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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up

by Pedro Hernandez - December 12, 2009, 6:34 pm PST
Total comments: 21

8

Smash Up is a surprisingly solid Super Smash Bros. clone that stars the heroes in a half shell.

Very few franchises from the '80s can claim to have lasted for more than 20 years; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of them. Starting as a black-and-white comic by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the turtles eventually achieved widespread fame as Saturday morning cartoon characters. Divergent from the original comic books, the series went on to become a phenomenon that spawned movies, merchandise, and of course, video games.

With 2009 being the heroes' 20th anniversary, Mirage Studios decided to celebrate in a grand manner, creating a new TV movie called "Turtles Forever," releasing collectible toys and re-releasing the old movies on Blu-Ray and DVDs. In the video game world, there was a remake of Turtles in Time for the Xbox Live Arcade and PSN, and the subject of this review, TMNT: Smash Up. Published by Ubisoft and developed by Game Arts and members of Team Ninja, the title is a Super Smash Bros. clone starring the cast from TMNT, and it's a very solid effort with a few warts.

If you have played any Super Smash Bros. title, Smash Up shouldn't be a foreign concept. The game is a 2.5D fighter, differing only slightly from fighting games of yesteryear like Street Fighter. Instead of learning complex moves in a 3D environment, the fighting has been simplified in an effort to make it accessible as a party game. Up to four players can participate in energetic, frenzied battles.

In Smash Up, the object is to deplete your opponent's health bar or toss them out of the ring, a slight departure from Super Smash Bros.'s damage counter. But at times the stages will be filled with hazards and obstacles that quickly turn the match into a race to save your life. Additionally, you'll find items such as bombs and power-ups that let the characters perform various ninja attacks; these items help you defeat your opponents. It's these little nuances that made the original Nintendo franchise a hit with gamers around the world, and this game does a good job of preserving this tradition, even if it doesn't quite reach the level of polish that the Super Smash Bros. franchise is known for.

For starters, the gravity is quite low, making the characters feel "light". This somewhat compensates for the fact that the characters lack a third jump, as the low gravity allows players to jump higher and farther. There are also some advanced techniques, such as wall jumping, wall attacks, and air dodges. While not impossible to perform, these moves are very tricky, often seemingly performed by sheer luck. Players can also beat their opponents to the point of making them dizzy. When this happens - and it happens often - you have to shake the controller in order to snap out of it. This feels forced, and since it's a constant occurence it gets tiring quickly.

But for all its faults, Smash Up can be really fun, especially since the core mechanics are presented very well. There are two forms of attack: basic, which just requires one press of the attack button, and special, which is performed while pressing the attack button any holding any direction on the D-Pad. This allows players to perform combos and attacks without the need to memorize complex button sequences. Smash Up is focused on the player's skills, which by itself makes the game worth trying out.

The stages are excellent in their design, despite being reminiscent of the stages found in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. A few of them are gimmicky and not particularly relevant to the entire TMNT franchise, but they are all laid out well, giving players enough room to perform tricks. They also shine in their creativity. The Cruise Ship stage, for example, starts out like a regular stage but then hits an iceberg, forcing players to flee the ship and continue the fight on the back of a whale.

The roster is solid, but quite problematic. The main characters are here, such as all four turtles (Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo), Shredder, April O'Neil, Master Splinter and many others. The roster also features appearances from TMNT characters that have played a significant role in the TMNT storyline, such as the Fugitoid and the Nightwatcher. The problem is that the roster is quite small, lacking the strength and potential seen in recent Super Smash Bros. games. Even worse, instead of using the space for three more important TMNT characters, there are three Rabbid characters: Raving Rabbid, Splinter Rabbid, and Ninja Rabbid. As funny as they are to play with, there is a laundry list of characters - such as Rocksteady and Bebop, Leatherhead, Baxter Stockman, and many more - that didn't make the cut. It is disappointing that the final roster doesn't use the franchise to its full potential.

Smash Up does a bang-up job with a variety of modes, though, even if all of them have been borrowed from the Super Smash Bros. playbook. The first mode is Arcade, which doubles as the game's story mode. Co-written by Peter Laird, the story is very basic. Master Splinter has organized a tournament that serves as training for the turtles, April O' Neil, and Casey Jones. The winner gets to receive a trophy and one personal item from Master Splinter. But as is tradition in the turtles saga, things gets complicated with the presence of Shredder and thus the tournament becomes a race to defeat him and Karai. It is a solid mode to play through once you understand the concept of the game, but the story repeats with every character (although each character has an unique ending). You can only play as the good guys, as there is no story for the villains present. Once every few bouts a set of six mini-games will appear, such as "Proceed" (in which you race to the end the of the stage), "Survive" (board platforms and avoid being eaten by the sharks), and "Dodge the Kunai" (avoid the kunai knives until time runs out). Successful completion of these mini-games will earn players shells that can be spent on character trophies.

The next mode, Mission mode, has players participating in battles with specific requirements, such as protecting a character, eating a set number of pizzas, or defeating a set amount of enemies before the timer runs out. As you complete each set of missions, more are unlocked until you get through all 50 missions. Completion of these missions can net additional content, such as concept art and additional mini-games.

Battle Royal works as the game's main multiplayer mode. Four players can participate in free-for-all battles. The rules, such as the time limit, number of lives, and the usage of items, can be changed before the match. Tournament and Swap Out both feature other ways to play with friends. Tournament is self-explanatory, and Swap Out allows players to quickly jump in and out between matches. There is also a Practice mode that allows you to train without the pressure of battling other players.

TMNT: Smash Up also features online play. You can choose between friend battles, in which you battle the friends you have shared Friend Codes with, and online battles, in which you set up a match with a random player. Online play, despite its promise, proves to be just as problematic as in the only multiplayer mode in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Matches are riddled with lag unless players have an optimal online setup; even with a decent online configuration there's no guarantee that matches will be smooth. However, finding opponents is much easier than in Brawl, with players being able to start a match at any time as long as there are other players connected.

There are also additional bonus modes. In Trophy Room players can collect figurines, acquired by playing a shell tossing mini-game. Shells are also given to you while playing the mini-games within Story mode. Once you collect the trophies, you can view them at your leisure. You can also create a trophy for the tournament mode. Last but not least, in the Bonus Content mode you can look at character artwork, movies, and other items related to the turtles' history. It is a neat addition that fans will enjoy.

In terms of presentation, Smash Up has been well-crafted. The characters mostly resemble their counterparts from the 2007 film, while some of them have been modeled after their cartoon representations. However, the stages steal the show with their design and stunning backdrops. The textures are low resolution, unfortunately, making it look less sharp than it could have. The characters are also very basic, but because of this the game runs at a fast pace. The music is largely forgettable, with the rare stand out tune here and there. The voice cast from the 2003 cartoon reprises their roles here, and they do a good job with their characters.

In the end, TMNT: Smash Up has tough competition, with Super Smash Bros. Brawl still being a popular choice for gamers. While its flaws prevent it from being a serious contender, the game is a surprisingly fun and a solid effort that fans shouldn't miss. It may try a bit too hard to be like Super Smash Bros., but its modes and gameplay make it a title worth checking out if you want to take a break from Nintendo's fighting game.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7.5 7.5 8 8 8.5 8
Graphics
7.5

The characters look like their film counterparts and are low polygon, although they animate well. The backgrounds have stunning design, but they are marred by low-resolution textures. Fortunately, the game runs very smoothly.

Sound
7.5

The music fits the TMNT world well enough, but it tends to be forgettable. The package is rounded out by vocal performances from the 2003 cartoon cast, and they do a good job of bringing the iconic characters to life.

Control
8

TMNT: Smash Up is very easy to learn thanks to its simple control scheme. While the basic attacks work perfectly well, some of the more advanced techniques require a lot of skill and practice to pull off. The use of motion control to regain control of your character is annoying.

Gameplay
8

It might emulate nearly every aspect found in Nintendo's Super Smash Bros., but it does it well enough to make it a fun diversion from the famed fighter. Combat is accessible and fun.

Lastability
8.5

Thanks to its forgiving learning curve, TMNT: Smash Up should delight players for many hours of multiplayer. The additional gameplay modes and bonus content will also keep players occupied for a while.

Final
8

Brawl may be the preferred game for multiplayer fighting for many on the Wii, but TMNT: Smash Up does a great job of emulating the formula many have come to love, toning down the wackiness a bit for what turns out to be a solid fighter. This is a title that's worth trying out for turtle fans.

Summary

Pros
  • Lots of bonus content to discover
  • Plenty of gameplay modes
  • Solid gameplay with some depth
Cons
  • Disappointing roster
  • Online is laggy
  • Some annoying motion control mechanics
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

D_AverageDecember 13, 2009

I started a Turtle club in 1991.  So I just may check this out.  Been waiting a loooong time for another good TMNT game.  I just hope the game does a respectful job of capturing Leonardo's essence.  I was Leo in the club.  I couldn't afford Katana blades at the time so I bought two new dirt bike handle grips and slid them onto sturdy metal poles.  My friend, Donatello, who used a broom handle, lost to me every time during sparing matches back at base.  Looking back, it probably wasn't a good idea to hit him in the head with those poles in order to seal victory.  Oh well.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterDecember 13, 2009

There's a funny thing about TMNT Smash Up...

Back in the day, Konami did a TMNT fighter called Tournament Fighters. The game was largely a clone of Street Fighter II, right down to some of the stages and special moves.

Years later, Ubisoft makes Smash Up, a TMNT fighter which is a clone of SSB!

And that's not all... The roster in Tournament Fighters was composed of obscure TMNT characters, with only a few being relevant to the storyline. Smash Up also suffers from that problem, except the characters are far more recognizable than the characters in Tournament Fighters.

Funny how history repeats itself, eh? :p

KDR_11kDecember 13, 2009

Didn't TMNT Tournament Fighter include some Final fight characters too? I think I've seen an article on the game in a Club Nintendo magazine.

D_AverageDecember 13, 2009

Ahhh, I remember that game.  And I remember having a lot of fun with it.  More fun that with SF2!

MinscDecember 13, 2009

Still have Tournament Fighters, my brothers and I had a lot of fun with that one back in the day.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterDecember 13, 2009

Quote from: KDR_11k

Didn't TMNT Tournament Fighter include some Final fight characters too? I think I've seen an article on the game in a Club Nintendo magazine.

No, the game was developed by Konami, and Final Fight is a Capcom franchise.

TJ SpykeDecember 13, 2009

Quote from: NWR_pap64

Years later, Ubisoft makes Smash Up, a TMNT fighter which is a clone of SSB!

And that's not all... The roster in Tournament Fighters was composed of obscure TMNT characters, with only a few being relevant to the storyline. Smash Up also suffers from that problem, except the characters are far more recognizable than the characters in Tournament Fighters.

Funny how history repeats itself, eh? :p

To be fair though, both Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up were developed by the same company (Game Arts)

As for saying the games are filled with obscure characters, I would disagree. I can't really speak for Tournament Fighters because the game was filled with characters from the comics and I never read the TMNT comics. Smash-Up is filled mostly with characters from the recent TV series (which was extremely popular).

Tournament Fighters had some really obscure characters (and some made up for the game)... whereas I'd argue that Smash Up doesn't have nearly enough obscure characters given the number of characters in the franchise, and especially given that they started including random Ubisoft characters.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterDecember 13, 2009

Quote from: TJ

Quote from: NWR_pap64

Years later, Ubisoft makes Smash Up, a TMNT fighter which is a clone of SSB!

And that's not all... The roster in Tournament Fighters was composed of obscure TMNT characters, with only a few being relevant to the storyline. Smash Up also suffers from that problem, except the characters are far more recognizable than the characters in Tournament Fighters.

Funny how history repeats itself, eh? :p

To be fair though, both Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up were developed by the same company (Game Arts)

As for saying the games are filled with obscure characters, I would disagree. I can't really speak for Tournament Fighters because the game was filled with characters from the comics and I never read the TMNT comics. Smash-Up is filled mostly with characters from the recent TV series (which was extremely popular).

Most of the characters in Tournament Fighters came from the Archie comics, I believe, not from the B&W Mirage comics. Aska, the female ninja, was a character created exclusively for the SNES version due to the franchise lacking female fighters.

Smash Up has characters from across the universe. Fugitoid is from the 2003 cartoon, while the Nightwatcher is from the 2007 CG film.

Tournament Fighters was great. I had it for NES, and my friend had it for SNES. The fact that Smash Up includes not one, not two, but THREE Rabbids kind of makes me cry. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Pedro. I may check it out now, once the price inevitably drops.

TJ SpykeDecember 13, 2009

Quote from: NWR_pap64

Quote from: TJ

Quote from: NWR_pap64

Years later, Ubisoft makes Smash Up, a TMNT fighter which is a clone of SSB!

And that's not all... The roster in Tournament Fighters was composed of obscure TMNT characters, with only a few being relevant to the storyline. Smash Up also suffers from that problem, except the characters are far more recognizable than the characters in Tournament Fighters.

Funny how history repeats itself, eh? :p

To be fair though, both Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up were developed by the same company (Game Arts)

As for saying the games are filled with obscure characters, I would disagree. I can't really speak for Tournament Fighters because the game was filled with characters from the comics and I never read the TMNT comics. Smash-Up is filled mostly with characters from the recent TV series (which was extremely popular).

Most of the characters in Tournament Fighters came from the Archie comics, I believe, not from the B&W Mirage comics. Aska, the female ninja, was a character created exclusively for the SNES version due to the franchise lacking female fighters.

Smash Up has characters from across the universe. Fugitoid is from the 2003 cartoon, while the Nightwatcher is from the 2007 CG film.

I was actually aware of those. The reason I mentioned the cartoon is because they also based the looks of the characters on the 2003 cartoon versions of them.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterDecember 13, 2009

Quote from: Halbred

Tournament Fighters was great. I had it for NES, and my friend had it for SNES. The fact that Smash Up includes not one, not two, but THREE Rabbids kind of makes me cry. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Pedro. I may check it out now, once the price inevitably drops.

The soundtrack in the SNES version is easily one of my all time favorite videogame soundtracks, and completes the game for me.

I agree about the Rabbids, though. As much as I love them having three of them in a NINJA TURTLES is pushing it. I would have accepted the Ninja Rabbid for sh*ts and giggles, but three is too much.

I bought the game during Amazon's Black Friday deals at 30 bucks if I am not mistakes. Should be even lower next year.

One thing I forgot to mention is that its slightly disappointing that the game doesn't have enough references to the classic TMNT cartoon. Sure there's the Technodrome stage and some 80s Turtles drawings, but as much as the creators hate to admit it the 80s cartoon is undeniably the most popular version of the franchise and thus should receive more credit.

TJ SpykeDecember 13, 2009

They know fans love the 80s Turtles, that's why they did the 90-minute "Turtles Forever" cartoon movie (which I thought was great). I think it's more that they just want to promote the current version of TMNT. BTW, have you seen that? The entire special was aired last month on The CW, then they have aired it in 3 30-minute episodes over the last few weeks. The current Turtles couldn't believe how corny the 80s ones were or that they it was normal for them to just walk around in public (if you haven't seen it: check Wikipedia for the plot)

MaxiDecember 14, 2009

I watched it on youtube a week or so back. Excellent movie.

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorDecember 14, 2009

No Venus = no buy.

Venus is a memory best left forgotten.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterDecember 14, 2009

Quote from: TJ

They know fans love the 80s Turtles, that's why they did the 90-minute "Turtles Forever" cartoon movie (which I thought was great). I think it's more that they just want to promote the current version of TMNT. BTW, have you seen that? The entire special was aired last month on The CW, then they have aired it in 3 30-minute episodes over the last few weeks. The current Turtles couldn't believe how corny the 80s ones were or that they it was normal for them to just walk around in public (if you haven't seen it: check Wikipedia for the plot)

I did, and thought it was a fantastic movie. In fact, it was both the movie and recommendations from many friends that made me get the game. It was definitely the best piece of fan service I have ever seen.

And yes, the less said about the crappy live action Turtles show, the better...

Man, they need to get Tournament Fighters on the VC. Hell, they could do the SF2 thing and release every version ever made. NES, SNES, and Genesis. They were all different games--the SNES and Genesis games had different rosters, for example.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterDecember 16, 2009

Quote from: Halbred

Man, they need to get Tournament Fighters on the VC. Hell, they could do the SF2 thing and release every version ever made. NES, SNES, and Genesis. They were all different games--the SNES and Genesis games had different rosters, for example.

Definitely, but it would be a very messy thing. Ubi now has the rights to the franchise, and Nickelodeon owns the franchise as a whole.

Imagine all the hurdles they would have to jump in order to get any game on the VC...

TJ SpykeDecember 16, 2009

I don't think Nickelodeon would have any say (it's like how Marvel can't tell Activision what systems they can or can't release Spider-Man games on even though Marvel owns the character). Ubisoft and Konami have reached a deal with the first NES game, so I don't see anything stopping them from reaching a similar deal on the others. The only issue is them deciding who gets what (and they would probably charge a extra 100 points to cover it, like with the NES game).

Good point. While we're on this topic, I'm not entirely sure why the NES version of the Arcade Game (which had two exclusive levels) AND the original Arcade game AND the Manhattan Project (best one by far) aren't there either.

I can certainly see licensing issues with Turtles in Time now that Re-Shelled came out and the original on Xbox Live, but...the old NES games? Bring 'em to VC, Konami!

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Genre Fighting
Developer Game Arts
Players1 - 4
Online1 - 4
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up
Release Q4 2009
PublisherUbisoft
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