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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

The Best Game Never Played

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Brawler / PC)

Introducing the Genre

This game is actually 2-in-1. For the purchase, you get a classic brawler and a separate new school brawler. God of War defined the new school of brawling and since then there have been many, clones, some better than others, like Dante’s Inferno or Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. TMNT IV: Turtles in Time for the SNES is regularly in the top spot of the greatest brawlers of the older genre, alongside classics like Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, or Golden Axe.. In this game you get to see where the genre came from and where it is now. It does that better than most modern brawlers.

Introducing the Game

This game first came to my attention when I was looking for some information on another iteration of the franchise. At first, it didn’t look to have much potential. I thought it would wind up being the same generic franchise brawler that stains the industry like the Green Lantern game. As time went on, I occasionally looked into the game more and more. I saw some gameplay videos, some interviews, and it looked more and more appealing. By the time I bought it, about a week after release, I wasn’t surprised that it was the most inspired brawler I’ve ever played since TMNT IV: Turtles in Time, this is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows!

Gameplay

Amazing! This has one of the richest and deepest combat systems in an action or brawling game that I’ve ever seen. I’ll start with the biggest difference that I’ve seen, the combo system. In lots of brawlers, some which get 10/10 from IGN, you can easily rack up 30 hit combos by pressing the same button over and over. In this game, you might be able to do just that, but it would be a deliberate handicap challenge.

TMNT: OotS has a combo combat system, that if you reach 10 hits in a row without being hit, you can perform a finisher on your enemy of choice. Being able to master this system will make the whole game a lot easier. First, rack up some hits on the foot soldiers, then attack the stronger enemy with a finisher. Enemies spend a lot of time on the floor and can soak up repeated knockdowns early on, so finishing will speed up your progress. It can also easily eliminate the special attack enemies or ones who like to block often.

There are two main types of attacks, which is normal for brawlers, but I was amazed at the inspired choices. Instead of “light” and “heavy” attacks or “direct” and “area” attacks, there are “weapon” and “kick” attacks. Weapon attacks deal a lot of damage, assuming the enemy isn’t blocking. Kick attacks, if they connect with a blocking enemy, greatly decrease their block bar, a bar that decreases with every block. You could wear them down with weapon attacks, but that would be a needlessly long battle.

Unlike the previous Turtles brawlers, the AI isn’t as accommodating to let you finish with one enemy before attacking you. Go back and play them, you’ll see an oddly considerate pause before you turn your attention to them. The AI in this game will surround you and attack you all at once, not like the plucky ninjas of the past. To prevent being hit in the back and losing your combo streak, you have to get the counter system down. If you’re late with a counter, you block instead, decreasing your own block bar.

All of this applies to the “Arcade” mode, too. Arcade mode is a throwback to the simpler side-scrolling Turtles games of the past. So you get 2 games for the price of 1.

That’s just scratching the surface and I’ll leave the special attacks up to you to discover. You might be able to button mash your way through the game, but only with great frustration and needless irritation. Their version of combat improves upon any of the others of the genre’s past. I could go on for a few more pages but I should probably move on to other sections. It’s the gameplay that makes this game. Any other wrapping and it’s still solid, but being Turtles just makes it better.

Story

The story is a one-off, isolated, self-contained, and doesn’t do anything to shake up the series. It fits in nicely as just another side story, one of their many adventures. The game’s story is probably the weakest part, but it makes sense within it’s own continuity, so there’s nothing bad about it. It’s not bad storytelling. The most enjoyable parts of the story mode are watching the interactions of the turtles with each other, watching them do what they do best, and just being themselves.

It’s a rather short story. I could easily go for a serving of seconds.

Graphics

Here is usually where some of the most vocal criticisms come from, but not from me. The “look” of the turtles has changed with just about every iteration, so why complain now? I actually like this design. It’s a blend of the new Nickelodeon series(which is great, it’s great for old fans and a great jumping on point) and the first live action movie’s aesthetic. Donatello has that gap in his teeth, Raphael has that chip in his front upper left plate, Michelangelo is the shortest with big expressive blue eyes. It’s a great big blend, the way the rest of the game blends every other incarnation.

Between levels there are a few comic panel cut-scenes. Most reviewers took this as a bad sign, quoting cheap and bad art. I saw it as a resourceful choice mad by a small, but incredibly passionate studio which reflects the source material’s roots. I can’t knock them for that.

Music

The first treat you’ll hear is the original T-U-R-T-L-E Power song that plays in the opening menu and end credits. That sets up the experience you’re about to have, one heavily influenced by the first movie. In other places, you can hear a re-recorded version that fixes the curious lyric, “…make up the team with one other fellow, Raphael. He’s the leader of the group…” That’s just more proof of all the care and effort put into this game. I just wish they could have licensed more music from the original soundtrack, like Shredder’s Theme, 9.95, and Turtle Rhapsody.

Maybe we can hope for them in a sequel. Those, or maybe some of the old Konami tracks from the NES and SNES eras. The old games definitely influenced this one in many ways, I hope a sequel draws from more of the older music.

The rest of the game’s music is very energetic to fit the pace of combat. It’s original, and it works, which is always risky when you’re dealing with a franchise game. What would LEGO Star Wars or Force Unleashed have been like if they decided to just forget John Williams’ score?

Sound

Excellent! A thwack of sword on sword combat, falls, but especially the dialogue. No familiar voices from the movies, which is a shame considering how vocal they are about the strange direction Michael Bay is taking the new film. No actors return from the TV series, which is understandable because they’re working hard on season 2. The new cast is undeniably excellent. Without reference, you’ll be able to tell who delivered which line. This is also a credit to the writer as much as to the voice actors.

Controls

I played the game on my PC, so I did not encounter any of the supposed problems that other reviewers complained about. That could just be me. When I played TMNT IV: Turtles in Time, I used all the moves with regular frequency, flips, slides, flying, forward, back, jump, and high kicks, charging, and specials.

Maybe it was because I spent 2 hours marveling at all the different animations, but the controls were never a problem. There is a rich system of combat, combos, blocks, counters, takedowns, evades, aerial attacks, finishers, team attacks, projectiles, and room clearing attacks that seemed to be very natural, at least to me. You can mix and match any attack with almost any other attack. Some work and chain better than others, some combos are faster than others, some combos are faster than others, but that’s not really the game. If you’re not aware of your environment, if you don’t evade or counter properly, you’ll be hit from behind and

Multiplayer

I haven’t played the game WITH anyone yet, but I imagine it will be wonderful, like the times I played LEGO anything, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Double Dragon, or the original TMNT games with good friends. There’s co-operative play in both story and arcade modes. Once my friend buys it for the PSN, I’ll probably get the chance.

Depth/Replayability

Even without the extensive list of purchasable combos in other brawlers, you start with most of the combat moves already unlocked. I said most. Each turtle has a set of trees to upgrade like fighting, defense, unique skills to them, and team assist skills. Some of these skills have to be purchased as one or another. The game asks if you want to improve your individual turtle or have him contribute more to the team? Personally, I turned Michelangelo into a powerhouse, forsaking everyone else. That’s very much representative of my style. How you customize the team will be up to you.

I’ve replayed level 1 of the arcade mode many times. If you were a fan of the other TMNT brawlers, and found those to be endlessly replayable, then you ought to feel the same about this, or even more. Very soon, I expect to see this game show up in speed runner communities. I spent many hours trying to refine my fighting style and finish enemies faster. I still can’t get enough.

Right when I finished the game, I was ready to go through all over again. I verbally pronounced, “I hope there’s a hard mode!” As if the game heard me, “True Ninja Unlocked.” “Cowabunga!” There are other surprising unlockables to search for but I’ll leave you to find them.

Personal

This is nine-tenths of the game that I wanted and previously wrote about in the Perfect 10 section. Compare this game to the speculative, “Perfect 10” review I wrote years ago.

https://thebestgameneverplayed.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles/

I spent 2 hours in the training room with Michelangelo. Not because it was complicated, but because it was fun!

I played level 1 of the arcade game many many times. Sure, I could have unlocked more, but the flow of fighting was so flawless, it became a tranquil experience.

Two complete games for $15? This could easily have been a $20 experience for either one.

Discovering every easter egg was a real treat! They’re not overt, you have to be a fan and no matter what your favorite incarnation is, you’ll find some kind of callback including the NES games, including the first one, SNES Tournament Fighters, Turtles in Time, original comics, current comics, the micro-series, even a gag about the voice actors.

Everyone needs a little Cowabunga now and then.

Boiling it Down

There’s no reason not to buy this. It’s the game that I’ve wanted for years. Don’t let any other low review score stop you.

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Old vs. New – Brawlers

 Originally written on 3/7/2011

Brawlers

Double Dragon was one of the first brawlers or beat ’em ups that I ever played. A friend brought it over to show me. It didn’t have a two-player simultaneous mode like in the arcade, it had a switch-off where when one player died, the other took over. But there was also a special two-player mode that allowed players to pick from the enemy and boss characters and fight it out that way. The next time I ever saw that option was in TMNT IV, and you couldn’t pick boss characters. The game was hard, no question about that. I was never able to beat it. You started out being able to punch and kick, but the more points you score, the more moves you unlock like jump kicking and the hurricane kick.

Double Dragon II was a step forward in graphics, gameplay, and story. The boss fight mode did not reappear, but you could play in a mode that let you attack each other. Perhaps the limited space on the cartridge forbid the programmers from adding playable bosses. The game shone in every other respect. The music was incredible, I’ve got more than a few remixes on my iPod. They always get me psyched up for a workout or a hard run. It’s classic American 1980s rock. There are more levels and a larger repertoire of moves that you can perform at any time, you don’t have to build up to them. Nowadays, action and brawler games draw more from DDI and make you earn moves over time. Strange.

Double Dragon III The Sacred Stones was as hard as the first, originally. I was so used to the controls from DDII, that I had trouble adjusting. This game introduced two new playable characters that you could hot swap out at any time. That added a little diversity, though it didn’t make things any easier. Each character had their own life bar, so you effectively had a life bar 3 times the size of normal. And boy, I needed every last hit point.

Double Dragon IV was a 2D fighting game based on the short lived Saturday morning animated series. The series was kind of corny in an “after school special” kind of way and wasn’t nearly as violent as the games were. There were a lot of magic and technological tropes thrown in that you’d probably seen in other Saturday morning cartoons. The game was nothing special or impressive. I suppose if you were a big fan of the TV series, it might appeal to you.

Double Dragon V was a triumphant return to form! It mostly resembled Double Dragon II. You had all the traditional Double Dragon moves at the start of the game, and added a few new ones never seen before. There was a two-player simultaneous mode, it took the great parts and kept them, like the Megaman formula. The soundtrack wasn’t 1980s American rock, so it’s not my favorite game in the series.

Battletoads I only sampled. I could beat level 1 easily enough. The speeder bike took some lives from me, but then that level sliding down the ropes with the crows finished me off. It was a strong action game that I’m not sure why it’s only had two real games in the series, the original and Battlemaniacs for the SNES. There was that Battletoads meets Double Dragon cross over, but I don’t think that represented the DD side very well. The controls seemed too loose for me. The franchise as a whole seems ripe for a reboot.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the first arcade game, and first turtles game I ever played. I accidentally purchased the first Turtles NES game, thinking it was this. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game was a challenging game for its time, or any other time. There weren’t as many moves available to you as there were in Double Dragon; attack, jump kick, special attack. Every turtle was the same, just palate swaps of each other and different weapon sprites. Despite all these limitations, it was awesome. The music was Turtles, or perhaps it set the standard for what Turtle music should be. The bosses were mostly taken from the 80s television series, and that was the strongest point of the game. As I established before in my Megaman comparison, it’s the relationships between characters that create depth, not just one character’s backstory, written with an attempt to be badass. The Turtles’ fight against the Shredder was already established, all the characters were already defined and didn’t need any introduction or explanation. Mikey was my favorite.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project was an upgrade on every front, better graphics, better rockin’ soundtrack, more moves, more levels, more foot soldiers, more enemy types, more bosses, more extra lives(thankfully), more everything. I might pick up II every now and again for nostalgia’s sake, I think the graphics were a bit more colorful in that one. But III definitely had better gameplay. The turtles were all still palete swaps of each other, but they had different special moves they could use, some more powerful than others, and that created a difference. Mikey was my favorite.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time was the strongest entry in the franchise that I played. Like Double Dragon II, you had a ton of moves at your disposal right from the start, a jamming soundtrack that has since found a place on my iPod. There were unique special moves like TMNT III. The bosses were mostly taken from the 80s TV series. I remember I mastered this game back in the day and could beat it on the hardest difficulty. From each Turtles game, II to III, to IV, the way Foot Soldiers appear and weapons they carry get more and more outrageous as time goes on. Mikey was my favorite.

Final Fight was a game a friend introduced me to in a 7-Eleven. I was never very good at anything in the arcade, and never had enough quarters on me to learn how to play well. Though I still had fond memories of my time playing it. So when I saw the SNES version available, I had to buy it. It removed two of the best elements that it had going for it, multiplayer and an extra playable character. The game still stood strong without them, not AS strong as it could have, but strong nonetheless. It had what I appreciated about DDII and TMNT IV, a bunch of fighting and brawling moves available to you right out of the starting gate. The two playable characters were a pro-wrestler and a martial artist. They played differently from each other, trading speed for strength. Even without a manual to read about the different moves, anyone can get the hang of this game with minimal effort. It controls very intuitively.

Final Fight 2 & Final Fight 3 I never played, so I’m not sure how different they are, or how similar they are to the original. Did they try to be innovative and change up a winning formula? Or did they go the Megaman approach and give us more of the same awesomeness we loved before?

Just a funny note about this series, specifically the first game. The two main characters are Mike Haggar, a former pro-wrestler turned mayor of Metro City, and Cody the boyfriend of Haggar’s kidnapped daughter. After the events of the first game, Cody goes to prison, as is seen in Street Fighter IV and Final Fight Streetwise. Apparently you can’t go around the city beating the snot out of hundreds of people suspected of being gang members and expect to get away with it… Unless you’re the mayor. 

X-Men The Arcade Game I remember playing once or twice when I needed to kill time before a movie, or waiting for someone at the mall. But it was only once or twice since I never had enough quarters and didn’t ever master a joystick. It has the same strengths as the Turtles games by already having a series of relationships established with the characters and the antagonists. There weren’t many moves available, but the special mutant powers mixed things up. When it appeared on the PS Store, my sense of nostalgia overwhelmed me. It seems my memories were a strong force in influencing my purchase as the game was not as good as I remember it. It was quite a shallow experience compared to what came out after it. But since it was a simple port, I shouldn’t have expected much. A new game built on the old premise like an X-Men brawler would do even better. Nightcrawler was my favorite.

God of War – God of War does everything I dislike. The main character has no connection to anyone. Kratos doesn’t have as much history to draw upon like the Turtles do, but they attempt to tell a story. Kratos could build his relationships with the other characters, but no. He just kills them. He’ll meet someone new, maybe do a task for them, and then kill them. He’ll meet someone, steal something from them, and kill them. Half the time it doesn’t even matter if they’re hostile. When Kratos meets an NPC, then their seconds are numbered. There were moments for actual character growth where Kratos could have evolved as a person, but instead the game makes him default into more violence. Your list of attacks grows over time, and boy does it grow! In fact it grows to such a length that you can’t help but press anything and make a super combo out of it. XXXXXXX is a combo, XXO is a combo, XXOX is a combo, XOXOXOXX is a combo. That’s just lazy. There’s more moves than you can legitimately use and it’s all button mashing. An older game, Bloodrayne II had a similar list, but at least you started out with all of them. Lastly, there is no second player option. And if there was one, Kratos would just kill the 2nd player out of general principle.

Dante’s Inferno is a God of War mod as far as I’m concerned. The character does not change or grow over time, he’s simply consumed with hate, anger, wrath, and rage. He has no connection to reality, shows no interest in anything other than his goal. He’s quite one-dimentional. The game takes such a radical departure from the book I have to question if anyone on the development team ever read it at all, or did they just read the back and look at the table of contents. Perhaps a faithful interpretation of the book wouldn’t make a good game? I disagree. I believe a faithful interpretation of the book wouldn’t make a good God of War game. Perhaps adventure or educational would be a better genre for this material.

Castlevania Lords of Shadow I accidentally bought, thinking it would be a Castlevania game. Shame on me. Although now we finally have a hero which legitimately uses a chain whip. All throughout the whole game I was waiting for some kind of connection that would make it “Castlevania.” It wasn’t until after the credits that it finally delivered. That was pretty weak. I was hoping to see Dracula’s castle, the familiar bosses, the awesome gothic rock soundtrack. Though the soundtrack for Lords of Shadow was good on it’s own, I was hoping for a little Vampire Killer, Bloody Tears, The Raven, Simon’s Theme, or Wicked Child. I bought the collector’s edition with that hope. The soundtrack was strong on it’s own, it just didn’t have what I expected. The move and combo list grows as you progress, that’s new for Castlevania. Before the game came out, I tried to identify what exactly makes up a good Castlevania game. Castlevania II was radically different than I, III, IV, and V. Symphony of the Night and the Game Boy Advance / DS titles were action RPGs. So I was willing to accept this new direction since Castlevania never really had a definitive structure to it. But through it all, there were the music, the bosses, the castle, and the power ups. Lords of Shadow had none of those. If the sequel has the recurring elements, the relations to the past games, I’ll pick it up.

New TMNT games based on 2000 animated series

A friend of mine who was a fan of the turtles growing up bought one of the new games based on the new animated series. I was excited, and then quickly disappointed. I’ve got my own issues with the series as a whole, but I’ll stick with the game. The game was a drastic departure from the previous series of games. The combat was simplified and reduced, and you didn’t have as many moves. It was as if the Turtles lost their ninja skills somehow. A portion of the combat was replaced with environmental puzzle solving, box moving, and door opening. Because, you know, that’s what the Turtles are known for, not being ninjas. /sarcasm

Dynasty Warriors, I watched a roommate play one of the series and I can’t understand how this game has so many sequels. There’s Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, and then even Gundams(which I have issues with). Each sequel brings hosts of new characters to play, from a history full of fantastic over the top characters. At one point I figured we’d soon see “Colonial Warriors” based on the American Revolutionary War that has George Washington on horseback, slaughtering hundreds of redcoats at a time.

I gather that you pick one of the fantastical characters from the incredibly colorful Chinese or Japanese history. You gain powers over time and slaughter hundreds of hundreds of single foot soldiers at a time, occasionally fighting a few stronger than the rest. It seemed a shallow and empty game experience to me. Perhaps someone here can offer a positive experience? What was fun or enjoyable about it?

Turtles in Time Reshelled

This game is disgusting. Whoever decided to make this should be fired, or worse. It is a graphical update of TMNT IV into a 3D engine, but more than half of the moves are cut out entirely. It’s like they remade only half of the game, several levels were dropped entirely as well. It has wonderful and incredible promise, but does not deliver. It’s a bait and switch.

Castle Crashers

Got it right! ‘Nuff said!

What Went Wrong?

How did brawlers devolve from the rich Double Dragon II, Final Fight, and TMNT IV into the wide area attacking, move purchasing, cheap experiences that we have today? I think it may have to do with “what sells.” God of War sold very well. So, many games just copied the formula. However, the people who bought that game probably never experienced what a proper brawler should be.

What are some of your favorite brawlers, old and new? Why? If there’s an entry I missed that has a special place in your memory, shout it out.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Originally written on 1/23/2011

The Best Game Never Played

Introducing the Genre

Like the Star Wars review before it, I’m divided on familiarity with the franchise and with the genre. Though this time the genre hasn’t changed as much over time. The TMNT games, except for the weird first NES one, are generally the definitive side scrolling brawling beat ’em ups. Sure there was Final Fight, Death & Rebirth of Superman, X-MEN, a couple Spider-Mans, but the Turtles were the most definitive.

I played all three NES TMNT games, and even got my hands on the arcade versions once or twice. I regrettably bought TMNT for the DS, that was a mistake and one of the few games I’ve traded away. I played Fall of the Foot Clan for the original gray brick of Game Boy. TMNT IV and Tournament Fighters for the SNES. And my last TMNT experience was one of the games based on the 2000 animated series. I was very unimpressed with that last one.

The new game both draws upon and differentiates itself from the past. It’s still primarily a brawler, but this time it’s over the shoulder 3rd and 1st person. I admit, I was worried about that at first.

Introducing the Game

Way cool! This is one of those games that so many people were waiting for. The first movie was amazing. The second and third movies were mistakenly aimed for younger and younger audiences. One of my other favorite series, ReBoot, actually grew with its audience and dealt with more mature subject matter. This game, like ReBoot, took into account the age of Turtles fans when they were first introduced, and made a game for the original demographic. Cowabunga! (Okay, even though it was made for an older audience, it still makes me feel like a kid again)

Gameplay

Bodacious! The game takes a clever cue from Left 4 Dead’s cooperative gameplay, so you will need to depend on your brothers to survive. Since the game heavily involves ninjas, there is a lot of combat. Thankfully the combat does not draw upon the insane 30 hit combos most “action” games do. It also doesn’t make the fights as cheap as Dynasty Warriors. You have all the moves available to you at the start, there’s no XP point climb, and no skills to unlock. After all, you’ve been training since you were on all fours.

Similar to the other NES games, the foot soldiers in this game come from everywhere. More cues from Left 4 Dead. The soldiers are spawned dynamically each time. Level 1 is never the same, but always intense.

There are missions which have the turtles all together. Some missions show off a turtle’s solo abilities and give you a chance to get a feel for them. But on those occasions when you’re with a partner, you can call on them for help. There’s a “call” button like an old LCD hand held game. That’s one of the secrets to the gameplay. You’ve got to depend on them and call on them to succeed. Anyone who’s doing a speed run will be using it frequently.

Story

Tubular! This is one of the most outstanding aspects of this game, or any other in the last few years. Usually the plot of a brawler is about as deep as a kung-fu movie. A turtles game will usually have Shredder causing trouble, April may be kidnapped, and the Turtles destroy hundreds and hundreds of Foot Soldiers in the process. But this is much more.

As I said earlier, this is a story that grew with the audience. It explores the meaning of family and brotherhood. It follows the questions the Turtles have about their own identities as they come of age. The action actually plays 2nd fiddle to a wonderful story. It’s like there just happens to be Foot Soldiers around. The Turtles are doing a lot of growing up in a short amount of time. That might make the action parts of the story sound a bit inconsequential, or pieced together. I guarantee you, it’s not.

I’ll throw out one example. Donatello and Michaelangelo are on a rooftop at night, overlooking a pet store near where Splinter first found them. They’re talking about the store, how the store gets it’s turtles and mixes them all together. There’s a good chance they’re not at all genetic brothers. Suddenly, they’re interrupted by Foot Soldiers. Vastly outnumbered, the two are overwhelmed. Mikey, being the most athletic of the four, is able to evade capture, but Donatello cannot. The following level is an intense “run for your life” level of Mikey running from rooftop to rooftop to keep ahead of the overwhelming amount of Foot Clan and make it back to the sewers. All the while, we’re treated to Mikey’s inner monologue about how much he wants to go back, but knows he’ll be captured, too. It shows that he’s not always thoughtlessly hedonistic, a side we don’t normally get to see. It’s amazing to see these famed characters from our childhood brought into adulthood.

It came with help from the mind of Peter Laird, the creator. He was consulted on the TMNT CG movie. Since there’s more than just 2 hours to work with, there was more depth allotted to all the characters. They’re all much more than they were in the movies or in the animated series. It’s as if they have grown too, with the passage of time. I suppose since turtles live for such a long time, they have a longer period of remaining in the “teenager” phase. The relationships of each turtle between each other turtle is explored in a way no movie or series had ever done. This story isn’t like the X-Men movies, which were seriously weighted to favor Wolverine more than anyone else. It isn’t just, Leonardo’s story or anything. It draws on elements from each movie and series, and combines them into a new vision still in line with Turtle tradition.

If I didn’t love them so much, and want to see more, I’d say this is a great send off. It may mark the end of the “Teenage” Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.

Graphics

Awesome! The graphics are a breath of fresh air. The games that came before were all based on the animated series. Instead, this game draws upon the grit from the original comics, New York’s look from the 80s, and the art direction of the first movie. That goes along with the design goals of “growing” with the audience, there aren’t as many bright colors as the animated series. There were some comparisons to Arkham Asylum’s art style. Everyone familiar is given a new design, but still recognizable.

There’s also a few cosmetic-only graphical options to change the Turtles’ appearance. You can keep the game’s art or make them all the same color green(80s cartoon), red bandannas(original comic), or the comic shading of their skin tones.

Music

Bossanova! All the music brings back great memories. The greats are back in full remastered glory, the classics, the ones any turtle fan ought to know, and a few surprises. The soundtrack from the first movie is drawn on extensively. From the opening menu screen, you know the game is going to be great. It opens with a remastering of Turtle Rhapsody, the intro song from the first movie. The camera even tracks through a sewer tunnel as the credits roll, just like the first movie introduction. The music combined with the image get me psyched up, recalling the same feelings of the time I saw the movie when I was younger. The final battle with you-know-who’s musical theme actually intimidated me. I was tense, I seized up a bit, I wasn’t performing as well as I had been. I’m sure I’d have been less intimidated if I’d turned the music off. That song actually gave me chills, more than One Winged Angel or The Imperial March ever will.

Sound

Radical! It’s a little hard to get used to a new voice actor for a character you’ve grown up with. Though each of these characters has been interpreted so many times, they all have multiple voices; the 80s cartoon, the 2000s, the 5 movies, and the video games. But besides the voices, it’s primarily the writing which conveys the characters. Each character speaks, and its the words and dialog that carry the weight more than the voices.

The combat sounds are noticeably slightly over the top, but that’s good. Smacking a Foot Soldier is all that more satisfying when you can hear very blow land. Whenever you’re on an untouchable streak, landing hits without taking any, or call on the assistance of a brother, you’re rewarded with one of their characteristic exclamations. Everybody needs a little “Cowabunga!” now and then.

Controls

The controls remind me of TMNT IV in regards to their depth. There were a ton of different moves you can perform and you had them all at once. Once I mastered them, I felt there was a certain flow. After playing level 1 a few times, not trying to win, just experimenting and jumping around, I seemed to get the hang of Leonardo. Everyone plays just a little differently. They’re not just palate swaps of each other like the NES games. Some are faster than others, stronger, more maneuverable, longer range, handle crowds better, lunge farther, defensive, etc. For every tactical situation, there is a turtle which excels at it.

Something I haven’t seen too much of in brawlers is the AI of allied characters. Besides each turtle being able to fight alone, you become a real powerhouse when you work together as one. Consider your four turtles as a unit, using team attacks via “call button” is a secret to success. It’s kind of like a finishing move or block breaker. The turtle drops what they’re doing and surprises your target, landing a critical blow.

There’s so many animations detailing each turtle’s interaction with another, it feels very dynamic. For example, the team up between Raph and Don is different, showing off their character, compared to the team up with Mike and Raph. There’s some overlap, like the “California Roll” and the “Shell Shock” which might randomly proc. The animations are also dependent on the angle the assisting turtle approaches from, like one turtle rolling over another’s shell to deliver a punishing hammer kick. That really helps the game feel fresh, since when you call for help, you don’t always know who is coming to help, from what angle, and what they’ll do.

Multiplayer

What would it be without it? Of course there’s multiplayer! On local consoles, there is a split screen function that only splits when one player wanders off. It merges when they close the distance with each other. Most of the gameplay requires cooperation, so it’s beneficial to stay close as often as possible. Online, friends can join in missions where there is more than one turtle, or join in special challenges.

There’s also a versus mode that’s a bit hectic. It reminds me a bit of the first Double Dragon. There is a real neat feature that let’s you play as some of the bosses just for fun. You can mix and match characters and environments, not just recreating the level in which you fought the boss. Or have bosses fight each other like a 4 player battle royale between Tokka, Rhazar, Rocksteady & Bebop.

Depth/Replayability

Even when I memorize it, I’ll never get tired of it. I could play level 1 a hundred times(I think I have). It’s just so enjoyable! You can replay different sections with different turtles if you want to try something new. I went through the game 4 times just so I could explore each Turtle’s storyline as much as possible.

Personal

I can’t get enough of this game!

Rocksteady never scared the crap out of me like he did in this! He was always portrayed as a buffoon. In this he’s actually terrifying and given some character depth. I’m so glad that the boss battles aren’t as predictable as traditional “action” games. Rocksteady wasn’t just a “charging” boss you had to dodge in the last second and then hit from behind.

Rat King, Leatherhead, Baxter(in several forms), Tokka & Rhazar, Rocksteady & Bebop, Slash, Krang, and lots of others all appear in the story, not just as cameos, guest stars, or 1 boss fight appearances. It really brings the universe together and makes it alive!

I love the fighting. It just seemed to flow for me, especially with Mikey. I love how everyone’s personality is more developed than before. Raph is more than just the angry tough one, Mikey’s more than just the pizza crazed, pop culture fan, Don’s more than just “smart.” Even Leo has a personality.

Sewer surfing is fun!

Boiling it Down

Cowabunga! Best Turtles game ever. Best brawler ever since TMNT IV.