Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nintendo Gamecube)

It’s interesting to see that the pop culture market peaked in the late 1980’s and by the mid to early 1990’s the quality of cartoons, and shows oriented towards kids took such a huge downward spiral that toy companies responded in the only way corporations know how when things get desperate.

Retro-stalgia.

First came Transformers. But then Transformers never really died. Especially in Japan. First came Beast Wars which was okay. Then Beast Machines, which was an affront to human decency. And now we’re back with 2nd and 3rd rate versions of cartoons and toys. But people bought them, even if the quality was so bad it filled bigbot.com and bwtf.com with massive amounts of profanity and angry threads. Companies realized that 80’s toys were not only bringing kids back to the TV and making their parents spend hard earned cash, but young adults were actively buying the toys and comics as well, in an attempt to regain their youth and escape into a innocent fantasy world instead of one filled with mortgages, bills, and getting rejected by woman after woman at a club.

And so came the deluge of my childhood being raped for a profit. Thundercats. GiJoe. He-Man. Robotech. And now, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Now I know Widro works for the Fox Box. And I know this cartoon is part of that line up. But I HATE the new TMNT cartoon. The voice acting is all wrong. I’m sorry, but Leonardo MUST have the same voice as Max Sterling! Don’t lie and say you couldn’t get him! He’s not Frank Welker. Cam Clarke is doing video game work for Neverwinter Nights. He was Liquid Snake and the Current Voice of He-man! Why the f*ck isn’t Cam Clarke Leonardo??? Same with Rob Paulsen! He is the voice of Raphael. The new guy sounds like a pervert from Queens. Raph is now a sadistic Wolverine wanna-be, not a quick witted sarcastic bastard. Where is Bebop and Rocksteady? Why does Shredder look like a Transformer instead of a Ninja? And why doesn’t he have the voice of Phillip Banks, Uncle of Will Smith in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air anymore??? And why didn’t they use the old song??? The new one sounds like a pile of dog crap. Turtles count it off? Holy crap, if you’re going to steal from a popular cartoon, steal what made it work!

Now, to defend the new cartoon, they’re cutting corners. They’re using a lot of people who have NEVER done voice work before. In fact, out of all the Turtles, only the new Raphael has any real voice acting experience. Cheaper to get unknowns who will work for a song then new people. Right? RIGHT? WRONG! You know who April O’Neil is played by? Veronica Taylor. Who is that you ask? ASH FUCKING KETCHUM! Hey! My Poke-obsessed ears pick up shit like that. Are you telling me, you’ll spring for a brand new and ultra expensive Ms. Taylor who voices the main character from the only cartoon from the mid 1990’s on to actually spawn a megafranchise to be the supporting chick, but not any of the original Turtles? Two words. Shit and Bull. And not in that order. Nope. The new TMNT cartoon reeks of completely pilfering my youth to make a quick buck and without even trying to reunite the originals. At least Beast Wars TRIED to get original TF actors.

For those of you that don’t know the new Cartoon, it’s basically a redux trying to take bits from the oriented at kids cartoon, but also the original dark and gritty comic by Eastman and Laird. The voice acting isn’t that great, because as I’ve said, only two of the cast really have experience. The animation is nowhere near the quality of the original, and the dialog is pretty forced. And before you say I’m holding the original up too high, I got to watch it on a decent basis while living over in the UK. Episodes are still fresh in my mind. The old turtles cartoon was fun and juvenile and had so great one-liners. The Fox Box version tries too hard. It’s too dark for young kids, and people our age just seem to get turned off by it. The new toys kick a lot of butt though. See, that’s Alex. Looking on the positive!

Let’s Review

1. Story

Right. The TMNT cartoon seems to follow the first season of the new cartoon. In fact every cut scene in the game appears to be taken from the cartoon. Pure animation baby! The game starts off with the Turtles training. Only to be attacked by the classic Mouser Robots of Baxter Stockman. No reason or understanding. They just are. The turtles fight through the subway to find Splinter. Only to fins a now BLACK Baxter Stockman trying to kill, his ASSISTANT April O’Neil? Weird. You fight a giant Devestator like Mouser and save April and Splinter. Hope you guys like giant Transformer rip off robots, because the first three stage bosses are all robots in someway!

Now the game doesn’t establish your connection with April. All of a sudden she’s in trouble and your turtles just HAPPEN to know who she is, even while in the beginning of the game, Splinter says the Turtles have yet to hang out with a surface-dweller. WTF?

Stage 2 is roughly the same. All of a sudden Casey Jones is there, and one of your best friends. He gets his butt kicked by a little innocent good natured robot, and the Turtles vow to destroy it. Really weird and dark chapter that is totally the opposite of the original TMNT cartoon. Even something that probably wouldn’t have flown in the original comic series.

Stage 3 is when you FINALLY see Shredder, but he’s not in armour. He’s just Oroko Saki. This chapter is all about Baxter building an evil turtle robot to make the TMNT come out of hiding.

The rest of the game on is just Turtles vs the foot clan. With the eventually beating down of Shredder.

Now on hand, I am very impressed they took the first full season of TMNT 2.0 and turned it into a video game. But I am disappointed that they just cut out big plot points. Why do the TMNT just happen to know April and Casey? What’s the story behind the foot clan in the new cartoon? Why don’t Splinter and Shred-head have a connection. These are all things that people who have never watched the cartoon need to know. And it’s missing.

Overall the Konami did a great job of turning the cartoon into a video game, and deserves to be commended for tailoring each level to an episode. But it’s just too bad the dialog and actual plots of each episode suck. Still, there’s more story in this action game than in most next-gen RPG’s, and that’s worthy of a good rating.

Story Rating: 7/10

2. Graphics.

Oh boy. Cell Shading. I have never really been impressed with cell shaded games. The only exceptions are Wind Waker and Jet Set Radio. And even then, the games didn’t NEED to be. TMNT is an exception. A cartoon game should look like a cartoon. And it does.

The problem is that the engine can’t handle the graphics or a lot of characters on the screen at once. This is the first next gen game I have ever seen pause while you’re PLAYING IT to load itself. And in two player mode, there is a good deal of slowdown. This is even more sad when you realize although the levels and background are highly detailed, everything else is not. The Purple Dragons, the Foot Soldiers, evil robots; none of them have much detail. They’re very blurry and rushed together. Even the bosses appear to have been painted by a middle school student. There is no depth to the character designs. This game could have easily been on the Dreamcast or Saturn or even the PS1 in terms of graphics. It’s nothing special.

What saves the game is the fact there is a large amount of cut scenes. All animated. But then one remembers these scenes are merely ripped from the cartoon and that the video game creators had nothing to do with them. And the animation isn’t the highest of qualities.

It’s sad to see all the effort going into the background and the things usually passed over by gamers instead of into the things actually moving around on the screen.

Graphics Rating: 6/10

3. Sound

The music isn’t bad. Aside from the opening theme song that is. That makes me cringe. The rest of the music is fast paced, a little on the techno/dance side and is great background to a game that is essentially a button masher.

The voice acting, although not the best, is an excellent touch. Every line of dialog is voice acted, and that’s a real treat, and helps to make you think you’re playing a cartoon, not a video game.

Sound effects are excellent as well. When a car explodes, you can tell it’s a car. When you smash a vase, there is a distinct cracking sound. Konami, as always, puts a great deal of effort into the sound aspect of their video games. It’s not soundtrack purchase worthy by any means, but it’s classic Konami music in action.

Sound Rating: 7/10

4. Control

Okay, this game plays a lot like an updated version of the original classic TMNT: The arcade game. You have two types of attacks, a strong but slow hit, and a fast combo-y hit. There’s also a jump ability that will combine with an attack button to form a jump attack, but not until after the first stage. You also have an uppercut, but I think I’ve used it twice in the entire time I’ve played the game. Finally, there is a shuriken ability by pressing Y, except the computer seems to aim for you, instead of letting you line up the target, which is a bummer.

There are a few problems with the control I should point out. The jump button doesn’t always work. You can press the jump. And nothing happens. Which sucks if you are surrounded by hired goons. The second problem is that the game really is button mashing. Even worse than Final Fight. If you his a thug first, 99 percent of the time, it’s going to die. However, you can’t block or dodge and so when an enemy hits you, you’re taking the damage. Worse is when you get surrounded. And the jump button decides to be unresponsive. Boo.

The worst is in multiplayer mode. Not only is the Multiplayer mode an afterthought with the second character being only an assist character,’ but the one special attack given to multiplayer mode, that of the old X-Men Fastball special actually screws up more than it helps. By hitting A and B at the same time, you can chuck your turtle at an opponent and do some heavy damage. However the controls aren’t that great and so if you hit A then B or B then A, there is a chance your turtle will freeze up prepping for the Fastball Special and won’t be able to get out of that hunched over hit me now’ position until an opponent does just that. Which as you can image, sucks big donkey balls.

As for each individual turtle, Then play distinctly and with their own move set. Donatello is by far the best turtle in terms of massive combo strings, being the strongest character and having a move that can hit everyone on the screen. Leo is the first guy I beat the game with, and his jump attack hits multiple opponents while being in the air and thus unable to be hit by the majority of opponents in the game. Not bad. Mike is supposed to be the quickest, but in fact Raph holds that distinction, as well as being the only turtle that can actually hit opponents while they are on the ground. Mike is the crappiest of all the characters and should be avoided at all costs.

Aside from those niggling problems, the new TMNT game is just another game in the long line of great beat em up arcade button mashers that Konami is known for making. In truth, this game should be known as TMNT The Arcade game part 4. As it might as well be.

Control Rating: 7/10

5. Replayability

Well, in order to unlock everything, you have to beat the game with all 4 turtles. And although you can save your progress with one turtle, it applies ONLY for that turtle. So yes, Konami has made it so you must beat the game 4 times to get every playable character like Casey Jones and Splinter, to get every character in VS. Mode, to unlock Challenge Mode, and also to get every piece of viewable artwork. As each section of the game is beatable in under 7 minutes, it might appear to go pretty fast, but this game is going to eat up a decent chunk of your spare time.

As well, there are many passwords you can get for the game, such as alternate outfits, and extra defense or strength added to your character. Or even unlimited Shurikens and extra recovery items all over the place.

Although the first time you play the game you may just dismiss it as game that will play the same no matter what, the truth of the matter is, you’ve got one long ride in store for you when you plop down your 39 dollars for this game.

Replayability: 8/10

6. Balance

Now here might be a bit of a problem. TMNT isn’t all that balanced. The game is too blasted easy on Single player. I died twice the first time I ran through with Leo. Only twice. For the whole game. The computer AI is laughable and the only time you’ll ever take damage is when 7 or so thugs surround you and start wildly whacking away. Even the bosses aren’t that hard. Turtlebot? Down in 1:28 second. That’s my record on that stage. And that’s on NORMAL. Easy is for 4 year olds. It’s that simple. Granted Difficult does take a good while to beat. But it’s not harder. They just give the bosses ten times as many hit points.

But then there is Challenge Mode and VS. Mode. Hint. Don’t play Vs mode against Evil Turtlebot. It cheats. A lot. It’s like the antithesis of the Turtlebot you fight in story mode. Fear it. Challenge mode isn’t that bad either. You just face character after character after character until you die. But then if you’ve beaten story mode, this isn’t much of a challenge either, except for the not getting health back. That adds a wee nip of challenge. But not much.

Trust me people, when one of the bonus stages is kill 30 Foot Ninjas without getting hit once.’ Well, that tells you how easy it is to kick some shell in this game. If you’re looking for a challenge, TMNT is not your game.

Balance rating: 4/10

7. Originality

It’s the fourth TMNT arcade Beat Em Up Button Masher from Konami people! Talk about milking a dead and decayed cow thanks to the power of voodoo!

However, with the addition of tons of unlockables, two hidden playable characters, Challenge Mode, and Vs Mode, well, I’ll overlook the fact Konami didn’t try something new with the Franchise. Besides, it’s a fun game. And going back to the roots of a genre is sometimes good for a revival. Hear that Konami. Two words for you: SIMON’S QUEST! Not the new f*cking 3D Castlevania on the PS2.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness

You KNOW a game has you buy the balls when you play it again and again instead of reviewing the Haunted Mansion which is slated to go up on 411mania before TMNT, but you just can’t put the controller down. Then you realize it’s 2am and you’ve wasted an entire day of doing anything but Turtle Power.

Multiplayer mode isn’t as much fun just because of some crappy camera angles, the weird Turtle throw glitch and losing one of your guys off screen, because it’s all about player 1. Boo.

Still, single player mode is my current heroin and the most I’ve gotten into a game in a very long time.

Addictiveness Rating: 9/10

9. Appeal Factor

Well, it appeals to people of all ages, mainly young kids and people trying to get over their quarter-life crisis. It’s also a great button mashing escape from reality and a LOT of fun. When I first picked up the game, I was pretty disappointed after my first trek through multiplayer mode, but the more I played it on my own, the more I realized what a great game this is. Sure, it’s easy. But so was the original classic Arcade game. And that was so much fun!

Sometimes in our quest for entertainment in these new fangled next gen console days, we forget how much fun the simple game like River Raid and Pac Man and even pong were and still are. And TMNT is a herald back to the classic days. I can safely recommend this to everyone, and here’s hoping it sells like hot cakes.

Appeal Factor: 8/10

10. Miscellaneous

Although the slowdown and control glitches can be a pain, all the extras from hidden characters and extra modes to secret power up passwords and make this game a joy to play. Sure the computer can be cheap sometimes (MYSTIC WIND NINJA: GO TO HADES!), but usually dumb as rocks, but it’s one of those games that defies logic with WHY it is so fun. It’s easy to learn, as you’ll have the controls down in less than 5 minutes. It’s just a game I’m glad to have on my Game Cube and that I’ll play for a long time, especially when stressed. It just cheers you up to kill that many Ninjas at once. But then, I am the sneakiest Ninja of them all…

Miscellaneous Rating: 8/10

Short Attention Span Summary
This game does retro-stalgia perfectly. It’s fun, and simple, and worth of your purchase. Are there flaws? Of course. It’s too easy most of the time and a button masher at the core, but if you’re a fan of the original Turtles Arcade game, Dungeons and Dragons, Golden Axe, or Final Fight, this is your game people! Go out rent it, fall in love with it, and buy buy buy!