Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The new ninja turtles just don't cut it...


The Lowdown

Pros: Spliced in TV episodes, two player support, it has turtles.. and they're ninjas

Cons: Repetitive gameplay, bad use of cel shaded graphics, useless two player mode, unbalanced characters

Purchase at Play-Asia
Back in the days on the Nintendo Entertainment System Ninja Turtles games were top notch brawlers. It had everything you would ask for in a NES game, heroes you know and love, enemies you know and love to hate, endless bad guys and two player support. Now in the era of the Playstation 2, Gamecube and Xbox it just doesn't cut it anymore to have a game this simple.

OK so Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, isn't a travesty of a game, but it's not great either. Let's start with the good. First of all this Ninja Turtles game is based on the new version of the cartoon and older fans of the show will notice some differences. To get everyone up to pace with the new Ninja Turtles story there are a bunch of cleverly spliced in cut scenes from the TV show. Each of the scenes are crisp animation that you would see in a DVD anthology of the show.  Even the voices in the cut scenes and the game sound like they're from the TV show, so you know you're going to get some good voice overs. Another bonus is that every time you beat a level you get a cut scene. It's kind of like a reward for completing a level.

Each of the levels are standard brawler style. You pick one of the turtles (two if you're playing a two player game) and you bash your way to end of the level. There is an endless amount of bad guys to beat up, who all look like they were cut and paste over and over again. The levels aren't exactly well designed with the camera in mind. If you happen to get knocked into a corner or a tight area the camera can go haywire and be placed within a wall. This leaves you blindly mashing buttons until you can escape the corner. There are times (also in tight areas and while turning) when enemies surround you and the camera will actually be inside an enemy. This is a laughable error, and shows a lack of polish in the game. These camera problems wouldn't be as salient a problem if there weren't so many twists and turns in the level. The camera becomes even more of a problem when you have a second player, The camera can't move out of bounds between the two players, since they're on the same screen. So it tries to pan out so both players can be seen. However, while turning or when one player runs off, the other player can be left completely blind. The camera will pan out more leaving a player behind an object like a wall or random scenery. All of this leads to a frustrating experience.

Luckily the gameplay itself is fun in moderate doses. I mean who doesn't want to play an action game. If this game just had more moves it would increase the score of the game significantly. Each character has a hard attack and a light attack. Mix these up and you got a combo attack. Most of the combos aren't very practical in one on one fighting and are meant for plowing down a bunch of baddies surrounding you. So when you come to boss battles you'll find that the majority of moves are useless. Another problem with the combo system is that after knocking a bunch of enemies down there is some recovery time between combos. So if you miss you'll be leaving yourself to attack without a defense. This wouldn't be so much of a problem, if the controls responded better so you knew which combo you were actually doing. One more problem with the gameplay balance is that the different characters don't really matter too much. Each of the characters give the same amount of damage, the only difference is their range. This makes Donatello and unstoppable character and Raphael and Michelangelo are much weaker. If you're going to have four character you should have some balance between them, for example you could give examples: one has extra reach, one has extra power, and one has extra speed. Konami neglected this altogether, which is something that could have made the game more fun to play.

While playing the game there is a story mode that you'll go through. You'll start by picking a turtle for the main player. Each of the turtles has a slightly different story. There's one downside to this, one you pick this turtle you're stuck with them until you beat the game. If you want to switch turtles you'll have to start all over at level 1-1 again. While it is nice to see four different stories, well kind of different stories, Ninja Turtles is a casual gameplay experience. You want to turn it on and off switch and try out different characters whenever you want to. It's not an epic adventure or even a deep action game. Forcing a player to start at  1-1 over again is a huge annoyance. There is a two player mode, but its more of an afterthought rather than one of the driving forces of the game. A second player can jump in almost at anytime. They'll have no part in the story and can't learn the extra moves that the first player has unless they go through the single player mode too. One of the best aspects of a brawler game is being able to play with a second player, but if one player is clearly stronger than another what's the fun in that? The worse part of the imbalance can be seen in the games versus mode. You can pick one of the four "different" turtles and battle one on one in different arenas. Since some turtles are stronger than others what's the purpose of fighting? It's not like the fighting system is any good either all you can do is throw out one of your combos and button mash your way to victory. There is no clear strategy to this mode. Thankfully, its not a major part of the game.

The graphics in the game are more of an annoyance than are visual pleasing. The textures are generally jagged even in the higher resolution Gamecube and Xbox versions of the game. The turtle sprites and enemy sprites look like they are cardboard cutouts on a paper background. The enemies don't look much better. They're drab colored paper cutouts too. Out of the many games that show an excellence in the use of cel shaded graphics (Jet Grind Radio and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for example) this game pales into comparison. Probably the worst graphical addition is more of a gameplay nuance than it is a graphical problem. After you defeat enemies on screen you'll notice a bunch of explosions that say "Pow!" or "Bam" like the old Batman show. When you attack a bunch of guys these explictives show up everywhere and ocassionally cover an enemy up that you thought you got rid of. What was designed as a cool feature ended up being more trouble than its worth.

With its lack luster graphics, stale gameplay and barely existant two player mode there isn't too much to make you come back to play this game. There are some secret characters, Splinter is one of them. That's about it for extras and since the game is pretty short you'll be done with it in no time. Unless you like doing the same thing over and over there is no reason to complete the game with all four characters. All of these problems put this game on shaky ground for a good recommendation.

Console Comparison

The graphics from system to system don't vary too much. The level of graphical detail of this game on the other systems is almost the same as the PS2 version. While there are rumors circulating that there are less characters in the PS2 version this is untrue. Since all three versions are pretty much the same any version of this game will do.

Import Friendly?

This game is currently in stores in the US. It is believed that there will be an eventual Japanese release of the game if they can get over the licensing issues.

US Bound?

You can get this at your local video game story today.

Overall

The only saving grace this game has is for Ninja Turtles fans, but during a time when there are so many better games released you're not getting the same bang for your buck with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Review by RedLineX