Except exactly which flavor of Ninja Turtles to expect. The series evolved a lot since the 1980s, so it’s important for fans to know whether they’re dealing with the original Peter Laird/Kevin Eastman envisioning of the Turtles, or the new 4Kids Entertainment cartoon.
In Smash-Up, it turns out you’re dealing with all the different incarnations of Ninja Turtles at once. Though the character models clearly resemble the 2007 CGI movie and the back story used to drive the “Hey, let’s have a massive beat-down” gameplay is more kid-oriented, the entire game is a pastiche of all that is Turtle. Minus the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III movie — but I don’t think anybody’s going to be too upset about that.
Easy Beat Down: Thanks to developer Game Arts experience on the Smash Bros. series, it’s pretty easy for any Brawl fan to scoop up Smash-Up and start kicking butt. There are some minor tweaks to the GameCube/Classic Controller control schemes and a bit of an overhaul to the Wiimote scheme (to add more motion controls), but it really does feel just like Smash Bros. once you adjust to the item-throwing system and the jump controls.
Awesome Cut Scenes: My favourite part about fighting games is unlocking new cinema scenes after blitzing through a single character’s story mode. Smash-Up obliges me with homage to the Turtles’ origins in pen-and-ink comic book style cut scenes that look just like the original comics. That made me worried at first because I thought they’d just re-use the same ending sequence for all the Turtles, but so far every character I’ve played has a different ending. Whew.
Environmental Hazards: The stages in Smash-Up aren’t static environments. They have collapsing platforms, destructible obstacles and usually some sort of environmental hazard (like beehives or crocodiles). Rather than being an annoyance, the random chance of death-by-crocodile can make for an interesting multiplayer match. It also livens up arcade mode quite a bit.
Not As Good As Smash Bros.: It’s almost unfair to compare Smash-Up to Smash Bros., but you just can’t help it. Aside from having a developer and most of the control scheme in common, the sheer notion of mashing together all that is Ninja Turtle into one game smacks of the same decision making behind cramming all of Nintendo’s beloved characters into Brawl. Once you’ve started down the path of comparing the two games to each other, it starts looking really bad for Smash-Up because it just can’t match Smash Bros. in terms of unlockables, mini-games and charm. Really, the only thing Smash-Up has on Smash Bros. is fully voiced cut scenes and that ain’t saying much.
Slow Unlock Rate: You start the game off with a bland selection of characters, but you just know you’re going to unlock so many more based on who you encounter in story mode and who’s on the box art. However, after playing and replaying story mode and sinking a lot of love into multiplayer and mini-games, I still hadn’t unlocked more than a trailer and a few alternate character costumes. This means either I’m playing the game wrong (which is weird, because there’s only so many ways to play a fighting game), or that the game is too stingy with unlockable content.
GET UP! It takes forever to get your character up off the ground once they’ve been knocked down. You can mash the attack button, press up on the analogue stick to jump or just swear incoherently at your screen. But they’ll still just lie there like they’ve got all the time in the world for a nap while the AI character keeps kicking them.
Despite its faults, Smash-Up is a perfectly good way to pass an afternoon with friends who remember what the Turtles were in our youth. It might even be a good game for kids because it’s not a difficult game to play. But while Smash-Up brings a bit of nostalgia and doesn’t build any walls between generations of Ninja Turtles fans, it also doesn’t really do much else. Besides make me want to go watch the live action movie and order a pizza.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up was developed by Game Arts and published by Ubisoft for the Wii and PlayStation 2 on September 22. The Wii version goes for $69.95 and the PS2 version goes for $39.95. Played all game modes in both single and multiplayer modes.
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