Last month the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles turned twenty-five years old. After starting out as a black & white comic book series aimed towards mature readers, the Turtles soon became a massive hit amongst youngsters in the late 80s with a popular cartoon and later a series of hit live-action movies. For some reason the TMNT franchise turning 25 makes me feel really old. I’m only 23 but the fact that I’ve followed the journey of the franchise from watching the show and movies as a kid, getting the Burger King Kids Club toys, dressing up as Raphael for Halloween and later seeing the continuation of the series through the failed live-action TV show and later the resurgence through the animated TV show and movie really puts things in perspective in a way. To me it’s just interesting to see a franchise you grew up with adapt to the times and be brought to an entirely new audience that isn’t even aware that it started out as a comic or hit film series.
The Turtles are continuing to grow and prosper with one key pillar of their plan to continue their domination in all fields of entertainment, aside from the upcoming live-action movie reboot, with a project that will resurge memories for old TMNT fans like myself: a HD update of the classic TMNT: Turtles in Time game. Now the interesting thing about this game is that it wasn’t introduced in the typical fashion of being shown at a press event or merely teased at with a PR release and some screens and a trailer. Instead the game has been shown on the TMNT: 25th anniversary bus tour. The bus tour is quite cool as the bus is a massive TMNT themed bus that looks like the one the Turtles drove in the old cartoon.
Aside from the awesomeness that is the game, the bus has a ton of items that will surely take TMNT fans like myself down a trip through memory lane. One of the first things you’re notice when you step inside is the massive display case of the old TMNT toys mixed with a few of the new ones from the most recent cartoon. Seeing the old toys was definitely cool since I used to play with many of them as a kid. The rest of the bus continues to pay respect to the TMNT brand by featuring a few concept sketches from the movies, images from the making of the Turtle suits and even a section of the bus that had a bunch of the old comics. The one thing that I was most surprised by was the actual interior design of the bus. While a bit cramped things were nicely put together and little touches like fake pipes sticking out the wall with “ooze” leaking out definitely added to the immersion of what was trying to be achieved. Best of all seeing all the old memorabilia and certain behind-the-scenes stuff made the bus seem like a TMNT museum. As a fan that was definitely a cool thing.
By now you are probably saying “just talk about the game dammnit.” First off I wasn’t able to play the game as they weren’t allowing the public to demo it but I was able to watch a good 5 minutes of it in action and later see a more intense section so I definitely got a fair look at things. The one thing that struck me first about the game is that it looks pretty sharp. Now, things aren’t uber detailed or modeled but the game manages to keep the style of the old Turtles in Time game and update it without it feeling too off or too old. The game manages to recreate what Grin did with their update of Bionic Commando -- in Bionic Commando Rearmed -- in keeping the core visual style and layout. This helped in making the transition to 3D smooth, without it feeling too off or different to those who played the original game. The only thing that honestly bugged me was the HUD which for some reason looked like it was using the TMNT design from the recent CG movie. I assume this is just perhaps placeholder as it wouldn’t make that much sense since the contrasting art styles didn't work that well together.
Despite not being able to play the game, watching it being played by someone else seemed to eliminate any fears I had with the game. The general attacks from both the Turtles and the various Foot Soldier ninja goons looked solid and the pace of things didn’t get too overwhelming when multiple enemies where on screen. Both from a game play aspect and from a tech one since I didn’t notice any framerate drops. The only thing that I found concerning in the game is the actual movement of the player controlled Turtle. The player has full control of plane movement and instead of perhaps being on a rigid path and having to alternate between the foreground, middle, and background planes, ala LittleBigPlanet, the player has free reign of movement. Now this isn’t a bad thing, though it may be a concern amongst the purists out there. To me it seemed a bit wild in the movement. Of course this could most likely be a case of me not being used to seeing the character movement in action. It most likely controls and feels fine when you play.
Besides that the game is looking incredibly solid. It looks smooth in action, has good visuals, and doesn’t seem to be straying from the core of the old Turtles in Time game. All that needs to be done to ensure this becomes the best TMNT game ever is to have a reasonable price point and announce a PlayStation Network version to go along with the Xbox Live Arcade release. The TMNT bus itself was quite cool and the care and effort that was put into presenting the history of the TMNT brand really showed and it definately paid off. The only downside I had during my experience at the bus was that there wasn't a hot model in an April O'Neil costume like there was when Ninja Pizza Blog saw the game in action last month.