With the resurgence of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their brand new television series in 2003 came a whole new line of video games looking to bring the heroes in green back into the homes of old and new fans alike. With more powerful consoles and deeper adventures to explore, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hit the Xbox, Playstation 2,Nintendo GameCube, and PC in 2003.
With the power to finally make a turtle game that reflected true movements and abilities, Konami brought some of the best adventures from the first season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) to the game. The destruction of the lair, Casey Jones’ arrival, the mouser attack, and the trip to the underground were included as levels before reaching Shredder himself. Featuring countless villains, like Casey Jones, Giant Mouser, Mystic Foot Ninjas, Razorfist, Quarry, and Shredder, the game allowed players to pick their favorite turtle and battle through the sewer, the streets of New York, a junkyard, a museum, and Oroku Saki’s compound to take on evil everywhere.
Unlike former games, there were no special attacks similar to past games for each turtle. However, because the characters were much more mobile, no particular turtle was overpowered or outweighed the use of the others. In fact, to make sure that all had a fair shot of being used, particular turtles could unlock certain bosses in the various levels. For instance, playing as Raphael could lead to a showdown with Casey Jones, while Donatello came with a Baxter Stockman battle. Instead, the turtles could collect crystals that offered temporary boosts to speed, strength, and defense.
In addition to the main story mode, there were other game play aspects included as well. During the story, there was co-op play for two players, as well as secret bonus and mini levels interspersed with the main levels. After unlocking all the appropriate characters, players could go head-to-head as well in an all-out TMNT rumble. Also included was a challenge mode unlocked after beating the game, and the four turtles could be outfitted in special alternate costumes. These were reminiscent of some of the toys made during the 1987 toy line, as well as some of the costumes from the show, like Donatello in a trench coat and glasses or Michelangelo in his Turtle Titan suit.
Despite being the first console TMNT game in almost a decade, the 2003 installment was met with only mixed reviews. Critics enjoyed the great improvement in graphics, and the voice acting as well. But the dialogue during battle was bland, fighting took no skill or tactics, enemies were unable to do anything advanced, stage design was off, and only two players could be involved, despite the GameCube and Xbox allowing four players to use the systems at once. GameRankings gave the game 61.99%, Metacritic rated it 59/100, 1Up.com graded it a B-, and IGN gave it a 5.3/10. Overall, the game was not received well by critics, as either a game in general, or a TMNT installment.
For fans, though, this was a huge step forward for TMNT games. While nothing ever would or could compete with titles like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II or Turtles in Time, this game was leaps and bounds above other games in the franchise. It finally allowed players to battle freely with enemies, and there was a story that attempted more than just “April’s been kidnapped, go save her.” While the plot for the game wasn’t unique, it was still fun to play through what was being seen on TV during the same time.
Overall, the 2003 TMNT game was not anything special, but it was much better looking than its predecessors, and it put the turtles back where they belonged. Fans could enjoy the battles once again, and really get immersed in something more resembling a story than ever before. New villains, new fighters, and plenty of new game play made this a game worth checking out for all TMNT fans.