Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Bit of Halfshell: Turtles In Time

TMNT: Turtles in Time (along with Chrono Trigger) holds the prestigious title of One Of My Favorite Games. Even now I can remember sitting in my grandmother's house, passing the crappy SNES control back and forth between my cousin and I, and sometimes to my onlooking uncle when there was a level we couldn't beat. Frequently, I'll have flashbacks to scenes from these games and almost forget where they come from—for example, for some inexplicable reason I always associated the band Butthole Surfers with the second level of the game where the dudes are surfing along in the sewers. Strange? Yes, I think so. While I am aware that the SNES version of this game was a port, it was the version that I played first, and will be the version that I focus on here. They are basically exactly the same (kind of), but if that's a problem for you because you are some kind of arcade elitist, you have been forewarned.

If you've never played it, I think that TMNT: Turtles in Time was formative for me because I was obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers as a child. Growing up in a home with my uncle and cousin definitely made me preferential to the more "boyish" types of television shows. Either way, the game starts with the Turtles watching April O'Neil present a news story in front of the Statue of Liberty. You see Krang fly in with this weird single-stream jetpack thing and kind of bear hug the Statue and fly off with it, only to have the whole television channel hijacked by Shredder. This really set the tone for me. Krang is a jerk and Shredder is an even bigger jerk, especially because they are messing up April, my now-not-so-secret-idol's reporting! It then jumps pretty quickly into the game proper without much explanation.

The levels are all broken up into a few stages and allow the user to play either single player or co-op as their favorite turtle chum. Mine was Raphael. The first level finds us fighting against Foot in some kind of excavated/still-being-built New York high rise, and quickly allows the player to get a handle on what were some more complex controls in terms of gaming. The player is able to move both forward and back in the field of vision as well as move, well, forward and back on the screen. This added an interesting dynamic to the game and made it a bit more difficult (for me at least) to attack and successfully beat the oncoming Foot.

A unique aspect that I appreciated was being able to build up to "power up" attacks that like, flung the offending Foot at the screen in a style that would have been 3D if the technology had existed. In other fighting games, like some of the ones I've discussed, there was no power up except for the ones left up to chance (like the police cars in Streets of Rage)—this was just if you hit the enemy enough. Another thing that my simple child's mind enjoyed was that the toughness or special attacks of the Foot were delineated by the color of their suits. This made it easier for me to prepare for what was coming and better able to plan attacks that would be able to beat them

I guess that most would argue that the best part of the game was that you got to travel in time and play a bunch of unique levels as your favorite shelled heros. A list of the levels in order, with my commentary on them, follow.

  • Big Apple, 3 A.M. - Already explained the plot of this level, was pretty easy all things considered. The final boss is Baxter.
  • Alleycat Blues - I've always considered this a continuation of the first level, but suppose in canon it is considered the second. A bit harder, and there are some flying sewer caps to deal with, but still not super hard. Metal Head is the boss of this level. 
  • Sewer Surfin' - This is the level that reminds me of Butthole Surfers inexplicably. At the end the fight the Rat King (which always makes me think of Charlie from It's Always Sunny)
  • Technodrome: Let's Kick Shell! - The turtles enter the Technodrome and take on Tokka and Rahzar, and Shredder in a boss-ass battletank. 
  • Prehistoric Turtlesaurus -This has dinosaurs; raptorish type ones. It was also super hard. I always had my Uncle Michael play this level and do not remember the end.
  • Skull and Crossbones - This is on a pirateship, and the players fight against Rocksteady and Bebop. Two of my favorite baddies of the show, but two of my least favorite to fight against.
  • Bury my Shell at Wounded Knee - This was the level on the train that I almost always rage-quit and also made Uncle Michael take over. Sometimes I would take the controls back at the end to fight the boss: Leather Head. 
  • Neon Night-Riders - This is in the future and is kind of like Tron mixed with the infamous surfing level at the beginning of the game. Super Krang is the boss in this one, and is pretty difficult in the scheme of things.
  • Where No Turtles Have Gone Before - Another level with Krang—this time in (predictably) a colony in outerspace.
  • Technodrome: The Final Shell Shock - In this level you fight Shredder's final form in a giant white room reminiscent of something from Star Wars, is kind of a pain in the ass, but not half as hard as the dinosaur or train levels.
Overall, a solid game and one that I would definitely sink another million hours into if it was just released today. If you've never played it or are a super fan like me, check here for a place to play online. Happy gaming!

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