Saturday, 29 August 2009

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled

It's not often you get to bemoan arcade fidelity. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled is a visuals led re-cast of a 1991 Konami coin-op. Ubisoft Singapore's remake leaves gameplay largely unaltered, instead electing to rebuild the game as a widescreen lensed 3D rumble. New character drafts resemble smoothed contemporary merchandise, rather than the animation models of the 90s token gobble iteration. The brand has moved on. Ubisoft's sole interact tweak comes in the elimination of separate plain brackets, these Turtles now have fluid three dimensional movement on a locked side-scrolling frame. As adjusts go, this is a curiously self-defeating one. The ability to attack in eight directions is mitigated by the free-flow movement of enemies. No longer are you able to move off their attack line to a brief safety, enemies will twist and turn to follow, eliminating much of the player's ability to corral. This shallows an already simplistic game, matches rapidly degenerating into a maddening thump of multi-directional fury.

It's a shame Ubisoft didn't look to Konami's own adaptation blueprint. When Turtles in Time was ported to the SNES as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time in 1992, a conscious effort was made to optimise the game for its new home system. Although audio visual finesse was dialled down to better match 16-bit capabilities, much was added by way of compensation. Randomised visual flourishes were integrated into the moveset; entire levels were added, including Mode 7 racing bonus stages; and the arcade's rather dull boss cast was greatly expanded to include more in-universe personalities. Who'd rather fight a puny mud man when you have a psychotic shadow Turtle available? There was even an option to palette shift your Turtle avatar's skin tone to better match comic, rather than cartoon, colours. Electing to adapt the arcade, rather than SNES, version feels reductive. Factor in a generous helping of audience nostalgia for that home system serving, and Ubisoft Singapore's reissue can't help but look meagre. Couldn't they have at least included an unmolested arcade port?

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