Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled
Genre: Beat-em-up
Developer: Ubisoft Singapore
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: 08/05/09


So the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, as it relates to video games, could best be represented as a line graph that fluctuates in the beginning shortly before taking a gigantic nosedive, until recently. Back in the eighties and nineties, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise consisted mostly of beat-em-ups in the arcades and on the home consoles, which nostalgia tells us were lots of fun even though they were designed to completely frustrate us and eat our quarters. The games had lots of personality and were plenty of fun despite their quarter-munching nature, and they’re pretty much regarded as the gaming high point for the franchise, as from Tournament Fighters onward things started to go downhill. Ubisoft’s recent attempts at bringing the franchise back into the public eye have been spotty; while the recent TMNT game was generally mediocre, the XBLA release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game was well received and the upcoming release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up for PS2 and Wii is looking to be interesting, if nothing else. Not content to simply release old Konami games to generate a response, however, Ubisoft commissioned their Singapore branch to remake Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time as a 3D side scrolling beat-em-up. Dubbed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled, the remake is just as much of a blast as its older counterpart with some interesting changes and a solid visual overhaul, and while it might not be a winner for someone without the nostalgia of playing the original when they were ten years old, it’s still worth the eight hundred points it costs regardless.

The concept behind TMNT Re-Shelled is pretty simple, as you’d expect: Krang shows up in the middle of a press event at the Statue of Liberty, grabs it, and flies off, the turtles go after him and the Shredder, and in the process they get sent back in time. The concept is hardly ingenious or anything, but as a means to get the game going it works well enough. TMNT Re-Shelled offers up local and online play through “Story Mode”, AKA the normal game, along with multiple difficulties, meaning you can play alone or with friends on whatever difficulty you deem appropriate with whichever Turtle you want. The game also offers a Quick Play option that allows you to jump into whatever stages you’ve already completed, as well as a Survival mode that gives you one life to survive through waves of foes. There’s a good bit more to do in TMNT Re-Shelled than there was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, both online and off, which more than makes up for the cheesy and basic story, which was really cool when I was a kid, I swear guys.

Visually, TMNT Re-Shelled has been given the full 3D treatment, and while you won’t confuse it for Gears of War 2, it’s slick looking and nicely rendered. The Turtles, their foes and the environments are all faithfully translated from their original sprites into 3D, the animations are solid, and the game runs smoothly with no slowdown or glitching. The 3D, again, isn’t really hi-res, but it looks great both static and in motion, and it mimics the style of the original game nicely. TMNT Re-Shelled has also seen an audio update, as the music, effects and voice samples have all been given an overhaul, which also works out as an improvement. The music is as fun to listen to as ever, and is a solid upbeat electronic remix of the original tunes that sounds good while you’re kicking the Foot’s heads in. The voice samples are completely re-recorded by the voice actors from the current TMNT cartoon, and as such they sound pretty fantastic. The voice samples are varied enough as to not get repetitive, and they’re clean and sound appropriate. The sound effects are also generally nice, as punches and kicks sound as they should, and the com at sounds are generally satisfying and powerful.

As TMNT Re-Shelled is a side-scrolling beat-em-up, even one with 3D visuals, the mechanics are fairly simple to understand: you scroll along through the various in-game stages, enemies spawn, you beat the crap out of them, and then you repeat the process until you meet and beat the boss, which sends you to the next stage to do it all again in a different place. You use the left stick or pad to move around, the A button to jump, the X button to attack, and the Y button to perform Special Attacks, which in this game amount to knockdown attacks to give you breathing room. You can jump-kick enemies, chain hits, and grab and toss enemies depending on your direction presses and proximity to your victims, which allows for a decent amount of depth from your three little buttons. Aside from your abilities, you’ll also find various breakable items in the environment, many of which can be knocked into enemies or activated to blow up nearby enemies as they pass to help you thin out the ranks a bit. You’ll need the help, as there will usually be multiple Foot Clan ninjas and rock soldiers coming after you at any time, as well as various traps to avoid in the stages, including broken floorboards, freeze rays, electric beams and more, just to make your mission more of a challenge.

Now, TMNT Re-Shelled is essentially a remake of the arcade game, and as such it follows the same stage progression and format, but there are a lot of changes and additions that make the game an experience all its own, outside of the presentation. For one, characters can now attack in all directions, not just left and right, meaning you can attack enemies above and below you, which adds an extra dimension to the combat beyond the game’s simple beat-em-up roots. Characters are now also rated by individual statistics, which do make some noticeable, if not amazing, changes to the game. You’ll notice as you play that Raphael moves faster than everyone else, or that Donatello can hit enemies from further away, for example, which makes the Turtles more than simple carbon copies of one another with different animations. The game itself is still only about two hours long, but TMNT Re-Shelled offers up local and online multiplayer options to allow you to jump into the game with up to three friends at whatever difficulty you wish, which allows you to make the game as easy or hard as you want. There’s also the option to Quick Play any stages you’ve already cleared, in case you just want to beat up Krang or speed-run through Alleycat Blues or whatever, and a Survival mode that allows you to blow through as many foes as you can on one life across the different stages of the game, if you want to test your ninja skills.

Now, obviously, TMNT Re-Shelled is by no means a perfect game, but the internet has kind of exploded in divisive defense/rage about the game, so before we address the more universal issues, let’s take on the five big “This game sucks!” personal opinion issues that have been cropping up surrounding the game and address those, okay? They are, in no particular order:

1.) The visuals aren’t as good! – This is going to depend on your opinion of the original 2D visuals versus the updated 3D visuals. The 2D visuals are generally pretty outdated by this point, as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game has shown, but they aren’t bad, and while the 3D visuals look good, whether or not you like them as much or more will depend on your fondness for the old game.

2.) The music isn’t as good! – The music tracks in TMNT Re-Shelled are straight remixes of the original arcade tunes, and as such sound mostly identical, just updated. Again, personal preference will dictate how you feel about that, but the only SIGNIFICANT change between the games is the omission of the intro track “Pizza Power” from TMNT Re-Shelled, and while the whole “Coming Out of Their Shells” thing was cool when I was ten, at this point it’s kind of embarrassing and can really stay in the past, thanks.

3.) The gameplay isn’t as good! – It’s a beat-em-up where you spam a button for about two hours. That hasn’t exactly changed from one game to the next.

4.) It’s boring! – It’s a beat-em-up where you spam a button for about two hours. You either like that or you don’t. If you like those kinds of games, this is for you, but if you don’t, it isn’t.

5.) It’s missing stuff! – TMNT Re-Shelled is an exact remake of the ARCADE game. The SNES game had some additional stages and bosses to fight, and while yes, remaking the SNES game might have been the better choice, that’s not what happened here, so there’s no sense complaining about it.

Got all that? Good. Now let’s talk about the other complaints.

The game can become very confusing when four people are playing, as the game opts to populate the stages with more enemies if more players are in the game, meaning that you will find it easy to lose track of what you’re doing. It’s nice that they have a “where am I” button, but that’s a band-aid, not a fix. There’s also the fact that bosses are still as much of an annoying pain in the, ahem, “shell” as ever, with cheap attacks and the ability to ignore your attacks as the mood strikes them, which can become annoying in a hurry.You’ll be given infinite continues in single player mode, allowing you to keep going from where you left off without a problem, but multiplayer mode does things differently for some bizarre reason. Instead of simply letting you continue when you run out of lives, you have to wait to the end of the stage and see if your friends can make it through. If they can, great, you start the next stage with full lives, ready to go. If not, however, you all die and have to start THE WHOLE GAME OVER. No changing turtles, no continues, none of that. This is bizarre in all possible respects. Why would you make a game that’s a blast with friends force the player to start over when playing with friends, but allow continues when playing alone? Why would you force the player to use the same character through the whole game? Why would you force the player who died to sit out the whole remainder of the level, waiting for everyone else to finish? It’s also unfortunate and baffling that the original game wasn’t included in this release somewhere, just as a value-added pack-in. It didn’t even need to offer online play or anything (though that would have been nice), but simply HAVING it would have been pretty sweet, and it’s a shame it wasn’t included in the package somewhere.

TMNT Re-Shelled is essentially a solid, entertaining remake of an arcade classic, and while it’s ultimately going to be divisive to fans of the prior game, and it’s ultimately a straight-up, no frills beat-em-up with a few odd changes made during the conversion, it’s still a good effort that’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of the characters or the genre. The remake offers a decent amount of different modes to play around with, the presentation is both visually and aurally appealing, the gameplay mechanics are still pretty enjoyable if you’re okay with pressing a button or two for two hours straight while mauling robot ninjas, and the changes made to the game are mostly for the better and add some depth to the experience. On the other hand, purists may find that the game can’t possibly live up to their expectations no matter what they may be, the multiplayer mode features some weird changes that don’t make sense and are antithetical to the spirit of the original game, and the nostalgia may not be able to sell the experience to someone who has none, since it’s just a beat-em-up. Further, the game still retains the belligerent nature of the arcade game and will still try to eat your non-existent quarters in annoying ways, and it would have been ideal if the game had included the original arcade game or the SNES version as an unlockable of some sort, just as added content to make the game more appealing a purchase. As it is, TMNT Re-Shelled is worth your ten dollars if you like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or beat-em-ups in general, and it’s a solid and enjoyable remake, but it’s apparent that some simple design changes and the inclusion of the original game would have made a good game great, while as it is now, it makes a hyped game a little disappointing.

The Scores:
Story/Game Modes: ABOVE AVERAGE
Graphics: GOOD
Sound: GREAT
Control/Gameplay: GOOD
Replayability: GOOD
Balance: GOOD
Originality: ABOVE AVERAGE
Addictiveness: GOOD
Appeal: ABOVE AVERAGE
Miscellaneous: GOOD

FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary:
TMNT Re-Shelled is a good piece of updated nostalgia that mostly captures the essence of the original game well while making some solid and worthwhile changes, though it may not appease hardcore fans of the original or the SNES game, and some odd design choices and omissions keep it from being as awesome as it should be. There are a decent amount of modes in the game to keep you occupied, the visual and aural presentation are updated well and compliment the original game nicely, the gameplay is as fun, if simplistic, as ever, and what modifications have been made to the mechanics are mostly for the better. On the other hand, fans of the original game may find themselves divided on whether the changes are for the better or not while newcomers may find mashing a button for two hours to be boring after a while, and the multiplayer modes feature some odd and not wholly agreeable changes that make playing with friends less fun than they should be. The game also occasionally betrays its arcade roots with belligerent bosses and stage traps designed to steal quarters you aren’t putting in, and the original arcade game is not included with this release, which is disappointing and would have added value to the product. TMNT Re-Shelled is still worth picking up if you’re a fan of the TMNT or beat-em-ups, as the overall product is mostly good, but with some tweaks and additions it could easily have been great instead of just good.

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