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TMNT: Tournament Fighters

by Pedro Hernandez - May 23, 2011, 7:18 pm PDT
Total comments: 14

Turtles throw their hat into the ring and come out victorious in this classic SNES fighter.

As a kid, I loved Street Fighter II. It was the game my friends and I talked about a lot. We tried to remember each character’s moves, would challenge each other at the arcades or on the Super Nintendo version, and even discussed the possibilities of a cartoon or movie based on the game (those didn’t turn out so well in the end). Such was our love of the game that we actually decided to try other games that were similar to Street Fighter II. This is how I found Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters.

Of course, I also loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. More specifically, I really loved Turtles in Time for the Super Nintendo, a port of the arcade game. It was both my admiration of the turtles and my desire to play as much Street Fighter II as possible that made my discovery of Tournament Fighters a reality.

Tournament Fighters tells two stories. In the first story, Studio 6 is hosting a fighting tournament where the winner can obtain a lot of money and fame, a very basic plot for a fighter. The second story, however, is far more in-depth and more akin to an episode of the series. The four turtles are relaxing on their sewer home when they receive a note from Karai, leader of the Foot Clan. The note says that they have kidnapped Master Splinter and April O’ Neil. And thus the turtles set out to find them and battle many opponents in hopes of getting closer to their best friend and master.

The story itself was pretty typical TMNT affair. But note that at the time, while fighters did tell some stories, there wasn’t a dedicated story mode present in most of them. The story mode in Tournament Fighters is an example of how stories in fighting games would evolve from this point on, going from being a small reward players would get from beating a boss to in some cases being integral to the enjoyment of the game (as is the case with the BlazBlu games).

The game is basically Street Fighter II, but with Ninja Turtles characters. It is a 2D fighter based on speed and unique characters with special moves and attacks. There were many games that tried to copy the Street Fighter II formula, right down to specific character types. Dare I say it, Tournament Fighters came pretty darn close to fully imitating it, thus making it a really enjoyable title me and my friends couldn’t get enough of.

The gameplay follows Street Fighter II’s mechanics to near perfection. There are four attack buttons, two each for kick and punch, with a strong and weak version. As I mentioned, speed also played an important role in the mechanics. You could even alter the speed of the fights on the options menu to your liking. Best of all, it all controlled smoothly. That’s what so fantastic about Tournament Fighters: despite how derivative it was of a much better source, it respected it and implemented its own ideas wonderfully without having to sacrifice quality to do so.

As expected, all four Ninja Turtles and Shredder are playable characters. But there were several characters that were unknown to me back in the day. Like some people in the TMNT fanbase, I grew up watching the TMNT cartoon and movies, not knowing that it was all based on a black and white comic, which in itself also spawned another series of comics under the Archie label once the television show exploded. These characters were: War (Archie Comics), Aska (a game-exclusive character), Wingnut (Archie Comics and one episode of the show), Armaggon (Archie Comics) and Karai (A leader of the Foot Clan, who is actually a woman, a fact that surprised me as a kid). Rat King, a character I already knew from the cartoon, was one of the main bosses. Chrome Dome was also a familiar face from the TV series.

While the first time I played this game I was upset that there weren’t any other characters from the show available as playable combatants, once I learned each character’s history I appreciated them and even grew to like some of them.

One really cool thing about Tournament Fighters is that each character had a unique and powerful special move. If you pulled them off, you would be treated to a screen-filling attack. My favorite is Donatello’s dragon attack, where he would summon a dragon and throw it at the opponent. It was a thing of beauty back in the day.

The sound was also great, not just the music but the voices and sound effects as well. Note that at the time, Street Fighter II didn’t have much in terms of music and sound prowess, meaning that the characters all had the same voice samples. This isn’t the case with Tournament Fighters. Each character is distinct and easy to tell apart. They have their own screams, yells, and taunts that gave the game a lot of personality. I may be rambling about something considered to be trivial by some, but I’ve always believed that when working on licensed games, you should present the license’s world in the best way possible. Tournament Fighters does this with flying colors.

The music is insanely catchy, perhaps much more so than in any other fighting game. Often you are so distracted by the fighting going on that you would tune out and forget about the music. This wasn’t the case with Tournament Fighters. I loved the music so much that I would go to the sound option and just listen to each of the tracks. My favorite is the Studio 6 theme song, aka the Rat King’s theme. It is so much fun to listen to!

The funny thing is that years later, Ubisoft released TMNT Smash Up for the Wii. Much like Tournament Fighters, Smash Up took cues from another popular fighter: Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series. Kind of funny how history tends to repeat itself, and while Smash Up wasn’t as polished as Tournament Fighters it was still a really enjoyable experience.
Overall, TMNT: Tournament Fighters may not have been popular enough to be a beloved fighting game, but it is, in my honest opinion, one of the best licensed fighters ever released on the SNES. The polished fighting mechanics, detailed presentation, colorful characters, and captivating sound design all make for a great package and one of the best games to feature the heroes in a half shell.

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Talkback

JasonMaiviaMay 23, 2011

I still own the game and cartridge.


  My favorites were:


- Donatello (I used to just spam the Ground Claw until I actually took the time to learn how to play properly.  He's my favorite character in the game)


-Raphael (He's my least favorite turtle in most things TMNT, but my second favorite character to play with in Tournament Fighters.  He's actually pretty fun to use.)




  Favorite stage music is the battle with Rat King at Studio 6!!


  Karai is a friggin cheat!!  She'll constantly do flying rapid punches over and over and over (throw you when she's close), fills up her special bar in no time, then "DARK THUNDER"!
  She looks a bit manly in this game, and I like her more-feminine look a lot better.  I'm surprised that Krang wasn't in the game, or that Shredder wasn't the real final boss.

famicomplicatedJames Charlton, Associate Editor (Japan)May 24, 2011

Pedro, a man after my own heart!
I LOVE this game, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said in this article, a truly awesome Street Fighter II "clone", but so much more than that.


I'm a Chrome Dome man myself, I loved his head hop kick thing, very similar to what Chun Li did, but he had extendable arms like Dhalsim plus a great fireball-esque spark move.


Anyone who says this is another crappy licensed game rip off is missing out on an excellent brawler. It's NOT what you think it is, trust me.


VC release please!

leahsdadMay 24, 2011

I believe (if memory serves) Leonardo was the most "ryu-like" of the turtles with his moves.


Man, did me and my brother play the crap out of this game back in the day.


I think all of the Turtles games were, surprisingly really good in the NES and SNES era, with the glaring exception of that first game on the NES, electric seaweed and all.  Were they all done by Midway?

S-U-P-E-RTy Shughart, Staff AlumnusMay 24, 2011

This game is pretty godlike and I highly recommend it!

Ian SaneMay 24, 2011

I remember renting this back when it came out.  At the time the fact that it was a shameless SFII rip-off was a good thing in my eyes.  I was really into SFII at the time so all the knock-offs to me was like getting a bunch of extra Street Fighter characters.  I remember planning in my head a Capcom vs. SNK style game that combined them all.  I debated on whether to include this as the TMNT characters seemed too different to fit in with Ryu or Terry Bogard (Samurai Shodown was also debated because of the weapons).

One thing that was kind of cool about TMNT is that is was a console game.  Most of the SFII clones I knew at the time were Neo Geo titles that didn't quite handle the conversion to SNES as well as SFII did.  You didn't have to go the arcade for this, you could own it and know you were owning the best version of it.

Chozo GhostMay 24, 2011

Quote from: Ian

One thing that was kind of cool about TMNT is that is was a console game.  Most of the SFII clones I knew at the time were Neo Geo titles that didn't quite handle the conversion to SNES as well as SFII did.  You didn't have to go the arcade for this, you could own it and know you were owning the best version of it.

You could own a Neo Geo. They were just really expensive, and the games were really really really really expensive. I used to read about it in the gaming magazines of the time. I was amazed by how long the lifespan of that thing was.... yet oddly no one seemed to own it. I guess it was just more a way to bring the arcade home to your living room but I never seen it stocked in any stores and of course being a kid I couldn't ever afford it anyway. But I was fascinated by it and how it was supposed to have "24-bit graphics" which is something no other console ever claimed to have.

Ian SaneMay 24, 2011

I have never in my life seen a Neo Geo AES in person.  I wonder if they were ever sold in Canada.  I remember an ad I used to see in Gamepro for Chips 'n' Bits (I think that's what it was) which must have been some mail order game store.  The Neo Geo games were the same price as an entire SNES console.  It was totally a "if I won the lottery" fantasy sort of thing.

ToruresuMay 24, 2011

My front door neighbor's kid had one way back then. I was like 12 and he was 16, needless to say I didn't get to play. I remember only seeing it twice, he had 4 different games, all fighting games, all awesome to me at the time.

Chozo GhostMay 24, 2011

Yeah, Neo Geo carts were upwards of $300 and now on ebay some of the rare ones are selling upwards of $1,000. SNK later released a CD based version of the Neo Geo where the games were only $50 which is much more reasonable. I don't understand the $300 price for carts, though. We all know carts are expensive, but if the SNES and N64 could get away with carts $70 or less then why did the Neo Geo carts have to be so much more?

That's my theory on how the console was able to last for 14 years despite being a niche player in the console market. Very few people owned it, but those very few people were also paying outrageous prices so I guess that kinda balanced it out. According to Wikipedia the last game for it came out in 2004 which is insane. But it was a much more powerful system than anything else back in 1990 when it launched. It was (and probably still is) THE system to own if you are a fan of 2D fighters. That's pretty much all it had, though.

My brother and I had the NES version of this game. It had fewer characters, but it was still fun. Its exclusive character was the dragon warrior from the Archie series--he had a fire breath attack. Because the turtle's sprite colors changed changed for the 2nd player, we pretended it was a whole different character--Slash. If the SNES or Genesis games came out on VC, I'd totally get them.

Mop it upMay 24, 2011

Quote from: Chozo

I don't understand the $300 price for carts, though. We all know carts are expensive, but if the SNES and N64 could get away with carts $70 or less then why did the Neo Geo carts have to be so much more?

Well, Neo Geo cartridges were several times larger than even N64 cartridges, so they cost several times more to manufacture. Also, your theory is a reason for the higher prices too; since the system cost so much they knew it wouldn't sell well, so they had to sell games at high prices in order to recoup development costs and turn a profit.

JasonMaiviaMay 25, 2011

Quote from: leahsdad

I believe (if memory serves) Leonardo was the most "ryu-like" of the turtles with his moves.

He was.  The only problem I had was that the Endless Screw can miss completely if your opponent just ducks.  The CPU knows this, and they'll make you miss with it a lot if you don't find a way to combo into it.

S-U-P-E-RTy Shughart, Staff AlumnusMay 25, 2011

Fun facts about TMNT TF: the Japanese version had some different move properties in places, and Aska had shorter shorts :X

motangMay 30, 2011

Man this is such an awesome game at that time. My friend and I played it all the time. Too bad this isn't on the VC!  >:(

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