GameSpite Journal 10 | TMNT: Turtles in Time

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time | Dev.: Konami | Pub: Konami | Genre: Brawler | Release: August 1992

As 1989 rolled over into 1990 and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles jumped from the pages of Eastman and Laird’s comics to the silver screen, the mutant quartet rocketed to a stratum of cross-media popularity only a handful of franchises have ever attained. Like the Pokémon that eventually succeeded them, the Ninja Turtles owned kids body and soul. The toys were everywhere. The cartoon ran from 1987 to 1996. The live-action movie grossed $200 million, making it one of the highest-grossing independent films of all time. A real life Pizza Hut-sponsored concert tour saw the Turtles jamming out on stage while talking up their love for pizza.

And while Konami’s first treatment of the heroic Turtles on the Nintendo Entertainment System hasn’t aged too well, its follow-up efforts -- the 1990 arcade game and its 1991 sequel Turtles in Time -- instantly evoke nostalgia from ’90s kids who have long forgotten their animated series VHS tapes, piles of action figures, and Turtle Blimps and Vans.

Unlike the downgraded NES port of The Arcade Game, the Super Nintendo’s Turtles in Time actually went out of its way to add a second Technodrome stage and extra bosses, easily making it the definitive entry in Konami’s library of side-scrolling beat ‘em ups. Turtles in Time stays safely within the conventional bounds of the beat ’em up genre -- with only minor differences in defense, speed and attack range between the four turtles, there’s not much depth to the button mashing experience of taking down wave after wave of Foot soldiers.

In fact, Turtles in Time represents Konami’s flawless execution of that formula—there’s just enough nuance to the combat thanks to Turtle-unique special attacks, and the animated series aesthetic layers colorful charm onto a genre mostly dominated by the trash-littered alleys of Final Fight and Streets of Rage. The Super Nintendo’s graphical muscle helped Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo survive the transition from arcade to console as large, colorful sprites.

Even the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 was put to use in a forward-scrolling bonus stage that was true to the heart of what made Turtles in Time so memorable. The Mode 7 Neon Night Riders level and the SNES port’s added bosses delivered ample variety within the confines of the beat ’em up genre. And the original arcade game excelled at that premise already—the sewers of New York and the Technodrome were familiar territory for Turtles fans, but A.D. 1530’s high-seas combat and A.D. 2100’s battle through a space station gave Konami a chance to vary the scenery and enemies between stages.

Two decades after Turtles in Time’s release, ’90s kids may have forgotten all about the reach of Donatello’s bo staff or the power of Raph’s lunge attack. The combat is easily forgotten and easily picked back up -- it’s the brawler’s personality they’ll always remember. The thrill of hurling foot soldiers at the screen, the joy of hearing the Turtles exclaim “Let’s kick shell!” and “Oh, shell shock!” through the synthy filter of the SNES sound chip -- those are the memories that stick. Cowabunga, dudes.

By Wesley Wenlon? | Dec. 8, 2011 | Previous: Mario Paint | Next: SoulBlazer