Haven't We Seen This Before?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist
As I've observed, as well as many others over the years, the 8-bit and 16-bit eras of gaming drew battle lines for many kids. Either you were a Nintendo fan or you were a Sega fan and most households didn't have both. Some companies made the same game for both companies, but sometimes exclusives were licensed, specific games made for one console over the other, and then an entire portion of the game-playing public missed out. When the port of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time arrived on the SNES, it was a console exclusive, leaving many Sega fans wondering, "where's my 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. game?"
Bear in mind that up until this point every TMNT game had been released, in some form, on Nintendo consoles. Sega fans wanted their own game from the series, for once, and they were eager for Konami to release anything they could. I just doubt that, all things considered, The Hyperstone Heist was the game the fans really wanted. It does meet the requirement for being a TMNT game that plays like the Arcade-style editions. But beyond that, this game is a half-baked affair that doesn't really do much to justify its own existence.
At first blush The Hyperstone Heist seems like a re-imagined port of Turtles in Time. Shredder once again steals the Statue of Liberty (this time taking the rest of Manhattan along for the ride, marking the second time that island has been stolen since it was also grabbed in The Manhattan Project, leading the Turtles to chase after him. The the boys head to the streets and sewers of New York for a an adventure across a number of terrains before the final encounter with Shredder in the Technodrome. All your usual stuff at play for a standard TMNT adventure.
Things start to go off the rails, though, once you realize just how much of this game is recycled from previous efforts. For starters, every asset in the game is borrowed from either the Arcade Turtles in Time, the SNES port, or the original The Arcade Game. Nothing in this game's first two stages is at all new, with the only creativity showing up in the third stage, a dojo level where the Turtles fight Tatsu (from the first two TMNT live action movies, making his one and only appearance in video game form). The rest of the game is heavily recycled, right down to the fourth stage being another sewer section, this time with a Boss Rush of the three previous battles you've already fought, and then another recycled boss from The Arcade Game.
The recycled nature of the product also leads to another issue: the game is just so short. Its five stages long, (although the last stage is long enough, with two boss fights included, that it could have been two stages on its own). Five stages, and one of those stages is just a refight stage. That's not a whole lot of content on display, despite how many stages and assets could have been borrowed from all the previous 16-bit games in the series.
Weirdly, when the one original stage, the Dojo, feels recycled, just not from a 16-bit game. This stage borrows heavily, both in design and theme, from the Dojo level added to the NES port of The Arcade Game. While they clearly had to do touch-ups to the art for this stage (and they added an outdoor section not seen in the original version), this stage, too felt recycled. Why bother just remaking this stage when so many other assets from the series could have been used. Or, if the effort was going to be put in to make new graphics for a new level, why borrow from the NES game when anything else could have been added instead? This creative decision baffles me.
The one thing Sega fans point to with this game is that the stages are much longer, even if there aren't as many. And this is true, although I don't know if they're long enough to justify the overall game length. The first stage starts in the sewers, bounces up to the street (right around the point where you'd expect the end-stage boss to appear), and then goes back into the sewers to finish out the stage. The second level, meanwhile, starts with a surfing section (the only one in the game) before the Turtles end up on a Haunted Ship (recycling the pirate ship stage) and then down into a cavern (recycling the prehistoric stage). Stage three is new, and a long two-parts, so each of these are certainly long enough in their own way. I'd say, grand total, there's probably six or stages worth of content in these three levels, and if the game had continues at this clip for another three or so stages, I might have been more forgiving.
What annoys me, getting back to my earlier point, is that Boss Rush stage. Boss refights are a common thing in video games (just look at how the Mega ManIn 1987, Capcom released Mega Man on the NES, a game featuring a blue robot that fought other robots and took their powers (so that he could then fight other robots with those powers, and on, and on). The series went on to release over 50 games in 30 years and become one of the most famous gaming franchises in the world. series made it an expected element in their end castles), but they're generally put in near the end of a lengthy game when you've already fought through a solid set of six or eight foes. The Hyperstone Heist is barely going before the game digs into its own well to recycle content. Bear in mind that we'd only see three bosses -- Leatherhead, Rocksteady (with no Bebop to be found in this title), and Tatsu, and suddenly their back again for another go-round. It's a cheap cop-out that tasted sour in my mouth.
I get that Konami wanted a quick port they could shove out the door, one that didn't take a lot of work to put together and would please Sega fans. The fact is, though, that they went through the effort of getting the engine to work on Sega's console so why not put the effort in the rest of the way and make a proper, full length game. If they were going to recycle content they could have at least done more with it, making a kind of "best of" of both of the Arcade games with enough stages and diversity to make this feel like something other than a cheap cast off.
It's sad, really, because the game itself plays really well. It had the right feel to it, with the Turtles being just as responsive, as maneuverable, as they always are. Just about everything they could do in the SNES game is back here, barring the ability to throw the Foot Soldiers at the screen (something the Sega Genesis couldn't reproduce). The game looks right, feels right, and more or less sounds like it should (I'm not a fan of the Sega Genesis sound board but I know it has its supporters so we'll avoid a lengthy discussion about that tech here). The game plays like a proper TMNT title and, if the effort had been put in, the game could have been a real winner. As it is, The Hyperstone Heist feels like a pale imitation of a superior game, created simply to appease a portion of a fanbase but not given the due care and consideration it required.
I've seen magazines list The Hyperstone Heist as the "Best Turtles game on a Sega Console" and that's true. It one hundred percent is the best one. It only has that title, though, because it's also the only one released for Sega consoles. If any of the other games in the series had come to Sega, or if they game had been released on Nintendo's consoles, it would be a forgotten note in the otherwise storied franchise. This game could have been great but Konami dropped the ball completely.