My Top 5 Games of 1992: #4 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)

Genre: beat 'em up
Platform: SNES (reviewed), Arcade, Genesis (partially,) Xbox Live, PSN

As far as I remember, I was a fairly big fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, but only to a certain extent. Sure, the show was great, the first movie was awesome, and the game in question today was absolutely amazing, but I just don't recall being as obsessed with the show and toys as many of my friends were. I dunno. I think I was more into Nicktoons back then.

I'm sure this statement may piss off some of you, but in my opinion, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time was the best thing the franchise ever produced, and it's still one of the best beat 'em ups ever. I had a decent amount of fun replaying all of the older games I've talked about on this blog, but while replaying Turtles in Time, I really had a blast. I can't overstate just how well this game still holds up.

I couldn't make this shit up if I tried.
The story of Turtles in Time is pretty hilarious to me. The opening cutscene show April O'Neil reporting from the Statue of Liberty, when Krang suddenly shows up and carries the statue away. The airwaves are suddenly hijacked by Shredder, who mockingly laughs at the turtles, prompting them to head out to stop him.

The level progression is kinda weird at first. You start out high up in a construction site for whatever reason. Seriously. It goes from the turtles being in their home in the sewers during the opening cutscene and BAM. Construction site. After that, you're suddenly in an alley in level 2, then you're surfing through the sewer in level 3 and you finally get to the Technodrome in level 4. Dunno why they took that detour above ground, but whatever; it makes for some great opening levels.
Also, in the sewer you fight these things, which look like Xenomorphs crossed with Cheesasaurus Rex.
At the end of the Technodrome level, Shredder attacks you in a giant tank thing and you have to destroy it by throwing his own minions into it. On easy and normal, this fight isn't too bad as the enemies you fight are pretty easy, but on hard you have to fight annoying blocking enemies who are really difficult to throw. After his tank is destroyed, Shredder jumps into a giant monitor which somehow transports him through time. He condemns the turtles to the same fate and sends them back to the year 2,500,000,000BC, placing them in the Paleoproterozoic era, which should kill them within minutes since there was little to no oxygen in Earth's atmosphere at that time.

Shredder also apparently sends legions of minions back in time because every level is packed with them and at the end of each level is one or two of the turtles' villains like Leatherhead, Bebop, and Rocksteady. Most of the bosses are pretty fun to fight, with the exception of Slash, the boss of the prehistoric level, who is a cheap asshole that blocks constantly.

Anyway, the Turtles fight through several time periods and locations including a 16th century pirate ship captained by Bebop and Rocksteady, a 19th century train where you contend with Leatherhead, a much too futuristic version of 2020 where you fly down a highway on hover boards, and a moon base where Krang attacks you in a cute little pink flying saucer. The final level is back in the present day where you finally fight Shredder with Lady Liberty conspicuously looming in the background.

Like I said in the opening paragraphs, Turtles in Time has held up remarkably well over the years. Part of the reason why this article took so long is because I kept wanting to play the game every time I would sit down to write about it. The only other beat 'em up I can think of that I've had such a consistent amount of fun with over the years is Capcom's Alien vs Predator arcade game. It's just one of those games like Dead Space 2 or Persona 4 (shoehorn successful!) that I just never get tired of.

The gameplay is quite simple to learn, but can be pretty deep as far as beat 'em ups go. You only have two buttons to worry about, B to jump and Y to attack, but depending on how you time your attacks and combine the two buttons, there's a ton of moves you can pull off.

For example, most normal enemies can be thrown by attacking them once, waiting a split second, then attacking again. There are also several air attacks you can do, though I still haven't figured out the timing on a few of them. Seriously. I've been playing this game for close to 20 years and I still don't know all the attacks. I know I kinda suck at video games but I'm not THAT bad.

Further mixing up the gameplay is the fact that each turtle plays a bit differently from the others. Leonardo is the most well balanced of the four, moving at a decent speed and doing average damage. Michelangelo moves the slowest and has a fairly short attack range but he does the highest damage out of the four. Raphael is easily the fastest and does about the same damage as Leonardo but has the shortest attack range. Donatello does machines- uh, I mean... he moves the second slowest but has a huge attack range.
That reference isn't offensive or anything.
My recommendation if you're playing on hard would be to NOT pick Michelangelo when continuing if you're getting near the end of the game (picking him at the start is fine.) Shredder moves around so quickly on hard that Mikey's slow attacks are ridiculously hard to time. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that Shredder emits an aura that hurts you if you attack him right before he attacks. On easy and normal, you have a good amount of time to attack him after his aura disappears, but on hard you only have a split second to hut him before he moves and puts the aura back up.

The graphics are decent, though there isn't much to talk about. They are significantly scaled back from the arcade version where every character had amazingly fluid animation. The SNES version's graphics are just about on par with Konami's Simpsons arcade game which just puzzles me even further that they never ported that game to SNES. They probably would've had to scale back a few things but I think it was possible. I'm sure it had to do with licensing issues. Uhg. I hate when corporate politics gets in the way of creativity.

Turtles in Time has a freaking amazing soundtrack. It's similar to Goldeneye 007 in that many of the songs in Turtles in Time are based on the Ninja Turtles theme song and pretty much every song in the game is super catchy and hummable. Hmm... hummable. Is that a word? Spell checker didn't correct me. Anyway, the two boss themes are definitely the standouts. The regular boss theme has some of the craziest bass I've heard in a video game song, and as I said before, the final boss music is one of my favorite boss themes ever. It's just so damn intimidating, though Shredder is admittedly pretty easy unless you're playing on hard.
This level takes place in 2020. Apparently within 8 years we're gonna have a lot of purple buildings and weird F-Zero highways.
Turtles in Time has an interesting release history that is worth talking about. It started out in the arcade, then was ported to SNES and Genesis in two VERY different games. The SNES version was mostly true to the arcade game, though there's a few extra levels and bosses thrown in. The Genesis version is pretty much a completely different game that uses a lot of the same sprites and gameplay, but changes the levels almost completely from the arcade original. It actually doesn't even have the same subtitle, with the Genesis version being titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist, so I guess some people may not even bother mentioning it alongside the others, but I think it's pretty fun.

There's also a remake of the arcade game that is probably not worth mentioning at all because it's not available anymore (at least in the United States. I hear other countries can still play it.) It was available on Xbox Live and PSN for a year or two but was taken down after Konami's license expired or whatever. I never played it but I recall it getting pretty low review scores. If you're in a country where it's still available, I guess you could give it a try.

As far as I know, none of the three original versions is available on Wii virtual console or any similar services though I could be wrong. Freakin' licensing issues... Whatever. Until Konami and whoever else involved gets their shit together, just emulate it.

Now that I think about it, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time is perhaps the most fun game overall in this particular top 5. The 1992 list was actually one of the hardest to put in order, so you can pretty much consider all the games on it as nearly equal in my mind. As far as pick up and play action goes, Turtles in Time is probably the best on the list. It's a game that I've played for about 20 years, and I'm certain that it still has years of enjoyment left to give.
What's with that sepia tone? Did they bring a camera from 1885 to take this picture?

Number 3 in my top 5 games of 1992!
Arguably the best side scrolling shooter of the 16 bit era.

I'll leave you with the two boss themes from Turtles in Time, the first being the regular boss theme and the second the final boss theme. I mentioned in a previous article that Konami was really good at composing music that just makes you wanna kick some ass back in the day and I think that applies perfectly to these songs. Both videos are brought to us by YouTube user HyperComboEx.

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