Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Arcade Game Xbox Live Arcade Review
In 2007 Ubisoft in conjunction with Konami released a port of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game to Xbox Live Arcade in order to promote the then recently released fourth, now animated film in movie franchise. It is a faithful conversion of the original arcade brawler, or beat um up if you will, that was originally released in 1989 but now with the added convenience of online play.
The story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game is almost nonexistent, it really has to be inferred from the levels themselves. Basically to over summarize it without giving too much away the game starts out with a fire in April's apartment building, presumably started by the Foot Clan. This is a little unusual because usually the fire is depicted as taking place in April's antique shop. As usual, capture bait April is once again held hostage by Shredder, and then for some reason later on Splinter is kidnapped as well. Anyway as the old saying goes kidnap my friends once shame on you, kidnap my friends twice, shame on me. So at this point the turtles decide to get more proactive and take the fight to Shredder at the Technodrome. The story is simple but it serves it's purpose in giving the game's levels a variety of backdrops, including the aforementioned burning building, the streets of New York, sewers, freeway, and several parking lots.
Even though like a typical brawler what you're essentially doing is moving from the left side of the screen to the right side, beating up everything in your path while avoiding the occasional obstacle, like a open manhole or a spiked wall, the game still manages to feel fresh and never really gets boring even on repeated play throughs. I think this has to do with the game short stages that are never too long and they certainly never overstay there welcome, which leaves you wanting more. Also minor gimmicks in enemy packs really spice things up. Boss fights too are a treat as well. The villains you fight are a interesting menagerie of foes, each with their own unique attacking style, and tricks for beating them without getting hit, or at least hit very little. Even if you don't like the Ninja Turtles, it's easy to recognize why this game is considered a classic since it is so wonderfully designed.
Even the simple task of selecting a character is layered in deep nuance. At first you would think one turtle is as good as any, and that you should just pick your favorite. However each turtle actually has a different run and attack speed, as well as differing lengths in weapon reach. The order being, from fastest attacks speed and shortest reach to slowest attacks speed and longest reach is; Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello. This actually makes playing the game with a different turtle almost feel like an entirely different experience. It completely makes you rethink how you play the game just by changing your character.
The controls are simple and responsive. The digital pad or the analog stick moves your turtle. The X button is attack, and the A button is jump. you can also jump and attack, and pressing both buttons at the same time performs a special attack.
The music as well is also simple, usually a loop of a instrumental version of the Ninja Turtles theme. Occasionally Shredder, a boss, or the Turtles will say something. Since the game was made originally in 1989 the sound quality is a little distorted, but most of the time understandable.
The main feature and selling point of the Xbox Live Arcade version is the added benefit of online play with up to four players. The online mode works out pretty well for the most part. There is a controversial decision to limit the number of continues when playing online to twenty for each individual player. This forces you to become better at the game in order to beat it, but it can be pretty brutal to new players. It would've been nice to at least have the option to play online with infinite continues. Annoyingly when playing online the games ending is also removed, which makes overcoming the twenty continue challenge anti-climactic. Online play is also plagued by frequent lag, sometimes slowing the game's frame rate down to as little as five or 10 frames per second, this is especially prevalent in the freeway skateboard stage. At the time of the game's release drop in and dropout online co-op in a brawler was really unheard of but nowadays that's more prevalent and it's absence here is more noticeable. Also currently it can be quite difficult to find someone to play the game online with when not on a weekend given the game's age from release. In contrast local off-line co-op with up to four players plays great with no continue limit and has the game's ending.
Since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game has been released many times on different platforms I decide to take a look at what versions are the best.
As with most arcade games the original arcade version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game is of course the best version of the game, due to having no missing content and great graphics. The only downside would be having a arcade machine in your house, and the lack of online play.
Next would be the Xbox Live Arcade version which this review is about. The plus side being very little cut content and online play. The downside being the lack of a full screen intro, and frequent lag during online play.
Then in Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Battle Nexus, available for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 Game Cube and the PC, you can unlock the original arcade game, and it even has four player co-op locally, although I'm not sure about the PC version. The failing however is that all the original music was cut from the game, which really hurts the nostalgia factor, as well as the fun of the game.
Next I would say are the IBM DOS and Atari ST version of the game, given that their graphics are at least on par with the arcade version but I must point out that I haven't played either version despite even owning one of them.
Next I'd have to go with the original Nintendo version, titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game. Although this version of the game is a admirable port given the hardware limitations the graphics just take too much of a hit, as well as the music, to make it truly feel like the arcade version in your home. Interestingly the NES version added two levels to the game, one in a snowy Central Park, and the other in a samurai dojo.
At the bottom of the barrel one of the worst conversions I've played of an arcade game, would have to be the Commodore 64 version, which I had the misfortune of playing when it was first released. Technically the Commodore 64 hardware is superior to the NES, but the Commodore version of the game is much worse. Turtles are now green blobs, with white weapons, no more than two enemies appear on screen at once, and the five minute load times between stages certainly doesn't improve the experience.
There are supposedly other obscure computer versions of the arcade game based on the Commodore 64 version, like on the Sinclair Spectrum, but I can't imagine that they'd be any good, given that pedigree.