportunity to get these figures. Especially if the bunny outfit is just a cloth addition leaving the regular figure underneath largely intact. The only reason why I think it won’t be a rabbit version of Rocksteady is that it probably makes more sense for that to be the featured bonus figure of another round of Loot Crates. Such a maneuver is borderline mean, but that’s capitalism for ya!
  3.  Ultimate Rocksteady – Basically, just the regular figure with more accessories including a helmet, something fans have been requesting ever since the original two-pack was released last November. It wouldn’t be very sexy, but considering how hard those figures have been to find it might give NECA some reason to assume fans would still be onboard with such a move. It’s not what I would want, but I also wouldn’t hate it.
  4. mightyhognrhinomanRhino-Man – I talked about wanting this figure in my list of most wanted NECA figures, so naturally I’d put him here. This was Rocksteady in a super hero costume. He could easily be repainted to accomplish the look well enough, and once again it would setup for a future release of Bebop in his super hero attire. Since fans would expect such a move, that version of Bebop could once again occupy the bonus figure slot or something.
  5. Mighty Rocksteady – I’m sticking with the Rocksteady theme! It just seems to me that if NECA wanted to give fans a hint (and they confirmed that was the goal), then making the figure something other than Rocksteady seems pointless. It would just mean the hint was actually no hint at all and reinforce that we shouldn’t trust these going forward, which wouldn’t be much fun. Mighty Rocksteady is the robot replacement from the episode “Super Bebop and Mighty Rocksteady.” He still looks like Rocksteady, but he’s metallic. Potentially, any figure would be a mash-up of parts made for Rocksteady and Metalhead. Though admittedly, to really get this figure right and do him justice it would be preferable to create an all new mold which is why I think he’s the least likely version of Rocksteady to be featured in this crate.

mighty_rockteady

A Mighty Rocksteady would be considerably harder to pull off, but that Bunny Bebop looks like it might feature a lot of new sculpting so who knows?

That’s it, my picks for most likely figures. I hope this doesn’t come off like an advertisement for NECA and Loot Crate, but it felt like a fun exercise to undertake. I’d prefer to not have to deal with the Loot Crate nonsense to get these exciting figures, but given how hard they’ve been to find at retail it’s not the worst thing to actually know I’m guaranteed to get four new figures this year. Expect a review for each one when it arrives and I’ll definitely refer back to this post to grade how well I did.

UPDATE May 5, 2020 – NECA’s Randy Falk confirmed in an interview with Pixel Dan that crate #3 will indeed be Rocksteady in an Easter Bunny costume. I put the update here so that hopefully you still got to enjoy my wild speculation before having it spoiled for you!


NECA TMNT Bebop and Rocksteady Target Exclusive Series

img_0666I have been rather fortunate when it comes to toy collecting in recent years. When I was a kid, toy collecting meant going to Toys R Us or a similar store and seeing what was on the shelf. Catalogs, commercials, and card backs were my main source of information. I assume there were newsletters and other avenues for the older collectors, but for a kid that was basically it. Today though it’s way different. Kids who collected have turned into adults who collect and it’s become a large market that seems to keep on growing. As a result, there’s extensive coverage of new and upcoming toys at conventions and trade shows. The brick and mortar toy store is also basically dead in the US, and most people get their toys online. The “toy hunts” I used to go on as recently as the 2000s have mostly vanished for me, until recently that is.

When NECA was finally allowed to expand upon their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles offerings it meant I had a whole new line to dive into. The loosening of the master license by Playmates was still pretty restrictive though and it largely kept NECA to doing annual convention exclusives. That’s how I landed my set of 1987 Turtles two years ago in a gloriously massive set of 8 figures. This year though, NECA was finally allowed to seek distribution through conventional means that still kept the product somewhat separate from whatever Playmates was doing. This meant GameStop exclusive single-carded movie figures which had previously been a convention exclusive or restricted to quarter-scale. It also meant those toon Turtles were coming to retail and for that NECA partnered with Target.

Since Target also sells toys it meant there would be a conflict with Playmates. Even though Playmates is only producing Turtles based on the new cartoon Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there’s still a sensitivity there. As a result, NECA was forced to make sure their product is differentiated even more than it already was in the form of two-packs that retail for around $52 each and they had to stock the product in the back of the store, usually behind electronics. Their distribution method is a bit tricky too as the product gets shipped to Target, but is then stocked by a NECA employee. As a means of keeping track, NECA even launched what it called an Ambassador program, which is essentially a Street Team which musical acts and record labels often utilized back in the 80s and 90s, and these ambassadors basically make sure the area looks tidy and sends a picture to NECA on a weekly basis.

I am a part of that program as I have a Target right in my town. I also work from home a few days a week so I have the flexibility to get there. When the Turtle sets started arriving though, I never saw one in my store. I would eventually see some months later at other stores when I thought to look, but they were definitely a bit hard to come by. No matter, as I already had them thanks to the convention set I had previously purchased. That all changed though with wave two. Back at Toy Fair, NECA unveiled the crown jewel of wave two:  a two-pack featuring the dim-witted duo of Bebop and Rocksteady. Based on their cartoon appearance, this was basically the first screen accurate version of the characters ever. Back in 89, Playmates released the duo in their inaugural wave of figures, but they were hardly cartoon-accurate. Bebop mostly looked the part, but Rocksteady had a black tanktop for some reason and his seldom worn helmet was part of his sculpt. As a kid, this bothered me because I was a bit of a pedant when it came to toys, but I still loved them for what they were.

Since this pair was not part of a con exclusive set, it meant I was going to have to hunt for them. The second wave of these figures was set for release on November 26, but due to the unique distribution of the figures it meant some started showing up the week before. They even went up on target.com briefly the prior Friday, though Bebop and Rocksteady either never did or sold out in a flash. The other figures in the wave are all repaints and re-releases:  a two-pack of Leo and Don, Raph and Mikey, and a two-pack of Foot Soldiers. The Turtles have been repainted in a bright green shade to more reflect the promotional art as opposed to the actual show, while the Foot Soldiers are basically army builders. All very cool, but I’m a bit limited by funds so I had to just focus on the new sculpts.

Because NECA basically stocks these figures themselves, Target employees are often unreliable. I found if I called a store the best they could tell me is if they were physically out or not. One employee was actually really helpful and knew that they were in the back, but they were waiting for the NECA rep to put them out. That was on the 22nd, and I made sure to check that Target the next morning. I got there about a half hour after opening and found the Turtles and Foot, but no Bebop and Rocksteady. Kicking myself for not being there right at opening, I proceeded to head to the next nearest Target where I found nothing. I would visit 8 other Targets that day driving over 100 miles in the process and found nothing at all of them. I kept an eye on Target’s website all weekend, and even asked my wife to check out our nearest Target on Monday while I was at work. Finally though, the day of this post, I found what I was looking for and at my store, no less.

What felt like a long and exhausting hunt was really only a few days and largely the result of my impatience. Had I just waited until the official release of yesterday, I would have saved myself a lot of time and money, but it’s all part of the experience. While it’s deflating to walk into store after store and find nothing, there’s also nothing like the rush of excitement when you finally do find what you’re looking for. I would and do trade that for the ease of an online preorder when possible, but it was nice to have that experience again.

All of the figures in NECA’s cartoon wave are packaged in window boxes with a color scheme that brings to mind the Turtle Van. NECA is unfortunately forced to use Nickelodeon’s licensing artwork on the packaging. This means the 2012 logo and character portraits of an unknown origin. The Turtles look fine in this loose style, but Bebop and Rocksteady look pretty terrible. Well, Rocksteady looks fine, I suppose, it’s mostly just Bebop that looks dumb. You don’t want to display these guys in box though, so I recommend just stashing that thing away.

So how are these guys? Well, in short, they’re a pair of beauts! Some might say these are faces only a mother could love, but they sure put a smile on mine. Bebop, largely by virtue of his glasses, has a bewildered expression on his face that I remember fondly. Meanwhile, Rocksteady has more of a disheveled look. There’s a craziness in his eyes that suggests he thinks he’s smarter than he really is, but anyone who watched the cartoon knows that’s not the case. His gut protrudes from under his yellow tank top and if you wish you can have his jaw hang open.

img_0668

They’ve got the guns, but make no mistake, the Turtles always have the advantage.

Prying these bad boys loose was a bit of a challenge as they’re big and they’re bulky. Once I had them in hand though I was in love. Bebop is the slightly more impressive of the two just because of what his look involves. He stands about 7″ tall so he towers over the Turtles and is just a bit taller than Shredder. NECA used actual metal chain links for his wrist bracelet and belt which is really neat. The front clasp on the belt is glues to the figure so you don’t have to worry about it sliding off completely while the forearm has a little hook on it to keep the bracelet in place. Every part of his outfit is a separate piece of soft plastic as opposed to just sculpted on, including the bandolier strapped across his chest and under his red jacket. He has a necklace of teeth and those big turtle shells on his shoulders. His hair is even colored correctly with the mohawk on top in purple and his pony tail in brown. His glasses flip up as well to reveal eyes that are almost entirely black, likely to make sure he looks best with the glasses down. His mouth can open into a yell, though I definitely prefer him with the mouth closed. My figure has no paint defects I could find, and NECA used a shading to similar to what it did with the other figures so the back of his arms and head are in a slightly darker brown. The line work and the paint app just makes this guy “pop” no matter what is displayed around him. A true sight to behold.

Rocksteady may be slightly less impressive than Bebop, but he’s no slouch either. This version of Rocksteady is from season two of the show onwards, basically the version most are familiar with. In the first mini series, he sported a helmet at times and also had camo pants. This version has brown pants and no helmet. I know some fans were hoping for an included helmet, but it might have required a different headsculpt to facilitate and this headsculpt is perfect as is. Would I have liked one? Sure, but I don’t know if I would have displayed him with it. Everything else though is pretty much perfect right down to the single grenade on his chest strap and the lone turtle shell on his hip. I love that his belt is slightly askew and also that he’s just a hair shorter than Bebop at 6.5″. He also looks pretty great with his mouth open or closed, and like Bebop I couldn’t find an imperfection on mine. The only disappointing thing about him is that his knife isn’t removable from its sheath, and since it’s a bit loose, don’t try to pull it out. The linework is just as well done as Bebop’s and it really gives the impression that this is a guy with a rather soft physique.

img_0670

“I’m surrounded by idiots!”

As these are big boys, one probably expected them to feature less articulation than the Turtles. And they probably do, but if so it’s not by much. A lot of the same joints are in place including ab crunches and ball joints at the hips and shoulders. There’s hinges in the wrists and cut biceps, double-jointed knees and elbows, waist articulation, and ankle pivots and hinges. The sculpt and added costume parts hide a lot of the articulation, but it does also hinder it. They may have a similar amount of points of articulation, but the functional articulation is certainly less. It’s a trade-off that makes sense though given these guys are brutes as opposed to nimble ninjas and the sculpts are really fantastic. The joints on mine were fairly tight when I opened them up. There’s a lot of paint here so that was expected. I was able to loosen things without the aid of hot water or a hair dryer, but just be gentle with your own set. Bebops legs are a touch loose and I do find him harder to stand than Rocksteady. That’s also partly due to his sweet high-tops limiting his range of motion at the ankle which is, again, a trade-off worth making. I can’t really get both feet on the ground and I might end up buying some NECA stands for these guys. Rocksteady is easier to stand, though his head is more forward. He’s limited in his poses as well, and again, a stand may be a wise investment as I’d hate for these guys to take a tumble and chip some paint.

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“Uh oh, looks we’re surrounded.”

Accessory wise, these two come with everything you would expect them to come with. Out of the box both sport fists, but they each have a set of open hands and hands for holding their weapons. These extra hands are the same between the two, just colored differently. Both apparently shoot right-handed as their trigger finger grippers are right-handed parts. There are two rifles and two pistols for the two to share and they’re the same as what was included with Shredder and the Foot Soldiers. They also have a communicator to share between the two of them and affixed to it is an image of the NECA Shredder, which is quite cute and pairs well with Shredder’s communicator that has an image of Krang on it. Maybe a future release will feature these two on communicators, if one doesn’t already exist. Some might lament the absence of Bebop’s drill-gun, but like Rocksteady’s helmet, it was one of those things rarely featured. Usually they just had the nondescript laser weapons you see here. Removing the stock hands is just a matter of twisting and pulling gently. Beware with Bebop though as his left hand is largely responsible for keeping that chain bracelet on and it could go flying off if you’re not careful. I wish the pegs on the hands were a little thicker as they appear a bit fragile to me, but they’ve held up well thus far so my concerns may be for naught. The hands are also painted plastic, and sadly paint is prone to chipping. I had a hard time getting the trigger hand to fit into the handle on the pistol blaster and chipped Bebop’s fingers a bit. I decided from then on to play it safe and just use the more generic gripping hand on the pistols and reserve the trigger finger for the rifle. As an added little touch that may or may not be intentional, there’s a tiny peg on the communicator that can be fit onto Rocksteady’s belt. Pretty cool!

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Rocksteady even has a place for that communicator.

Pairing these guys up with the other figures from NECA is a ton of fun. They look the part and they fit in scale-wise. In the show they might have been a little smaller, but that is largely due to inconsistencies within the show. They certainly look the part here and my bet is NECA was able to source the proportions from the style guide which hopefully dated back to 1987. These guys are in hot demand right now, but I encourage those of you on the hunt to remain patient. NECA knows it has a hit on its hands with these and I would expect they will make every effort to flood Targets around the country with them, and they’re also heading to the UK too. NECA even sent out an email to their ambassadors asking them to check with their local store to make sure these guys are either on the shelf or sold out, which is something they haven’t done for any other release. And if these guys don’t excite you enough, 2020 sure sounds like it’s going to be a blast! We’ve already seen finished, painted, prototypes for Slash, April, Casey, the Triceraton, Leatherhead, Roadkill Rodney, and Metalhead. Krang’s android body is also on the way and NECA hasn’t exactly been shy about confirming that Baxter Stockman should be expected at some point. And if video games are your thing, NECA’s latest in its TMNT video game series is expected to ship in February to specialty shops and includes renditions of Leo, Donnie, and the Foot Solider from the popular Turtles in Time game as well as a version of Slash from that game as well. 2020 is going to be a very exciting, and expensive, year for Turtle fans and we have NECA toys to thank for it. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, but I’m also not losing sight of the present as Bebop and Rocksteady rival anything the company has put out yet. Don’t sleep on these guys, Turtle fans!


Wanted: Bebop and Rocksteady

28e0eb55117749.5977644bd483aIt had a good run, but with this past Saturday’s airing of “Wanted:  Bebop and Rocksteady” the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series launched by Nickelodeon in 2012 has come to a close. In a somewhat refreshing manner, the show has come to an end largely because it’s told a story that was basically completed with the defeat of Shredder and the passing of Splinter to conclude season 4. Season 5, which came with a re-titling of the series as Tales of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, largely dealt with the fallout and the Turtles taking on the few stragglers remaining from Shredder’s empire. It was some-what directionless, but still solid entertainment. The finale though brought us another cross-over with the 1987 TMNT with a story centered around the comedic duo of Bebop and Rocksteady.

The series finale is composed of three episodes that Nickelodeon chose to air in succession as basically a little made-for-TV film. It starts off in the 2D 1987 world and Bebop and Rocksteady have just been driven back by the turtles. All of the classic voice actors are here with few exceptions (Kevin Michael Richardson stands in for the late James Avery as Shredder and is the most notable difference, though he does a really good job of sounding like Avery) for the 87 characters. The look and sound of that show is rendered well here, though the animation is obviously digital now and it’s kind of junky. Maybe that was in an attempt to mimic the less than stellar animation of the majority of that old series, or maybe it was just a limitation of the budget. Anyway, Shredder and Krang open a portal to the modern world and mistakenly leave Bebop and Rocksteady behind. Needing henchman, they place an ad and the current Bebop and Rocksteady answer it.

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The episode begins in the world of the 87 cartoon, aspect ratio and all.

The plot of this episode, being a scheme cooked up by Shredder and Krang, is naturally quite 87-esque in its execution. Shredder and Krang simply desire world domination, which includes total destruction by Krang’s rock soldiers from Dimension X. The 87 turtles soon follow via their own portal gun, and will naturally encounter their current selves. This isn’t new for this show as there have been a few cross-overs already. It is a novelty naturally designed to take advantage of the nostalgia adults have for that show, but the show runners here have been able to maintain a special aura by making sure each successive cross-over is better than the one before.

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It’s Shredder! In 3D!

The nature of the cross-over means a lot of the entertainment value is going to be derived from pointing out the differences between the two shows. The Turtles of this series are serious crime fighters who are kind of bored with all of their foes vanquished. The villains are dangerous and they fight dirty willing to use whatever is at their disposal. By contrast, the 87 Turtles don’t even use their weapons for anything more than intimidation. The villains are also hampered by a need to boast, gloat, and essentially delay actually killing their enemies. Shredder is also incapable of viewing Bebop and Rocksteady as anything other than brain-dead henchman incapable of even the simplest tasks, even as they’re proving themselves to be plenty capable at henching.

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Shredder insists on the comforts of home and has Bebop and Rocksteady dress like his 87 henchmen.

When the 87 Turtles meet the 2012 Bebop and Rocksteady, they find they’ve met their match. It’s a really amusing scene as the Turtles try to use silly cartoon cliches to take down Bebop and Rocksteady, which just don’t work. Their encounter occurs on an old playground and when Bebop hops on a merry-go-round Mikey tries spinning it to make him dizzy and he just gets kicked in the face. Raphael tries smashing a fire hydrant in an attempt to hose down his foes with his sai and finds breaking a fire hydrant is actually really hard. They’re easily taken out and their only saving grace is Raph’s ability to break the 4th wall and point out that this is a kid’s show and they can’t be executed. Bebop and Rocksteady are appropriately confused by this admission, but it works when they decide to just take them back to the Technodrome for Shredder and Krang to deal with.

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The 87 Turtles look pretty authentic, but so out of place in this world.

The 2012 Turtles basically play the role of competent heroes to their incompetent counterparts. They manage to rescue them, due in small part to Shredder and Krang’s futility, but take notice of the fact that the 87 Turtles are really bad in a fight. They try to train them, and it’s funny when 87 Leonardo reacts with horror when its suggested he actually try cutting people with his swords. The 87 Turtles get to meet most of the main cast of this show, including April, Casey, and what’s left of the Mighty Mutanimals. Meanwhile, Bebop and Rocksteady get to command some surprisingly capable robot Foot Soldiers as they’re charged with stealing some special computer chip for Krang. That segment actually includes some amusing easter eggs as they have to enter a 1987 vault and the silhouettes of various properties from that era are visible, three of which stood out for me:  Teddy Ruxpin, Robocop, and Freddy Krueger.

I found myself getting oddly defensive about how inept the 87 Turtles are presented. There’s a training sequence in which modern Leo throws a bunch of balls at 87 Mikey and he’s supposed to deflect them with his nunchaku, but can’t. He did that in the opening credits of every 87 episode! And seeing Shredder be such a push-over some-what bothered me. I always viewed 87 Shredder as a very strong fighter who always made the 80’s villain mistake of delegating everything to inferior henchmen. Still, this is mostly a failing on my part as I shouldn’t be hurt by this depiction. It was definitely amusing to see Leonardo actually wield his katana like actual weapons, and get a crazy look in his eyes as he revels in the violence!

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Expect many humorous moments such as this one where Shredder admonishes Krang for using his Chrome Dome brand shampoo.

The story is sort of secondary to the gimmick of the episode. It basically is just the eight turtles and their allies coming to repeated blows with the enemies. Krang is eventually able to open a portal to Dimension X, bringing in the 2012 version of the rock soldiers. He also goes “super” and in his giant robot body he is able to wreak a lot of havoc on New York. The Technodrome also rises to the surface for some destruction, and the Dimension X tank seldom seen in the old show also makes an appearance and it’s pretty cool. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you kind of no where this is going, don’t you? The destruction of the planet is avoided and everyone is sent home, all thanks to Bebop and Rocksteady. Wait! What?

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The 87 Turtles are treated like punchlines for the most part, but they get some redemption in the end. “Turtles fight with honor!”

Bebop and Rocksteady are the unexpected core to this story. They’re in the title, so obviously they play a role, but I guess I didn’t expect them to be this central to the plot. Bebop and Rocksteady are an oddly sweet pairing. They’re an odd couple with Rocksteady being some sort of Russian soldier and Bebop a street-wise punk. Ignoring the fact that they are kind of just racial stereotypes, it’s strangely endearing to see Rocksteady try to adopt some of Bebop’s vernacular as a way of bonding with him and Bebop even accepts a hug from his giant partner at one point, just because. They’re basically just a pair in search of acceptance and purpose. They’re directionless when we first encounter them and find a new Shredder to serve, but they hate how poorly he treats them. They even best Shredder in combat, rather easily, when he tests them out and yet they still are willing to serve beneath him even as he makes them do the laundry and wax the floor. When they find out towards the end of the story that Shredder and Krang aim to destroy the world they have a bit of an internal crisis. Rocksteady, motivated by the thought that his precious mama will be killed if the world is destroyed, decides he’s had enough and the pair thwart Shredder and Krang’s plans. By the end, they seem to have found their calling as they no longer wish to serve under anyone and even have designs on becoming super heroes (because that’s pretty bankable right now).

As entertaining as the story was, it’s a little disappointing to see the 2012 Turtles take a backseat to anyone in what is their series finale. The show even ends in the 87 universe with a joke featuring classic Bebop and Rocksteady. I would have preferred some sort of goodbye from the current TMNT instead. It felt like they were forced out by a brand that people have more nostalgia for, kind of like how retired WWE wrestlers seem to find themselves in the main event of modern Wrestlemanias. It’s pretty cool to end the show in a spectacular manner such as a cross-over, it just wasn’t quite the perfect end it deserved.

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Nickelodeon has gone to this well before, but it’s still pretty damn cool.

The 2012 version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may not have lasted long enough to leave as big of a mark as the original cartoon did. And yet, this version of the TMNT is arguably one of the greatest iterations of the turtles to ever be. I think it’s easily the best television show based on the property, and even though I didn’t post blog entries on every season here I still kept up with the show when I could. The show-runners did a great job of mixing nostalgia with new stories and new takes on classic characters. It was a show I was really skeptical of when it first showed up, but it won me over as a 30-something when it had no reason to appeal to me. I’m a bit sad to see it go, especially as its rumored to be replaced with something more kid-friendly, and I wonder if we’ll ever see a better TMNT show. It has proven though that this franchise can’t be killed. It’s never going away. What should have been a fad has become a cultural institution and future generations can probably count on receiving their own version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and that’s a pretty wonderful thing.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – NES

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)

One of the most successful games of all time, and one of the most divisive, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, arrived in 1989 for the Nintendo Entertainment System and flew off the shelves or retailers and rental stores across the United States. Turtle-mania had a strong grip on the nation’s adolescent and it would have been a huge embarrassment if the game actually failed. And while it was named as 1989’s Game of the Year by Nintendo Power, the first ever NES TMNT game is often regarded as a disappointment. Calling it divisive in the opening line may have been misleading, for the game is almost universally loathed for numerous reasons: too hard, not enough recognizable characters from the cartoon, no multi-player, and not the game fans wanted. In 1989, another game based on the TMNT was released, the equally successful arcade game. Based on the animated series, the arcade game boasted 2 to 4 player play allowing each kid to select his or her favorite turtle and wail away on an almost endless supply of Foot Soldiers, Bebop, Rocksteady, and of course, Shredder. When it was announced the Turtles were coming to the NES, many fans expected a port of the arcade game, but instead they got a solo side-scrolling adventure with few recognizable elements from the cartoon making an appearance.

The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game is best called infamous than famous. It was notably the subject of one of the earliest Angry Video Game Nerd videos in which The Nerd (James Rolfe) reminded many of us of the same frustrations we experienced as children playing this maddeningly frustrating game. As a kid, I never was able to beat the game without the near essential Game Genie peripheral, usually failing to make it beyond the battle with Slash/Mecha-Turtle/whatever the Hell that thing is at the end of act three. And like many, I preferred pretty much every other TMNT based game that followed over this one, which all took the form of arcade style beat-em-ups. I’ve since relived this game many times as a teen and adult but recently felt compelled to revisit it and see if the reputation this game had acquired was entirely justified. Just what is that reputation? Many Google searches will return this game on the list of hardest NES titles as well as worst or most disappointing NES games. The only way to answer my questions was to dust off the old NES and sit down in front of the TV.

Definitely not the arcade game...

Definitely not the arcade game…

For starters, the game was developed by Konami’s Ultra division, a secondary label created to circumvent Nintendo’s then policy of limiting publishers to how many games they could release in a year. Konami probably paid a boatload of cash for the TMNT franchise, and considering Konami was known to gamers for its Contra and Castlevania franchises, it seemed like the TMNT license was in good hands. Right from the start though, some things seem out of place. For one, the cover art depicts the four turtles all sporting red bandanas. For kids accustomed to the television show, this looked wrong while comic book readers would have recognized the cover to issue number 4. When the game boosts up, an unfamiliar tune plays as the four turtles are introduced. No player select screen is displayed once start is pressed, instead the game drops the player right onto a map-like screen with a tiny Leonardo in the center and some steam-roller like vehicle driving around. To summarize, there’s no licensed music, no option for 2-player, and no option to select which turtle to play as.

As the game unfolds, things start to become clearer. This overhead, Zelda-like perspective, leads into more traditional side-scrolling levels whenever the player enters an open manhole or building. A quick look at the pause screen is enough to clue the player in on the objective (rescue April, big surprise) and the ability to switch between turtles. The player is free to change-out a turtle on the fly. Each one has his own health bar, and since the game has no 1-up pickups, they function as extra lives. If a turtle loses all of his health, he’s out of action until the final level where a turtle can be rescued. Each turtle uses his own unique weapon and it will soon become obvious which turtle to use. Donatello, with his boring but long-reaching bo-staff, is easily the superior turtle in this game. When walking or standing still, Don thrusts his bo-staff out in front a great distance and even slightly behind him as well. He can thrust up and down as well with a press of the D-pad and take out multiple foes at once as a result. Because the animation for his attack lingers so long, he even seems to benefit from a double-hit, and as a result, does more damage per strike than the other turtles. If you lose Don, you’re in big trouble because the drop-off is huge to the next most useful turtle, which should be obvious for those familiar with the four heroes in a half-shell, Leonardo. Leo swings a lone katana in a downward arc when attacking and it’s useful for enemies at eye-level, but his reduced range and damage when compared with Donatello makes him far less suitable for the environments ahead. After Leo, Michelangelo is probably the next-best option as his nunchaku has slightly better reach than Raphael’s sai, which is pathetically useless. Raph and Mike are best treated like canon fodder and used only when attacking is not an option, such as when driving the turtle van or during the infamous swimming level. Each turtle can hold one secondary weapon, most of which appear as pickups randomly and range from throwing stars to boomerangs, to a weird energy wave that kicks a whole ton of ass (shell).

What the hell are these things attack Don, and is that a Foot Balloon?!

What the Hell are these things attacking Don, and is that a Foot Balloon?!

Gameplay wise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is fairly straight-forward. The turtles can attack and jump as they move left to right, right to left, and across gaps and platforms. The pace is fairly slow and reminiscent of Castlevania, including the ever annoying jump-backwards animation after being struck. If you’re not familiar with Castlevania, when the character takes damage they always jump backwards. This is ever annoying when trying to negotiate a series of platforms as enemies frequently appear in mid-jump leaving the player helpless to defend. The turtles handle kind of like trucks as they’re heavy and clunky. Pressing fully on the jump button will cause them to go into a ninja flip of sorts that has a floaty affect on the character, which sometimes helps to re-align a jump but mostly just seems to cause panic in the player leading them to miss a platform. Enemies are numerous, and for the most part, unrecognizable from the show. There’s foot soldiers and mousers here and there, as well as boss encounters with Bebop and Rocksteady early on, but aside from that there’s a lot of just weird enemies. There’s some chainsaw-wielding maniac, a guy composed entirely of fire, and weird butterfly enemies that dive-bomb the turtles, among others. The obstacles are pretty standard for the era and take on the form of conveyor belts, water, and spiked floors/walls. The game gets bogged down frequently when too many enemies are on screen and slowdown is a frequent annoyance. Enemies on the map scenarios tend to flicker in and out which harms the presentation elements of an otherwise underwhelming looking game.

So what makes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so difficult? Well, for one, three out of the four turtles are borderline useless. As I mentioned earlier, Donatello is by far the best suited to overcome the various obstacles placed in the turtles’ path. The other three are so bad that you might as well quit if Don falls in battle. Enemies who can be felled in one strike are manageable, but the ones that require multiple hits pose a challenge as they do not react to taking damage. The game also loves having the player enter a new screen with an enemy literally right on top of you, forcing the player to take at least some damage. The pizza power-ups, which restore health, become scarce the deeper into the game you go and are sometimes intentionally placed in impossible to reach locations. Platforms are often placed above turtles, making some jumps particularly challenging as if the turtle hits his head on a platform above, his forward progress is stunted and the jump falls short. There’s one really annoying jump in a sewer scenario that’s actually impossible in the PC port. There’s also no password feature, but unlimited continues, so this is one that has to be completed in one sitting which adds to the challenge. And if the game wasn’t annoying enough, Ultra did include a beeping alarm for when the selected turtle is low on health.

Even though this level isn't as bad as people make it out to be, Leo is totally about to end up dead.

Even though this level isn’t as bad as people make it out to be, Leo is definitely about to end up dead.

All of that said, this game does do some things well and some of the things it has become known for (negatively speaking) aren’t as bad as they’ve been made out. For one, the ability to swap the turtles into and out of battle is pretty cool. Yeah, it sucks that there’s no two-player and it really sucks that three of the four turtles are horrible to play as, but the thought was a good one and one I’d like to see revisited in a new game. The under water level that has become so reviled and is the part of the game often cited as being hard, unfair, and noteworthy, isn’t as bad as its reputation. If you get to it with little health on each turtle, then it’s pretty damn hard. As a kid, I failed many times. As an adult, I just save Raph for it and have no problem making it out with minimal damage taken. It, like just about every swimming level in recorded existence, is not a fun stage by any means, but it’s far from being among the hardest sequences in gaming history (and is among the easier parts of this game). And aside from the turtles not really handling like ninjas, the control is satisfactory and the ability to drive the turtle van is pretty cool (though why it doesn’t have its own health bar is a mystery still to this day). The soundtrack is actually enjoyable, even if it doesn’t contain any music from the TV show, and isn’t something I’d change about the game.

In conclusion, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was destined for commercial success just because of the license alone, but doomed to disappoint gamers for not being the game they truly wanted. Unfortunately, the game was not able to make-up for not being the arcade game by offering a lesser experience. The good news is that gamers didn’t have to wait long as a port of the arcade game arrived on NES consoles in 1990 as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game. Yes, it wasn’t a perfect port due to the system limitations of the NES, but it was suitably fun and is often remembered fondly by gamers from that era. The one that arrived first though is not, and it’s hard to defend the title even today. While it’s far from being the worst NES game, and certainly not the most difficult, it’s definitely not good and just another example of a licensed game gone wrong, but at least it’s not as bad as E.T.


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