Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Tournament Fighters Review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Tournament Fighters MEGA DRIVE box art

A fighting game featuring the famed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that fails in every aspect.

Story

Mystic clones of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles kidnap Splinter – the Sensei of the turtles. Soon thereafter, the evil genius Krang sends a message to the hero turtles telling them that if they want to set Splinter free, they need to come to Dimension X to face certain doom. Without further delay the turtles set off to the strange Dimension X to fight the evil doers and to set things right again.

The Game

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Tournament Fighters is what the title implies – a tournament style game where you fight rounds and matches against turtle clones and other bad guys. The game is available on both the NES and SNES systems besides the Sega Mega Drive, and all three games have their own quirks. The Mega Drive version however has inferior sound and graphics to the SNES version and plays worse than the NES version.

Controls

The controls overall feel incredibly ungainly and slow because you are constantly being stunned from either recovering from a blow or from your own attack – the animations are slow and sluggish. There’s one button for weapon and fist attacks, and one button for kicks. The third button is a taunt motion that apparently does nothing other than taunts your opponent with an animation and a voice sample. The fighting itself is incredibly stiff and hard to manage, and there are some bugs in there too. For example you can successfully repeat the same hold and thus lock down an opponent in it for as long as you like. The special attacks are executed in classical quarter-circle-forward-plus-attack type motions and those work okay most of the time. There are some fireballs, power waves and attack combos in there which are nice additions to the otherwise standard moves as it deepens the play and adds an element of strategy to the fight.turtles_tournament2

Content

There are eight playable characters in the game. Besides the four turtles, the turtle friend April O’Neil joins the battle along with the self proclaimed vigilante Casey Jones. There’s also the mutant Ray Fillet and the insectoid creature Sisyphus who apparently wants to see Splinter freed from his captor. All playable characters have their unique moves, and there are balance issues amongst the characters. For example April O’Neil appears to be vastly inferior due to her short reach and poor special moves and Casey’s standard attacks are very clunky and mostly useless.

The game features four different game modes. The main tournament mode will let you play the tournament from start to end. You get to choose in what order you want to go to the various stages (there are eight of them) – and if you lose a single match you’ll have to start all over from the beginning. No continues are allowed here.
The practice mode is basically just a fight against a computer controlled opponent of your choice – if you lose the fight you’ll be taken back to the main title screen of the game.
Apart from these two game modes there’s the one- and two player modes. In two player mode you play a versus match against a friend. When the match is over, you get to select new characters and play the next match.
The one player mode is quite like the tournament mode with the difference that you can in fact continue the game after a lost match. Matches are decided on a best-of-three basis, so you’ll get a second chance if you lose one round unlike in the tournament mode.

After each fight there’s an instant replay function that lets you re-play the last few moments of the fight, as if it was recorded with a VCR. You can pause, rewind, play and fast forward the sequence as you like to either your own or your opponents discontent. This is a nice feature that should be available in other fighting games.

The difficulty level in this game is terribly high. The CPU controlled fighters can pretty much deface any veteran fighter, even in the first round of the game. This is mainly what makes the whole game and certainly the tournament game mode so frustrating. The CPU knows how to counter your every move and is not afraid to exploit that fact. A certain level of frustration is sure to arise when you’re constantly being countered by a robotic opponent – and it does not matter who you are fighting against in the game. It’s all the same.

The options screen allows you to adjust the difficulty of the game, but there is little to none difference between the easiest and the hardest setting. You can also adjust how many rounds a fight should consist of and how many continues are allowed in the one player mode. While these options may sound generous, it really can’t save the game from being an utter disaster, or even make it more playable.
Before each game begins you’re also able to adjust the speed and power level of your character, and this affects how much damage you’ll deal and how fast you’ll move. Apparently it also does the same adjustments to your computer opponent, so this function is basically rendered down to be an extra adjustment to the difficulty level which also fails to make the game any easier or playable. If anything this only makes the game harder.

Graphics

Visually the game hasn’t captured the style of the turtles very well. The various attacks are mostly unoriginal and standard, and the animation is mainly just stiff and crude. Graphically the game is lacking overall. The backgrounds of the stages are strange and often abstract – sure enough the game takes place in Dimension X, but that’s no excuse for the outright bad graphics, washed out colors and poor jerky animations. The coloring is dull and scarce which makes the game look flat and uninteresting.

Sound

The music is perhaps the worst thing about the whole game. It is composed of a few distorted sounds like bass drums and high-pitched tones and it simply sounds terrible when combined together. The melodies are supposed to resemble cool beats, but it’s just annoying and a torture to your ears. There are some voice samples in the game that allows the turtles (and the other characters too) to throw some taunts at each other. These aren’t the best voices around and it’s hard to hear what they are supposed to say sometimes because of the poor quality of the sound, but the voices certainly seem to have an emphasis in the game. The other sound effects are also scarce – the same few sounds are used for everything. This certainly doesn’t sound like a turtles adventure.

Summary

I am quite puzzled about how the developers managed to fumble with this particular game this badly. Turtles games are supposed to be action-packed and full with acrobatic fighting moves, but this game doesn’t even come close to that.
There simply isn’t anything redemptive about this game. The graphics are bland, the controls (which are very important to a fighting game) are stiff and slow. Not even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles branding does anything to uplift this game, which is a shame because there are a bunch of great Turtles games out there.

Developed By: Mirage Studios, USA
Published By: Konami
Version Reviewed : Sega Mega Drive
Genre: Fighting
Players: 1-2
Also Available On: NES, SNES
Released: 1993

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