All of Time and Space Before You
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time
When we discussed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, we noted that when the game was ported to the NES the game makers, Konami, tried to make as accurate a port of the original as they could. It actually made it a hard decision to choose which version was better -- while the Arcade version featured better graphics and sound, as well as four player support, the NES had more stages and a better difficulty balance. Either release, then, had its pros and cons, making it essentially a tie for the winner of that comparison, although both versions were fantastic so it was really more of a win-win. Now that we're at the second Arcade release for the series, you would think we'd have the same issue, but that simply isn't the case: the SNES version is, hands down, the better release.
One edge the original Arcade game has was its improve graphics that were firmly in the realm of 16-bit graphics. Compared to the NES iteration, the first Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesOriginally dreamed up as a parody of Marvel's Daredevil comics (going so far as to basically reproduce to opening shots of that comic's hero gaining his powers), the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles not only launched a sudden boom of anthropomorphic fighting animal comics but have, themselves, starred in multiple comics series, TV shows, and movies. for Arcades looks so much better. Given a few years, and new hardware, though, and the versions of Turtles in Time looked the same. Yes, the SNES version was missing a couple of minor graphics here and there, and there was a lot of voice work that didn't make the port to the SNES, but side by side it's a lot harder to say one version looked better than the other. Really, it looked, for the most part, like all the graphics and music were ported directly over, one-to-one, to the SNES. That made the home console edition of the game a complete Arcade experience right on your TV.
More than complete, in fact. Like with the NES edition of The Arcade Game, the SNES port, TMNT IV: Turtles in Time had new content added in to make this experience feel even bigger than the original. You won't notice this new content for the first couple of stages, but things start to change in the third stage, "Sewer Surfin". While the original version of this stage was a slog, with enemies constantly pouring on your from all sides, the SNES version changed the stage into a bonus round, something light and fun to breeze through before the boss fight. That's the other part of the stage that changed as the original didn't have a boss. Here, though, the Rat Kind comes rolling in on his boat and you have to destroy it to progress.
Things then take a bigger turn from here as the Arcade edition immediately dumps the players into a time warp with little explanation. The SNES version, though, has the bros head to the Technodrome to stop the evil Shredder once more, and this is a new, lengthy stage added to the game. Two bosses from the Arcade edition. Tokka and Razar, were moved here, and then there's a big fight with Shredder in his mobile tank (where, using Mode 7, the Turtles have to throw foot ninjas at the screen to beat the boss). Then, using Technodrome technology, the Turtles are then sent whipping through time.
The stages progress more or less how you'd expect from here, with just a few more minor changes along the way. For instance the boss of "Prehistoric Turtlesaurus", Cement Man (a guy I've never heard of and I'm a pretty devout TMNT fan) was swapped with the even-famous Slash. Then, with the pirate level's bosses Tokka and Razar moved earlier in the game, pirate-themed Bebop and Rocksteady were added for a fun fight that fits the feel of the stage. Moving forward to the future, the "Neon Nightriders" stage, another surfboard affair, was changed into a bonus game (and the layout of the stage was completely revamped to use the hardware's Mode 7 graphics). This then lead up to the last sections of the game with a slightly tweaked Krang fight and then a battle with Super Shredder (who replaced regular Shredder here in a mild-reskin of the fight). Overall a lot of nice changes and improvements for the game.
Whether you like the new content or not may be a matter of your personal preference but I feel like it makes a fairly slight game fell much more full and complete. The new additions are well thought out and everything fits together into a very complete package. Plus, let's all agree that the base game itself, in either form, is pretty darn fantastic. Both editions of the game are upgrades over what came before, adding more depth and variety to the original game (and port) for a complete and enjoyable experience.
The upgrade from one game to the next admittedly doesn't feel like a huge leap if you're just going from Arcade to Arcade. The Arcade Game's original release doesn't look at all poor in comparison to Turtles in Time, with similar graphics effects, and sound. This game does add in more moves for the Turtles to perform, like overhand back-and-forth smashes and towards-the-screen throws. Both games are high difficulty and bosses that really felt unfair to fight, so there was no improvement on this score. But over all, these two feel of a piece, which makes sense when they both run on essentially the same hardware.
The same can't be said for the series on home consoles. There, the SNES edition of Turtles in Time feels leaps and bounds ahead of the what came before. The graphic and sound upgrades alone make the game look so much better than the NES games, leaving this as the some home port for Nintendo consoles that matches the feel of the Arcade experience. Even with a game in between on consoles, TMNT III: The Manhattan Project, this fourth release still feels like a proper, natural progression for the series. It's a solid cap to the trilogy of games and the best version of the Arcade experience out of the set.
That's really why, for my money, I'd pick the SNES edition of Turtles in Time over the original, every time. Sure, the Arcade game still has the edge if you want to play four-player co-op as the SNES edition only supports the two, but the difficulty of the Arcade game makes four-player practically essential while the SNES edition, which it's easier difficulty (but also a Hard mode you can turn of in you're a masochist) has the right balance for one to two players to party through. The SNES edition is, in short, a better more accessible experience that doesn't compromise on what matters.
Of course, that won't stop me from getting an arcade cabinet of this game if I can get it, despite already having the SNES edition already. I may like one over the other, but both versions are still a blast.
Ports and Other Releases
Soon after the SNES edition, a reworking of Turtles in Time, The Hyperstone Heist, was released on the Sega Genesis. It is, fundamentally, the same kind of game as the Arcade release, just with rearranged bosses and levels. Although it uses many of the same assets as the Arcade and SNES releases, this game feels just different enough that we'll cover it next time.
A version of the Arcade release was ported to TMNT 3: Mutant Nightmare as a bonus unlockable. The game is the same as the Arcade version (so none of the extra SNES content was included). Weirdly, as a straight port, the Turtles were assigned based on the controlled port used so only two of the Turtles could be accessed at all, Leo and Mikey, unless the players had a multi-tap to attach to their PS2.
Finally, there was an enhanced remake of the original created by Ubisoft. Titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled, this edition updated the style to 3D graphics but kept much of basic the content the same as the Arcade original (so, again, no SNES bonus content). The problem is that the new 3D graphics don't have the same cartoony energy as the original, looking dull and drab. Those are also accurate descriptors of the play style which lacked energy or spark. This was, then, an inferior remake in all ways. Of course, even if you wanted to play it the game has long been removed from Online marketplaces so there's absolutely no way to play it unless you already had it. I'd be sad, but, honestly, it was awful.