Heroes in a censorship shell
Name changes from one region to another is something fans of the older games know only too well. Back in the late 1980's and early 1990's you would see a game mentioned in a games mag then have an impossible time tracking it down because the publisher had decided that it needed to be called something else in your region.
From Wings of Wor (Gynoug) to Soul Edge (Soul Blade) and even the famous Starfox (changed to Starwing in Europe) it really was an everyday part of gaming life for people in the UK. Sometimes though a name change had deeper and more politically motivated roots and it's one of those instances that gave fans of a massively popular Cartoon show a familiar yet slightly different final product.
When being lean, green and mean meant a name change...
No Ninjas please, we're British!
I love my country, I know it's not the cool thing to do anymore but remove all the flags and nonsense politics and look at everyday life experiences and every single country on the planet has something magical about it that makes it unique, special and cool. Where I live (UK) we have some quite insane laws that unless you live here you would think I’m making it all up, we also have such a massive fear openly talking about certain topics like Sex that it ultimately leads to a weird sense of humour. It's that, which I feel is the greatest thing about our nation of many countries that make up the United Kingdom.
Monty Python could only have ever come from here, Blackadder, Bottom, the Young Ones and Red Dwarf the same. There's also a wonderful flip side where things from other countries get changed because a word is deemed too risky for the audience here, in the 1980's and early 1990's one of the words I came to be aware of was 'NINJA'
Not because of the many countless martial art style movies but because of 4 pizza eating teenage mutant turtles. Although technically at the time slightly past the age demographic for the cartoon I was still a young teenager and completely hooked. The comic was cool, the toys were immense but the cartoon was astounding. Turtles who were cool, ate Pizza, played games, had wicked weapons and were heroes... NICE!
Thing is they were Ninja's as well, everything spoke that from the weapons to the eye masks, the martial arts, everything but it was almost never actually said. In this part of the world the term 'Ninja' was a naughty word (I’m not even joking) and it was removed from all merchandise, comic front covers and even the cartoon theme tune was re-written slightly to contain two changes. Hero replaced Ninja in the chorus and the part about splinter training them to be a Ninja team became fighting team.
Ultimately it didn't matter cause everything was still cool however because the NES console was essentially a non existent thing over here (don't believe the internet hipsters on Youtube now) the famous adventure platform game was mostly known because of the home conversions on machines like the Amstrad, C64 and of course the little computer that could, the Mighty Sinclair Spectrum.
Across the globe it's estimated that the Turtles game on the NES alone sold more than 4 million copies, it's one of the top selling games ever for the system outside Nintendo's direct control. In the UK it was these home computer versions that would be our main taste of the franchise until the scrolling fighting games that evolved out of that stunning coin-op for Megadrive and Snes were released.
Today I want to take a look at the Spectrum version because 1.) Look at that box and tell me it's not awesome! and 2.) It's the one I have the most experience with plus it's graphics detail level and colouring was a massive achievement. Licensed from Konami it was converted by the 8-Bit masters known as 'PROBE SOFTWARE' who in general terms were the spectrum equivalent of say 'Platinum Games' of now. By that I mean technically what they did was astounding. The software house was probably this way because of the talent within such as the man who would one day go on to help make games like Aladdin on the Megadrive as well as the Earthworm Jim franchise, so you know... Strong C.V. - lol
As complete as the NES original this contained the entire game minus the graphical and colour style and depth of the Nintendo box of wonder. That feat alone is worthy of immense respect due to a cassette tape and limited RAM compared to cart and better all round processor of the NES. Where this stood out however was the incredible use of colour without the mess of constant colour clash (where colours overlap on each other and make a mess as sprites pass each other - simple term) Probe being the kings of the Spectrum had delivered a game that looked quite simply stunning, gamers agreed.
The Spectrum version was so good and sold so many copies that it stayed at number 1 in the charts for 5 solid months in 1991. Now in 1991 with multiple machines out there with multiple top games and the spectrum itself in it's final glory days of top tier software this was mind blowing. Unlike now where non game games like Minecraft (don't hate I do like it but come on...) sit in the top 10 forever the charts back in the 1990's constantly moved as more devs made more games for more publishers on more machines.
Getting higher scores than free cake in a bakery this was loved by the press of the time with magazines like Your Sinclair, Crash, Sinclair User falling over themselves to have it as feature game of the month and cover game etc. Overall it sat in the 90% range and did so on pure merit. It looked awesome, it played well, you could be a Ninja (sorry, hero whoops, lol) and bottom line I could be Donatello. If you don't get me on this then I'm stumped as to what else to say.
Another non important but wonderful thing was that the game itself came in a lovely card box, inside was a great instruction booklet and a few cool freebies to make your £9.99 spend all the more worthwhile. As not just a retro game player but also a serious collector a good set of packaging is like crack for me, I run at it with arms wide open and the biggest grin on my face.