“I am not teaching you how to fight. I am teaching you how to control evil.”
-Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi
Yesterday I watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. But I don’t want to talk about that. I wanna talk about Turtles in Time! This is a classic arcade side-scrolling beat ’em up that was later ported to the Super Nintendo. The SNES version adds IV to the title to sync it up with the three Turtles games that had already appeared on the NES.
I’ve played both versions of Turtles in Time and they both have their perks. The arcade of course features 4-player simultaneous, which is the pinnacle of awesome, but the SNES version adds bosses, stages, and Mode 7 graphics that aren’t in the original game. I’m most familiar with the SNES port so that’s the angle of this review, though you’ll be able to tell which version the following screenshots are from based on whether they’re 4-player or 2-player.
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Does that say Konami? Yes, indeedily-doo it does. Back in my day, Konami made some of the best arcade games you could find. For many Turtles in Time represents the best that the classic beat ’em up genre has to offer.
The game begins when Krang steals the Statue of Liberty right in front of a pre-Megan Fox, yellow jumpsuited April O’Neil. What was Krang’s master plan? What was he going to pawn the statue off for some change? Sell it back to France? The scene then cuts to the sewers where the four turtles and Master Splinter are watching the tele. The ugly mug of the Shredder pops up and the villain taunts them. And with that, it’s off to kick some shell.
Turtles in Time allows you to select from all four of the turtles: the Donatello the creative genius, Michaelangelo the wild and crazy one, Raphael the witty voice, and Leonardo the battle commander. Pursuing Shredder to the Technodrome, the turtles are flung into a timewarp and end up in prehistory. The warp carries them through swashbuckling the wild west and on into the distant future. They’re forced to battle the Shredder’s forces in multiple eras until they can find a way back to the present for the final face-off with their arch-nemesis.
If you’re an 80’s kid, prepare for a timewarp of nostalgia. The animation and sprites of the game are pulled straight from the cartoons and there are even some characters from the live action movies of the era as well. Super Shredder! 80’s lame! But you know you love it. Personally, Krang was always one of my favorite characters from the cartoon and to see him again here in all of his bubblegum-ey glory was delightful. There’s also Splinter, Bebop and Rocksteady, Baxter, Mousers, and Tokka and Rahzar. Even those cheese-pizza aliens make an appearance.
You’ll inevitably remember all the action figures you sadly sold at garage sales that are now worth some real money.
The 8-bit Review
The best looking Turtles game of its time (heh), if not a tad lackluster here and there. They’re not terrible or anything. The SNES version did use its Mode 7 to create some really cool effects when traveling between time eras and skating on hover boards in the future. The sprites are also well animated and adapted quite well from the cartoon.
Super dated keytar rock fits neatly with the cartoon imagery of the late 80’s and early 90’s. It’s the typical SNES soundtrack. Unfortunately, almost all the songs sound the same, which doesn’t go a long way in alleviating the deadening uniformity that is this game’s singular and unfortunate plague (it recalls Super Earth Defense Force‘s soundtrack to mind out of all the games we’ve reviewed here, which may not actually be a good thing). Button mashing is fun for only a bit and this OST reminds you why. There might be a few stand out tracks but you probably won’t notice them much. At least the voice clips are swell!
Turtles in Time adds the ability to toss enemies toward the screen. It’s an iconic effect and makes for a unique boss battle against Shredder. Beyond that the game isn’t revolutionary in the beat ’em up genre. In fact, if the game could be criticized it would be for general blandness. The gameplay eventually boils down to repetitive button mashing, and that gets old after only a few levels. Even then, the game is extremely short. Maybe they could’ve thrown in a few more embellishments to spice up the gameplay, like a few slices of pepperoni on a hot, greasy pizza. I mean it’s a fun game and all but best in small doses.
Why such a high score for narrative? It’s a simple story to be sure but the real gem is seeing all of these characters again, trying to remember their names, recalling the golden days of Saturday morning cartoons. Just throwing these characters together again in a single game, which may be the penultimate love letter to the series, is beautiful… so far as anthropomorphic turtles go.
This is the best part of any beat ’em up. Nothing triumphs o’er four players in the arcade, though the 2-player couch co-op of the SNES is nothing to sniff at.
Good in small doses but small doses is what you’ve got. Turtles in Time is short enough for a fun afternoon. There’s no great reason to return to the game other than to just blow off some steam for a bit of quick entertainment or a trip down memory lane.
Well there were several more of these before this one, the fourth in the series so far as Nintendo was concerned…
My Personal Grade: 8/10
Turtles in Time is widely considered to be the holy grail of beat ’em ups. Its SNES cartridge is an semi-rare treasure skulking about Ebay and Amazon. Personally, I don’t think of it as the best or brightest beat ’em up. I’ve enjoyed others more frequently than this one (Sunset Riders and The Simpsons for example). But it is accessible fun. And c’mon. It’s Teenage Mutant freakin’ Ninja Turtles. This is the 80s’ and 90’s. It’s everything you remember it to be and an homage to the original source material.
I wish I’d had a chance to played the Re-Shelled remake before Konami went rogue and took it off of the PlayStation Network, “presumably” because of licensing issues. Villains.
Aggregated Score: 7.3