This was, is, and possibly always will be the greatest TMNT game of all time!
After a series of games on the NES, it was time for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to jump onto the next generation of consoles. Turtles in Time actually began as the second arcade beat-'em-up for the franchise, but the SNES port of the game was renamed to include TMNT IV in the title, so as to tie it to the earlier console games.
Based on the '80s cartoon version of the Turtles, the storyline is as wacky and true to form as the source material. While watching a news report on Liberty Island by April O'Neil, the Turtles witness Krang fly up in his gigantic bio-suit and make off with the Statue of Liberty. The Shredder then hijacks the TV line to brag about the heist, goading them into confronting him in his subterranean mobile juggernaut, the Technodrome. Little do they know that it is all a trap, and Shredder sends them through his dimensional portal into a time warp. The heroes in a half shell must then battle their way through Shredder's freaky, messed-up historical tour of the past and future to find a way home.
The levels are fairly standard, but that's a good thing. As you stroll the levels, hordes of Foot Soldiers, Mousers, and other enemies from the series will appear from all sides to attack in groups, trying their best to gang up on you. Environmental obstacles such as open manhole covers, loose floorboards, stampeding dinosaurs, laser cannons and more will make navigation difficult. At the end of each area, and sometimes at mid-way intervals, boss characters appear to get in your way. These, again, are taken directly out of the show with some recurring bad guys such as Baxter Stockman, The Rat King, Slash the Evil Turtle, and a few of the more obscure baddies from the line of action figures. There are even cameos of Tokka, Rahzar, and Super Shredder from the second film, The Secret of the Ooze. The cast lineup is a Turtle fan's dream come true.
Additionally, every few levels there is a bonus stage involving the turtles riding along on surfboards/hoverboards, with a chance to pick up a ton of points and stock up on pizza. These are a nice break from the main action, but don't stray too far from the standard level design, even containing bosses.
Controls have your expected fare of jumping and attacking, as well as a powerful jump attack for when things seem too hectic to cope, but it must be used sparingly as each time it connects with a foe it does slight damage to your health meter. You can dash and shoulder-ram an enemy, or even perform a slide move to bowl over groups of assailants. Attacking enemies repeatedly will perform a small combo, while holding the attack button while an enemy is stunned from your first few hits will grab him by the arm and hurl him towards the screen. It makes for a pretty amusing effect – until a certain boss battle from the enemy's point of view, where it's actually used tactically to fling Foot Soldiers up into the boss' face. Radical notion, dude!
As this is an arcade-style game, the levels and enemies are designed to be cheap and difficult with swarms of enemies to keep kids pumping in the quarters as they lose lives. This difficulty transitions from the arcade version of the game, but thankfully there are different settings in the options. However, only hardcore gamers will see the true ending, as Master Splinter will ridicule those who completed the game on easy at the end. Other options include a two-player practice battle to compete against your friends and hone your skills, and quite awesomely, you can choose between the “animation” and “comic” colors of the turtles. The difference there being that in the 80's cartoon, the four turtles looked identical except for their different color headbands, whereas in the comics and action figures, each turtle had a different shade of green to their skin, a trait that carried over to the new cartoon series in 2003.
Being a Konami game in the 16-bit era, the soundtrack is incredibly cool as well. Fitting to the Turtles' style, the music is high-tempo and contains a mix of rockin' action themes and comedic weirdness. Several of the tracks incorporate remixes of the classic cartoon theme music, and many of them are memorable enough to find yourself idly humming the tunes, even years after the game was released.
Ultimately, the SNES version of the game reigns supreme, having the most content, best soundtrack, best cast of characters, and biggest nostalgia factor. It's too bad that the game hasn't been put on Virtual Console, but since Konami was allowed to put the first NES game up there, there's still hope for a future release.