The TNMT franchise has been going through a massive resurgence in the last 12-18 months, coinciding with the purchase of the rights by Nickelodeon. This has led to the production of a great new animated show (I've watched season 1 and it's rather good) [No it's not - Ed.], toys, merchandise, and a return to grace in its originating comic book medium.
Now, it's video games' turn. With the recent XBLA release TMNT: Out of the Shadows and a full retail Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles release due in October from Activision, what better time than to recommend 4 of the best TMNT games of all time, each one representing one of the team. Cowabunga dudes!
Michaelangelo = TMNT the Arcade Game
Video gaming at its classic best. Back in 1989, this style of arcade was everywhere: Scrolling beat em ups. What was cool was the original cabinets allowed for 4 players on screen at once, for the full team experience. It was challenging.
In typical coin-op style you had little health that soon depleted, having to part with your cash for more credits. That might sound terrible, but such was the appeal of kicking the crap out of Foot Soldiers and the supporting bosses such as Bebop, Rocksteady, even Krang, it is tough to walk away because kicking butt is what the Turtles are all about. Like Michaelangelo, TMNT Arcade is fun in short bursts, but ultimately just simple.
Leonardo = Fall of the Foot Clan
(Game Boy, 1990)
This was the TMNT's first outing for Nintendo's flagship handheld, which was also the first Game Boy game I ever owned, and is a lovely little gem of a title. Fall of the Foot Clan is more of a platform adventure; you take control of any of the teenage heroes through 5 stages (which can be completed in any order) littered with Krang and Shredder's army of foot soldiers, mousers, ultimately facing the evil odd-couple themselves. Should your turtle lose all health, they are 'captured', and it's time to pick another. Why Leonardo? Fall of the Foot Clan is a fun and intuitive GB title, but like the Turtles' fearless leader, it gets right to the point and adopts a more serious tone.
Donatello = Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time
(SNES: 1992, Re-Shelled: 2009-2011)
Turtles in Time for the SNES is a conversion of the arcade game of the same name. Developed by Konami, this is surely the Turtles' finest video game outing. Sticking very closely to the source material (again the 1987 cartoon), TIT (couldn't resist) is another scrolling beat em up, but with additional elements that made the Streets of Rage series a success; grabbing opponents to slam or even throw them into the screen, low and high dashing attacks, and the ability to run.
The levels look great, each featuring a boss from the cartoon continuity, and make good use of Mode 7, particularly the space board level. Yes, space boards. It is a short game, my last run on hard difficulty clocking in at only 40 minutes, but that doesn't make it any less fun. It's a shame Konami no longer have the license to release this version again. Turtles in Time is perfectly matched to Donatello; It has the technology, the correct detail, but at its heart its super fun. Turtles in Time is the definitive TMNT experience.
Raphael = Tournament Fighters
In Turtles in Time, the gang boldly went 'where no Turtles have gone before', but with Tournament Fighters they really did with this incredible effort to rival Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat's dominance. It had 10 fighters, including the four turtles, Shredder, and a backup roster that surprisingly resembles the Archie comic series more than the TV show. Throwing an array of cartoon characters into a beat 'em up isn't easy, in fact it usually be doomed to be a failure. But it isn't.
Tournament Fighters is very fast, very fluid, and at times very difficult. Adopting the SNK 4-button style, Konami have done a great job at keeping the balance, keeping each character as unique as possible, and keeping it simple to pick up. Like any SNK game, or SF/MK practice makes perfect, with a wealth of moves to learn, super moves to pull off, and devastating combos to master. Raphael might be the only Turtle I've yet to mention, but a title which as much attitude as this means he is definitely the perfect suitor. It's no coincidence that this title is very sought after in its original cartridge format; it's a great beat em up.
So there you have it; yes these are all titles from some 20 years ago, with subsequent games declining in quality for the most part. Hopefully Activision can restore the attitude and fun that the above titles still offer to this day, whilst remaining faithful to the great new show. I leave you with the below song to close out. Them lyrics. Pizza Power!