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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES) artwork

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES) review

"The cross between turtles and ninjas worked wonders, as kids marveled at the adventures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As the new generation of heroes battled against the almighty Shredder’s legions of foes, always ending with a confrontation with Shredder himself (where the latter would invariably lose and flee after claiming he would one day finally dispose of the turtles), kids eagerly awaited each episode and bought whatever product was spawned off the series. The Teenage Mutant Ninja ..."

The cross between turtles and ninjas worked wonders, as kids marveled at the adventures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As the new generation of heroes battled against the almighty Shredder’s legions of foes, always ending with a confrontation with Shredder himself (where the latter would invariably lose and flee after claiming he would one day finally dispose of the turtles), kids eagerly awaited each episode and bought whatever product was spawned off the series. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were insanely popular at one point, and given the long-lasting tradition that any sought-after comic should also enjoy a game, Konami took upon itself to make titles out of the adventures of the four martial art-skilled mutants. Given the nature of the comic itself with plenty of battles going on amidst a good dose of humor, the turtles were thus doomed to appear in mindless brawlers where they were able to kick as much ass as possible while regularly feasting on that well-deserved pizza.

This fourth edition, also called Turtles in Time, does very little to change anything to the way TMNT games have been since they were first released on the NES. It’s yet another brawler featuring Shredder and Krang as main villains, where the four brothers can show what they’re worth against numerous foes and bosses amidst lush settings. The controls are extremely simple. Each turtle can attack using his weapon, which results in a short combo, and can jump-kick, which is very effective against certain bosses and the more annoying enemies. In addition, our friendly mutants can also repeatedly slam an enemy on the ground, which is more useful than it sounds since the very action of banging that prey down will take down any other foe that is stupid enough to walk onto the trajectory. A sliding attack is also a subtle way of clearing crowds.

Also of note is a new throw whereby your alter ego grabs one of Shredder’s terribly useless midgets and sends him reeling into the screen. The good news about this is that it enables you to get rid of a frustrating enemy with a single blow although the move itself can be a pain to pull the first few times but eventually turns out to be radically easy. And since you’ll need that very technique in a level fight as it’s your only chance of overcoming a formidable but mildly cheesy boss, you are obligated to learn how to use it. The bad news is that the visual presentation of an enemy as he gets closer and closer to the screen isn’t exactly a beautiful sight. Still, it’s a nice addition and an innovative feature that contributes to make the game more enjoyable, something that is decidedly missing.

The game itself takes place along numerous scenes, most of which are sadly very short. Unfortunately, the ‘Turtles in Time’ aspect isn’t as exciting as it was made out to be. The number of stages that actually see them go back through time and leap to the future is ludicrously low, and these are merely generic (whereby you’ll see the same scenes in countless other games) and thus totally forgettable. While such an aspect was a very good idea, Konami apparently cared only about the backgrounds and never tried to make the game somewhat more exciting and frantic. Enemies very rarely change, as Shredder never tires of sending his four-palette enemy of goofballs to try and oppose your quest. The 25,000,000 B.C. prehistoric stage could have been designed to implement formidable foes such as dinosaurs and others, but it’s still about Shredder’s enemies. The only times we get to be weary of dinosaurs is when pterodactyls fly in and launch rocks or soldiers, and when a few lost small animals quickly run across the screen, never to be seen again.

Similarly, the far west stage has some ingenuity. A train moves on all the while and some enemies barge in riding horses until they suddenly jump onto the wagon to show that they’re less dumb than they appear, a task they eventually completely forget about. It’s a nice touch in a game that would otherwise be plain boring. Obviously, the bosses consist of those mutants that the turtles had to face in the comic. From Baxter to the insanely funny Beepop and Rocksteady without forgetting the zany Rat King, you’ll be seeing a good collection of them here. Another nice thing is how the bosses actually respect the time setting they’re in. Beepop and Rocksteady thus challenge you with swords and whips in the pirate ship instead of resorting to their usual high-tech guns and other sci-fi weapons. At the same time, it’s a pity to see them as mere bosses when it could have been so easy to have them play a more preponderant place throughout the game. Considering how they’re very popular among fans, this would certainly have given the game more appeal. Reasons like this again prove how Turtles in Time wastes a lot of potential and is particularly lackluster given the ingenious levels found in some of the earlier titles.

Otherwise, Turtles in Time’s engine does very little to differentiate it from the pool of brawlers available on the SNES. The turtles recuperate life by eating pizzas, and the only item you’ll be picking throughout the game is one that triggers a “TURTLE POWER” chorus and enables your alter ego to spin around and swiftly send all opponents around him to a pitiful death (although all of them actually explode!). Some scenes also offer a negligible amount of interactivity such as barrels that can be hit to be sent rolling onto Shredder’s puny army. A couple of bonus stages are also present, both culminating into laughable boss encounters.

The most glaring flaw in this fourth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles installment remains the pathetic array of enemies and their inefficiency in performing their duty. Shredder’s main force is essentially comprised of the same guy with different colors. The first one, which comes in purple, will either just stand there without doing anything, or will walk directly into your blows. Beyond that, you see the same enemy over and over again with a different palette swap and with other attacking patterns. One will thus hold a sword in his hand and very rarely use it (thereby annihilating the chance of any Leonardo-esque threat) while another will throw stars at you every thirty minutes.

The pirate ship stage thankfully has a new breed of green-clad soldiers, which shoot arrows at you, many of which can be a pain to avoid with so many enemies surrounding you at the same time. Unfortunately, this part is over within moments, as you find yourself fending off the same enemies that first challenged you as soon as you started the game. Similarly, the scenes taking place inside the technodrome do yield some variety with dog robots gnawing at your hands. In addition, the boss itself is truly original in the way it must be defeated. Otherwise, the remaining bosses have predictable patterns that make them extremely easy to defeat, and the final opposition, Shredder himself, is a breeze even on the hardest difficulty setting. This makes Turtles in Time a very easy game where challenge is barely present, and consequently, it isn’t a brawler that enjoys a high replay value.

In spite of this, Turtles in Time excels in its visual presentation. While the level of detail isn’t particularly striking with certain backgrounds essentially consisting of a single part consistently scrolling by, the scenes are brilliantly represented (although they’re not very original). The technodrome scene singularly flashes out for its wonderful blend of lush sci-fi elements and gloomier parts, which again makes it the only memorable stage in the whole game. And although one could argue that the remaining scenes are sickeningly generic in some cases, they are well-drawn with a good dose of color thrown in while still not being too hard on the eyes.

More aesthetic yet is the turtles’ animation, which constitutes a visual feast. Micheal Angelo and his siblings are accurately recreated and seem to have been lifted straight from the comic with their personality being wonderfully conveyed to the gamer. The turtles walk and run in a believable way and their fighting is seamlessly implemented with hits being exchanged in a way that will please any TMNT fans and casual gamers alike. Some animations are also humorous, such as the turtles yelling and jumping around on one foot whenever they collide with mines or are burnt, and their flattened counterparts if they get struck by a huge ball.

Enemies similarly enjoy good animations although the single fact that they are too generic gives the game a major blow. However, the bosses look wonderful, easily rivaling the turtles themselves in certain instances – Beepop springs to mind here –, and they seem to have been directly lifted from the comic. Their attacks too can look equally cool in certain instances, but on the other hand, some moves, such as Baxter’s yellow protruding hand when he’s angry, are horrible. In spite of these, Turtles in Time remains a graphical exploit, and it’s a pity to see such visuals be lost in such an average game.

The audio is well done too and gives credit to the comic, which boasted about having a crazy soundtrack. While the quality is a mixed bag with certain tunes having an overly jazzy effect that gets tiresome after some time, there’s no denying enticing themes have been slapped onto each stage. A couple of themes are actually memorable and will perhaps have you come back for more if you’re the type who will gladly play a game over again just to listen to its music. Sound effects fail to be on par with the music with certain noises being either blurry or exaggerated, but the voice acting with the trademark shouts such as “Cowabunga!” and “It’s pizza time!” are absolutely stunning, definitely making Turtles in Time an example to follow as far as voice-over is concerned on the SNES.

However, in spite of its visual and, to a lesser extent, audio accomplishments, this fourth TMNT installment isn’t exactly a compelling title and is disappointing compared to the NES releases. The game lacks atmosphere and exciting instants, which remain important aspects of brawlers. Controlling the turtles is straight-forward and the concept is most of the time nice, but Turtles in Time fails to be rhythmic and doesn’t provide as much fun as one would expect. In addition, the extremely low difficulty makes it a short game and this, coupled with the easy patterns of the bosses, doesn’t make it worth playing again after you’ve completed it once. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans may want to try it once and will certainly enjoy it, but it will very likely turn out to be simply boring for others.

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Community review by siegfried (June 17, 2003)

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