SummaryThe Konami/Ninja Turtles duet delivers another solid entry in the franchise.
The GoodNever one to let the opportunity for a sequel pass by, Konami cashes in yet again on the next-gen Turtle mania and releases a sequel to their entertaining if a bit generic Ninja Turtles beat 'em up. To their credit, however, this time around they released a far more interesting product that manages to completely overshadow their previous game, making its predecessor look more like an engine/basic design test-drive than an actual game (which is actually a pretty common practice in the world of arcade games and big licenses).
Once again the game is loaded with the production values only a big-time developer like Konami can dish out, and you have cartoon cutscenes, bitching cel-shaded graphics and sounds and sfx ripped right out of the cartoon. Gameplay-wise the game takes the basic concept of "kick everything that crosses your path in the head" present in the original and adds to it more character-oriented gimmicks and different gameplay concepts. You can now play the game with all 4 turtles at once on the screen, and additionally each turtle now has not only new fighting moves and powered charged moves, but they also have special unique abilities that are used to solve the mini-puzzles now included on all the levels. For instance, Leo can slice things with his swords, thus he can make a bridge out of a nearby column by cutting it so that it falls across a chasm, while Don on the other hand can operate consoles and thus just power-up the energy bridge to get across, etc. etc.
You get the picture right? This kind of "Lost Vikings-lite" thing has been done to death in millions of other games, yet it never ceases to bring diversity and fun to the game. The levels are miles away from the original in terms of quality and variety as they not only take you to lots of varied locations (post-apocalyptic New York, medieval Japan, outer space, etc.) but also include vehicle sequences like in the original arcade games (remember the powered skate-boards?). Levels for the most part make use of the character-specific gimmicks and also provide lots of secret areas reachable only to specific characters, this is an important feature to take note of as the game now includes more in the way of collectable items, powerups and credits used to buy alternate costumes, characters and special surprises in the separate Sewer Base.
This brings me to the game progression, which follows the second/third season of the show and takes the turtles across the galaxy fighting all sorts of ultra-dimensional crap... yeah, well. Just as the original, the game takes you through levels that represent the biggest plot points in the saga, yet this time around, the levels are presented through a non-linear roadmap that branches to alternate/secret levels provided you can find the alternate exits in the levels where the branch occurs. You can navigate back to any completed level to try again or if you feel like ditching the plot-line for a while you can return to the Sewer Base for additional challenges. The Sewer basically merges the extra features of the original game, such as browsing through art galleries, vs gameplay modes and stuff like that with the all new Battle Nexus tournament modes (which pit your selected turtle against an onslaught of different enemies in a tournament arena for different prizes) as well as April's antique store in which you can check out all the unique items you collected and more behind-the-scenes stuff from the cartoon. As one can clearly see the title comes packed with features and action gameplay, to the point it makes a serious grab for the "Best Ninja Turtles game Ever"-crown.
The BadFrom a storyline point of view the game completely lost it, as it deals mostly with the space-faring adventures of the four Turtles. This is the kind of uninspired crap that studio executives always eventually put in any animated series as they see their ratings drop and think "Hey, kids like Batman right? And they also like dinosaurs! So if we put Batman fighting against dinosaurs they'll like it even more!!"... sheeesh. Anyway, this is what happened with the Ninja Turtles on it's original run and it's exactly what's happening now, as the Turtles leave their urban ninja-fights in favor of intergalactic crap. I guess this really isn't Konami's fault, and by the latter stages of the game, when the story returns to earth and starts to revolve around the Shredder and his daughter (yes, daughter) things get back on track, but you still have to wade through a lot of sci-fi crap to get there.
On a less bitchy note I would like to point out that the game basically uses the same engine as the previous title, yet it ditches the cel-shading on/off option which leaves gamers without a vertex-shading capable board out of the experience, kind of a dumb move there, Konami.
The Bottom LineThe most comprehensive and feature-loaded Ninja Turtles game yet, with enough action gameplay depth and long-term value to appeal to even the most jaded Turtle-hater. I used to think the idea for new Turtle games was a trainwreck waiting to happen, but if this is the way things are going to be then I can't wait for a third installment! Believe it or not this time Konami didn't screw up a sequel.