Turtles in Time: An HD re-"meh"ke


A while ago I wrote how this is a great time to be both a nostalgic gamer and a home theater enthusiast, listing six great high-def remakes of classic titles. This month, I was keyed up to add two more titles to the list with the recent releases of seminal arcade fighter Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and seminal arcade beat-em-up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time: Re-Shelled for the Xbox 360.

Well, we can add one to the list. And we can use the other as an example of failing to capture the nostalgia. Turtles in Time: Re-Shelled isn't a bad game, but it's a disappointment due to what could have been done.

Instead of opening by nitpicking the way the game was remade from a gameplay perspective, let's start out by looking at the title's audio and video deficiencies. Instead of blocky sprites, the game uses 3D models to produce the game's high-defintion graphics. They look good and are animated smoothly, but they just don't capture the exciting, cartoony feeling of the original game.

It's very difficult to get 3D graphics to look suitably like a cartoon. Unlike most other content, you want the saturation blown way up to produce the memorable, vibrant feel of Saturday morning animation. Compared to the original, pixelated game, Re-Shelled looks dark and washed out. The stages feel empty and lifeless, and the turtles themselves look more like the mediocre 2007 film's turtles than the ones found in the cartoon. You can fiddle with your HDTV's color settings to try to make the game look a bit more nostalgic and animated, but the levels at which you'll have to crank up certain options will make the home theater expert in you weep. If you want to see a beat-em-up that really knows how to look vibrant and cartoony, check out the modern Castle Crashers, a gorgeous title much more worth your $15 than Re-Shelled is worth your $10.

The sound isn't terrible, but again it just feels off. Anyone who's played the original game or its ports knows the slightly tinny turtle voice saying "Big Apple, 3 a.m." at the start of the game. I have no idea why, but instead of taking the original sound files from the game, Ubisoft decided to re-do the sound effects and music. The voices have been changed, and once again evoke the 2007 film more than the game's source material. The music has changed into a mostly bland synth-pop soundtrack that you'll forget as soon as it stops playing. The sound effects of combat sound squishy and ineffectual, like hitting a wet sponge with a stick.

Finally, there's the game itself. The title is a straight remake of the original arcade version of the game, so people with fond memories of the Super Nintendo version will immediately notice the missing Technodrome level, Bebop and Rocksteady boss fights, and a few other key details. This was developer Ubisoft Shanghai's first misstep. Unlike fighting games, in which purists demand as accurate a translation as possible, beat-em-ups are very tweak-friendly among the nostalgia set. If Ubisoft took the best levels and bosses from the arcade and Super Nintendo versions (and maybe even the Sega Genesis Hyperstone Heist version), it would have pleased gamers who played each version, and stretched out a painfully short game.

Even if you burned through rolls and rolls of quarters at the arcade or spent entire weekends with Turtles in Time lodged in your Super Nintendo, Re-Shelled isn't worth the $10 Ubisoft is asking. It doesn't capture the nostalgic feel that gamers demand, and while technically the HD graphics look very nice, they hardly do justice to the source material. If you have an Xbox 360 and want to immerse yourself in old-school Ninja Turtles nostalgia, spend $5 on TMNT Arcade. It's the original arcade game, with little to no graphical tweaks and a very budget-friendly price tag. If you have an Xbox 360 (or a Playstation 3 and some patience, as the PS3 version was only just announced), spend $15 on Castle Crasher, which will give you much more fun for much longer, and really take advantage of that beefy HDTV of yours to boot.

Will Greenwald