Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Melee (GC, XB)

Genre: Fighting
Platform: Nintendo Gamecube (Also On: XB)
Rating: T (Teen)
Publisher: Ubi-Soft
Release Date: 03/22/2005

Some people might shy away from reviewing a game like TMNT: Mutant Melee if they were in my position. I have certain loyalties to 4Kids but on this occasion, I was NOT afforded a free copy of this game, I instead decided to pick it up at the store. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the $20 bargain games and I’m always looking for a reason to pad my Gamecube collection.

Anyway, TMNT Mutant Melee takes the current TMNT graphics engine used in the first two and squeezes it into an arena fighting game, loosely reminiscent of Power Stone. However, as Power Stone and its sequel featured deeper gameplay, super interactive locations and superior graphics, Mutant Melee keeps it super simple, with button mash gameplay and limited environments. Although it offers little in the way of new gameplay innovation, and the gameplay does get repetitive quickly, there is still something to be said for taking control of the Ninja Turtles and kicking some ninja ass.


STORY

There isn’t much of a story to speak of in Mutant Melee, but the premise is pretty cool on paper. It’s a mix of the Ninja Turtles themselves, Master Splinter, Arch Nemesis Shredder and a few other TMNT supporting characters. Although it seems like there are a huge amount of unlockable characters, they are primarily reskins, like bikini April O’Neil or Bad Ass Casey Jones. It would have been nice to see some new or fringe turtles characters like Usagi.

There are two primary modes to Mutant Melee. One is a single player Adventure mode, where you take control of one of the four turtles (with many other character Adventures unlockable) and proceed through a multitude of single player challenges, like 3 on 1 turtles or an onslaught of Foot Ninjas. Along the way additional characters, Adventure modes, stages and more are unlocked, meaning that the single player modes must be completed to unlock everything in the game. Some Adventure mode levels are quite fun and challenging, but others feel more like tedious marathons, defeating hoardes of low powered enemies for the sake of doing it.

The Melee mode is a multiplayer free for all, resembling a fighting game. There are always four characters as part of the Melee, so even if there are only two players playing, there will be two computer controlled opponents as well. Depending on the rules of the Melee, these could go very long, because a high number of KOs could take a long time with many human players all playing.

Story Rating: 4/10


GRAPHICS

Cell shaded graphics were all the rage a few years ago, but times have changed and what was once cutting edge now seems passÃÆ’Æ‘ÃÆ'”šÃ‚©. In this case, the cell shaded look isn’t even that well executed, with a largely blocky appearance for the characters and fairly stiff animation. It seems as if the graphic quality of each TMNT game has gone done, as the first console TMNT game was promising, but it took a large step backwards with 2004’s Battle Nexus. Now in Mutant Melee, the models are even blockier and the animation seems stiffer.


The environments are also limited to mainly small rooms, with the bottom wall invisible. Scattered around are various uninteresting items like crates or oil drums, along with some weapons. Sometimes in a fast paced matchup with all four players moving around and some items are flying, there is slowdown and other graphical glitches to mar the action.

The camera is fixed on the bottom of the screen and points upward in a unique perspective on the field. Sometimes the players get caught behind an obstacle or item and become invisible to the camera, which is not so moveable.

Graphics Rating: 2/10


SOUND

TMNT Mutant Melee features voice soundbites of all character recorded by the same voice actors who do the new cartoon on 4Kids TV. However, they are somewhat limited and become incredibly repetitive after time, especially on long Adventure mode tasks. There are also the requisite box smashes, and kick and punch sounds, and they do a fine job of conveying the message.

The music in the game is very weak, consisting of low volume instrumental tunes that don’t add much to the gameplay experience.

Sound Rating: 4/10


CONTROL

Controlling characters in TMNT: Mutant Melee is a straight forward affair. The main attack is done by pressing the A button, and the B button is used to block. A and B can be used in various combinations to execute combos, but it’s usually a matter of just pressing both A and B repeatedly and seeing random combos executed and working.


The Y button is used to pick up various items laying around the environments, which includes throwable objects that can be hurled at opponents, and powerful weapons. The weapons are similar to those in Power Stone or Smash Brothers, such as giant swords or rocket launchers.

Unfortunately there is not much depth to the gameplay outside of the button mash combos and random item generators.

Control Rating: 4/10


REPLAYABILITY

There are about a dozen single player Adventures that can be played, starting with the four turtles and moving into other characters such as Casey Jones as they are unlocked. Each adventure has about 15 levels of increasing difficulty, with rewards along the way. It actually will take a bit of time to complete all of the single player Adventures, if the game itself is appealing enough to go through them all.

Replay Rating: 8/10


BALANCE

The difference between the various characters in TMNT: Mutant Melee is negligible at best. The four turtles each have different weapons, but that amounts to a slight difference in range. All of the characters control about the same as well, with jump, 2 attacks and the ability to pick up and toss weapons. The single player mode does have a moderate challenge, because the quantity and cheapness of the AI opponents does get harder as the game progresses.

Balance Rating: 5/10


ORIGINALITY

Four player arena fighting has been done many times before, and most of the time better. There are even a bunch of them for Xbox (Kung Fu Chaos, Loons: Fight for Fame), and there is nothing new to be seen here.


Even the inclusion of the TMNT universe on top of a fighting game isn’t original, as it was first done as a 2D fighting game during the 16-bit era, with TMNT: Tournament Fighers appearing on both Genesis and Super Nintendo.

Originality Rating: 1/10


ADDICTIVENESS

For fans of TMNT, there is some enjoyment to be had with Mutant Melee. It’s not the disaster that Battle Nexus was because it keeps the gameplay simple and doesn’t promise too much. By coming out at the $19.99 value price, it lowers expectations, so the somewhat shallow gameplay is excused. There are enough unloackables to make the single player adventures worthwhile, although the gameplay can get repetitive at times.

Addictiveness Rating: 6/10


APPEAL

The Ninja Turtles have appeal, especially to fans of the old or new cartoon series. It’s unlikely that anyone besides Ninja Turltes fans would even buy this game or know about it, because it’s being released with zero fanfare and a budget price.

Appeal Rating: 7/10


MISCELLANEOUS

Ever since Power Stone first appeared on Dreamcast I’ve been waiting for the ultimate followup. I was disappointed in Power Stone 2 and despite the fact that Capcom announced that Power Stone was a trilogy, a third game has never seen the light of day.

TMNT: Mutant Melee is does a decent job of creating a manic four player fighting game, but the small environments and unimpressive graphics don’t do much to differentiate it from the pack. While it seems like there is a lot to unlock, most of the secret characters are reskins and most of the Adventure modes get tiresome.

Misc Rating: 4/10


Final Scores:

Story: 4/10
Graphics: 2/10
Sound: 4/10
Control: 4/10
Replayability: 8/10
Balance: 5/10
Originality: 1/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Appeal: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 4/10

Overall Score: 45/100
FINAL SCORE: 4.5 (POOR)