I was under the assumption that I was too old to actually like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when they found fame in the late ’80s, but I didn’t care. The Ninja Turtles were freaking cool, damn it. Anyhow, now I know that being 10 years old isn’t too old to like cartoons – I still like them! Sometimes I look back on those days and laugh at how stupid so many of my classmates were in their sad efforts to appear mature.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about now. Having established that I’ve liked the Turtles for over 20 years now, I feel I can go ahead and tackle the review at hand: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash Up is a fighting game that’s very similar to Super Smash Bros. Brawl. In fact, its developer is Game Arts, who also happened to work on Brawl. Now before you get your hopes up about a giant in-game roster of selectable characters, I have to let you down: compared to Brawl’s roster, Smash-Up’s is very small.
The Ninja Turtles, Splinter, April, and Casey are all selectable from the start, with other cast members being unlocked by completing certain in-game goals. If you stopped following TMNT after the ’80s cartoon, not many of these characters will be familiar to you. Shredder and a Foot Ninja are the two big ones most people will remember. Fugitoid, Karai, Nightwatcher, and Utrominator round out the regular cast while several of Ubisoft’s Rabbids make cameo appearances as well.
The object of the game, not surprisingly, is to beat down your opponent. You can make use to quick and strong attacks, and string these together in limited combos as well. Some moves will keep enemies at bay while special attacks such as the attainable kunai, fire breath, and bombs can help juggle opponents. As with Brawl, there are many stages where you can win by making your foe fall off the stage, but this is easier said than done.
The environments are all fitting for the game (there’s even a train stage that’s an homage to a similar stage from Turtles in Time), but throughout the arcade play mode there are some questionable bonus rounds every few fights. This mode isn’t particularly long, but it is a requirement for unlocking certain characters. When it’s time to play a bonus stage, the player gets to choose which one to attempt. While the objectives of these are all different, the main gist is to get as far as possible before the timer runs out.
The arcade mode is relatively short, and there’s not much variety in the actual battles. Later fights involve several enemies but they’re defeated easily enough. Much of the fun comes from the stage hazards, both avoiding them and using them to your advantage. Some water-themed stages such as the sewer include random appearances by crocodiles that will eat you if you get in their way.
Additional game modes do their best at boosting the play value of the game, with Battle Royal and Survival modes being the most fun. As with all fighters, it’s also more rewarding to play against friends. Still, unless you’re a fan of TMNT, there’s really not much reason to be into Smash Up. The battles can be cool and full of meaty combat, but I could see this being really boring for people not emotionally invested in the characters – and there’s very little to make them endearing in-game, so you really have to know about them before going into this.
The cut scenes are pretty cool, though. The artwork is reminiscent of the older black and white Mirage comics (and in fact the game comes with a neat mini-comic). These scenes are mostly still images with subtle animation, if any. But they’re also fully voiced, and the acting’s as decent as one could expect from a Ninja Turtles videogame.
It’s not the best fighting game I’ve played, but it’s a far cry better than the other Turtle fighter I have, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters for the SNES. That one didn’t even make sense. At least I was able to sit down this weekend, space out, and play Smash Up till 3:30 a.m. It was actually quite hypnotic, and I found that the more I played it, the more I liked it. This one is definitely for younger gamers, so if you’ve got kids who are into Turtles, I recommend checking this out.