For their debut effort with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, Ubisoft tried something different that worked in one case (the console game) but not in another (the criminally bad DS game). Though it was wise for Ubisoft to differentiate their take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise from what came before, there was still a lot of fans who longed for the return of games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2-4 from the arcade, NES and SNES. What most people perhaps didn’t realize is that Ubisoft gave those fans exactly what they wanted in the form of one of the last, great Game Boy Advance games that has a lot in common with another beloved Ubisoft comic book game: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.
Like the other TMNT (2007) games I’ve talked about this week, this one too is also a retelling of the movie of the same name that is broken up into seven chapters with its story told through stills accompanied by text. Forget about the story though, if you want that you should watch the movie or play the game on your console of choice. TMNT (2007) on the Game Boy Advance is all about the gameplay.
Unlike any version of the game across the incredible number of platforms this game released on (eight if you wanted to know: DS, GC, GBA, PC, PS2, PSP, Xbox 360, Wii), the GBA version of TMNT (2007) is a beat-em-up that not only pays homage to Konami’s titles from two decade ago, but is so good that it can be considered their equal. Though there’s sadly no co-op, which is about one of the only complaints you can lodge against this game, you’ll fight your ways through foot ninjas, purple dragons and robots with controls that are just as precise as the Konami days of yesteryear; Each Turtle even has the same jump kick arch from games like Turtles in Time. Every hit connects perfectly with your enemies and excellent feedback visual feedback is provided, standing in stark contrast to the console game where you could hold a button to win or the DS game where you mashed on an attack button until you got to jump around again.
What makes this version of TMNT (2007) so much fun to play is not only how gradually its difficulty escalates, but how it rolls out new enemy types. As you venture your way from the streets of New York to the tower of Max Winters, you start off fighting simple street punks that provide little opposition, but pretty soon enemies evolve into agile Foot Soldiers that can sometimes carry devastating weaponry that you can also wield to your advantage and deadly robots that constantly make your rethink your strategy. In games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game, you could get away with jump kicking your way through a rainbow’s worth of colourful Foot Soldiers but that’s definitely not the case here.
A complaint I had against both the console and DS is that as the game stuck so closely that the boss characters only came in the form of Max Winters stone generals with no love shown to classic TMNT baddies. This sadly is the case in the GBA game, though you do at least fight Karai, but the great thing is, all the bosses are fun, challenging encounters. Don’t expect to be able to mash a button to victory with these guys here, as each has a distinct pattern that must be learned and exploited in order to topple them. Even the small monster that Raph encounters in the diner in the film who shows up as an end stage boss is a white knuckle showdown that can cost you a couple of lives if you’re not careful.
On top of the tight beat-em-up gameplay and challenging bosses, TMNT (2007) on the GBA is just an absolute gorgeous game to look at. The environments are bright and colourful, the sprites look fabulous and animate superbly which is precisely why key team members from this game went on to make another retro comic style brawler, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. This game in many respects is the prototype of what would become that game; Even some of the early enemies look like Scott and the gang as well as the goons who populate the mean streets of Toronto.
What helped Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World feel modern compared to the games it was trying to capture the feel of was its rudimentary RPG mechanics where stats could be increased by spending money collected from defeating enemies on items. This too was a mechanic utilized in this game, but it’s not as developed as it could be. You earn experience by defeating enemies but each of the Turtles can only go up three levels, which you can easily reach by playing through the story and sticking to your favourite. Enemies here also drop money which you can spend in several different shops between levels where you can buy health upgrades, lives, and equipment that can be used to help your weaker stats.
Unfortunately you can only equip one piece of gear at a time and they don’t carry over between stages so if you buy say a defence upgrade for level two, you’ll have to rebuy it again if you want it for level three. A sound strategy is to avoid all equipment boosts and just spend your excess money on lives which is a bit disappointing. This game is a solid beat-em-up but if the RPG mechanics were fleshed out just a little bit more, it would give this a leg over the other TMNT brawlers out there.
TMNT (2007) on the Game Boy Advance was a game I missed out on when it was new and only really came to know of its quality in recent years. Having played this from start to finish and absolutely loved it, I believe that this game was perhaps released at the wrong time for it to get the recognition it deserved. It released far too late in the GBA’s life cycle to get any attention, especially since the DS and PSP were really hitting their stride with much superior hardware that funny enough, produced a product of far less quality than this game.It also was too early to capitalize on platforms like PSN and XBLA as they had both yet to become the homes of games like Castle Crashers. With platforms like the Retron-5 offering Game Boy Advance compatibility, now is as good as time as ever to play this lost gem if you haven’t done so already. If you’re a fan of classic beat-em-ups, especially those starring the Turtles, there’s no reason to not have this terrific game in your collection.