Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Year released: 1989
To say that the Ninja Turtles were not a major influence on me would be an outright lie. Without their presence, the snowball that is my interest in fantasy (and specifically transformation) would not have rolled down the hill.1 However, with the exception of the cartoon, most of the areas in which the Turtles have been featured were disappointments; the movie was inaccurate (either that or they were trying to convey the edgy and more 'adult' Turtles as portrayed in the comic book), the live-action show of the mid-90's was a flop, and countless other attempts to build a Ninja Turtle empire failed (who came up with that horrendous stage show idea?)
Like many other aspects of childhood, we tend to adore the fad of the era while we're young, only to hammer it when we grow older and thus more mature. Yet, the reason why this game leaves me cold has nothing to do with the forsaking of my youth,2 but rather because it takes all the elements that made the Ninja Turtles the phenomenon it was and rips them out, leaving a game that was promising in concept but wanting in execution.
The game takes place in two points of view: The side-view portion of the game, which is where the majority of the action takes place; and the overhead screens, which are mainly used as a layout of the action scenes and a method to get from one place to another. While this concept is hardly new - Blaster Master had done it before - the gameplay didn't seem balanced enough between the two. The bulk of the overhead play was spent either by walking directly to your next destination, or meandering around in an attempt to find your next destination. Not much is done to really develop this facet of the gameplay to autonomy, and as a result it really isn't all that fun to play the overhead worlds.
Another problem with the game is its difficulty. I like to throw the term "learning curve" around a lot, but I should point out that it's not without some validity; the challenge should indeed rise steadily, not jump up and down sporadically. But that's exactly what happens in the second stage; the task of defusing the bombs in the dam ranks right up there among Battletoads' Rat Race and Super Mario World's "Outrageous" level as being among the single hardest trial in any game. This is for two reasons: First, 2 minutes and 20 seconds is barely enough time to defuse all 8 bombs without knowing their positions and having charted out an optimum path beforehand. Second, there are so many traps (including that dreaded seaweed) that even if you did know where to go and how to get there, reaching the bombs is a nightmare.
Future levels aren't much better: The third area is composed of far too many buildings and the action scenes require precise jumping (which is a taxing experience in this game, as I'll explain below), and the fourth area is a full-fledged maze. not bad in itself - I wouldn't mind seeing a few more multiple passages in this game - but the correct route is far too inobvious and backtracking is a chore, considering the saturation of spikes and firepits in each tunnel. Plus, captive Turtles (when one of them runs out of energy) and pizza are found only in fixed areas, and are too few and far between. Case in point: the first place you're able to rescue a Turtle in the third area. Also, you can only rescue one, you don't get to pick and you don't get to rescue another until much later. Hence, if you're going to excel in this game, you'll really have to keep an eye on your life meters.
The game doesn't excel in its technical merits, either. Flicker is rampant during the game, especially in the overhead scenes. Also, I would've liked it more if the Turtles were more visually differentiated by means other than just their bandanna color. Perhaps they could've colored the life meters differently, or perhaps given each Turtle his own theme music. Speaking of which, that's the one technical merit of this game that isn't all that bad. Unsurprising, really, since Konami3 has always been known for good music. Although the music for the first area's sewers seem a little too peppy for the surroundings, all the other music seems just about right. At the very least, they don't interfere too much.
The play control is also a problem. Most of my gripes in this area don't involve the method that is used to individualize each Turtle (weapon reach/strength vs. speed), but rather the faults that plague all four Turtles. First off is the jumping control. All of your jumps feel awful floaty and are difficult to control. This is punctuated in the third level when you're trying to make tricky jumps across an underground tunnel - hold the A button just a wee bit too long, and you'll land in the drink and be forced to start over again. The swimming controls also seem a bit confusing. One of the reasons I usually have to resort to using a Game Genie while playing is the fact that the Turtles just don't want to swim in the direction I point them. Plus, I would have appreciated it a little more if the game didn't switch to a newly-acquired weapon once I collected it. Since weapons are the only items in the game that can be picked up from defeated enemies, all too often I have found myself attacking a foe, only to pick up a new weapon and hence waste a few Shuriken before I realize it.
One facet of this game that I do enjoy, however, is the plot. This was the one thing that the people working on this game put some effort into. Besides the standard fare of rescuing an abducted co-star (April in Level 1, Splinter in Level 3), the cinema scenes at the end of a few of the levels really add to the atmosphere of the game. This is an action game that, if it doesn't want to have a plot in earnest, at least wants to give some purpose to each level instead of just dropping you in the middle of a new metropolis and leaving you scratching your head as to what the next task is.
In short, there are a number of elements in this game that should've been fixed. Maybe if more levels were added, the challenge would not have spiked so soon. Perhaps adding more NPCs or perhaps even powerups outside would have resulted in the overhead aspect of the game being less bland. More attention to the play control may have made the game a little bit easier. Unfortunately, I can only grade this game as what it is, and it isn't the best it could have been.
1. 1. Kinda funny if you think about it - most kids got into the "ninja" concept of these guys; I got into the "mutant" part.
2. I still watch cartoons, ya know. (That is, I did, until The Incredible Hulk, Gargoyles and X-Men all got pulled from the airwaves or otherwise moved. I do catch Aladdin every day, but only because there's a certain episode I want to see.
3. For those who didn't know, Ultra was an affiliate of Konami.
|Play Control: ||
|Technical Score: 10
|Aesthetic Score: 13
|Overall Score: 55%|