Thursday, August 6, 2009

Turtle Soup.

(TMNT: Turtles in Time - Xbox Live Arcade: 800 points, PSN: TBA)

My earlier post, Pizza Time, had a mixture of excitement, and a dose of skepticism. After all, Turtles in Time is a beloved game, both the Arcade version and the SNES home conversion. I booted up the trial (read: unpaid for) version of the game and took it for a spin.

What happened?

After an admittedly stylish and well done rendition of the original intro, I jumped in. The artwork is nice and high res, the title song was different, and I sensed nothing amiss. Selecting my favorite Turtle also proved to be a non issue, and the power ratings adorning each turtle were a nice touch as well, moving the selection past being more than a (mostly) aesthetic affair. The announcement of “Big Apple, 3 AM” also did much to ease my concern that perhaps, this was done to form.

Then the game itself started.

What happened exactly?

I had my share of skepticism with the new art direction for the game ever since I saw it in screenshots, but seeing it in motion is something else entirely. The game looks flat. SNK set out to make a point with The King of Fighters XII that NOTHING can replace good old fashioned sprite art when the chips are down, and this game’s visuals unintentionally solidify this fact. The colors no longer pop, the stage itself has lost its cartoonish charm, and the overall package left a dry taste in my mouth. Gone are each turtle’s signature animations, gone are the incompetent gaits of the foot soldiers, gone are the speech bubbles and general tomfoolery that truly made you feel like you were playing a TMNT comic. Even the meaty, screen shaking effects brought on by your hits and slams are all but gone here, and it contributes to the flat feeling the visuals bring about. Things are happening on screen, foot soldiers are being beat down, but it’s hard to care when every attack seems like it was done with a feather touch.

You can tell they were trying to save it a bit with the cartoonish “THWACK” effects and comic style explosions, but they don’t help the game’s case, they only solidify that perhaps this should’ve been done entirely in high res 2D. It’s a pipe dream however, because the reality is that there is no way Ubisoft would’ve ever committed that much effort to a downloadable title.

It isn’t all terrible though. The 3D visuals are slick, and certain things do pop, such as Krang’s robot coming from the shadows to zap the stage, and small touches like Baxter Stockman breaking the fourth wall by flying up to the screen and laughing at the player before powering up, do well to signal that they wanted to at least retain the charm of the original.

The music is less forgivable though. If ever there were a case for a game’s soundtrack, and just how integral it is for the overall feel of a game, this is the most recent shining example. Anyone who has come within even breathing distance of the game knows how excellent the soundtrack was, and diehards can recall a theme off the top of their head with frightening accuracy. This is how beloved the soundtrack of Turtles in Time was. I expected at the very least, if not the original tunes, an arranged or remixed version of the original music. For them to not even bother remixing, but to REPLACE the entire soundtrack begs the question of why they bothered calling it a remake at all. What’s on play here is not only frighteningly generic, but it changes the tone of the game as well from whimsical to off puttingly serious at times. The sound effects are also flat as well. Explosions don’t pop, impacts don’t even sound half as meaty as the 16 bit home version, and voices sound muted, though at the very least, the voices of some the characters and enemies somewhat emulate the original well.

Gameplay is the only area where things were consistent and improved. While the original moveset is more or less intact, making it easy to jump in and have fun, the one flaw that was improved over the original is depth perception. Because the game is in full 3D this time, there are no longer planes of movement to contend with. Fighting foot soldiers, not to mention bosses feels much more natural because of this, and the game is much better off because of it. This comes in handy especially during multiplayer with 4 other people, where the deluge of thwacks, foot soldiers and flying turtles can create a confusing scene. Speaking of the multiplayer, I’m also pleased to report that it’s mostly lag free, and I had no trouble getting into matches.

You’ll find that most of my problems stem from the lofty expectations I had for the game reputation wise. Despite the faults on display though, I still want the game and would encourage others to play, especially in multiplayer. It is a solid beat-em-up and there is much fun to be had while playing, it just isn’t what Turtles in Time used to be. Taking this title on its own merits, it’s very easy to enjoy, and it’s admittedly the most solid TMNT game I’ve played in years. Playing it a bit longer did help it grow on me, but I didn’t forget I was having the most fun when I put aside my desire for a true remake and took it as is.

At the end of the day though, this game was supposed to live up to the legacy of the original, and it falls short of that mark. It’s not so much a remake as it is a reimagining, and for them to advertise it as the former instead of the latter is where the majority of the disappointment lies, especially as a fan.
Whether or not you’re willing to discard that notion and have a bit of fun anyway is up to you. If you're a newcomer, you have even less to worry about.

1 comment:

  1. I'd have to say that its such a non-remake that the game has put itself up as a stand-alone XBLA title, in which case it is unfortunately ripped apart by Castle Crashers.

    This game can't win on either front. I wish I could trade it in.

    I also almost fully expect Konami to release the original Turtles in Time within the next 10 months to further stick it to Ubisoft. It seems like Konami wasn't very cooperative with Ubisoft during the creation of this game.

    I also wish to see the amount of money Konami charged Ubisoft to buy the music. Probably some astrononmically uncooperative amount that forced Ubisoft to run and bring in the sound engineering intern on short notice to whip something up.