In the early '90s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were gods among men. They had a successful independent comic, a cartoon show, a live action movie and more than a few successful video games. One in particular, Turtles in Time for the Super Nintendo, was considered to be a shining example of how to convert an arcade game for a home console. Konami had taken its original quarter-muncher and expanded on it, adding characters, levels and features, before bringing it home to stellar sales numbers. Sadly, this is not the game that you remember.
Despite having the same name as the arcade game and being substantially similar, the SNES version was a noticeable step up from its arcade cousin, and the SNES version of Turtles in Time is the one that most gamers are going to remember playing. Ubisoft's update of the game, however, is based on the arcade original, which means that none of those SNES additions are present.
What is present is an updated look-and-feel of the arcade original with a few tweaks to the gameplay in an attempt to add a bit of depth to the experience.
Visually, Turtles in Time Re-Shelled looks good. There's no disputing that aspect. Ubisoft's art team has done an excellent job of converting the 2-D sprites into 3-D models while preserving their individual character. Both the heroes you love and the villains you love to hate are here, looking better than ever before. While the sound effects and voices have been re-recorded, Ubisoft wisely choose to not mess with the character design. Yes, all the models are now in 3-D, but the original 1990s cartoon-inspired character designs are still at the heart of it all. As soon as the first foot soldiers wander onto the scene, the nostalgia factor starts to kick into full gear.
As one of the early generation beat-'em-ups, the fighting in Turtles in Time Re-Shelled is a fairly straightforward affair. You can use two different attacks, and you can jump. If you're running while you attack, you can rush an opponent. A well-timed attack while next to an opponent will either result in a throw toward the screen (breaking the fourth wall) or using the opponent as a ragdoll to knock down other enemies. There are no complex combo attacks or multilayered special moves to be found, but then again, the original game didn't have them, so the remake can't be faulted too heavily here.
What Re-Shelled does bring to the table is the ability to attack in eight directions instead of just two. In the original game, you could move along the Z-axis but could only attack to the left and the right. Now you can attack in any direction. On the one hand, the new flexibility is nice, but it has the unfortunate side effect of breaking some of the basic game mechanics. Since the game was originally designed as a side-scroller, the levels aren't really designed for eight-way combat. For example, in the original, you could move into the screen to dodge an attack but still be oriented toward your opponent. Here, your character turns along the Z-axis and ends up facing away from the enemy.
Compounding the issue is the fact that the team decided to use perspective shadows rather than a simple circle on the floor. While the new perspective shadows look good, the developers overlooked the utility of the original circle shadow when the turtles are jumping around. It wasn't there just to make things look good. The original game had the direct shadow so that you always knew exactly where your character was located while in mid-air.
Like many XBLA releases, Turtles in Time Re-Shelled adds the requisite online play, so you can team up with your best buds for some shell-shocked action over Xbox Live in case you can't gather the clan locally. Both single-player and multiplayer modes allow you to play through the story, take a stab at survival or hop right to a previously beaten level in Quick Play.
As an update of an older title, Turtles in Time Re-Shelled is an enjoyable nostalgia romp, but there isn't a whole lot here that is going to justify repeated play attempts. While there have been some amazing updates of classic franchises (Namco's Pac-Man Championship Edition being a shining example), sometimes it is best to not mess with what works. In this case, a cheaper, direct port of the arcade original, much like what Ubisoft did with the first TMNT arcade game, would have been preferred. If you're going to do an updated port, then take the same approach that Konami did with the SNES version and actually add content to round out the experience. A fresh coat of paint isn't enough to update the underlying game experience.
More articles about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled