While I have been concentrating on getting caught up on the basic figure releases, that doesn't mean that Playmates has stopped making deluxe figures.
Most of them released this year have been different types of mutating characters and therefore fall under the Mutations sub-line. But they did
release one set of deluxe figures that combine the jusnk yard armor of the 2003 line's fighting gear figures and the sound effects of the Power Sound
FX figures, the Hand-to-Hand Fighters. Containing four figures, the Hand-to-Hand Fighters include Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo as well as Shredder.
For some reason Donatello got left out this time around. I think the folks at Playmates Toys need to rethink their naming as well since it is
hardly hand-to-hand combat when every figure has a weapon in their hand. Pedantry aside, lets check them out.
Packaging - 8/10The Hand-to-Hand Fighters come in a similarly designed to the previous figures like the Power Sound FX but with the new graphics design. Visually the new design is brighter and I find it more attractive. The back of the cards is generic design shared by all four figures. There is a photo of Shredder and Raphael doing battle at the top and photos of all four figures along the bottom. The open packaging design means that you can have easy and near complete access to the figures while they are on the shelves. But it is also more susceptible to damage due to all of the exposed edges and the way the "Try Me" banners hand off of the card.
Sculpting - 4/10The sculpting for the Hand-to-Hand Fighters is not some of Playmates Toys' best work. The bodies are too large, a neccessary accomodation to fit in the electronics, speaker and batteries. The Turtles are only slightly out of proportion. But Shredder looks like someone tried to inflate him. Earlier I compared the Hand-to-Hand Fighter figures to the Fighting Gear figures from the 2003 line. But where those figures had armor that covered their arms, legs and chest, the Hand-to-Hand Fighter Turtles just have one piece of scrap hanging from their chest that serves as a trigger for the electronic sounds when struck. And the way they are sculpted, slightly deformed, makes them look more like they were formed from cheap aluminum instead of thick steel. The arms and legs of the Turtles don't match the Nickelodeon show designs either. They lack the stylized, angular design. And the skin is more detailed, with far too much texture to match the Nick designs. Though the heads do follow the Nickelodeon designs. So you end up with figures that look like they were modeled off of some Mirage Comic art, and then had a Nickelodeon head slapped on them. Each figure is also sculpted with a slightly oversized version of one of their weapons sculpted into their hand. They may not be so large that they stick out immediately, but Raphael swinging the equivalient of a meter long sai and Leonardo's sword being thicker than a railroad spike are hard to ignore completely. Shredder should be the best figure of the series, if only they hadn't inflated his body like a beach ball. His arms and feet are also much larger than they should be. But they are still dwarfed by his torso. And despite getting the gauntlet spikes correct, they made the blades on his leg armor tiny. I can live with Playmates making series of figures that are out of scale with the rest of their toys. But they should at least get the proportions right within a single figure.
Paint - 6/10The paint work on the Hand-to-Hand Fighter figures isn't much to write home about. But given that paint work is something that Playmates has been cutting back on all year, the simple fact that there are no major paint applications missing has to count for something. They didn't get overly ambitious with the paint work. There are no washes or notable detail work. But the paint work is clean and neat with the only issue being the white wrappings around the hands. They are not painted all the way around the hand and the painting doesn't always end at a logical spot. So the hands holding thier weapons are left with unpainted gaps in the wrappings at the bottom of the hands.
Articulation - 6/10Each of the Hand-to-Hand Fighter figures has ten points of articulation. Each hip has a rotating and hinged joint. One arm will have a similar joint at the shoulder and rotating joint in the forearm/wrist. The other arm is limited to a rotating joint at the shoulder and another in the forearm/wrist. And then each figure has a rotating neck. The total amount of articulation isn't that impressive. And the large feet combined with awkward posing of the legs for Michelangelo and Raphael make their leg articulation of very limited usefulness. So overall, the articulation for all of the figures is less than I would hope for these days. But I am impressed that Playmates kept in the articulation on the arm with the electronic feature trigger. It is slightly limited at the shoulder so that the electronics can run through it. But I have to give them credit for not taking the easy way out and just making the entire arm a solid piece.
Accessories - Shredder 0/10, Turtles 3/10Hand-to-Hand Fighter Shredder is sculpted holding a sword, so he doesn't come with any accessories. Each of the Hand-to-Hand Fighter Turtles has a weapon sculpted into one hand and a second weapon that can be placed in the other or stored on the figures' belts. The weapons are nothing special in terms of the sculpting nor are they painted. I don't understand why they didn't make both weapons removeable. But I guess this is better than nothing.
Action Feature - Shredder 4/10, Turtles 3/10The Hand-to-Hand Fighter figures have built in electronic sound effects. By pressing/hitting the trigger in each figure's chest or by moving the hand with the weapon sculpted into it, a short sound effect or line of dialog is played. There is even a different set of lines/effects that can be triggered depending upon if you hit the chest or hand. The chest usuaully triggers a reaction as if the figure had just been struck. While the hand trigger will play either a short phrase or weapon sound effect. It's a cool concept. But the execution has a lot of shortcomings. There is the usual issue that what plays is random, but at least with the multiple triggers you have some idea of what is going to play. The sensors for the hands are extremely sensitive so they will trigger the feature even with small movements of the figure. And there is no way to turn the feature off. Once you pull the tag seperating the batteries from the contact terminals, the only way to get them to shut up again is to remove the batteries or let them wear out. The quality of the sound effects has some drawbacks as well. They did create different sets for each figure. They even changed up the weapon sound effects to match each figure. But the voice clips are not of the actual actors from the show. I will give Hand-to-Hand Shredder credit for being a decent copy though. But the voices used for Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo sound nothing like the voices from the show. And Michelangelo and Raphael's voices are so similar, it's hard to tell which is which other than by the weapon sound effects. It's disappointing to think that they developed these figures around this feature and then couldn't bother getting better voices or even including an on/off switch.
Value - 2/10The Hand-to-Hand Fighters are considered deluxe figures much like the Power Sound FX figures, the Flingers Turtles or the Throw 'N Battle Turtles. And like those figures, they carry a larger price tag of $12 to $13 per figure. I wish I could say that there is something to these figures to make them worth the extra money. But they aren't great renditions of the characters. They don't match the other basic assortment figures in scale. They go off at random with no way to turn them off. Unless you have a particular affinity for figures wearing scrap metal around their necks, the Hand-to-Hand Fighter figures have nothing to offer that other TMNT figures don't do better.
Happy Hunting:The Hand-to-Hand Fighter figures have been shipping to stores throughout most of 2015. So finding them in stores should present no challenge for now. With the new year approaching though, it is quite possible that Playmates will have something else to replace them soon. But until that happens, you should have no trouble finding them at just about any store that sells TMNT toys or online.