Back in better times, I had no job, no responsibilities, and no worries. And one of the main things I always waited anxiously for were Saturday morning cartoons. These mornings were important for two reasons; They always meant Mom’s breakfast burritos, and they always meant an appearance by my favorite show, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As staple of my childhood, I, like millions of other tykes my age, lived and breathed them! We are talking birthday cakes, video cassettes, toys, and of course, video games.
Which brings me around to TMNT IV: Turtles in Time. You could say it combined two of my greatest childhood memories: SNES gaming and the Turtles! The game almost acts as a two-part lost episode of the hit cartoon, due in part to its zany story; Shredder and Krang have stolen the Statue of Liberty, and while trying to get it back, the Turtles are thrown in a time warp, where they must fight their way back to the present to save the day!
This setting allows for some of the most interesting levels ever seen in the beat-em up genre. Instead of the usual urban landscape, we get pirate ships, dinosaurs, sewers, and more! These levels are fairly lengthy, and while beat-em ups are not well known for their interesting level design, Turtles In Time breaks this mold with some great set-pieces. Moments like dodging Krang’s gigantic eye lasers or avoiding a dinosaur stampede while fending off Foot Clan troops make for a much more varied adventure than we are used to for this genre.
The two bonus stages are also worth mentioning, as they break up the fighting action in order to allow us some good old-fashioned Turtle Surfin! Collecting pizzas and dodging obstacles makes for a fun diversion, and I literally geeked out when the first pizza monster sprang up from the sewer water! The bosses are standard beat-em up fare, but are catapulted forward for me just on their nostalgia factor. I knew that Shredder, Bebop, and Rocksteady would appear, but Konami went all out even giving us some of the more unknown villains like Leather Head and the Rat King! My personal favorite: The battle with Shredder in the Technodome where you throw Foot Soldiers to damage him! I also like how each boss now has a life bar, a first for the series.
I should mention the fact that this is probably my favorite beat-em up ever. It is not just that it includes the Ninja Turtles. The game is simply one of the most satisfying game experiences on the system. Picking up a Foot Soldier and bashing them back and forth is immensely satisfying. You can even throw them off screen into the camera. The sound and animation effects really help in bringing actions like these alive. The game has voice-overs in all the right places, and the music, while not the most memorable on the system, does its job in creating a fighting mood.
The enemy variety also does a lot to ensure that boredom with the given selection of adversaries never sets in. How many times do beat-em ups throw the same five enemy types at you? (Looking your way, Final Fight.) Turtles in Time gives you multiple colors of Foot Soldiers, each with its own abilities. Krang’s Dimension X soldiers also make an appearance, as do a wide variety of robots! You have to be on your toes to adapt to so many different enemies, which keeps you from thinking about the repetition. The game even tacks on a battle mode and a time attack! While not standouts, they give you even more value in what is already a spectacular game. The only thing that beats this game is playing through it with a friend.
You don’t need to be a fan of the Turtles to enjoy the best beat-em up on the system! No wonder we rented this game so much! As much as I enjoyed it, I did not get my copy until my birthday the next year. It is one of only seven games that I did not get rid of over the years. To this day I still have my original copy. I cannot possibly give it any higher praise than that!
Nowadays, it seems like beat-em ups are a dying breed, a relic of the arcade past. Like many other games of this era, this is an arcade port, which usually loses something in their translation. Turtles in Time actually gained a lot in the switch. Variety, tense action, and the Turtles license bring it all home in the perfect way. Of all the great games they have made past and present, this epitomizes Konami’s magic touch. It’s as close as I can get to replicating those quiet Saturday mornings from my youth. That and those Breakfast Burritos.
5 Out Of 5 Stars
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