Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES, 1992)

INFO: My “Retro Vault” reviews are not scored. Instead, I just talk about why I have fond memories of whichever game I’m writing about at the time. Generally, I won’t pick out any bad games for the Retro Vault feature, so scoring them is essentially useless anyway. Enjoy the read.

Welcome to the first article of the Retro Vault section. In these articles, I take the time to look back on a real classic from the earlier consoles I grew up with, the NES and SNES, and the Genesis from time to time as well. What better game to start with than one that should be very close to the heart of many 90s kids, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time.

During the early 1990s, the Ninja Turtles were at the height of their popularity. In recent years they have made a comeback, but as someone who has witnessed the Turtles craze of the early 90s and now the one of the 21st century, I can safely say that the revived interest in the Ninja Turtles does not even come close to matching the love that they received two decades ago.

Everywhere you would look until about 1996 when the original show ended were the four Ninja Turtles. Their infinite popularity spawned countless games, a live action movie trilogy, a frighteningly vast army of action figures, and even bed sheets and pajamas. If you grew up during this period of time, your life was the Ninja Turtles.

Now I could go on about how awkward the Turtles’ debut was on the NES, or I could heap praise upon the movies (which were actually not that bad at all), or I could even comment on the Turtles’ attempt to rip off Street Fighter, but I will do none of these. Instead, I am focusing on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. The reason for this is because when anyone is asked to stop and think of Ninja Turtles video games, nine times out of ten this will be the one that they think of immediately. There are several reasons for this, and I will gladly go over them.

For starters, this game is a very high quality beat ’em up platformer that forces the player to use skill and not be careless. Button mashing will work to an extent, but will not carry you through the game. There were a lot of interesting mechanics in the game and I remember that when the game first came out, it was breathtaking to look at. The Mode 7 levels in particular were really impressive at the time. Every level was oozing with heaps of detail. The dinosaur and train levels in particular were fantastic to look at with their heat haze and moving panorama effects. The dinosaur level actually made me feel hot, and the train level gave me the impression that I was actually going somewhere.

The reason why this game is so beloved to the old school Ninja Turtle fans is because it represents the series so well, or at least the SNES version does. While the arcade release was a very faithful version, fighting Tokka and Rahzar on a pirate ship was certainly a little unusual. It lacked a few major villain characters and the Technodrome was mysteriously absent. When the game was ported to the SNES, several new bosses were added including Rat King, Slash, Bebop, Rocksteady, and Super Shredder. It also added a Technodrome level with a fun stand-off against Shredder. The new bosses and Technodrome stage helped define the SNES port as the ultimate Ninja Turtles video game experience, a title that I feel the game still proudly wears even to this day, eighteen years after it’s release. I can hardly believe it has been that long!

Playing this game with friends was always a blast. Gathering a few friends in the arcade and playing as all of the turtles simultaneously was nothing short of being just plain awesome. The SNES port only allowed two players at a time, but being able to play in the comfort of your own home made up for the loss of players 3 and 4. I’ve played the original arcade and SNES versions with family and friends, and I also played through the Reshelled remake one day with two friends. Every experience was extremely positive and very enjoyable. Every single time I play this game, there is fun to be had. This still applies today.

Speaking of the remake, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time Reshelled was released fairly recently for the Playstation 3 and XBox 360. The game is fully 3D and uses slightly different gameplay mechanics, and the music was also replaced with what sounds like generic stock tunes. It doesn’t capture the same amazing atmosphere that the original did, but it’s still fun to play through once or twice for a rush of nostalgia.

Turtles in Time was truly special for it’s time. The gameplay, the graphics, the music, and everything else came together perfectly to create the best Ninja Turtles experience we will likely ever see. Truly a timeless classic.

Valkyrie Profile (Retro Review)

INFO: This review was written in the year 2000, therefore I was much younger when I wrote it. The quality of the writing is probably much lower. Don’t grimace too much when you read it, please!

“Enix has always been known for bringing us the goods from Japan and they’ve done it again.”

When I was first looking around for an RPG to buy a few months back, I wasn’t sure what to burn my money on. In my mind then, Valkyrie Profile was just another game sitting on the shelf with the fancy cover art. The third time I saw it for rental I thought, “That’s it. I’m gonna buy it.”

Let me tell you, if I had a choice to buy either Valkyrie Profile or something such as Star Ocean, I’d go with Valkyrie Profile. The graphics themselves, while 2D, are very sleek and attractive. Castles and buildings have a nice sense of realism to them, which adds a lot of depth to a game. The character sprites are all nice looking, with the standard ho-hum attack animations, but there is an exception here… Often you’ll get the opportunity to “purify weird soul.” When you do this, a character will often fly into an attacking frenzy that makes Omni Slash and Lionheart look like child’s play! Arngrim, who wields a large (and I mean large!) is able to final blast, which does mega damage when he has awesome weapons (we’re talking upwards of 50’000 damage). The monster sprites look very impressive as well, but some look a little… Strange… I was impressed greatly by the sprites of such monsters like the zombie dragon or the necrophiliac. Environments you run through are very detailed, every little piece of every wall seems unique.

The music in Valkyrie Profile can be somewhat catchy, but the game has some tracks you’d like to dismantle But for the most part the music fits the scene (notice how I said most!). Now the voices are really something unique. From Suo screaming “Admirable skill, but still no match for me!” to the Valkyrie herself yelling “Nibelung Valesti” when she prepares to assault the opponents. Certain bosses have voices as well, one being the gigantic Barbarossa. The problem with his voice though is that it is all raspy and horrible during combat. When in the field (or towns/dungeons characters often speak back and forth to each other. If you were to close your eyes when they do so, it seems as if you’re near an actual conversation. Very good job here, Tri-Ace.

The sound generates at least 5 points on the overall Sound/Music score, music grabbing a measly 2.5 points for the certain tracks that don’t go with the game (some sound like metal or something…)! The storyline in Valkyrie Profile isn’t incredible, it doesn’t make my jaw drop in awe… Hell, Final Fantasy VI’s spectacular story makes Valkyrie Profile’s dull story seem like a child’s short story or something. None the less, it has it’s good points, and I’m not going to give away any spoilers… As for replayability, you will NEVER have the same game twice. Remember that. There is a lot of innovation in this game… Too bad there weren’t any mini games, or we’d be looking at a game that would be at least 10 times more addictive! In the end, I was somewhat satisfied, but I wanted more. In my eyes, Valkyrie Profile 2 is not impossible.

Final Score


Final Fantasy Tactics (Retro Review)

INFO: This review was written in the year 2003, therefore I was much younger when I wrote it. The quality of the writing is probably much lower. Don’t grimace too much when you read it, please!

“Without a doubt, king of the strategy RPG genre.”

As shocking as this may sound, its almost 2003 and I first played Final Fantasy Tactics just over 6 months ago now… And let me tell you, I regret waiting so long. Despite being nearly five years old, this game’s age does not show, unless you’re one of those graphics freaks. With many features and an epic storyline I can honestly say you won’t be disappointed one bit.

Considering the age of Final Fantasy Tactics, these are very beautiful graphics. Other competitors in this genre include Hoshigami or Knight of Lodis, and while their character sprites can be recognized, they don’t have the depth and detail of Final Fantasy Tactics’ sprites. The geography in the game is nothing spectacular, and I don’t think they were when the game was released, but they are good enough to have me approve of them. The artwork in this game (faces and such) are very well done, although I don’t understand why so many people have blonde hair in this game… Perhaps Squaresoft had a Dragonball Z obsession at the time. The FMV movies looked awesome and I still enjoy them today, especially the one in the intro. Top stuff.

If you want good tunes in a game, let me sum this game up in a few words. I love you Nobuo Uematsu! The music in Final Fantasy Tactics is really incredible to say the least, and I really think Nobuo Uematsu went overboard this time… Well, in a good way of course. Sound effects were actually pretty bad I thought. The sound of poison hitting an enemy was just plain repetitive and the sound used for most of the summons (especially Shiva) can probably kill your ear drums if your TV’s volume can go pretty high, not to mention they sound worse than the FF7 summons (ie. Hades). So, the music is great, but the sound effects are ho-hum.

The storyline just rocked, to say the least. You play the role of Ramza Beoulve. The game starts with a battle at a place called Orbonne Monastery where Princess Ovelia is captured by a man Ramza knows. A man named Delita. After this the game goes into the past and you learn that Ramza and Delita are great friends. This little “flashback” leads up to the point where Princess Ovelia is captured and it moves on from there in quite a radical direction where many surprises await the player. This story is simply astounding and is much more than what I’d expect in a strategy RPG… If this were the story in a traditional turn-based RPG, you’d be looking at a masterpiece.

Since you have to raise and army and manage abilities, the replayability in this game is endless. You start one game and have fun with your powerful knights who can use any item, and in the next game you start you have fun with your lancers who know every black magic spell. Unfortunately, you can only have 16 people at a time… But that’s more than enough when you take leveling up and ability learning into your head. The amount of things to do is vast. Too vast to even write here. Basically, its never the same game twice, except for the story.

This game isn’t really too innovative. Its just a good game that many people try to copy. I’m actually surprised Squaresoft didn’t throw in any cool little minigames. I would’ve loved racing a chocobo against Izlude or even Zalbag! Sad that Squaresoft didn’t throw anything new and exciting in this.

Final Score