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access_time November 21, 2012 at 9:33 AM in Features by Adam Larck

A Look Back at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Games

“Heroes in a half shell.” For those that grew up in the late ’80s and early ’90s, that instantly brought back fond memories. For those that didn’t, let me give you a quick refresher on what I’m talking about.

That’s right, this column is dedicated to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the four brothers that went from small reptiles to butt-kicking machines (sorry, no Venus de Milo here). Sure, I could go on about the various TV series the turtles have had throughout the years and still have today, or even mention the various movies the brothers have had.

However, considering this is GotGame, I’ll be taking a look back at the games throughout the years. Not every game, mind you, but the key titles that have shaped their gaming history and why they helped or hurt the legacy of TMNT.

I’m starting off with the first release on NES, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was one of the early titles I had on the system, and I spent a lot of time in the first few worlds. Why only the first few? Because I can remember only a handful of times that I got past that damn dam stage with the electric seaweed and unforgiving time limit.

Outside of that annoyance of a mission, the game was just average to play. Donatello was always the go-to fighter with his overpowered staff, and losing him basically meant you’d be starting over again fairly soon. I found the top-down view to get to missions to be interesting, although the auto-kill vehicles had when running you over was cheap, especially to a kid.

Moving on, I come to the first arcade title in the series, aptly named Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game. The title was a good introduction to what would prove to be some of the best gameplay style the series would have: four-player beat-‘em up. The arcade version was great because four friends could hop in and kill a bit of time smashing Foot Soldiers to get to Shredder. However, the NES version suffered quite a bit because of the amount of people that could play. It never really recaptured the fun the arcade version had, although it was better than the previous NES game.

Skipping past a few handheld titles, we come to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project, with Konami figuring if it wasn’t broke, why fix it? It’s similar to the Arcade game in game style and buttons. In fact, the biggest change is the addition of throwing enemies and special attacks, which brought a risk/reward type system by taking some health away when used.

Now we come to what I consider one of the best games in the series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (for the sake of shortening the list, I’m adding The Hyperstone Heist here too. I know it has some new levels and plot, but gameplay-wise it’s very similar). The co-op gameplay was great, and changed it up with going back and forth through history.

The combat was great and enjoyable to play, and I enjoyed the environments in each area as well. What I always thought was fun, though, was taking a Foot Solider and chucking it towards the screen.

There was a remake of the game in 2009 called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled, which is based on the arcade version and doesn’t include console features. However, what really stuck out to me about this mode was the odd graphics. I still don’t see why they tried to not only upgrade the graphics to HD, but completely change the game’s look as well. It’s too bad an original graphic mode wasn’t included here.

This brings me to the fighting game on SNES: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. This came at a time when fighting games were getting popular on the console, so go figure that Konami wanted a piece of the pie. The combat was decent, if a little uninspired for the time. Overall, it was a fun fighter, especially when you could get a group of friends together to beat up on each other.

There were a few interesting points about this game. One was the selection of characters in the game. There were 10 characters total, but no Rocksteady or Bebop or some other memorable characters. Instead, we got Asaka, who was only created for the game, or lesser known characters like Wingnut and Armaggon. Also, why was there a Watch mode, where you could just see two CPUs go at it? I was never sure, but we made a game out of that as well, placing bets over who would win or who could be Leonardo.

Unfortunately, I have to skip past many of the games from the GameCube/PlayStation 2/Xbox era, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare. I never played these games myself, but from what I heard from friends that did, button-masher and mediocre were key words that kept popping up.

The next game in the series I did play was TMNT by Ubisoft, the first game in the series by them and the first retail release on current-gen systems. The gameplay style utilized some key features other Ubisoft games had at the time, such as wall running and other acrobatic features seen in Prince of Persia titles.

While that sounds like it would be fun, the game was a major dud. Nothing really felt inspired or fun as you played, and even the platforming had quite a few problems due to the camera. Unfortunately, the game was a movie tie-in, and a bad one at that.


After that, the only major title to come out besides the XBLA game was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up. The game was released a month after the XBLA Re-Shelled title was, but was released only on Wii and PS2. Why the 360 and PS3 never got the game but the PS2 did I’ll never know.

The game wasn’t bad, but was fairly average. It was basically a Super Smash Bros. clone, which was good for PS2 users but pointless for Nintendo fans that have the actual Smash Bros. series to play. Once again, it never was a commercial success for Ubisoft.

Since 2009 and one final DS release, Ubisoft has been pretty quiet with the license, focusing on other sure hits instead. Will we see another title? I’m pretty sure of it, since a movie is set to come out in 2014. After all, what better way to make a quick buck than a movie tie-in. However, given the trend that recent entries have shown in the series, I’ll have to remain a bit pessimistic about how good the titles will actually be when they release.

Now that I’ve covered most of the history of the TMNT games that I’ve played and remembered, why not leave some of your memories of the green ninjas in the comment section below?


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