If you spent even a portion of your youth in the early 1990s, chances are that you have at least a vague, working knowledge of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Starting out as an underground comic book in the '80s, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles achieved massive success when it was translated into a Saturday morning cartoon in 1987. From there, movies, action figures, and the inevitable video game spin-offs followed. Unsurprisingly, the games based on the TMNT franchise were largely very popular; what was surprising, however, was that they weren't successful simply because of their brand name but because many of the games were actually legitimately well made. Though the TMNT franchise has been taking a bit of a breather over the last few years, a new TV series has recently debuted, and not far behind it is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the latest video game featuring the heroes in a half shell. Developed by Konami, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a pure beat-'em-up that aims to rekindle favorable nostalgia for the TMNT games of days past, while at the same time the games looks to update the look and feel of the franchise for fans of the new series. Unfortunately, TMNT doesn't wear its nostalgic aspects particularly well, and the remaining components simply don't make for a very entertaining experience.
Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael are back, once again fighting Shredder and his insidious Foot Clan.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tells the story of four unassuming turtles who, one day, while wandering through the sewers of New York, are mutated into humanlike form by a mysterious radioactive ooze. With the help of a rat named Splinter (who was also transformed by the ooze), the turtles take the next logical step by learning martial arts and becoming superheroes. The game's plot revolves around a mystical sword that is being sought by the evil Shredder and his army of ninja thugs, known as the Foot Clan, so that they may perform unspeakable acts of evil with it. Along the way, you'll encounter many faces from the show, including the Turtles' best pal, April, and Casey Jones, the hockey-mask-sporting vigilante hero.
The game's story is told in an episodic fashion, with each stage containing its own segment of the overall story--although certain stages don't quite seem to fit into the overall plotline. Every stage has around five or six areas that you must clear to pass on to the next stage. Certain areas are preceded or succeeded by either a story sequence using the in-engine characters or an actual full-blown cutscene using the animation style and voice talent from the TV show. The cutscenes are actually quite well done, but the in-engine stuff only has the characters standing around occasionally shaking their fists or marginally changing their facial expressions to signify being mad or something similar. The show's voice talent is used in these scenes as well, but, overall, they're still decidedly lackluster when compared to the real cutscenes.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bases its gameplay style after the classic TMNT beat-'em-up titles, but it doesn't quite capture your attention the way those titles did.
TMNT's gameplay is about as simple as you can get for a modern-day action game. Though you can play as any of the four turtles, they all handle roughly the same and there's no meaningful difference between them. The four main controller buttons let you perform a basic attack, a spin attack, a jump, and a throw (which, in this case, is "the throw" of a ninja star). You also have the ability to execute an uppercut attack, where you can juggle opponents in the air, and there's a dash function that lets you speed past groups of attackers. You can earn new attacks and stats for your chosen turtle by taking part in dojo missions. Dojo missions are training levels that appear from time to time, where you have to perform various tasks assigned by Master Splinter. These tasks range from the reasonably easy (breaking a number of boxes within a three-minute time span) to the seemingly impossible (defeating 30 opponents without being hit). If you successfully defeat the dojo level to Splinter's liking, you'll earn a new attack (like a jump attack) or an increased attribute (like stronger defense or offense). Despite these upgrades, however, you'll primarily just be running around, slashing through each area as fast as you can. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot of skill required for this.
Once you've gotten a feel for your range of attacks--which really shouldn't take very long at all--you should be able to breeze through TMNT pretty quickly. Enemies come in reasonably strong numbers, but, considering that none of them are particularly intelligent, their numbers are really their only advantage. Bad guys generally spawn a good distance away from you, and, unless you get right up into their personal space, they'll often just stay right where they are. Of course, you'll have to beat every enemy to progress to the next section of the level. So, periodically, you'll have to trot back to wherever the one stray bad guy, whom you didn't trigger, is standing. Then you must beat him down. Additionally, sometimes the game won't spawn the next cadre of thugs until you hit a very specific point in the level, requiring you to kind of aimlessly wander around until they appear. Later-level enemies have a slightly higher range of attack, but most of the thugs you'll face off against simply run at you and aimlessly swipe at you with a pipe, stick, or what have you. The boss fights are significantly better than the rest of the in-game action and do require a bit of skill and planning, but, considering you only encounter one in about every three areas, that still leaves too much flat, flavorless action.