It’s back to the basics for the new TMNT game on the Wii and this one shows some promising signs of gratuitous coolness in light of their 25th birthday.
That’s right - it’s been almost 25 years since that dark, gritty first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or ‘Hero Turtles’ for the European Ninja haters out there) came out and wet the pants of some young comics nerds like myself.
Since then our 'heroes in a half-shell' have gone through a number of cleansings and backlash filthy-ings to please everyone but their fundamental appeal boils down to a few constants: They are turtles. They practice martial arts.They each have unique personalities that are somehow equated with a different weapon that they always carry around. They were formed by an accident with radioactive goo.
You can see what a gargantuan challenge this makes it to adapt that story to a video game.
Joking aside, this latest installment is looking it may yet absolve some of the past TMNT game terrors. Yes, this one is still being published by Ubisoft, but maybe the last one was only keeping in line with the old tradition that plagues games made as movie tie-ins (it could be contractual now that they must fail.)
Smash-Up is not only taking it’s own fresh perspective on the Turtles with no ties to any specific previous games or movies but chosen developer Game Arts (an industry veteran responsible for the excellent Silpheed and Lunar on the Mega-CD, as well as Grandia on the Saturn/Playstation) is also utilizing some of the designers of Super Smash Bros Brawl and Team Ninja (see Ninja Gaiden/Dead or Alive).
Not only that, but the original comics’ publisher is making the roster choices and Turtles Co-Creator Peter Laird is writing the single player story himself. So on paper at least, it's looking promising.
So far only the turtles themselves and Splinter have been confirmed as playable but at this point its safe to expect a huge roster of classic allies and foes of which there is no shortage. How about a little Shredder, Casey J., Beebop, Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman, Krang, Triceraton, Nutrinos, Usagi and April, just to name a few obvious choices.
The ‘Smash Up’ theme is no coincidence as even the recent teaser trailer for the title plays up it’s similarities to SSBB which is not a bad thing. It features the familiar four player fighting system on multi-level screens that zoom in and out to accommodate character framing. There are items to collect, taunts to…taunt with, and even 4-player online battle that Game Arts has pledged to smooth out after many a sore Brawl fan complained of lag and connection problems.
In case you had your fingers crossed all this time, you can rest them now because the attacks are not motion based but there will apparently be some use of the pointer and some limited motion controls.
The graphic style is that of the darker more realistic tone and some levels include Manhattan skylines, a shrine rooftop, lush Jungles, and city sewers. Levels can also transform mid-fight and there are items through out to interact with such as health replenishing pizza, neon signs that shock, and water towers to knock over.
The Elements of success are all there, not that they haven’t always been, but the team working on this one has our hopes up high. If they can truly deliver the goods a lot of us may soon be looking like rats in a living room cage learning ninja moves.