Reviewed: December 5, 2004
Released: October 19, 2004
Anyone my age can tell you who the Ninja Turtles are and how they came about, and the franchise has been rebooted to introduce a whole new generation to the four Renaissance masters who now live in the sewers of New York, eat pizza, and stomp on Foot ninja.
Shredder has something different in mind in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus, when he has our heroes teleported to a distant planet with no way to get home. Fortunately the Turtles befriend a scientist trapped in a robot body who can send them back home, if they collect enough crystals to power his teleporter. Sneaky combat action ensues.
This game starts off as your basic jump and bash side-scrolling platformer. Beat up the bad guys, collect the pick-ups, complete the jump puzzles, and fight the boss. Repeat as necessary. However there are a few little bits of flavor added to this mix. First you start every level without a weapon, due to a jamming of the teleportation signal, which means you have to find it before you can really survive combat or break blocks to open paths and collect crystals.
Second, to facilitate your sneaking around to avoid a beating there are alcoves all over the levels for you to hide in or climb up to the next platform in which adds a faux 3-D aspect to the game that is used fairly effectively. Third each Turtle has their own unique capabilities requiring you to utilize all of them if you want to get every crystal out of every level.
In addition to all of that there are little interstitial levels that are either a timed run through a vertical shaft, or side scrolling vehicle missions, or a ďflight simulatorĒ where you shoot things as they advance toward the screen; these all go to break up what would otherwise get to be a very repetitive game. The stages themselves are themed as well, so you explore prisons, jungles, and military facilities, each with their own dangers, puzzles, and challenges to overcome.
Needless to say that thereís a lot of variety to this title. If you include the bonus racing and versus modes you can see that they really went out of their way to provide a lot of play into a little title.
The problems with the game are that the controls are more than a little clunky. The Turtles just arenít very responsive sometimes and they just donít feel nimble. I found myself needing to hit the button two or three times on occasion to get Mikey to hide in an alcove. Combat timing and distances are also a bit chancy. Sometimes you can juggle, sometimes you can hit them as they are getting up, but neither can be achieved with what would be considered regularity. This isnít bad enough to ruin your play time, but it is enough to be frustrating at times.
I did mention that Konami went to great lengths to try to mitigate the repetitiveness of the game, which is a good thing, because if they had not then this game would get boring after you played a level for the third time. Itís great that each Turtle has their own variations on play controls (Raphael sticks to walls, Mikey can glide and throw his weapon) but that still doesnít completely eliminate the grunt work that has to be done in order to complete levels.
Yeah any Turtle can complete any stage, but to get enough crystals to move on youíll have to go through a stage two and three times utilizing all the Turtlesí skills to gather all of the crystals. Early on this isnít a problem because the stages are pretty short, but later when the start getting significantly bigger and you have to go back for one crystal not because you couldnít find it but because you didnít have the right Turtle, it gets a little annoying.
Also, when I said that all of the Turtles have their own little fighting styles I was kind of lying. Yeah, three of them do but Leonardo doesnít have anything going on for him. Heís only there because the franchise has four Turtles. Essentially you end up with three characters that you use and a fourth that you donít because he doesnít do anything that the others canít. This isnít a fanboy issue, just a game mechanics one. If you have four characters and are going to make them have differences that must be capitalized on, then make all of them useful; otherwise the extra content is just unnecessary.
I wouldnít say that theyíre pushing the envelope here on anything, but the graphics are pretty good for the GBA. They give you a feeling of depth to an otherwise flat game with all of the alcoves and recesses you can hide and climb in, which is accomplished with nothing more than a little shadow work really. Also, Konami is faithful to the new rendering of the Turtles as seen in the cartoon. The whole game in fact looks much like a Saturday morning cartoon, which is a nice touch considering some of the history of Turtles games.
Character sprites arenít too complicated, but they are detailed enough to be expressive and the animation helps this along. Each turtle has his own little methods for combat and movement, which is nice to see instead of some stock movements just switching, out the weapons. The enemies by contrast are more of the faceless minion variety, but the bosses are highly unique and the levels have their own little touches of flavor.
There isnít really too much in the way of effects for this game, some lasers, or electricity columns, but nothing that jumps out at you. Basically look at this like one of the earlier Mega Man titles and youíre hitting the mark. Nothing bad, just nothing to write rave reviews about.
The GBA either has very limited sound quality (which isnít that surprising) or no one tries to maximize on it. There are some limited music and dialogue tracks in the game and some minimal sound effects, but again they are definitely on the back burner as far as development was concerned.
The dialogue has some limited voice use (mostly just an intro read) and I think they actually used the voice actors from the show, so thatís a nice tie in. However, the lines being read are at best non-sequiturs, and American cartoon voice actors are not the greatest.
Music is passably background. It fits whatís going on, but doesnít go out of its way to intrude on your attention. This goes for the sound effects as well, except for the power meter you get for vehicle weapons which you can hold down to charge, the full meter noise is down right grating after the third or fourth hear, but itís so useful that you have to put up with the noise.
There is a lot here. Three game modes and three difficulty settings give you loads of replay value. Not only that but playing through on easy only gets you three levels of the game, while normal and hard have the full five. While this sounds great the repetition inherent in the game and a vast difference in skill levels make one reluctant to keep going back again and again. This holds true even with the race and versus modes, which introduce further and further wrinkles as you go on, but it comes down to the same thing done over and over. Multiplayer link modes require each player to have their own copy of the game.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus is a pretty good game for little kids or the nostalgic older gamer with a soft spot for turtles. The graphics and sound work pretty well for the format and the game play gets old, especially for the more discriminating gamer, it isnít complete crap. A good title for a younger sibling or cousin, a bad one for a platform fanatic.