Blatant Insubordination: What I Learned From Turtles in Time
I’ve been on a Ninja Turtles kick since I saw Polaris Banks’ fan film Casey Jones. Mind you, I’ve always been a Turtles fan, but Banks’ film really brought it to the surface again. I happened to be wearing a Ninja Turtles shirt at work the other day, and one of my colleagues saw it. Interestingly enough, he didn’t want to talk about the old cartoon or any of the movies. He immediately started talking to me about Turtles In Time. This 1992 Super Nintendo release seemed to be his most prominent memory of the Turtles. In the game, the Turtles chase the Foot Clan through various periods in history, as well as their own time. My colleague talked about the “Sewer Surfin” level with great fondness.
And why the hell not? In a lot of ways, the Ninja Turtles video games were better than the TV show. Have you ever gone back and watched a few episodes from the original series? After you get past the first season, some of those shows can be hard to watch. Mind you, I say that as somebody who loves the Turtles. The video games on the other hand, Turtles In Time in particular, hold up great to this day. I think what we loved about them as kids was that they were straight up action, whereas the TV show was mostly about comedy, with a bit of action thrown in. There’s was only so much you can do on a kids cartoon show in terms of violence, but the games had no such limitations. It was pretty awesome.
And for me, it was downright educational. In the same vein as my other “What I Learned” posts about Super Mario World, Final Fantasy VII and Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, let’s see what there is to learn from Turtles In Time.
1. It’s Fun, Though Sometimes Difficult, To Throw People Around
Turtles In Time introduced some new fighting mechanics to the Ninja Turtle games. It allowed you to grab a foot soldier by the arm and slam him against the ground repeatedly. The Turtles could also charge their enemies. But what was probably the most notable new maneuever in this game, was the player’s ability to take a foot soldier and throw him out of the playing field. It actually looked as if you were throwing him head on into the screen. The game requires players to use this new technique when battling Shredder in level four. He’s using some kind of control panel behind a glass monitor, and you need to throw foot soldiers at him to bust it up.
When I was a kid this was one of the toughest fights in the game, because I could never figure out what the trick was to throw the foot soldiers. As an adult, throwing the henchman is easy, but there’s a bigger question on the table: What exactly is it that big machine Shredder is using? As a kid, I pictured it as sort of a big walking tank. But that can’t be it, as it doesn’t actually walk anywhere. So was Shredder just chilling in the Technodrome’s skybox when the Turtles happened to barge in? Was he watching Full House on that big TV/portal in the background? If I were a supervillain with a huge Technodrome, that’s what I’d do. Who the hell needs blu-ray when your TV is THAT big?
2. It’s Always Good To Smack Things With Your Wood Staff
Aside from his love of the “Sewer Surfin’” level, my colleague also talked about how Donatello was always the Turtle you wanted to be in Turtles in Time, because his weapon had the longest reach. That’s a pretty accurate statement. It was accurate in a few of the other Ninja Turtle games too. The one Turtle I NEVER wanted to be in this game? Leonardo. Somehow having two swords made him seem awkward.
One thing I’ve always wondered: Does any of this mechanical stuff actually apply to a video game released in the early ’90s, or are we all making this up in our heads? Did Donny really have a longer reach than any of the other characters, or does it just seem that way? Raphael also seemed to be the fastest…
Donatello was sort of the soft spoken bad ass of the team, wasn’t he? He’s a ninja, just like the others are. But while the others seem to only have personality traits (the leader, the hot head, the party dude), Donny’s got brains. He can kick your ass, and then invent some kind of wacky time machine so he can travel into the past and watch himself kick your ass. In retrospect, maybe I should have wanted to be Donatello more often.
3. Animals In Costumes Are Adorable
Bebop and Rocksteady never got called “adorable” on the show, which is more than understandable. But somehow, I just find them irresistibly cute in their pirate getup. What’s interesting is that none of the other bad guys wore period appropriate costumes. They all pretty much wore their usual get up.
I think what happened is before Shredder told the guys they were going to be in the pirate era, he ribbed them about having worn basically the same clothes in the three previous games, and jokingly advised them to change it up. ”I’m sending you guys on a pirate ship! There’s a hell of a chance to do something different!”
Then they actually found pirate costumes big enough to fit a mutant warthog and rhinoceros, and Shredder probably said: “You guys found costumes? You morons! I was just joking! What is this, an Errol Flynn movie?”
4. If You Whine And Cry And Piss And Moan Enough, You’ll Get To Be The Lead Villain
In Turtles In Time, Shredder and Krang steal the Statue of Liberty, and it’s up to the Turtles to get it back. Per usual in a Ninja Turtle game, Shredder is the final boss, and Krang gets the penultimate spot. To me, this is backwards.
Shredder was kind of a whiner in the original series, wasn’t he? I watched a few episodes from the second season yesterday, and Shredder spent way too much time whining to Krang, pestering him for Dimension X resources and the like. On that show, Krang is clearly the more powerful of the two. Heck, it’s Krang that actually steals the statue! In this game, somehow he’s learned to grow giant-sized, and he simply picks up the statue and leaves! How gigantic do your balls have to be to pull THAT off? He even flashes his guns to April O’Neil’s news camera before he picks up the damn thing (shown left)!
In the movies, and later the 4Kids TV show, Shredder was a sick villain. He was a sadistic ninja master and a modern day monarch of the underworld. In the cartoon he was basically a conniving weasel wearing cheese graters who would occasionally karate chop something. If I’m Krang, the ruler of Dimension X and the guy who owns the friggin’ Technodrome, I’m thinking: “What exactly are you contributing to this partnership?”
SHREDDER: “The foot soldiers are mine! I brought them!”
KRANG: “You mean those robots that just got their asses kicked through 10 levels? And it was about 10,000 to four, so the odds were in their favor.”
SHREDDER: “Bebop and Rocksteady! I hired them!”
KRANG: “And what did they do this time around? They dressed up as pirates. That was it.”
SHREDDER: “Uh…but I’m an idea man! I’m always bringing new ideas to the table!”
KRANG: “I’m a talking brain. Do you really think I’m short on ideas?”
5. Impersonations Are Rarely As Good As The Original
The same year this game was released on the Super Nintendo, a VERY similar game was released for Sega Genesis. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist featured most of the same mechanics that Turtles In Time had, only the levels, boss fights and story were tweaked. In the game, Shredder and Krang shrink Manhattan Island instead of stealing the Statue of Liberty. There are also only five levels, but they’re much longer.
Among the few notable difference between Turtles in Time and Hyperstone Heist, is that in the latter you fight Tatsu, Shredder’s second-in-command from the movies. Also, at the end of one of the levels you fight Rocksteady, but Bebop isn’t in the game at all. My personal favorite difference, and quite frankly, the only improvement this game made on the content from Turtles in Time, is that at the end of the last level after Super Shredder falls over the guard rail, we see a little cut scene of him falling, and then the screen shakes as he hits the ground. A pretty satisfying moment after you’ve been getting kicked around by his cronies for five levels.
The game is fun in its own right, but it’s certainly not on par with Turtles in Time, which had more extravagant levels and locations, and a larger cast of baddies.
6. It’s Funny When A Game’s Acronym Spells T.i.T.
Well, it’s true.
Front page image from cjpwrites.blogspot.com. Image 1 from gameguru.com. Image 2 from videogamesblogger.com. Images 3 and 7 from mobygames.com. Image 4 from bigandbob113.com. Image 5 from casualtygamer.com. Image 6 from screened.com.