It was the best of times, it was a simpler time. The late 80’s, early 90’s were a great time to be a kid. We had the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon at their prime. Movies still hadn’t become the CGI-fest that they are today, for the most part. Nintendo reigned supreme. And Saturday morning cartoons were actually awesome.
One of those cartoons was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, based on the comic of the same name. But, as kids, most of us didn’t know about the comics. All we knew of the Turtles was the cartoon, the toys, the movies, and the endless stream of merchandise we begged our parents to buy. So, for the uninitiated (all four of you) who are these turtles? They're the world's most fearsome fighting team. They're heroes in a half-shell and they're green. When the evil Shredder attacks, these Turtle boys don't cut him no slack! Splinter taught them to be ninja teens. Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines. Raphael is cool but rude. Michealangelo is a party dude.
The other turtles were always uncomfortable with Donatello’s machine fetish.
In 1990, Konami released a beat ‘em up arcade game starring the Turtles. It was radical, dude! You could play with up to three more friends and control any of the four turtles in their quest to save April from the clutches of the evil Uncle Phi…..I mean…...Shredder and defeat the evil foot clan.
No wonder he was so strict with Will!
Unsurprisingly, the Turtles arcade game was a HUGE hit. I could probably buy a whole arcade unit with the quarters I spent on that game. So, naturally, Konami greenlit the sequel immediately. But how could Konami top the original arcade game? I know. Make the Turtles travel in time! Sounds like the premise to the future, third live action TMNT flick. Except, it didn’t suck.
Donatello: Let’s just pretend this never happened.
Leonardo: Ninja’s honor.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, became Konami’s best selling arcade game ever. So, what was the next logical step back then? Port it to the SNES. Man that was a long intro. Probably longer than the review itself. So, let’s get into the actual game, shall we?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time finds the turtles…...wait a minute…..IV? The arcade game wasn’t numbered?!?!?!? And, if anything, wouldn’t it be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Turtles in Time???? The thing is, while this game is a port of the second arcade game, it’s actually the fourth TMNT game on a Nintendo Console (the Gameboy is not a console. It’s a portable). The first three games were on the NES. These were:
A really bad excuse for a Turtles game. Followed by...
A really awesome port of the first arcade game. Followed by...
I’ve never actually played this one but….if this is III, then naturally…….
Ahhhhhh!. Now it makes sense!!!
Great! I’m glad we got that cleared up. Now, back to TMNTIV. I could have used the subtitle as an acronym but, I want to keep things rated G. So, umm, TMNTIV finds the turtles relaxing in their lair, minding their own business, watching April reporting the news live from the Statue of Liberty when, suddenly, Krang flies in and carries the Statue of Liberty away. Shredder appears on the TV and Leo throws a half-baked insult towards the TV. So, of course, the Turtles go out to get the statue back. But, they take their sweet time finishing their pizza. The evening news usually air at 6PM, and they actually start their adventure at 3AM, the next day. What the heck were they doing for 9 hours? And another thing, what was April reporting on, anyway? I mean, she was in front of the Statue of Liberty, surrounded by a huge crowd, so clearly, something big was happening. But, what was it? I guess we’ll never know…
But, who cares. We don’t play these games for the story. We play them for the graphics. No wait, that’s not right. Screw it. I’m talking about the graphics now. So deal with it, dude (or dudette). This game looks pretty damn awesome! There goes the G rating. Oh well. The graphics are really close to the quality of the arcade game. Don’t believe me? Watch this comparison video.
It also includes the really misguided XBLA Remake.
As you can see, the SNES version looks very similar to the Arcade version. The most glaring difference is that there are fewer frames of animation, so the game doesn’t look as smooth on the SNES. But it doesn’t detract from the gameplay, one bit. The game is very colorful and the graphics are very similar to the cartoon, which is basically the point. There’s also a comic mode where the turtles are different shades of green. I always play in normal mode, though.
The game is also full of Mode 7 graphics, a staple of the SNES. From the Technodrome portal, to time traveling, and even throwing enemies into the screen, the Mode 7 effect is in full….well….effect. There’s even a stage that’s all Mode 7, very different from the arcade version. All in all, the game is very colorful, beautiful, and stylish.
What about music and sound? Well, those are impressive too. This is Konami we’re talking about, after all, and they are known for awesome sound effects and great soundtracks. TMNTIV is no exception to the rule. This game sounds great in every respect. While the are fewer voice samples in this port, than in the arcade, that’s not really a great loss, considering that the voices in the arcade are not the same from the show. And the sound effects are cool too. The music, though, sounds even better in this port than in the original game, I don’t know why. I guess maybe it’s because the aracade games sounds very Konami-ish while the SNES version sounds very Super Nintendo-ish. If you lived in the SNES era and played in the arcades, you know exactly what I mean. If you don’t, here’s a comparison: Arcade First Stage vs SNES First Stage. I know it’s a matter of tase but, I much prefer the SNES soundtrack to the Arcade one. My favorite songs are the aformentioned Big Apple 3AM (first stage), Neon Night Riders, and The Final Shell Shock. The music, as I said before, is great and fits perfectly with the turtles.
What about the game itself? Well, the game is bodacious! You can play as any of the four turtles. Each one has their strengths and weaknesses. Leo is well-rounded, Donnie has the best reach but is slow, Mikey is strong but has low reach, and Ralph is the fastest but is the weakest and has low reach. I usually play as Leo or Donnie. You attack with the “y” button, jump with the “b” button and execute special attacks by pressing both at the same time. These drain your health so, be careful. You also have three kinds of jump kicks, depending on how you execute them. You can also slide kick. If you time it right, you can grab enemies and throw them at the screen. One of the boss battles requires that you do this. And last but not least, you can also run and shoulder bump enemies. This is a very useful feature. I’d suggest setting run to manual instead of automatic so you can control it by double tapping forward. Even though there are many ways to attack, the game is basically a button masher. There’s really not much to it and that is the games greatest weakness. It gets repetitive.
Even the enemies are a bit repetitive. You’ll basically be fighting a lot of differently colored foot soldiers. Luckily, you’ll also see more enemies straight from the show and comics like the mousers, pizza aliens, and rock soldiers. You’ll also run into some environmental hazards both natural and man/alien made such as spiky balls, force fields, and dinosaurs.
The bosses are a real treat, though. They are all recognizable from either the cartoon or the movies. You’ll be fighting the likes of Tokka and Rahzar, Bebop and Rocksteady, and even Slash, who substitutes the incredibly lame Cement Man from the arcade. And the SNES’s final boss is much cooler than the Arcade’s final boss.
You can play the game with 1 or two players. Unfortunately, there’s no four player support. There’s also a 1-on-1 fighting mode, but it sucks. Don’t even bother with it.
Here’s a video of a guy just owning all of them in Hard Mode.
All in all, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time is an awesome arcade port. I’d go as far as saying that it’s even better than the arcade game. It has better music, more stages, more (and cooler) bosses, and it’s great fun for two players. It doesn’t have much replay value, but it’s fun while it lasts. One final piece of advice, though…
Notes and Trivia (SPOILERS):
Three of the bosses are straight from the second movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. These are Tokka, Rahzar, and Super Shredder.
Tokka was based on a rejected toy design by legendary horror and comics creator S.R.Bissette.
Rahzar’s name is interchangeably pronounced "Ray-zar" and "Rah-zar" in the movie.
Krang is based on the Utrom alien race from the comics. He lost his original body and was left in a brainlike body. His original body looks like this.
The Turtles are named after renaissance painters.
Splinter’s real name is Hamato Yoshi. He used to be a human before he was mutated into a rat. In other versions he is actually Hamato Yoshi’s pet rat.
Bebop and Rocksteady are named after musical styles.
Slash was created by Bebop and Rocksteady. In the videogame, he resembles his toy figure incarnation rather than the goofy cartoon incarnation.
Baxter Stockman is an homage to Jeff Goldblum’s character in “The Fly.”
Metalhead was programmed by Krang with all the memories and personalities of all the turtles.
Cement Man only appears in the Arcade game and is an original character.
The April O’Neal from the comics was revealed to be a drawing that was given life by her father.
Leatherhead has a cajun accent even though he’s from Florida.
The Rat King is one of few villains to make the transition from the comics to the cartoons.
The continue screen of the SNES version of this game homages the poster of the first movie.
The Re-Shelled version of the game is more or less set in the 1987 Turtles continuity (or, at least a parallel of it), but uses the cast of the 2003 series.
Oddly enough, Splinter uses his 2003 character model, but has his 1987 counterpart's colour scheme.
In his portrait artwork, Shredder has his trademark claws on only one hand, similar to his 2003 counterpart. In game, they're on both hands.
In Re-Shelled, Shredder is wearing his outfit from the second movie, but his helmet is from the first movie. Interestingly, the arcade version of the Shredder is based on the 1987 show, while the SNES version still has the 1987 variant, it's only seen briefly, being replaced by Super Shredder.
The SNES version features an extra stage and two modified stages that work as bonus stages, it is rumored that Technodrome, Let's Kick Shell was planned for the original arcade game.
The opening of the arcade version has an error when playing the samples, when Leonardo says "you bloated bean bag", the name of the scene is shown before he finishes the phrase and the music keeps playing, this doesn't allow the game to play the sample, "Big Apple 3 A. M." which was recorded in the game. This was fixed in the SNES version.
The final scene Technodrome: The Final Shell Shock has a different date in the Arcade and SNES version, originally it's 1991, in the SNES is 1992.
Having Krang in there is a whole different thing (ie: an Alien twist), but...my goodness, how can he NOT be in Michael Bay's movie? "These are Alien Turtles," etc. The first movies were more about mutation and ninja stuff, which they should be. Too many moving parts? When Tokka and Rahzar were there though, they were essentially what Bebop and Rocksteady were, minus the talking and gun wielding.