Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Video Games: A Retrospective Look
Reflecting on my childhood, I cannot think of an aspect more commanding than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Almost all of my friends were nuts about them--myself included--and the Ninja Turtles had a certain hold over my generation that no differing franchise could touch. Turtles popularity was so gargantuan that it existed as a globe spanning phenomenon--I mean, I grew up in Bangladesh, literally thousands of miles from Western pop-culture domination, and I knew every single Turtle-fact a six to nine year old could have reasonably contained in my little head. The Turtles were literally everywhere: they were the topic of many differing comic books, their animated adventures were the highlight of saturday mornings, their live-action movies stormed the multiplex three times over, and their action figures lined every single toy shelf imaginable. Turtles popularity has subsided significantly since my childhood days of yore, but with an apparent TMNT film reboot in the works, the franchise has a chance to yet again reign superior over a new generation of eager toy-buyers and media junkies.
They were also the subject of many video games that spanned a wide variety of consoles, which brings us to the topic at hand: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in video gaming culture. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (we'll refer to them as TMNT from this point onward) are a unique franchise in the sense that they have been the subject of video gaming for the better part of two decades. Since their initial foray into the world of video gaming, TMNT entries made way into four console generations, the most recent one included (they skipped the fifth generation, but that's okay--fans can forgive them for this). TMNT games were also notable for actually being being pretty decent, whereas a majority of other wide-reaching multimedia franchise entries were notorious for being tacked-together cash grabs designed to rob unsuspecting consumers of their hard earned money. It's not that these games weren't cash-grabs as well--they most certainly were--but many of them were really fun to play, and if nothing else, garnish a particular level of nostalgia among many gamers from my generation that transcend other media tie-in video games. Therefore, in an attempt to honor the TMNT legacy, and to satisfy the whims of my generation's childhood fancy, here is a retrospective look at all of the video games featuring the awesome reptilian quartet...from the very first, to the very latest.
Note: while they were certainly great entries to the series, the arcade games have been omitted from this list in their standalone form. This is because most of them were ported for consoles, and discussing them would simply be redundant. I apologize if this subtraction results in disappointment for some, but alas, the Turtles have been in many video games, and this article is already going to be pretty long.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES, 1989)
And so our adventure begins with the very first TMNT console video game title: Teegage Mutant Contra Turt--er, excuse me, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Released in 1989 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the first TMNT game was infamous for its intense difficulty, and going along with my little joke that kickstarted this blurb, it is very reminiscent of Contra. It is a traditional two-dimensional side scroller, and like Contra (also developed by Konami), a majority of the screen is taken up by the environment while the controllable character is rather small. The side-scrolling levels are sandwiched in between an overhead over-world, where players must navigate their turtle of choice towards open doors and sewer entries to carry forth the adventure.
Though a critical disappointment, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sold well, thus establishing a future for TMNT in video games. Many a gamer have suggested that this game is impossible to beat, thanks to poor gaming mechanics and unfair enemy advantages. Perseverant gamers have prevailed, though, and even though many will claim that this is the worst TMNT video gaming title, some love it to this day. Though originally for the NES, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was ported to a wide variety of competing consoles, including the Atari ST, Commodore 64 and DOS. The NES version was also ported for the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console, but costs 100 Wii points more than other NES games for some strange reason. The NES cartridge is a collectors item, and is extremely rare in its original packaging.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES, 1990)
Though loved by a minority of classic gamers, the first TMNT console title was revered by most, so it's no surprise that developers Konami took a different approach for the sequel. It wasn't straight to the drawing board, though, and instead of whipping up a second console title from scratch the developers instead ported an existing TMNT arcade title for the NES, and thus Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game was made available. It's a very different game from its 8-bit predecessor, in both gameplay style and control. The Arcade Game was a traditional beat-em-up, which meant several enemies would take on the player at once, most most required several hits before submitting defeat. This gameplay would set the standard for following TMNT games, and was a lot more fun than the odd Contra-esque style of its predecessor. Instead of restricting character movement from left to right, players controlled their favorite Turtle in eight different directions--not unlike most arcade beat-em-ups present at this time--providing an interesting dynamic within the basic side-scrolling landscape.
It wasn't all roses, though, and the NES port of this arcade classic had a few issues that made it inferior to its coin-op brethren. While the arcade original allowed up to four players simultaneously, the NES version was restricted to only two. The graphics and sound were also considerably worse, and though a lot prettier than the original console title, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game was no visual wonder. This is all understandable considering the technical limitations of the NES hardware, and in all honestly, simply having the great arcade game made available in living rooms everywhere was enough incentive to make these shortcomings forgivable. In an effort to remedy these differences, the NES version of the game was given two additional levels over the arcade original, thus making it the definitive version of the title for quantity enthusiasts.
The NES version of the game was not provided for Nintendo's Virtual Console, but a direct port of the arcade game was made available for Xbox Live. It's a pretty awesome port, and classic arcade fans are encouraged to give it a try.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Manhattan Mission (DOS, 1991)
Though not a console release, Manhattan Missions is notable for being the only TMNT video game exclusively released for MS-DOS. Though a side-scrolling action title, it's nothing at all like any console entry featuring the Turtles, and plays very much so like most computer action games from the early 1990s. Manhattan Missions was designed to be played with a standard QWERTY keyboard, so players are required to choose between two differing modes--movement and battle--which brought forth an interesting dynamic in playing style compared to the button-mashing quirkiness of the arcade titles. Since Manhattan Missions was released on CD-ROM, its graphics were superior to other Turtle games from this era and it featured a full-fledged MIDI soundtrack.
It's probably the most lesser-known TMNT game title, but Manhattan Missions is actually a pretty decent game, given its age and platform. It has its problems--even though the soundtrack is full of early Soundblaster-goodness, it's pretty boring when compared to the exciting, upbeat tunes present in other TMNT games. It's early 90s PC style gameplay isn't going to win over console enthusiasts, but there are still plenty of people around who love these retro DOS games. The best thing about Manhattan Missions, though, is it's age: since it's old, unsupported and no longer sold in any form, the game is considered abandon-ware and can legally be downloaded for curious gamers everywhere who wish to experience the Turtles lone PC exclusive. Modern gamers will probably need a DOS emulator (like DOXbox) to play it, but those are also readily available.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: the Manhattan Project (NES, 1991)
Not to be confused with its closely named, if relatively obscure, PC title Manhattan Missions (or Duke Nukem's identically titled adventure that came out many years later), The Manhattan Project was the direct sequel to its predecessor NES titles. It's very similar in gameplay style to The Arcade Game, but unlike it, The Manhattan Project is a piece of ground up work whereas the former existed as an 8-bit port. It's a quasi-isometrical side-scrolling beat-em-up, it features the Ninja Turtles, Shredder is the bad guy, there are foot soldiers everywhere, and it supports up to two players at a time. In all honesty, there's not much here to write about.
Given its rather rote existence, The Manhattan Projects is still a pretty fun game, and classic beat-em-up TMNT enthusiasts are bound to get some enjoyment out of it. It was never as groundbreaking (term used loosely here) as the arcade title the extremely popular 8-bit port, so The Manhattan Project is probably the most forgotten of all the NES TMNT titles. The Manhattan Project hasn't been released for Nintendo's Virtual Console, and given the DLC-shop's consistent lack of TMNT titles, it is doubtful that this game will ever see the light of day on any modern console. The original cartridge can be obtained for fairly cheap online.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan (Game Boy, 1991)
The Turtles continued their presence of Nintendo hardware with Fall of the Foot Clan, the very first portable game featuring the anamorphic heroes. Released for the Game Boy in 1991, Fall of the Foot Clan is--drumroll please--yet another side-scrolling action title. The technical limitations of the Game Boy hardware prevented developers Konami from providing the isometric beat-em-up mechanics present in the NES titles, and thus players are restricted to simply moving from the left to the right. This more standard method of side-scrolling meant that players simple needed to veer right to get to their end goal, and defeating enemies was not a requirement for level completion. The Turtles all looked exactly the same, and since the Game Boy's monochromatic screen didn't allow for any sort of coloring, weapons were the only way to differentiate which Turtle was chosen for play.
Fall of the Foot Clan was an extremely popular game at its time, and though this statistic is completely unscientific in nature, most vintage TMNT fans who had possession of a Game Boy probably had this game at one point in time--and probably loved it. It's an extremely outdated game, but it was loads of fun to play, and is probably still a great time for anyone who enjoys these classic side-scrolling Game Boy titles. Though not ever released for any modern consoles, the Game Boy cartridge is still sold by specialty vendors in its original packaging. For gamers who don't care about the collectable aspects of Fall of the Foot Clan, used copies are available online for pretty cheap.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Genesis, 1993)
Up until this point, TMNT games had been largely exclusive for Nintendo hardware, and fans of that other 16-bit behemoth were left in the cold. Konami decided not to play sides within the 16-bit console battle, and ultimately gave Sega Genesis owners a chance to control the teenage aquatic sliders on their gaming unit of choice. The Hyperstone Heist was a sort-of port of Turtles in Time, but had enough distinguishing characteristics to make it a unique entry within the TMNT gaming series. It shared a few identical levels with its SNES counterpart, but The Hyperstone Heist had plenty of new locations, a differing method of level succession and a unique plot to call its own.
Gameplay for The Hyperstone Heist is similar to SNES's Turtles in Time, but features smoother animation, higher attention to detail within graphics and heightened difficulty. It's also the first TMNT game to feature Super Shredder as a boss opponent--which is awesome. Some have made the claim that it is a smaller game than Turtles In Time, but this is a fallacy. While there are only five unique locations (Turtles in Time has ten), each one of these levels are divided up into three separating acts, so really, it actually has fifteen levels to play through. It wasn't as popular as Turtles in Time, but The Hyperstone Heist was a proud possession for many Genesis-centric TMNT fans, and it's at least as good as the arcade port that came before it, if not slightly better.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back From the Sewers (Game Boy, 1992)
Let's take a second to reflect on all the games discussed thus far. If you are noticing a pattern of, well, repetitiveness, then you're probably not alone. The early TMNT games were a lot of fun to play, but, with the very first one set aside as the lone-wolf, they were all extremely reminiscent of one another. The two later NES titles were largely identical in gameplay style, so the realization that the Game Boy sequel, Back From the Sewers, is in turn very much like the Fall of the Foot Clan before it, should harken no surprise from anyone. It's a side-scroller, most enemies die after one hit, it's a Turtles game. Konami clearly didn't want to mess up the formula in any way.
To be fair, though, Back From the Sewers had plenty going for it, even though it was a clear-cut case of more-of-the-same. For starters, it actually had places within the game where the Turtles had free-range movement all throughout the screen, where Fall of the Foot Clan only allowed for left-to-right and right-to-left situations. It was also an outstanding graphical achievement for its time, and Back From the Sewers featured graphics that were even better than the NES games that came before it. Much of this has to do with the artistic integrity of the level design--Konami had primitive hardware to work with given the limitations of the Game Boy, but they absolutely made the best of that they had. Animated sequences are notably more fluid than previous TMNT gaming titles, and levels were given enough detail to make them look unique, even on a basic 8-bit monochromatic screen.
Like Fall of the Foot Clan, Back From the Sewers is only available (legally) on its original Game Boy cartridge. As with any vintage game, mint copies are available for collectors, and used copies are available for anyone looking for a fun way to kill thirty to forty-five minutes.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time (SNES, 1992)
Konami had previously been successful with porting their original TMNT arcade title to the NES, so the developers decided to repeat the pattern with their fourth home-console Turtles game. Turtles in Time was released for the Super Nintendo in 1992, and like The Arcade Game before it, was a faithful rendering with a few added bonuses. New to the SNES version of the game were two "bonus levels" and one fully-added level. Though the bonus levels were marketed as a selling point for the SNES version of Turtles In Time, they actually existed as full-featured levels on their arcade counterpart, but Konami felt that they existed better as fun mini-games rather than being requirements for completion. The SNES Turtles in Time predictably lacked the arcade versions graphical prowess, and a few game mechanics were changed to better suit the capabilities of 16-bit home console hardware, but it retained a similar spirit and overall aesthetic.
Turtles In Time is considered by many fans to be the definitive TMNT game outing, and for good reason: it's a complete blast to play. It's extremely similar in gameplay style to the two NES titles before it, but the SNES was clearly a better fit for the heroes in a half shell. Like the cartoon series the game was mainly influenced by, colors are bright and lively, the soundtrack is full of high-energy action hero bravado and the cool Mode-7 chip present in the SNES gave players the ability to throw enemies at the screen in a nifty three-dimensional manner--which was (and still is) totally awesome. It's still a beat-em-up, and rather repetitive because of this, but Turtles in Time was one of those staple early 1990s games that reigned superior over almost anything else released at the time.
Though the SNES version of Turtles in Time has only ever been made available on its originating cartridge form, the arcade version of the game was made unlockable on Mutant Nightmare, a sixth console generation TMNT game. An updated HD port of the arcade game was also developed by Ubisoft in 2009 for Xbox Live Arcade, but has been discontinued.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (Game Boy, 1993)
The first two TMNT Game Boy entries were extremely reminiscent of one another, almost to the point of indistinguishability, so Radical Rescue, the third and final gray-brick Game Boy TMNT game, may exist as a breath of fresh air to retro gamers looking for a little diversity. It's still a side-scroller--did you honestly expect anything different?--but Radical Rescue introduced particular game mechanics that make it a standout entry within the series. Instead of being able to control any of the four turtles from the get-go, players begin the adventure as Michaelangelo, and must find (or, rather, rescue) the other three turtles in order to obtain them as playable characters. Each differing turtle has unique abilities required for game completion, and players must determine which particular abilities are required to pass certain points within the game. If the very first TMNT game ever was a riff on Contra, then Radical Rescue owes much of its existence to Metroid. It's not completely original, but hey, if you're going to borrow gaming mechanics from anyone, borrow from the best, right?
While the preceding Game Boy TMNT games were visually identical to the 1987 animated series, Radical Rescue is a little different in presentation--and this can either be considered a good or bad, depending on who you ask. The Turtles themselves look much angrier this time around, and have a non-changing grimace whereas they were almost smiling in Back From the Sewers. Fans of the (originating) comic series will probably appreciate the darker tone set forth by Radical Rescue, but those who appreciate the mindless goofiness of the animated series may be questioning the hostility. These are, of course, minor quibbles, and the game is a perfectly fine adventure regardless of what type of "TMNT fan" a person may be.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus (Game boy Advance, 2004)
The first TMNT Game Boy Advance title saw the Turtles returning to their side-scrolling roots after a decade long absence from gaming platforms, and it was a fun, if shallow, revisitation. Konami didn't change the basic formula for Battle Nexus, the second GBA TMNT game, but it threw in enough differences to make the game a worthy purchase for fans of its predecessor. The graphics and sound are still fluid and lively, and the Turtles look exactly the same this time around. New to this installment is the addition of stealth--players are required to hide their Turtles in particular places throughout the levels in order to get an edge over unsuspecting enemies. Battle Nexus is also full of puzzles, so many that it may even lift the game beyond typical beat-em-up categorization. It also has shooter levels...so really, it's probably the most diverse TMNT game ever produced, considering these shifts in gameplay.
These additions to gameplay are a welcome change for those who enjoy a little diversity within their portable gaming experience, but may prove distracting to traditional beat-em-up fans. Battle Nexus is clearly a game designed for newer TMNT fans, and those looking for classic TMNT gameplay may be taken aback with the requirement to strategize rather than simply mash buttons. The controls are also a little sloppy in Battle Nexus, an irritating trait carried over from the previous GBA title, but aren't terrible enough to make the whole thing unplayable.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (NES/SNES/Genesis, 1994)
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have never been a particularly violent bunch. The popularity of the animated series made the franchise child-friendly, and even though trained in the ancient vein of Japanese martial arts (by a rat, no less), the four heroes never really did a whole lot of graphic fighting. Yes, the originating comics featured plenty of mature-themed gore, but at this point the franchise was developed for a family friendly audience. It's with this curious mindset that one should really ponder Tournament Fighters, the first fighting game to feature characters from the TMNT universe. Released for three differing consoles, Tournament Fighters actually consisted of three unique games--one for each console. Each version had a different set of playable characters, and gameplay was designed to suit to needs of variable hardware and separate controlling schemes.
The three variations of Tournament Fighters are different enough that they should be given separating entires within this article, but given their uniting fighting-game genre--and the fact that none of them are particularly very good at all--a basic summarization shall commence. Each version has a different story-line, all of them ridiculous, and all of them requiring characters from the TMNT universe to go head-to-head with one another in a two-dimensional arena. Though not completely terrible, there were plenty of other, better fighting games available at the time of release, and simply adding TMNT characters into the mix wasn't going to remedy Tournament Fighters' inferior stab at the genre. It has its fans, though, and I recall having a friend from childhood who swore that Tournament Fighters was the greatest thing since the invention of Pogs.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Game Boy Advance, 2003)
The end of the 1990s saw the TMNT franchise significantly decreasing in popularity, so game developers and their subsequent publishers didn't see any reason to put effort into any Turtles game after Tournament Fighters. The franchise was bound and determined to make a comeback, though, which resulted in the creation of a new TMNT animated series for the early 2000 saturday morning demographic. The new animated series was significantly darker in tone than the colorful and goofy late 1980s entry, and took many cues from the mature-audience intended originating comic book series. That said, it was still geared towards kids, and if there's activity kids are going to do regardless of generation, it's playing video games. So, with a brand new series to influence it, Konami created Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the Game Boy Advance.
The GBA's first TMNT release is yet again another side-scrolling beat-em-up, but with the added flair of 32-bit graphics and fluid animation. Though aesthetically different from the TMNT games of the early 1990s, several key factors have retained. Colors are still bright and lively, the soundtrack is still upbeat and pulsating, and the Turtles (thankfully) have the same weapon options that they've always had. It's not a great game, but it certainly not a terrible one, and fans unfamiliar with the newer TMNT series may feel a little lost with this one. It's not that the gameplay is particularly different--in all honesty, it's really just more of the same--but the lack of goofiness is an element that is sorely missed among veteran post 1989 Turtle-nuts. Again, yes, the comics which introduced our four heroes were dark, gloomy and intended for adult readers, but consider the subject at hand. We're talking about four turtles, who are mutants, who are teenagers, and who are ninjas--c'mon guys, they're freaking ninjas--how is anybody supposed to take this type of mythology seriously? If you ask this writer, the step into family friendly and humorous quarters was the best thing anybody could do with this franchise. Don't get me wrong, I love the Turtles in any form, but I can't honestly grasp the source materiel with any suspension of disbelief without the much needed playfulness of the dumbed-down post-comic TMNT. Longtime diehard fans will probably disagree, but hey, to each their own, right?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Playstation 2/Xbox/Gamecube/Windows, 2003)
The GBA's "new" TMNT game was reminiscent of the side-scrolling adventures of Turtle past, but Konami figured that modern gamers needed a little more "oomph" to go along with their TMNT gaming appetite, so the version developed for sixth generation consoles was--wait for it---wait...for...it--wait.......foooorrrrr.....ittttt--a beat-em-up! This time, though, it was in three glorious dimensions, and TMNT gamers unwilling to partake in side-scrolling tradition were given an opportunity to mash buttons in a plethora of differing directions. This was also the first TMNT game to closely follow the plot of the source material--the levels are designed to mimic episodes from the first season of the 2003 TMNT cartoon series.
While it the cell-shaded exterior surrounding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is pretty to look at, at least by 2003 standards, the game itself is relatively shallow. Professional reviewers ripped it to shreds, citing the fact that even though it represented the first TMNT foray into three-dimensional gaming, it brought absolutely nothing new onto the table in regards to gameplay. That is very true, this entry didn't bring anything new at all, but seriously, did any of the other TMNT titles before it do anything groundbreaking? Not at all, they were simply well-licensed fun, and even though Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn't going to win any awards for originality, beat-em-up fanatics will probably get a kick out of playing the Turtles in any shape or form. It did have one unforgivable issue though: the story-mode only allowed two players simultaneity, which is a ridiculous limitation considering each console it was released for could support four controllers at a time.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can be obtained for pretty cheap, and anyone who has a seventh-generation console with the backwards compatibility for sixth-generation games can give it a whirl without breaking the bank. Mint, non-used copies are considered light collectors items, and will cost a pretty penny for anyone who absolutely needs every single unopened TMNT video game.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus (Playstation 2/Xbox/Gamecube/Windows, 2004)
Carrying on with the tradition set by the last sixth-generation console TMNT game, Battle Nexus is based around the 2003 animated series, and follows story-lines set by episodes from the show's second season. It is aesthetically similar to its predecessor, but has a few gameplay tricks up its sleeve. The most notable addition is the ability to play as all four Turtles simultaneously, which makes perfect sense considering the technical abilities of sixth-generation hardware. Battle Nexus takes the whole four-player shtick and makes the game a communal effort with the inclusion of team-based gameplay and a shared health bar, which meant that players has to look out for one another in order to stay alive. Single player mode allows players to control any of the four Turtles, and players can switch characters on the fly.
Though is garnished better reviews than the previous sixth-generation TMNT game, Battle Nexus was still considered a shallow disappointment by most gaming journalists. It's still light fun for beat-em-up fans, and will provide enjoyment for anyone who likes a little co-op fun. As an added bonus, Konami included the original arcade game as an unlockable feature. For some reason, people have had issues unlocking the arcade game on the PC version, and a general consensus rests around the idea that Konami simply didn't think to include it for that format.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare (DS, 2005)
It was time for one last TMNT game featuring influence from the 2003 animated series, and Konami yet again played it safe with the development of Mutant Nightmare, the first TMNT game released for the Nintendo DS. It's very much so in line with the GBA titles that came before it, and features the traditional side-scrolling goodness that TMNT fans all love so dearly. It takes advantage of the touch-screen abilities of the DS hardware in bits and spurts, but is controlled mainly with the physical buttons. The graphics are a little better, which is to be expected, given the processing power of the DS, and with 40 levels to play though, the game is longer than any other portable TMNT title that came before it.
Fans of the GBA titles will find much to love with this DS installment, and while Mutant Nightmare isn't breaking any new ground, it's a pretty decent game in its own little way. The addition of a second screen is a nice touch as well--the top screen is solely dedicated to the environment, and player stats, maps and so forth are kept on the bottom screen. It supports up to four players at a time with its multiplayer mode, but additional game cartridges are required for this--there's no free download play here.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare (Playstation 2/Xbox/Gamecube/Windows, 2005)
Mutant Nightmare ushers in an end of an era for TMNT games for two reasons: it would be the very last console title to feature the 2003 TMNT series as an influence, and it would be the very last TMNT game to be developed by Konami. Mutant Nightmare follows the third season of the animated series, and gameplay lines up accordingly with the other two sixth-gen TMNT console entries. There really aren't any surprises with this one, and those who loved Battle Nexus and 2003's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will likely love this one, and those who hated the previous entries are bound to despise this one. Critics were, predictably, harsh towards Mutant Nightmare, and most attested disdain towards the fact that it brought absolutely nothing new to the table.
Mutant Nightmare is clear-cut fan material, but honestly, aren't all TMNT games fan material? Konami sweetened the deal by adding an arcade port of Turtles in Time as an unlockable for Mutant Nightmare. I had a friend back in the day who wanted me to play Mutant Nightmare with him all the time, but once we unlocked the awesome arcade game, we dedicated almost all of our time towards it. Just goes to show that the classics never die.
TMNT (Multi Platform, 2007)
Turtle fans waited fourteen long years to witness their favorite mutant reptilian heroes on the silver screen once again, and the year 2007 brought forth a fourth TMNT movie, un-creatively titled "TMNT." Instead of being a live action venture like the previous movie entries, "TMNT" was an presented in CGI-animation, and, well, let's just say that only the most die-hard Turtle-nuts really loved it. Whether "TMNT" did justice to the franchise or not is up for debate, but it was still nice to see the Turtles in a full-length feature, and it resulted in a slew of video games developed by Ubisoft. The "TMNT" games were notable for being the first dedicated movie-tie in games for the Turtles, as the three previous TMNT movies didn't actually have any games developed around their plot or aesthetic. As movie-tie in typically go in this current seventh-generation of gaming consoles, games titled TMNT were released for every single platform imaginable. These games are all incredibly different, and range from pretty great to simply terrible. While it would be fair to give each one of these games a dedicated blurb in this article, it would be impractical for reasons of length. If you've read this far into the article, you already know that its already too long for what it is, so yeah, a basic summarization shall commence instead.
The Xbox 360/PC version of TMNT is a mixed bag. The hack-and-slash gameplay style can be pretty fun, and classic beat-em-up fanatics may enjoy it for a few levels, but that's where the problem lies. The game is extremely short, and can be completed in a paltry five hours by most gamers. It's not that the other TMNT games were very long, but modern gamers expect a little heft out of their $60 purchase, and TMNT unfortunately doesn't deliver on this front. Had it been a budget title the short length may have been forgivable, but, alas, Ubisoft charged full price for TMNT, and thus it was considered a rip-off at the time of release. It also had one ridiculously glaring omission that, regardless of price, makes it one of the worst TMNT games ever: absolutely no multi-player. That, my friends, is a ridiculous notion for any TMNT game in the 21st century.
TMNT for the PS2, Wii and Gamecube is largely the same game as its HD counterparts, but given the outdated hardware, is graphically worse. Critics complained about the repetitive gameplay and bad camera angles, and, of course, the short length. While a step-down in quality is understandable for the PS2 and Gamecube versions, the Wii version is notorious for not looking any better than the versions found on the sixth-gen hardware entries. The Wii is no powerhouse by any means, but it's capable of doing some neat stuff, and can provide greater graphical presentation than sixth-gen hardware, so Ubisoft clearly took the easy way out and simply ported the same version across all three devices. The motion-controls are also pretty bad, which is common among most poorly-designed Wii titles.
The mobile front saw three unique TMNT titles as well. The PSP version is considered by many reviewers to be an awful release thanks to a short two-hour game-span and terrible controls, but the DS version is also panned for similar reasons. The GBA advance version, though, was actually praised at the time of its release, and for good reason: it was the best TMNT game to come out in a very long time. GBA's TMNT is actually a pretty terrific little game, and it actually kills two birds with one stone by tying in with the current movie release, as well as acting as a throwback to classic TMNT titles. It's a side-scrolling beat-em-up, but is more-so in line with the classic arcade tradition of Turtles in Time and The Arcade Game, whereas the Konami TMNT GBA titles were a little more modern-gamey in their presentation. Had the GBA version of TMNT been released earlier in the handheld's lifecycle, it may have garnished more attention from portable gamers--but a new era of handheld gaming was on the horizon and it was unfortunately skipped by many a gamer.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up (Playstation 2/Wii, 2009)
1994's Tournament Fighters was an oddity in the TMNT catalog for several reasons, the main one being the fact that it was a serious fighting game in a world where Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat were king--oh yeah, and it featured the Ninja Turtles. It was weird, okay? Anyway, back on topic--Smash-Up could have been equally as strange given its context as yet another TMNT fighting game, but it a nothing at all like Tournament Fighters, but is rather a party-fighting game ala Super Smash Bros. It features combat as its core drive, but the combat is totally wacky and all over the place, and in turn, a perfectly suitable translation for the Ninja Turtles.
Smash-Up isn't going to win over traditional fighting game fans, but those who enjoyed Smash Bros. and love the Turtles are probably going to get a kick out of it. It isn't perfect by any means, but Smash-Up is a fine way to kill some quality time with a few buddies in front of living room television set. It's also the first TMNT game to feature online play, so gamers without real friends (I keed, I keed) have the ability to challenge players from all across the Internets in ridiculous four-player battle. The Wii version of Smash-Up is particularly enjoyable thanks to wacky motion controls. Say what you will about Wii-mote waggling, one cannot deny the fun factor related to swinging that silly controller all over the place in hopes of gaming success.