Reviewed: March 31, 2005
Released: March 15, 2005
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise has been around for a long time. It has survived and thrived for over twenty years now. From their incarnation as stars of a black and white underground comic book to appearing in their own cartoon series to being a part of a toy marketing powerhouse to starring in major motion pictures all the way to their recent nostalgic return, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo have done it all, and they are not done yet.
Konami brings the Turtles back to the GameCube with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Melee, the third Turtle title for the console in the last three years. Unfortunately, this game is akin to Vanilla Ice’s rapping in the second Turtle movie. It’s not very pleasing and it makes one wonder why it even exists in the first place.
TMNT: Mutant Melee functions as both an adventure game and a Super Smash Bros. Melee-like multiplayer battle. During the melee portion of the game, players can choose to play knockout, last man standing, or king of the hill. The adventure story mode lets a player choose a character and fight their way to the ultimate battle with Shredder, while collecting tokens (which can be used in the library) and unlocking new stages along the way.
Mutant Melee suffers from a slew of problems. Most notably, the controls. This is pure button mashing. Punch, punch, kick. Punch, punch, kick. Repeat. Players of a lower skill level or players of a younger age might enjoy the ease of the button mashing, but seasoned players will become easily bored. Very mindless indeed.
Sure this game has combos, but they are equally as mindless. The combos are very basic(only three moves) and they take no time to learn at all. Not to mention, they only use two different buttons, A and B. Pressing A-A-A is not very much of a challenge.
In theory, the use of weapons, which can be found by smashing open crates, seems like a good idea. One problem, though, they are almost impossible to use accurately, especially the projectile weapons. At times, it might look like you are about to blast your opponent at point blank range, only to watch your bullet fly off in a direction that doesn’t even seem possible considering the angle of your weapon.
The adventure mode is rather dull and the storylines are just plain lame, for lack of a better word. The back of the game’s packaging boasts “unpredictable obstacles around every corner." Well, when players are fighting on train tracks and a train comes, I would hardly call that unpredictable. The random dropping bombs are unpredictable, but they are also unneeded.
Melee has over twenty playable characters and a ton of things to unlock in the library, but due to the fact that most of the unlockable items are so unsatisfactory, the concept of the library is rather pointless. Who wants to spend their hard earned(ha) tokens to unlock a picture of a sewer? No amount of unlockable items could redeem this game from its sub par gameplay.
The cel-shaded graphics in Mutant Melee actually look nice and the opening animation sequence gives the game an authentic cartoon feel. The greens are rather vibrant and dynamic and the animation is extremely smooth.
The menus are very crisp and sharp and a player will have no trouble navigating them. The loading screens simply show the GameCube controller with a description of what each button does. This is handy if you’re the kind of player who doesn’t like to read the instruction booklet or you just need a refresher every once in awhile.
Aside from those points, the graphics are fairly typical and somewhat bland. A lot of the stages are just plain dull looking and they house a lot of browns and grays and are littered with crates and weapons. A player might wonder if they are trapped in an old school Double Dragon area instead of a Mutant Melee stage.
Sometimes there is so much stuff going on that it can become an annoyance. For example, when you are in the Turtle’s Lair fighting Shredder, there are just too many random things blowing up and too many things falling out of nowhere. It is totally unnecessary.
In Melee mode, due to the fact that there are four fighters on screen at once, the camera angle becomes so wide that the characters almost turn into microscopic beings. This is slightly irritating, especially if a player actually wants to see what is happening on the screen.
Voice acting usually goes one of two ways within the context of a video game. Sometimes the voice acting can be amazing and it can add a lot of depth to a game; other times, it can become very trite and extremely repetitive. Mutant Melee falls into the latter category.
One can only stand so much of Donatello repeatedly yapping about how he likes it “quick and easy.” Considering that he is supposedly the brains of the operation, he should try expanding his vocabulary.
As for the music, it is common video game fighting music fodder. There is not much of a variety, but there is also nothing that is exceedingly irritating.
On the plus side, the sounds effects are nice. The whistles, horns, slashes, swords clings, and punches are all very pleasing, but even with the pleasurable sound effects, the overall audio is very lackluster.
Mutant Melee has a vast amount of items that are able to be unlocked, but the items are so weak that it causes the replay value to suffer greatly. No one is going to want to play again and again to unlock a picture of a vehicle or a picture of a toy.
The lack of a challenge also drastically reduces the replay value. The game can be beaten within the span of a couple hours. Even though a player will have to beat the game with different characters to unlock different levels, it is highly unlikely that someone will want to play all of the same stages over and over again.
$19.99 seems like a steal for any GameCube title, but not for Mutant Melee. If you really want a multiplayer, arena-based fighting game, save your twenty bucks and pick up a used copy of that other Melee game. Even if you already own Smash Bros., two copies of that game are far better than one copy of Mutant Melee.
TMNT: Mutant Melee is simply a game to avoid for the gamer who is skilled in the fighting genre. The uninspired music, the trite voice acting, the horrible gameplay, and the lack of challenge makes this one of the worst titles in the Ninja Turtle series. There is only one thing that Konami can do to redeem themselves in the next game--hidden character: Vanilla Ice. Go ninja!