There was a time, back in the heyday of side-scrolling brawlers, that the Ninja Turtles were at the apex of gaming. Whether you were at an arcade playing the game with four friends or at home playing it on the NES, the Turtles were the most fun you could have beating up bad guys.
To top that, along came "Turtles in Time" on the SNES which, although short, was even better than the arcade game. Of course then the Turtles' popularity waned and "Tournament Fighter" was released, effectively stopping the franchise with a brick wall of a fighting game.
Now with the release, and success, of the new Turtles movie "TMNT," the Turtles are back onto pretty much every gaming platform out there, from the Xbox 360 to the steadily fading Game Boy Advance (GBA). So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the best version of all these efforts is for that latter system (and the Nintendo DS, since it’s backward compatible). Ubisoft wisely designed a completely original game for the GBA, capitalizing on its strength as a 2D system. Not only that but they captured the fun and feeling that the old Turtles brawlers had and the newer 3-D ones lost.
The story follows that of the movie, and you can play as any of the Turtles in each level, though some of levels require you to play as a specific Turtle. Each Turtle has a different speed, defense, or power, so playing with different turtles makes for different styles of play. Unfortunately, Ubisoft didn’t take full advantage of this, as the Turtles don’t really fight any differently. Even Donotello’s reach, with his long staff, is the same as Raphael’s sai.
Still, the fighting, packed with uppercuts, throws and special moves are fun and keeps the brawling varied and interesting, which is the most important part of any game in the genre.
The other flaw, and this one is a bit of a big one, is the lack of a multiplayer function. One of the best parts of the NES, SNES or even the up-to-date games based on the new cartoon series was plugging in another controller and taking on the Foot Clan and Shredder with a friend. Not having it on the GBA just makes you miss the feature all the more. No matter how much fun I was having, I couldn’t help but think about how it would be more fun with my best friend covering my back as Leonardo (he always got to be Leo).
Don’t let this take away from the single player review, though. The game is still amazingly fun to play and surprisingly challenging, considering how easy "TMNT" for the 360, PS2 and Wii are. Even if you’re not a fan, there hasn’t been a side-scrolling brawler this fun in a long while.