Nostalgia Lane: Turtles in Time (SNES)

For all my kids know of the Super Nintendo System, it’s pretty much two games: Super Mario World and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. This is because they’re quite not old enough for the complexity of the other titles’ controls (but they’re getting better!), so these one- or two-button games are perfect for them on the platform. And frankly, Turtles keeps winning out as a crowd favorite.

I can’t blame them; it’s one of my favorite games on the SNES as well. Has been since the mid-90s. After the brutally tough TMNT game on the original NES (I was never aware of the sequel on that console), getting a Turtles game that was both fun and accessible was a revelation.

At its core, Turtles in Time is a streamlined beat-em-up that delivers more on visuals than on mastering any real martial arts. If you can jam on a button real fast, you have a good chance of winning. But the colorful figures, the expressive animation, the choice of four Turtles to play, the fun levels, some vocal clips, and the kickin’ music all come together to create a party-like atmosphere of a game. It’s just sheer fun to play with others.

Plus, there’s time travel, as the title implies. For my taste, it comes too far into the game (and as far as I know, there’s no save states, so every time you have to start over), but at least it’s there.

And even though you can be a simple button-masher, Turtles in Time has more to offer for those looking to master its gameplay. Various moves can be performed like jump kicks and (my favorite) grabbing an enemy and slamming them back and forth on the ground, Hulk-style. You can even fling a character at the “camera,” thanks to Mode 7 graphics, which actually is the only way to beat Shredder in the Technodrome (see above picture).

Even though the environment isn’t complicated to traverse as in a platformer, there are usually a lot of elements with which to interact. Barrels can be hit to explode (naturally), pizza picked up to be eaten, your character can fall into sewer holes and moan about it, and so on. The choice of Turtle (and weapon) that you pick changes things up a little too — I prefer Donatello for his long reach with the bo staff, but my one son always picks Raphael for his really quick melee attacks with the sai.

Turtles in Time is also polished to a T, and it really shows. It looks, sounds, and performs great all the way through, and the fact that it doesn’t require a huge manual to know how to play it means that just about anyone can pick it up to enjoy. It’s a real shame that this wasn’t included on the Classic SNES, but at least I have a physical cartridge (which is somewhat expensive to buy these days) and another copy on my Retropi, so we’ll keep on playing it in my household for years to come.

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