Konami royally screwed the pooch with the first two TMNT games they produced based on the "new" cartoon series, but it looks like they've righted the ship with this latest one.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare is, like its predecessors, a beat-'em-up that's just a bit too heavy with repetitive combat. Unlike those earlier games, however, number three doesn't try to get cute with platforming elements or handicap its multiplayer experience with a shared health meter. It's a pure brawler.
Combat is simple and repetitive, but that's very much par for the course in the arcade-inspired beat-'em-up genre. As you make your way through each level, enemies appear out of doorways and drop down from the ceiling. You can perform weak and strong attacks to wail on them, or cut loose with various multi-attack combos. Each turtle can dash and jump, which means that dash- and jump-attacks are possible as well. Likewise, each turtle can perform a special ouigi attack once his ouigi meter is full. Throughout the course of the game, you'll collect crystals and scrolls that can be used to give the Turtles more combo attacks and to upgrade their abilities. To spice things up, there are a few vehicle and shooting stages sprinkled among the standard beat-'em-up stages.
Those of you that hated the previous TMNT game, Battle Nexus , will be thrilled to learn that none of the levels in Mutant Nightmare employ platforming elements. This game is a pure brawler through-and-through, which means you won't be forced to perform silly jump sequences in the middle of a freakin' boss fight.
One of the game's main selling points is that it features true 4-player simultaneous play in all game modes. That is especially true of the main story mode. As many as four players can "buy in" and play, with each player getting their own health and special meters. Any slots that aren't taken by human beings are filled by CPU-controlled turtles that, for the most part, do their Sunday best to attack and help gang up on the many Triceraton and Foot Clan goons that comprise the major portion of the game's bad guys. Obviously, working through the game with three friends is much more enjoyable than doing so with three CPU-controlled "bots," but solo play still manages to feel somewhat dynamic thanks to the implementation of tag-team and group attacks into the game's combat system.
The production values aren't half bad either, even though the graphics and audio are quite clearly a year or so behind the curve. Game locations vary between large single areas and multiple areas interlinked by doorways. Stages tend to have multiple routes, and movement is free-roaming, so the game has more of a hack-and-slash vibe than a typical arcade-nuanced beat-'em-up. Further contributing to the hack-and-slash atmosphere is the game's camera viewpoint, which is top-down instead of third-person (as it was in the two previous games). The turtles are less likely to end up obscured by the scenery thanks to this new camera viewpoint. Players can also rotate and zoom the camera using the right analog stick. For the most part, the character models look and sound identical to their TV counterparts. Loads of polygons went into the turtles, triceratons, foot soldiers, and various anti-turtle contraptions, and each character has a few spoken phrases that they say when attacking or absorbing damage. Overall, however, the game lacks the sort of oomph we've come to expect from 2005-year PS2 games. The environments are colorful and sharply detailed, but there isn't much life to them aside from a few destructible cars, boxes, and light posts. And you'll be seeing the same handful of characters and attack animations, and hearing the same voice clips, over and over again.
Fans of the TV show will appreciate that the game's story mode is put together like an interactive series of TV episodes. Video scenes play after each level to fill-in the story. Some were put together using new polygon models and game-engine environments, but the overwhelming majority are simply just clips taken directly from show footage. The story mode is split into four distinct episodes and encompasses events from the Triceraton, Shredder, and Ultimate Ninja storylines that made up multiple seasons of the TV show. There are literally dozens of clips taken from numerous relevant TV episodes, so this is a win for both fans and newcomers alike. Fans get to re-live their favorite moments, while newcomers can get caught up on the TV series without reviewing a dozen DVDs or programming the Tivo.
The amount of content on the disc is decent. There's the story mode, which clocks in with more than 50 missions spread across four episodes. There's a free play mode, which lets you play through old areas in order to collect additional scrolls not available in standard missions. And there's a challenge mode, which lets you play through completed missions in order to set new top times and high scores. A nice extra is the movie viewer, which gives you the chance to watch more than 20 video clips taken from relevant episodes of the cartoon show.
Another goodie included on the disc is the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time arcade game. Many people consider Turtles in Time to be the "best TMNT game" ever made, so this is a nice bonus indeed. For some reason though, Konami's idiot squad decided to replace all of the music and voices with audio from the current generation cartoon series. They picked the fruitiest music and voices possible, which is a major downer. On the upside, all of the original gameplay and levels remain untouched and intact.
All in all, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare is good for what it is: a repetitive arcade-inspired beat-'em-up based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series.