Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans have been eating real good recently. With the fantastic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredders Revenge under the belt, they once again get ready for some pizza loving side-scrolling beat ’em up goodness with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection.
Developed by Digital Eclipse and published by Konami, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection brings together thirteen classic arcade and console TMNT titles. There is a ton of variety within and I am going to take a brief look at each individually with some thoughts. But first there is something else I must discuss.
The extras. Yes that’s correct, I want to talk about the extras before the main course, and for good reason. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is now the benchmark for collections like this going forward. I have never seen this level of fan service in any collection of this kind.
Game boxes from both American and Japanese launches are able to be viewed from all sides, instruction booklets can be read, whilst art work, behind the scenes information and concepts are all here to be viewed at your leisure. These are just a few of the content additions found in the extras menu, and there is a whole host of other goodies to explore and indulge in, such as episode art from every iteration of the cartoon, a music player to listen to the soundtracks, strategy guides for every title in the collection and much more that I will let you discover yourself.
Besides being hugely disappointed when initially seeing the TV in the extras menu and instantly thinking they had actually included the cartoons in whole form, this is the single greatest TMNT fans’ look at everything available about these games. Even SEGA’s collections pale in comparison. Digital Eclipse have done something amazing here for Turtle fans and I love them for it.
So the extras are fantastic, close to eclipsing the collection itself but that is not why we came here. Let’s take a look at each of the titles contained in the already stellar collection. In each game you can select whichever of the four brothers you would like to play: Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo or Raphael.
Depending on the title you can also play the title in up to four player co-op; mostly the arcade titles have four player capabilities whilst home consoles are two player and the Game Boy running single player only. A few of the console titles offer up four players thanks to multitap adapters available for that respective system at the time.
Each title has received a lick of polish, modifiers and tweaks that can further be applied for players to really customise their experience. God Mode, Level Select and a cool Watch Mode are on offer here. Watch Mode is fantastically done as you can select this and watch an entire playthrough for tips if stuck. However, this has a superb feature that lets you not only fast forward and rewind sections, but jump in and take control of the action at any point. This takes the rewind function in games like this to a whole new level.
Now onto the games and a very brief mention of each.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade): A personal favourite, mostly due to nostalgia, the great action, wonderful sprites and basic voice acting. Bosses are villains from the original cartoon and the looks still easily hold up today.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Arcade): A huge improvement from the first arcade game, complete with amazing animation and voice effects. Many fans claim this to be the greatest TMNT game of all time, and there’s no denying that travelling through time is a fun mechanic that allows for varied battle settings.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES): Single player only and pretty basic looking, the NES TMNT is not too great sounding and not much of a beat ‘em up. It’s worth a try to compare, but nowhere near the strongest title in the collection.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES): A port of the original arcade title that is not as nice looking as the arcade version. This one can only really be recommended for those with nostalgia, otherwise it’s best to stick to the arcade version.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES): In The Manhattan Project, the enemies come with some really unfair spam attacks; attacks that can reach you across the screen. However, for the NES, the graphics are fantastic. This is definitely the best of the NES titles but still hasn’t managed to withstand the test of time very well.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (NES): Konami’s last ever NES game is basic and scaled down compared to that of the SNES and Mega Drive. There’s some decent music here, but all round it is not a great game. Again, impressive for the NES, but very simple and the environments are pretty plain.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (Super Nintendo): Arguably one of the best beat ‘em ups of all time, this is a port of the arcade version with added features like new levels and music tracks. Whilst I prefer the arcade game on a personal level, this version has more content and will be more familiar with most gamers.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (Super Nintendo): A one-on-one fighter rather than a beat ‘em up, it’s the Story mode which lets you play as one of the Turtles. Each fight comes complete with cutscenes afterwards, but this is not the finest fighting game of its day.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Sega Genesis): ‘Turtles in Time without the time travel’. A very scaled back from the original offering that reuses a lot of assets. It’s not a bad game but not much effort has been put in to make this fresh. Think of it more as a remix than a new game.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (Sega Genesis): It’s here where you finally get the chance to play as April and Casey, in what is pretty much a completely different game from the SNES version. Playing as the Turtles is difficult as they have short reaching moves but again the gameplay isn’t great and the music doesn’t do the job at all.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of The Foot Clan (Game Boy): Fall of the Foot Clan is very slow moving, and whilst you once again have to rescue April from Shredder (as always), the game doesn’t compare to the likes of the arcade titles.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back From The Sewers (Game Boy): A lot better looking than the first Game Boy title, Back From The Sewers has some really nice looking sprites. Again though, it’s extremely slow to play.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (Game Boy): Play as Mike and rescue the other Turtles. Radical Rescue is way better than the other Game Boy titles and plays like a Metroidvania game rather than a beat ’em up. A lot faster paced than the other three games for Game Boy in this collection; the best of the bunch.
So that’s your lot, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is a huge look back at those Turtles games from yesteryear. As we have seen, some of the titles in the line up aren’t quite as strong as others but are necessary for this complete look at the Turtles video games from the arcade beat ‘em up and early console era.
A few may be wondering why I have put Genesis and not Mega Drive when listing the games. See whilst the collection indeed has Genesis versions, the Mega Drive version is the Japanese one and not for the UK sadly.
I say this because over here we had Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles rather than Ninja Turtles, as our British minds clearly would have read the word ninja and formed violent sewer dwelling gangs to fight crime. Silly re-branding aside, the Hero Turtles logo is iconic and nostalgic for many over this side of the world, and it is a shame in the extras menu that UK fans couldn’t take a look at our box art and various merchandise.
That being said the extras menu alone makes this a must buy title and the ability to online co-op play the titles that have four players available makes this an essential addition for any arcade or Turtles fans’ library. It’s the new benchmark for game collections, so go and grab this title, kick back and lose hours with the heroes in a half shell by taking a walk down memory lane.
I can only hope that we eventually get a Cowabunga Collection 2 for the later Game Boy Advance and 3D titles as well. Having a sequel to this collection with the later titles and an extras menu that is as strong as this one, would be an absolute dream for turtle fans. Either way if you’re going to drop a collection of games from this moment onwards, you need to look to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection as the content benchmark.
The Turtle power is strong with this one.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is on the Xbox Store