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Everyone has heard of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, right? Well if not, TMNT is franchise about four teenage anthropomorphic turtles named after artists. They’re ninjas that live in the sewers of New York City and were trained by their rat sensei, Splinter. They fight crime and evil and their archenemy is Shredder, the leader of the criminal organization known as the Foot Clan. If you were around in the eighties and nineties, you probably saw the turtles in something. It could have been comics, movies, TV shows, games, maybe you saw or owned some TMNT merchandise, and at this point, they’re pretty well known. Honestly, I haven’t paid attention to most of the TMNT media but I know they first appeared in a comic book and I guess they just took off from there. I’ve seen most of the films, played a few of the games, and that’s about it. From what I understand, the turtles we know today are vastly different than how they were originally depicted in the comic book. Despite my lack of knowledge on the franchise, I love the turtles. They’re obsessed with pizza and they kick ass. What’s not to like? Developed and published by Konami, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time is a beat ‘em up arcade game released in 1991. It was ported to the Super Nintendo in 1992 and re-titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time to continue the numbering from earlier games on the NES. For this review, Jeremy and I played through both versions. We played the arcade version using the MAME emulator and we played the Super Nintendo version on the Analogue – Super NT system. A remake titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled was developed by Ubisoft and released for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in 2009 and from what I hear, it sucks. We would have covered it in this review but it’s not available at this time.
The intro cut scene shows the Turtles watching a news broadcast, with April O’Neil reporting from Liberty Island. Krang flies in and steals the Statue of Liberty and then Shredder laughs because that’s what evil villains do. The Turtles spring into action and fight the Foot Clan on the streets and in the sewers of New York, and the Technodrome if playing the Super Nintendo version, before Shredder sends them through a time warp where they fight Shredder’s army in both the past and future. The plot is certainly silly and the game plays out in scenes or stages. It should be noted that if you beat the game on the hardest difficulty mode in the Super Nintendo version, you can watch the special or true ending. On Super Nintendo, the stage introductions are voiced and most dialogue is in text form. There’s significantly more voice acting in the arcade version and most of it is comprised of one-liners which are both corny and humorous. Both games feel like cartoons and shouldn’t take you very long to complete but they are a lot of fun to play.
The arcade version supports up to four players and the Super Nintendo version only supports two which is this version’s only major downside. The arcade game utilizes a credit system meaning you need to insert money to play. The Super Nintendo version includes three difficulty modes and the difficulty mode determines how many continues you get. You can change how many lives you get manually. Before playing, you’ll have to choose from one of the four turtles to play as – Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, or Raphael. In both games, if you take damage you lose health, and if you lose all your health, you die. When you die in the arcade game, you lose a credit, and when you die in the Super Nintendo game, you lose a life. When you lose all your lives, you must use a continue to keep playing and if you want, you can choose to play as a different turtle.
Turtles in Time is a scrolling beat ‘em up where you proceed through multiple stages, can move around freely within the playable area, and can attack left and right. The four turtles are identified by the color of their masks and wield different weapons. Leonardo wields two ninjatos or katanas, Michelangelo wields a pair of nunchucks, Donatello wields a bo staff, and Raphael wields a pair of sai. The turtles do have their own strengths and weaknesses. The controls are pretty simple. You can move, sprint or charge, attack, and jump. Pressing the attack button in combination with the jump button and/or the sprint mechanic will result in different attack types. There’s jump attacks, a slide attack, you can slam enemies on the ground, and even throw enemies towards the screen which I’m obsessed with for some reason. I just love that move. If you press the attack and jump buttons simultaneously, you can perform a power attack and in the Super Nintendo version, performing a power attack does drain a bit of health. Health can be acquired from the pizza pickups scattered throughout the stages and if you acquire the Pizza Power pickup, your turtle will rapidly spin around the area for a brief time, enabling him to kill enemies instantly. In both games, killing enemies rewards you with points and in the Super Nintendo version, acquiring two hundred points rewards you with an extra life.
There’s nine stages in the arcade game and ten in the Super Nintendo version. You’ll fight enemies on the streets of New York, in the stone age, on a pirate ship, on a train, and in the future, among some other locations. Each stage has you moving right to progress. You move right, clear out the enemies in the area, and keep moving right to proceed. If you remain stationary for too long in the arcade version, you’ll lose a life. Enemies can come from any direction and you’ll always be outnumbered. You can utilize objects in the stages to your advantage. You can roll barrels into enemies, break a fire hydrant so it shoots water at enemies, and blow up explosives which can damage or kill enemies but also hurt your turtle if he’s too close to the explosion. You will have to watch out for hazards like wrecking balls, electricity, planks, and falling down manholes. Sewer Surfin’ and Neon Night-Riders are the two standout stages in the game because they let you ride something. In the Super Nintendo version, these are considered bonus stages where you can earn extra points.
The arcade game is certainly the most challenging version. The Super Nintendo game isn’t nearly as difficult, even on the hard difficulty mode which includes more enemies in the stages and faster moving bosses. The arcade game can feel unfair and like complete bullshit at times, especially if playing solo. But you need to remember it’s an arcade game so it’s designed to eat your money. The arcade version likes to throw a ton of enemies at you at once. Enemies will crowd the stages and you’ll be attacked from all directions. Things are a bit easier if playing with other people but you will need to memorize what enemies are thrown at you and when and their attacks to truly master this version. The Super Nintendo game throws less enemies at you and they take less damage before dying. That’s not to say this version isn’t somewhat challenging but it can be extremely easy with multiple players. Playing solo is the more challenging experience but with the amount of lives and continues you’re given, it’s not too tough. The enemy roster in both games is almost identical. The most common enemies you’ll face are the Foot soldiers. They come in different colors, they’ll utilize melee attacks, some wield melee weapons, they’ll come in from off screen and use ranged weapons to attack you from a distance, some can block your attacks, and in the Neon Night-Riders stage, some of them will fly around using some kind of jet pack and fire at you with a gun. Sewer Surfin’ contains Pizza Monsters that jump out of the water to attack you. Stone Warriors are big and powerful and some wield melee weapons and firearms. In the Super Nintendo version, they’ll come charging at the turtles from off-screen so you always need to be alert. The little robots that appear in both versions are easily the most annoying enemies. They can stun lock you with some kind of an electrical attack and they always appear in numbers. Then there’s the robotic type that can jump up and bite you. The arcade game includes a robotic enemy type with boxing gloves which only appears a few times.
In the Super Nintendo version, all stages end with a boss and in the arcade version, Sewer Surfin’ is the only stage that doesn’t end with a traditional boss battle. Instead, it ends with the turtles battling a ton of Pizza Monsters. Not only does the Super Nintendo version include some new bosses, the existing ones were re-arranged. In both games you’ll battle Baxter Stockman, Metalhead, Tokka and Rahzar, Bebop and Rocksteady, Leatherhead, Krang, Super Krang, and Shredder. The arcade game lets you battle Cement Man but he’s replaced with Slash in the Super Nintendo version. The Super Nintendo game adds in Rat King as a boss in the Sewer Surfin’ stage, the new Technodrome stage ends with a battle against Shredder in a Battletank, and the game ends with a battle against Super Shredder. The bosses in the arcade game are extremely challenging, requiring memorization of their movement and attack patterns to be defeated. Some of them can be relentless with attacks. The difficulty of the bosses in the Super Nintendo game was significantly toned down. Their attack patterns are easier to memorize in this version, they take less damage before dying, and there’s more breathing room for you to land hits. On the hardest difficulty mode, the bosses move around faster but the challenge is nowhere near what’s experienced in the arcade game.
After completing all the stages in both games, you win and it’s game over. But the Super Nintendo version includes two extra game modes – Versus and Time Trial. In Versus, two player face off against each other in rounds. You can utilize all your standard moves and attacks but the power attack is replaced with a block. If you have five or ten minutes to kill, Versus can be fun but it does get boring pretty quick. The Time Trial mode can only be played solo and the goal is to get through each round without dying and within the time limit. You don’t actually go through the stages, instead you choose one of three courses, and each round is set in an area from one of the stages. Each round has you fending off enemies and you need to defeat them all before the timer reaches zero. Some areas include Pizza Power pickups or environmental objects that can be used to your advantage. Time Trial is okay but it’s the kind of mode you play through once or twice and never look back.
Turtles in Time is a detailed and colorful action-packed game. I absolutely love pixel cityscapes which is one of the reasons why Big Apple and Neon Night-Riders are my favorite stages. I mentioned earlier that the game feels like a cartoon and that’s mainly due to its colorful presentation and I’ve heard the game attempts to replicate the animated series which may be why it feels so cartoon-y. I don’t remember watching the show but if I did, I was really young and don’t remember. I think it’s obvious that the arcade version is the better looking version of the two. It contains more detailed environments and smoother animations. But that’s not to say the Super Nintendo version doesn’t look good because it does. It’s a fantastic port and you can switch the color mode from “animation” to “comic” which makes the turtles a darker shade of green. The sound quality is superior in the arcade game and this version includes the ridiculous and awesome song “Pizza Power”, with the lyrics, which apparently was taken from the TMNT Coming Out of their Shells concert tour. Both games include a rocking soundtrack and the sound effects get the job done. The sound effect for the impact of hits is more satisfying in the Super Nintendo version and I bring it up because you’ll be hearing it a lot. On the technical side, both versions ran smooth without any hiccups and we experienced no issues.
When people talk about their favorite beat ‘em ups, somebody usually mentions one of the Streets of Rage or Final Fight games. For us, it’s Turtles in Time. It’s fun to play, it takes you to a good variety of locations, it’s got a kickass soundtrack, and pizza replenishes health because that’s awesome. We do feel that the Super Nintendo version is the best version of the two. The difficulty may be toned down a little too much but is accessible and it’s a blast to play solo or with a friend. It kind of sucks that you can only play with one other person but three or four players would probably make this version a pure cakewalk. It includes an extra stage, new bosses, and extra game modes. Even though Versus and Time Trial are pretty lackluster modes, at least they offer some incentive to return. But even if those modes were absent, it’s just fun to play the game and the gameplay is what keeps us coming back. Jeremy and I have beaten this several times over the years just because of how much fun it is. This was our first time playing the arcade game and it’s definitely an arcade game. It will kick your ass. If you do think the Super Nintendo version is too easy then the arcade game is what you want to play. It can be frustrating but it is fun and one of the highlights of this version is that it supports up to four players. So if you have three buddies willing to play, the arcade game is the way to go.
We would absolutely recommend Turtles in Time to fans of the franchise or the beat ‘em up genre. It’s one of our favorite beat ‘em ups of all time and is easily one of the best for the Super Nintendo. There are differences between the two versions and one of the biggest is the difficulty. The arcade game is extremely challenging and the Super Nintendo game can be extremely easy if playing with a buddy. However, the Super Nintendo game includes more content and is just more accessible. The game is fun when playing solo and even better when playing with friends so if you’re going to play Turtles in Time, play it right. Get a friend or group of friends together, order a pizza, preferably cheese or with the bacon topping, get a few bottles of Pepsi because we all know Pepsi is better than Coke, and prepare to kick some shell. Definitely check out Turtles in Time.
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