How could I enter 2011 without digging deep into my favorite topic, Ninja Turtles? I couldn’t. And beyond that, how could I not start with a rant about something that just plain ticked me off? I love rants, I love Ninja Turtles, but I certainly don’t love Turtles in Time: Re-Shelled. Reason being? It’s awful, lazy, and not even worth the discounted price I paid for it. I gave a review of it once last year when it came out, but I’m a year older and a year wiser, so here’s January’s Bad Game That Should Have Been Great, Turtles in Time: Re-Shelled.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time is without a doubt one of my favorite games for the SNES for a number of reasons, the main three coming down to the Turtles being exactly how I expected them to be, the physical contact with enemies feeling so good, and the music turning out to be smack-your-fanny excellent. I played Turtles in Time over and over again. I’d invite friends to play it with me. I knew where every enemy was coming from, how to throw enemies into the screen, and the best strategy for beating every boss.
I’m telling you all this to frame the expectations I had for Re-Shelled when it was first announced as part of the Turtles’ 25th Anniversary celebration, which turned into a crapfest at an alarming rate. Re-Shelled was a project I became very excited about, thinking, “A remake of one of my favorite games with current technology? Awesome!” I expected the graphics to get better, the levels to get longer, and the game to just get deeper and more elaborate. You may be aware of this, but none of what I’d hoped for came to pass.
Immediately upon starting up Re-Shelled, the faintest hint of Ubisoft getting it right dissipates. The music for the title screen begins just as the original game’s title music sounded, but then breaks away to do its own thing completely separate from the source material. My biggest gripe really does come down to the music. The original has one of my favorite game tracks ever, one of my favorite boss tracks ever, and one of my favorite complete soundtracks overall. This new one? Pitiful.
My hopes were at an insane high when the thought of a remake inspired images of the Super Street Fighter II HD remake from a little while back, a game that had a completely remixed soundtrack as composed by Overclocked Remix, a site you may have heard me mention at least once. Were Turtles in Time to get the same treatment, no amount of gameplay tweaks or content inclusions (or exclusions) could have deterred my mind from assuming the title was a complete success. I can and have salvaged entire games on the soundtrack alone.
Take a break here and listen to the stage music from the first level of Turtles in Time for the SNES:
Okay, now listen to the same stage 1 music as it appears in Re-Shelled:
Can you hear the difference? The SNES and arcade versions had a fast-paced soundtrack filled with a lot of high-energy beats. Once again, listen to the boss music from the arcade version:
And now the Re-Shelled version:
They just don’t compare. The original music is infinitely better as it captures the mood of the Ninja Turtles correctly by acting as great beat-‘em-up music. The new tracks are extremely weak, hardly being memorable other than the usual, “Damn, this crappy song is stuck in my head” sort of way. As Other Chris pointed out to me, “It sounds like they’re making fun of the game itself; like they’re acting like it’s all a big joke.”
One last time, the original music from Sewer Surfin’:
And Re-Shelled’s version:
Awful. Just awful. I need something to get that bad taste out of my mouth.
I’ve played through the game a total of about five or six times, at least once with each of the four Turtles. They do play differently, mostly from their SNES/arcade counterparts. Years ago, their actions total actions were a basic attack, a special attack that instantly destroyed the enemies it hit, a jump, four versions of the jump kick, a dash attack, a dash-flip-slide attack, the ability to throw enemies into the screen, and the ability to slam the enemies from side to side. Re-Shelled reduces the jump attacks to two, makes the slide special move what happens with you hit your special attack while dashing (thus making it less about skill), and makes the special attacks about as powerful as regular attacks. Taking the “special” out of the special attacks is an odd concept for me. They no longer require you to lose health to use them, but now they’re little more than a “heavy attack” button, not a special attack. You can hit an enemies three times with your special attack before they explode, which sort of takes away the “special” aspect.
Speaking of hitting enemies, everything sounds likes it’s made of wet sponges. The SNES version delivered a definite “thump” when you smacked an enemy, and an even bigger “smash” when you used a special attack or completed a combo of regular attacks. Taking away this sense of power causes the Turtles to sound weak and, frankly, uninteresting.
Even worse, the controls got worse now that you have full range of motion. Instead of just attacking to the left and the right, you are capable of attacking in all directions. Rather than allowing for greater accuracy, it causes you to swing away until you manage to hit something, making the best strategy in every encounter come down to “keep mashing the attack button until every sponge explodes.”
One thing that I found incredibly odd was that every Turtle had a different voice actor. Okay, that alone isn’t odd. What made it odd is that while every Turtle had a different voice actor, they all had the exact same dialogue. This made sense as a limitation in the classic versions as the same voice played every time a Turtle said anything, but here it once again just feels lazy. The Turtles themselves don’t even have that many lines of dialogue. They say, “Shell-Shocked” when knocked out, “My toe, my toe!” when they stub their toes, “I feel sea sick” when spin around, “Cool off, suckers” when hitting a fire hydrant, “My nose!” when they smack their nose on the annoying planks in the pirate ship, and “This cave is creepy” when they fall down a manhole. That’s about it other than “Pizza time!” and “Cowabunga!”
They took the time to find four different voice actors to give varying personalities to the Turtles, so why waste yet another great opportunity for a better game by just having them all repeat the same dialogue? For instance, “Cool off, suckers” can still be Raph’s line, but Don can say, “Hope you can swim,” Mike says, “Take a bath, stinky,” and Leo will say, “You need to chill out.” I spent about ten seconds writing out perfectly acceptable dialogue for the various Turtles, but that was too much time for Ubisoft. Let’s try again with “I feel sea sick.” Mike can say that when spun, whereas Don says, “I’m gonna hurl,” Leo says, “Treated like a top,” and Raph says, “What goes around, bub.” Am I over-simplifying things? Am I missing some complicated aspect needed for writing at Ubisoft? Why not just have every turtle say, “This game’s a disappointment!” every time they do anything. That’d be more honest.
I’m not a fan of the new versions of the Turtles as made popular by the new cartoon and the CGI movie, but I accept that they have to look that way now. I can’t hog the Turtles’ appearance just because I knew and loved them when they were an 80’s cartoon. But I wouldn’t mind seeing them return to the proportions seen in the original comics with longer limbs and necks as opposed to the stubby-headed things we have now.
This goes double for the bosses of Re-Shelled. Every one of the bosses receives the “Poochie” treatment here, making them darker and edgier without retaining their original charm. Fans can see through reimaginings of characters and understand when they were made by people who have no clue what made the characters memorable to begin with. Leatherhead, the gator boss from the train stage, originally had a vest and a hat, plus he has a Cajun accent in the show. Re-Shelled gives him the standard gruff voice and gets rid of his hat. In addition to this, when you beat him he just falls over like he had a heart attack. In the original game he fell off the train, sounding like he gets run over. Simple goofy charm is what I want, and yes, getting hit by a train is goofier than having a heart attack, something too many of us can relate to on a personal level. Other bosses just get stupidly short, like Tokka and Rahzar, who are now shorter than the Turtles, thus reducing their intimidation factor to zero.
I was also hugely surprised the version not favored for source material was the SNES version, the one that had more bosses and an extra level. Why not? The boss from the Prehistoric level of the arcade version was Cement Man, a dull blob that didn’t really do much. The SNES version had Slash, one of the cheapest but most difficult bosses from Turtles in Time. They went with Cement Man for Re-Shelled. The SNES version added the Rat King as a boss for Sewer Surfin’. Re-Shelled omits a boss fight for Sewer Surfin’ (and calls it “Sewer Surfing” instead of leaving out the ‘g’ when speaking). The SNES version had a level in the Technodrome that led to a fight with Tokka and Rahzar, then changed the place they’d usual show up (the pirate ship) with Bebop and Rocksteady. Re-Shelled doesn’t have an extra level and neither Bebop nor Rocksteady make an appearance. I’m just, sort of sad is all.
This is a remake! Just because you’re playing off the original doesn’t mean you have to adhere strictly to the nostalgic factor! I get that every Turtle said the same thing in the arcade version, specifically saying “Cool off, sucker,” but you don’t HAVE to do the same thing here. Give me a reason to want to play the remake over the original game other than, “Well, the graphics are cooler, and it’s online now!” I played the game online a few times and hated it as characters were skipping around the screen, bosses were regaining health at random intervals, and players were getting insta-killed by seemingly nothing.
My biggest complaint just comes down to the music, yes, but after that I’m disappointed we didn’t get more levels. The limitations of the SNES and arcade versions prohibited dozens of levels, instead giving us an opening level, a street level, a sewer level, a Technodrome level (SNES version only), a prehistoric level, a level on a train, a level on a pirate ship, a level on hover boards, a level on a space station, and a final boss fight once more in the Technodrome. That represents about six time periods, including present day. Here’s what I would have added:
A level in feudal Japan with Foot Soldiers dressed in samurai armor riding horses. The boss of the level could have been the shogun panda from the toy line.
A level in the snow and ice, perhaps during the ice ages. Make the boss fight against Groundchuck and Dirtbag.
A level on a WWII battlefield with bombs going off, tanks rolling past, and General Tragg fighting you at the end.
A level during the Middle Ages through a castle as Foot Soldiers get catapulted into the action, boiling oil get poured as a hazard, and end it with a fight against King Lionheart, another action figure from the toy line (that’s where Metalhead came from anyway).
A level from a post-apocalyptic world that takes place half in a ruined city and half underground, culminating in a fight against a Triceraton.
Once more, am I asking for too much? Am I way out of line requesting even a hint of something new from a game remade in the year 2009? When the SNES version has more content (besides the extra level and bosses, it had specific time trials, a sparring mode, and the ability to change the appearance of the Turtles from cartoon colors to comic colors), what’s even the point of trying to compete? Why not just release that version with four players and online multiplayer for the Xbox Live Arcade? Sometimes things just don’t make sense to me.
And there you have it, 2011’s first Bad Game That Should Have Been Great. I paid about $2 for my download due to an insane Black Friday deal, and even then I wanted a refund. Re-Shelled is that worthless. But maybe you liked it? Maybe it was the exact game you were hoping for? Let me know with a comment. Let’s even turn this into a game: Leave a comment with new dialogue for the Turtles to say. C’mon, we gotta give those voice actors some real work!
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