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TMNT Arcade Turtles

NECA
by yo go re

The last time NECA was able to make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys, they were outstanding (explaining why even knockoffs go for so much money on the secondary market now). So when they announced they'd be making a new set for SDCC, expectations were high.

Since Playmates keeps a death-grip on the TMNT license (recognizing that without it, they'd be sunk), NECA could only make this set under two restrictions: 1, it could only be sold at the convention, not online or anywhere else afterwards, and 2) it had to be based on the Konami arcade game, not the comics, movies, cartoons or anything else.

Of course, NECA has an entire line of game-inspired figures, so that's no real problem for them. And while the other 8-bit figures came in boxes that represented the game packaging, that wouldn't really be possible here - so NECA got creative, using the art from the arcade cabinet! The front is the marquee, the sides are the sides, and the back mimics the player select screen. Fun!

Name: Leonardo
Age: 16
Height: 5'01"
Weight: 155 lbs
Weapon: Katana blade
Job: Leader of the boys.
If it gets serious, his swords start slicing everything in sight... including salami pizza!

That profile isn't included on the packaging anywhere - it comes from the game itself, where part of the attract mode included info about all the characters (including Splinter and April O'Neil, so pity any poor suckers who wasted their quarters thinking they were going to be playable characters). So it was either that, or we'd be using text from the Epic Rap Battle.

The game was based on the cartoon rather than the comics, so Leo's head fits that style - broad and rounded, and (marginally) less like the tip of a penis. He's grimmacing, of course, and showing teeth on both sides of his mouth, and the mouth is outlined nicely in black. His eyes are like 90% pupil, since they needed to be visible even at tiny size.

Like NECA's other 8-bit figures, these are all about putting pixel-inspired paint on normally detailed sculpts. This time the sculpts aren't as detailed, since they're meant to be cartoony, but the idea is intact. The base color is bright green, with darker blocks increasing as you move around to the back to create shadows.

Leonardo has a belt buckle with his initial on it, though that wasn't a feature of the game design. Neither were the loops in his belt for his swords. As you can see by looking at the image above, Leo's swords in the game were straight, but the toy's have a broad curve at the end. While there is a sprite in the game that showed the swords like that, but it was part of his attack animation, and was meant to represent motion, not an actual shape.

Name: Michelangelo
Age: 15
Height: 5'00"
Weight: 150 lbs
Weapon: Nunchakus
Job: Party dude and pizza connoisseur extraordinaire.
Takes occassional break from partying to smash heads... and Foots!

All four Turtles use the same body, which makes sense - it wasn't until the 2012 series that the brothers got individualized anatomy. So even though the bios give them all different heights and weights, you'll just have to pretend.

Mikey's head is pretty much the same shape as Leonardo's, unsurprisingly, though his mouth is only open on the right side. In fact, on that side it ends up looking like a smile, instead of the frown you see if you look at him from the left. It turns out all four Turtles have unique bandana ties, too: this one is short and hangs straight down.

Due to the limited pallete available to the game designers (16 colors), Michelangelo looks a bit different than you might expect - specifically, his mask and pads are yellow, rather than orange. It looks weird when he's by himself, but when he's standing in amongst his brothers, it isn't too bad. Still, this may be a case where there's such a thing as being too accurate. If NECA had cheated and made him orange, I don't think anybody would have complained. But hey, they pride themselves on being true to the source, and this definitely is.

Of course, he comes with his nunchucks, the weapons that were banned in Britain! No kidding: in the '80s, UK kids watched Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, a show in which Michelangelo fought Krang and the Foot using a grappling hook. These accessories have real metal chains, and behind Mikey in the tray is an alternate "swinging" piece that can plug into one of the handles. Yes, only one - none of the others are removable.

Name: Donatello
Age: 15
Height: 4'09"
Weight: 145 lbs
Weapon: Bo staff
Job: Hippest machine freak this side of Shellville.
Avoids sushi like a bad case of rust!

What? "A bad case of rust"? 1) what does that even mean, and 2) what does it have to do with anything? It's like someone wrote this by grabbing fridge poetry magnets. I mean, why would we be discussing sushi at all, and then - then! - all of a sudden "rust"? Donatello's smart, but he's not a robot. His weapon is wooden. Why would he be worried about rust? If they'd talked about his machines or his coke habit or something that would make sense, but instead? Sushi.

Maybe that explains why he looks so annoyed. Donny's mouth is completely closed, with no visible teeth, so rather than looking mighty or angry, he looks like he's frowning. He's disappointed in your choices. His bandana ties are the long versions, and they hang straight down over his shell.

Like Michelangelo, Donatello's colors are slightly off. He's definitely wearing purple, but it's a lighter color, closer to pink. It's like he and Mikey have been out in the sun too long, and their clothes are fading. The lines between the panels of the front and back shell are detailed with brown blocks to suggest shadows, but they're diamonds rather than squares - since pixels don't rotate, we can clearly surmise that it's meant to be viewed at an angle, creating a sense of more dynamic poses.

Rather than just being a straight stick, Don's bo is sculpted to look like real wood, with a grain along the length, rings visible at both ends, and tape wrapped around the middle to provide a better grip. It's slightly curved, and wider at the ends than in the middle. Since that would make it hard to get into his hands, the staff pulls apart in the middle and then plugs back together. There's a loop on the back of the belt to hold it, too.

Name: Raphael
Age: 15
Height: 5'01"
Weight: 147 lbs
Weapon: Pair of sai
Job: Wild boy of the bunch.
Raw energy can finish off a Foot... or a pizza before you can say "turtles."

Yes, the "wild boy." The four Turtles served as something of a simplified personality test - whoever someone's favorite was said a lot about them. Leonardo? Vastly boring and a rule-follower. Michelangelo? They were going to come to school smelling like pot. Donatello? Handsome, cool, and incredibly smart. Also a total sex machine. [I question both your impartiality and your methodology --ed.] And any kid who liked Raphael best was most likely to be the one caught setting fires or hurting small animals.

Raphael's red is a bit more orange than usual, but it's still closer to being on-model than Donnie and Mike's. Opposite to Mikey, he's showing teeth only on the right side, and it definitely looks like a grimmace instead of a smile. His bandana ties are medium length, but they stick out behind him rather than hanging down.

Since all the turtles share the same body, they all share the same articulation, too. You're looking at a balljointed head, balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge elbows and wrists, a balljointed torso hidden between the shells, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge knees, and balljointed ankles. Basically, you can get them into pretty much any pose seen in the original videogame sprites.

His sais are oversized, which is true to the game. He has no loops to hold them, nor can he hold them pointing out between his fingers. Behind him in the tray is a pizza, which was the game's standard power-up - there were originally plans for four different types of pizza box in the game, with each giving a different ability, but the final game only had one (restoring energy). The pizza is fully sculpted and has detailed paint, while the lid (which can't close) is painted with big jagged letters that say "PIZZA."

The set includes some extra hands - there are slots of a pair under each Turtle, but only the two one the left (Leo and Mike) have any. Were two sets cut from the final production, or did my set just get short-changed? No clue. All the hands can be swapped between all the Turtles, which makes sense. The ones I got are a pair pointing, and a pair giving a thumbs up. According to press photos, the missing pairs would have been flat/chopping, and ones that would have allowed Raph to point his sai.

Given NECA's ability to pull off the impossible, we may some day see these TMNT molds done in normal colors. But honestly, you can get normal-colored Turtles anywhere; how many chances will you have to get the boys with painted pixels?

-- 08/18/16


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