In New York City an organization called the Foot, lead by a ninja named The Shredder are planning something big. His lead scientist Baxter Stockman has dispatched some metallic creatures called the Mousers that have gotten the attention of the Ninja Turtles. The four brothers spring into action to put a stop to whatever it is they're planning. -summary
I have to come out the gate and say that my past with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise in regards to gaming is rather checkered, mixed at the very best. I'm completely under the belief that these games are meant for the die-hard fanbase of the animated series, who goes ga-ga over everything under the TMNT umbrella. Which brings me to the Game Boy Advance version released in 2003, based off the 2003 animated series. This game was clearly meant for the fans, as I can't imagine any non fan coming away from this game the least bit impressed. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles attempts to mesh side scrolling brawling, shooter, and platforming to provide that Ninja Turtles action-filled experience. Despite a good moment here and there, the game pretty much fails at everything it seeks to deliver on. Quite frankly, I think Konami only attempted to cash in on the name, because this game feels terribly uninspired.
TMNT is a single player platformer brawler, that follows the four Turtles as they battle through a gauntlet of Shredder's forces on their way to the main battle with Shredder himself. The game has traces of potential. Each of the Turtles: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo, have their own solo missions broken down into four acts. They engage in melee battle for the most part, with one vehicle stage for each of them, and the final act ending with a boss battle. The game follows I believe the first five episodes of the animated series, and here you will encounter their first meeting with April O' Neil, the attack of the Mouser robots, and even Raphael's encounter with the masked vigilante Casey Jones. The game delivers quite well with the fan service, which is something the franchise has always done pretty well with.
The Turtles have a set of moves; a combo string, rush attack, a charge-down and release attack, a special attack, and one even has a different method for jumping. This is the case with Donatello, as he uses his weapon the bo, to propel himself to higher ground. The Turtles have a different combo attack in line with their prefered weapon, and this is one of the better areas of the game which really isn't saying much at all. The attack system is ok at best being able to link together the special attack in the middle or end of a combo string. Some Turtles are better than others here; for example, Raphael lacks in the reach department as usual, but he has a low attack sweep move, that flows directly into a rushing slide which can add some length to the combo string. This is pretty good for obliterating health bars rather quickly. However, against stronger bosses like Hun and Shredder, this is not an option as they can power through this with single blows. Donatello excels with reach as always, and he can also link together an additional attack to his regular string dealing out damage.
The Turtles have their own missions to complete in their acts, which attempts to lend the game some variety. There are a couple of interesting moments here, like the more tech-savy of the bunch Donatello working towards his strength; which is gadgets and computers. His boss battle is the most interesting; he must battle against two members of the Foot using a camouflage technology against him, by activating three computers that makes them visible, and this is the only time they can be hit. While Raphael works more towards his strength which is mindless brawling, as he teams up with an AI controlled Casey Jones, and the two battle against the Purple Dragons gang in an all out brawl. Although these type of segments prove to be fun because they add another dimension to the game play, they are too limited, and as a result the game just isn't much to go crazy about.
For the most part, the game feels like an uninspired action game that suffers from redundancy quickly. You basically just scroll from screen to screen dispatching goons through unchallenging and below average plat-forming. The only time the game presents any type of challenge is during Mikey's stage, as you have to leap from one platform to another avoiding fireballs and falling into the lava; but it's the floaty jump with the character, if anything, that makes this part seem more difficult than what it really is.
The vehicle stages are definitely a blow against the gameplay. One stage follows Leo through a behind the character view, as he pilots the Sewer Slider through tank like combat dispatching Mouser robots. Mikey takes the same view and dodges obstacles with a rocket-powered skateboard, and through 2D action, Don blasts his way to the boss battle in shooter style combat. These stages are just too long and completely unimaginative. I remember feeling my attention and interest level just hitting rock bottom, and I couldn't wait for these stages to end. Raphael's stage is the only one I found somewhat ok, as he races Casey Jones via motorcycle to Central Park.
The regular stages continue to be pretty bland, and this even goes for the final stage. The stage hazards are beyond lame, and the only thing appealing here is the battle with Shredder; he's very tough but this battle doesn't make up for the gameplay's overwhelming weaknesses. In addition, to unlock some things in the game, the Turtles have to find some crystals located throughout the stages. I wouldn't have a problem with this if the stages were actually fun to go through the first time around.
The game play is indeed weak, and it may take a little more than an hour to finish it completely. As for the difficulty, some people claim it to be very hard, but it gave me little trouble on the normal difficulty. The Hard setting ups the ante a bit, still, it isn't that much difficult. I highly recommend not even bothering with the Easy setting at all. The game is incredibly weak on it, plus you won't get an ending anyway. The game begins you with only one life, and once you die, you have to do that particular segment over. This is sometimes a bad thing though, because if you began a segment with very little health, then you won't get that health back with the continue. Therefore, it's best to begin the whole act again learning from whatever mistakes you made.
The game is pretty much pick up and play. You have an attack and jump button, pressing them both activates the health consuming special. The attack unleashes the combo string, and when using the attack in combination with the D-Pad, you can activate other moves; such as Raphael's two hit low kick by pressing down, or Leo's rising Katana-attack when pressing up. There's a second gauge in the bottom that levels up when holding the attack button. This performs a different attack that can be worked into strategies. The R-Button takes the place of the two button special, which makes it easier to use it as a combo-ender. For the most part the controls perform well.
For me, the animation during some of the movements stands out the best to me. There is some type of detail when the Turtles are unleashing their moves, and there is a good flow to their movements. The character designs follow the zany feel of the animated series well, and this is still the best I have ever seen Shredder. For a Game Boy Advance title, I was mildly impressed with the amount of detail in the backgrounds, as the building designs and lights were pretty nice. Unlike the previous entries to the series, there were always a handful of memorable songs. Sadly, the same can't be said for this, as the BGM is very bland for the most part. This also goes for the sound effects. There are small moments where it stands out, but I just couldn't' help notice the lifeless feel of the hit sounds when the weapons land. It seems as if Konami put no real effort into this area.
The only reason I replayed this game was for reviews sake. It wasn't at all because something here stood out to me. Konami effortlessly meshes overly repetitiveness with tedium. Taken by themselves they can be pretty bad, together, they're a very nasty combo.
As almost all of the games under the Ninja Turtles name, Konami managed to get away with the bare minimum. I have seen loads of rave reviews for this game, and I'm convinced that these people are praising the name and not the game. This game is just too bare bones for me to believe that a non fan of the franchise will come away feeling their time was well spent. It does a barely passable job with the brawling aspect. To include, it's beyond below average with its platforming, and the racing and shooting portions are atrocious. This game lacks creativity and imagination, and to my experience, it appears Ninja Turtles fans are satisfied with that. Other gamers more than likely won't be.
Pros: -Great for fans, great if you have nothing else to play
Cons: -Game play is all ate up, poor music and lackluster sound effects
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