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.