In a half-shell they're the heroes four, in this day and age who could ask for more?
That’s the opening lyric to the song for these lean green fighting machines that was to be the title soundtrack for the motion picture Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The first film of course was great and any who say otherwise please log off my site right now, you’re not welcome here... Just the cool kids left? Awesome!
The games of this franchise however have mostly followed the look and feel of the iconic cartoon show that was much loved from the late 1980’s through most of the 1990’s and it’s because of their colourful look and feel that most of them have gone on to become cult classics themselves,. In the arcades you had the quite astounding TMHT (I say HERO turtles because I’m from the UK and they were not allowed to be called ninja’s here DOH!) and of course the NES had a brilliant top down / side-scrolling platform beat’em’up and slightly later the 16-Bit consoles entered the mix with their unique take on the original arcade game.
The Super Nintendo took the core element of the arcade game and gave a fantastic time travel twist on the whole thing, it played the same of course however it was a different game entirely to the original and has rightly been credited as one of if not ‘the’ best scrolling fighter of that console, The Sega MegaDrive / Genesis version however is a real corker in itself because it took both the original arcade game and the SNES version and then added it’s own stuff and produced the game I’m reviewing today.
As I went from level to level the sheer range of colour stood out, the artists have done a superb job here and even though the same types of ninja’s appear in every level there are enough lovely backgrounds or level specific characters/boss fights to make it all feel fresh, it’s already clear this is a game I’m in love with. At this point in typical ME fashion you would expect a ‘But’ or some clever turn of phrase to begin talking about a game crashing bug but in this case you can keep on waiting because it will not come, this game is fantastic.
Before I knew it I was on level 3 and just having tons of fun, combat is so fluid meaning that when enemies flank you both sides you won’t have an annoying Golden Axe moment where one lot will trounce you as you punch the other lot, the A.I. is good but doesn’t cheat. The boss fights are great because they actually show a lovely mixture of Cartoon baddies as well as someone from the motion picture, how cool is that?!? No names because no spoilers but not one of them is a cheap knock-off, well not to me anyway. All in all it took me about an hour to complete the game on Normal and I only used 1 continue so I’m taking this as a victory of my gaming skills, on hard mode however it’s a whole different kettle of fish and it's much and I do mean much harder, the bosses also seem to suddenly develop Skynet awareness, if you decide to go down this route then make sure you do it with a buddy, speaking of co-op…
This is what for me pushes these kinds of games from good to great or great to awesome, playing with a friend is just a classic reminder of what retro was always about, you and your friends in the same room huddled around a small CRT television drooling over arcade (you thought) graphics and sound. The two player co-op mode just adds the icing onto an already sweet cake. Another great example of this game being a master class is that when you loose all your lives and continue it takes you to the start of the area, not the entire level so it’s not so easy to allow you to cheap your way through the game from the instant you died but at the same time not unforgiving to return you miles back, score one for the Konami-Sega team here methinks!!!
The story for the MegaDrive version is pretty much the same as the SNES one to start with, Shredder that evil douche bag has shrunken New York down to a minute size through the use of essentially a rock (yup dumb story but come on, it’s a game so shhh) and now it’s up to the 4 turtles to once again save the day, cue the music and let’s begin!
The options are once again very dull; lives, difficulty, continues and button assignment is the order of the day here and not much else im afraid but for the genre of game it’s to be expected, this isn’t a mech warrior title so you won’t need a gazillion buttons. Once you select 1 or 2 players (awesome, co-op!) you will then go to the character select screen to choose your character. This is important because all the turtles do play differently, things like weapon reach and speed and power of attack does make the difference, Leonardo for example is quick with his swords but Donatello has an even bigger reach, it’s the second name that I choose and off I go…
The game begins not in an apartment like the arcade but in New York City however unlike the Snes version it’s in the sewers so it just feels right, the turtles would begin any adventure there after all its where they love right? The first thing you will notice is that the game plays fast, very fast in fact and it’s much smoother than all the other turtles games of the time, the animation is lovely and all the characters including enemies stand out a mile, Konami have gotten us off to a great start.
It’s also at this point important to note that the soundtrack is very familiar, it’s because in the game as a whole a lot of the SNES tunes have been re-used however they play faster as does the game itself, everything synch’s up perfectly. Before I knew it I was at the end of the level and fighting my first boss. Like almost every game of this type the level itself is split into 3 sections in order to give some pacing and background changes and in this game it works perfectly, through the whole game I was never bored, not once.
I cannot recommend this game highly enough, it was like a breath of fresh air at the time and is still to this day simply fantastic to play, Konami as you will read about in my upcoming feature were on top form during the 16-Bit era and the list of hits they produced was quite frankly silly, this easily sits in the best of the best, it’s better than the arcade game, yeah I said it...What?!? And a worthy equal to the SNES game although it is shorter in level amount.
The only downside I can think of are the awful digitised speech samples which are terrible and make Rise From Your Grave from Altered Beast sound like an Oscar nominated contender but that’s just grasping at straws here and the music is so good you wont even notice.
Emulate it or better still go out and buy it and grin from ear to ear as you marvel at a developer so in it’s prime it was like watching Leonardo Di Vinci paint, trust me!
Verdict:- A real gem of a game in every respect, this is why we play retro games summed up in 6 levels of pure awesome. It’s hard to find anything wrong with it at all other than the terrible speech you sometimes have to hear but when you have to go looking for something wrong it’s a clear sign of greatness.
Streets Of Rage games may get all the glory when it comes to mega drive side scrolling fighters but when you stray from the accepted best of the best path you may just find something worthy to call they’re equal. Buy it, play it, love it.
Man I love being a Turtle!!
Second Opinion:- The leader of the Decepticons is not telling lies. Be it Hero or Ninja, the Turtles have always been pretty darn cool. In this bots opinion, it all translates perfectly with Hyperstone Heist.
An obvious high scorer if there ever was one. Bzt. This certainly deserves all the praise.
Transbot Scores:- 8.5 out of 10