Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up

Are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles even teenage anymore? Created in 1984, they’re hitting the big two-five this year. For the red-eared snapper (the proposed breed of Raphael and co) with its 40-year lifespan, that’s closer to OAP than Teenage Kicks. Heroes in a half shell? Heroes in a half snooze dribbling down their shirts, more like. As far as gaming legacies go they’re no spring chickens either, the wonder days of the Konami arcade brawler tarnished by flop after flop.

So, how have these bastions of gaming shoddiness made it into the mag this month? That’s down to another organisation celebrating their 25th anniversary this year: Games Arts, or ‘them what made Smash Bros Brawl under Masahiro Sakurai’s guidance’, as they’re more commonly known. Not only that, they’re joined by members of the illustrious Team Ninja, who are well versed in beat-’em-ups (Dead Or Alive) and ninjas (Ninja Gaiden). Interested now?

Working on the game since being turfed out of Smash Central last January, Games Arts were clearly hired for their newly gained Smash Bros know-how. Glance around this page and you’ll see the influence is overwhelming – the four players, the 2D perspective with 3D models, the way the camera zooms in and out based on character proximity. Even the platform formations remind us of the Nintendo title’s arenas. Hell, the game even has the word ‘Smash’ in its name.

Not that Games Arts are resting on their laurels, TMNT could – whisper it – surpass Brawl in the looks department. The Turtles’ world is a grittier, more realistic place, showing off an eye for real-world detail that simply didn’t have a place among Brawl’s puffballs and plumbers. Between the noir-ish vibe of a Manhattan skyline bathed in the glow of neon signs and the shimmering rapids of the jungle arena, Smash Up is really challenging the Wii to bring its A game.

Smash Up also replaces Brawl’s damage build-up fight model with a traditional HP-depleting affair. Death by fall-out is still pretty common, but victories depend on cracking some serious shell. The roster of attacks, special attacks and throws won’t trouble Smash-heads (or their wrists: attacks are motion-free), though Games Arts do stir things up with context-sensitive moves, such as running up walls and launching into flying kicks, or arcing Prince Of Persia-style on poles before ending with a gymnastics-powered kick.