A Preview of the New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade Game From Someone Who Actually Played It
Howdy there, kiddos. I've got some really good news for you today—REALLY good. While I was on vacation with my family in Gatlinburg, Tennessee last week for Spring Break, I went to Arcadia, a neat little modern arcade with a space needle protruding from its roof. I had read about it on Aurcade and saw that it had a few games I liked, but I wasn't expecting too much. It was gonna be a quaint little visit, ya know?
Boy, was I wrong.
When I stepped through the wide-open doors of Arcadia, I stumbled upon the single-greatest surprise of my arcade-going career: a location test version of the brand-spanking-new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game from Raw Thrills. I had absolutely no idea going in that I would find the very arcade game that I had been raving about on my blog since October, and I was sure blown away. Needless to say, it was pretty exciting.
For those of you who may have missed my other two articles on TMNT 2018, the premise is simple. It's a brand-new beat-em-up from Raw Thrills that channels much of the original Konami goodness while updating the genre in numerous ways. (It's a remake in some ways and an entirely new game in others.) While the core gameplay and nigh-identical, a whole slew of items, pickups, and gameplay enhancements have been thrown in to spruce things up.
Naturally, because this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience (before the game officially releases in May, that is), I loaded up a play card and dug into the beat-em-up goodness. My first experiences with the game were almost universally positive.
The first thing I noticed was that the ball-top joysticks felt a little slippery. However, once I started playing, I realized they were perfect. Unlike worn-out Suzo-Happ joysticks, the sticks on TMNT felt oh-so responsive and perfectly tuned for the hectic gameplay. My first concern was instantly alleviated. (Click one of the images to view the control panel gallery.)
Digging into the gameplay itself, I was incredibly pleased. TMNT 2018 plays almost identically to Turtles in Time, and I'd like to think that's the highest praise you can bestow upon a beat-em-up. The characters are fast. Unlike what I initially perceived from early gameplay footage, the turtles' attack animations are not slow and deliberate, but actually quite quick and potent. It was so good to see that one of my other concerns had also been put to rest.
One other thing that was a bit contested in theory but perfect in practice was the limitation of the turtles' movement to eight directions. While we may live in an age where many three-dimensional games utilize 16 or more directions of movement, this limitation worked wonderfully when implemented in TMNT. The developers seemed to understand that eight directions of movement would make things so much easier for players in the long run. I'm glad they went that route.
There is no analogue movement, though. If you hold the joystick in one direction long enough, you will start running, but other than that, you move at a consistent speed. This also is not a problem. For a beat-em-up of this nature, it works flawlessly. I was a little sad that the levels were almost strictly sidescrolling, but it still good. While larger playable environments would have been nice, I appreciate that Raw Thrills didn't take any crazy risks with the classic beat-em-up formula beyond very real gameplay enhancements. Like I said, it all plays like Turtles in Time.
Of course, most of you already know how Turtles in Time plays. (Spoiler alert: It's flipping great.) What makes TMNT 2018 stand out from its predecessors is the effort Raw Thrills put into defeating the inevitable monotony of the beat-em-up genre. I played all three available levels twice, and I wasn't bored for a second. The addition of Turtle Power (a chargeable, screen-clearing, turtle-specific attack) went a long way toward keeping things interesting by itself. Compounded with the sheer number of quirky pickups, TMNT was never a bore.
Speaking of pickups, there are a lot of 'em out there. Naturally, you have pizza health and additional turtle power. And like the Konami games, you can interact with environmental objects in many ways. But to up the ante, Raw Thrills threw in a bunch of other items that keep things very fun at all times. Shuriken, smoke bombs, a powerup that turns you into a tornado for a few seconds, and the assist characters: Metal Head and Leather Head. They're all fun pickups, and they all take out dudes quickly and satisfyingly. I particularly enjoyed weapon pickups for how well they worked. Once you pick up a weapon, there is a small indicator above your head that shows which weapon you have and how much ammo it has. And for throwable weapons like shuriken, there is actually auto-aiming to some degree. If you're facing an enemy, you pretty much always tend to hit him. Raw Thrills alleviates any possible frustration in this regard.
(Quick note: I'm reusing most screenshots from my other article. I didn't take these while I was playing.)
As with the original Konami games, enemies are color-coded based on their attack types. While the number of unique enemies isn't staggering, there are enough that you will spend time learning how each one will harm you (whether that be melee, projectiles, or other attack methods). There's plenty of visual flair and gameplay variety, and it's all good fun.
There are two bosses in every level: a mid-boss and a final boss. Like Turtle Power and pickups, bosses do a fantastic job of keeping things interesting. Each boss has distinct patterns and attacks to learn, and they never feel unfairly difficult. In fact, the entire game never gets too difficult. Using skill and determination, almost anyone can complete it on a reasonable amount of credits. I'm sure that, with practice, the game can also be 1CC'd.
Naturally, multiplayer is a big draw in this game, and I can confirm that is very fun. During my time playing with my dad and brother, the game became incredibly frenetic (think 8-player Smash Bros.). The game did feel like it got much harder when played with other people, though. However, it's all a matter of getting used to A) there being two other human-controlled characters and B) there being many more enemies onscreen.
The only "weird" thing I encountered in my playthrough is that, at least in the prerelease version I played, the entire game loops once you've completed the three available levels. I really hope there is a true ending to the game once it's released with all four levels, because a looping game doesn't appeal to me. I want to beat the whole thing, watch the credits, and walk away from the machine. That's just me. And I'm nearly 100 percent positive there will be a real ending once the full version comes out in May.
At the very least, I enjoy how high scores are totaled for individual levels, like racing games. And I sure love putting my full name in:
The only gameplay tidbit I can't actually speak about is the tickets redemption mode; the cabinet I played on was set on the standard amusement mode. However, from everything I've heard, the tickets are a nonintrusive addition to the gameplay meant to broaden the appeal of TMNT to more people (A.K.A. tourist-y casuals).
And it's not just the gameplay that's top-notch. Raw Thrills did a phenomenal job capturing the essence of the 2012 Nickelodeon TMNT series. The characters all look as they should (with distinct character animations to boot), the environments are exactly what the show would look like were it rendered in a sidescrolling perspective, and of course the use of official voiceovers is also impeccable. Everything, even down to the textures and use of deep purple and blue hues, made me "feel" like I was playing a game within the TMNT 2012 universe. It looked good. Now of course, it was a shame that the music was kind of generic compared to the series itself and especially compared to the Konami games, but it still works.
If I had to voice any complaints with TMNT in its current state, I would direct them toward the graphics and the cabinet. The graphics are pretty good, but they could have been a lot better. They don't seem entirely up-to-par with what we've seen on home consoles or PCs as of late. The cabinet is a different story. While I didn't have a huge problem with the screen placement, it was slightly awkward. I wasn't sure why Raw Thrills chose to place it the way they did. Furthermore, the screen was the slightest bit too large and, for someone my height, too close to the player. If Raw Thrills had rendered the game in 4K Ultra-HD, it might have worked. But in 1080p on a massive monitor, I was a bit too close to the screen (and all those pesky pixels) for comfort.
As always, it would also be nice if Raw Thrills eventually released a smaller standard cabinet. Standard cabinets are more cost-effective and space-conscious and can thusly be placed in more locations, such as restaurants and lobbies. The TMNT cabinet, as it stands, is gargantuan. While I like this and it is fun, I think a standard cabinet would do wonders for street operators who want to support the revival of the beat-em-up genre (and make it cheaper for us players!).
Other than that, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was practically perfection. I loved every second of my playthrough and absolutely intend to play it again once it drops in May. My advice to you is to play TMNT as soon as humanly possible. Do not delay. Support Raw Thrills and your local arcade and play this game. It's worth it. Now, I was a little sad to see that no one else (besides my family, obviously) played the game during the hour or so I stood at the machine. It made me wonder if maybe the appeal of beat-em-ups isn't as broad as I once thought. (To make matters worse, the series that Raw Thrills based the game on just ended.) Still, I have hope. From what I've heard, TMNT does gangbusters in earnings, so it should all work out.
Like I said on Friday in this post, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is now available for preorder through Betson. We are going to play it—and soon!
So with all that in mind, I want you kiddos to keep it real and have fun. I'll be back real soon-like. I'll also try to update this article as I remember more details.
Long live arcades!