TMNT: Tournament Fighters – SNES
Platform: Super NES
Release Date (NA): December 1993
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles need no introduction – they’re known the world over any child of the 80’s remembers their cultural and merchandising ubiquity. Phrases like “cowabunga” and “turtle power” become a part of our lexicon, and the names of great Renaissance artists began finding greater association with animated anthropomorphic reptiles. Video games were just one outlet for the franchise, and Tournament Fighters (occasionally referred to as “TMNT 5“) was the series’ stab at the fighting genre, which was really beginning to blossom in the early to mid 90’s after the successes of games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat.
One of the most interesting aspects of TMNT: Tournament Fighters is Konami’s decision to create divergent rosters for each home incarnation of the game. Aside from the 4 turtles as playable characters, each port (NES, SNES, and Genesis) contains different selectable characters; Shredder makes an appearance in all games but is relegated to boss status in the Genesis version. I remember having a lot of fun switching back and forth between the NES and Genesis versions as a kid (as well as wishing they’d just throw everyone together in a single game), but tonight I sat down with the SNES port for the very first time.
I’ll go ahead and admit that I’m a little bit spoiled by the Mortal Kombat series. It’s not that I’m necessarily an expert at it, but it is how I’m “used to fighting” and I find other schemes (even Street Fighter) to be clunky and awkward by comparison. But fighting games have always held a certain allure for me, and it’s great to see Konami dig into some of the more obscure reaches of TMNT continuity as sources for the characters. As far as early-ish fighting games go, Tournament Fighters is fairly decent. Characters contain appreciable movesets and remain stylistically different from one another. It certainly wasn’t meant to redefine the genre, but it is a worthwhile application for the sake of putting the Turtles in the ring with each other.
Ten fighters are available, plus 2 bosses that can only be access with a cheat device such as a Game Genie or Action replay (Rat King and Karai). Besides each of the 4 Turtles, players can choose from Wingnut (an alien bat-like creature from the comics that also appeared once in the cartoon), War (an obscure figure from the comics), Shredder, Chrome Dome, Armaggon (a mutant shark taken from the comics), and Aska, a completely original character who has appeared neither before or since the SNES port. While I do wish there were more recognizable faces, I’m still happy to see these oddballs sharing the spotlight. The game also attempts to retain some of the comics’ darker nature in the (badly translated) dialog.
For maximum enjoyment, it’s probably best to bring in a friend and go into Versus Mode for a couple of hours. A lot of early fighting games are held back somewhat by a lack of anything to do, but since this was the norm back then, I’m not docking the score significantly. Tournament Fighters offers up a couple of other modes as well, including Watch Mode (to watch the computer fight itself), a Tournment arcade-style 1 player mode, and a Story Mode where the player has limited continues and can only select from the 4 Turtles. There isn’t much of a story to be told, but it’s a good enough way to square off against the bosses as well as the “Turtle clones.”
The graphics may not be the best of what the 16-bit era had to offer, but they do contain that sort of high-detail animation that marked a drastic shift from the 8-bit days. I love how detailed the creatures are and the artists did a great job of combining cartoons with a degree of realism that makes the characters look like actual fighters. War and Armaggon are by far my favorites. Attention has also been spent on the backgrounds which display a variety of semi-active venues (a rock show, ruins with the Foot cheering, pirate ship with giant octopus, etc.) as opposed to many of the static and stale backgrounds present in so many fighting games.
One of the reasons I pushed TMNT: Tournament Fighters into a full-fledged “Good” rating on the Nerd Scale (a 7 or higher) is due to the differences in style from one character to the next. Even each fighter’s basic moves are a little different, with the main distinction being power vs. speed. Although I’d prefer a more fluid system of combat in a perfect world, it isn’t nearly as cumbersome as other games; there’s some rudimentary comboing and juggling techniques that push it beyond the dull brawls of generic fighting games. Every now and then, I’m convinced that I see just a little spatter of blood.
My only real criticism is how difficult the computer is, even at a moderate difficulty. As in a lot of non-MK games, holding “Back” initiates a block, and the blocking player receives no damage. The computer can so precisely time its blocking maneuver that it can easily spend its time chewing out the clock. Tournament Fighters has 8 levels of difficulty (from 0 to 7) and even with a moderate setting of 3 I found it almost impossible to survive 2 rounds.
Considering its age and the surrounding climate at the time, TMNT: Tournament Fighters is a decent game. Though the mechanics are slightly dated, it does manage to outperform several other cash grabs on the fighting phenomenon and there’s enough variety for some decent multiplayer game time. I personally have a soft spot for the artwork, which I think any TMNT fan will find delightful.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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