With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge proving to be a retro-infused hit, the time is ideal for The Cowabunga Collection to strike. Like a self-inflicted nunchuck blow to the head of a 90’s school child, TMNT: TCC hopes to leave players stunned. Collecting thirteen TMNT titles from across a range of consoles, this is certainly a comprehensive offering, but are these games even worth playing in 2022?
The presentation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is flawless. Each game, whether originating on Game Boy, SNES, or Arcade, is perfectly rebuilt for play on modern consoles. All the expected features of a retro collection are included; each game can be displayed in a variety of screen sizes, controls can be remapped, and both US and Japanese versions of most games can be selected.
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Beyond the fundamentals, there’s a load of other great ideas to be found that forthcoming retro collections would be wise to emulate. Take accessibility; developers Digital Eclipse have wisely acknowledged that a lot of these old Turtles games are deeply unforgiving, in fact, many seem to hate the player entirely. As such, there’s a slew of options that seek to make these classic games more player friendly. Each title comes with its own enhancements.
Take the iconic game TMNT: Turtles in Time, here the player can choose to begin on any level, activate god mode, or even enjoy turbo mode that moves player characters at double speed. Alternatively, if those old-school arcade games aren’t hard enough already, you can make things far more challenging by turning on nightmare mode and flooding the screen with opponents.
There are plenty of neat improvements like this on offer. All the bosses can be instantly unlocked on Street Fighter II-alike Tournament Fighters, while helpful map icons can be instantly added to make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue less of a slog. For the older NES titles, sprite flicker can be removed, slow down erased, and controls tightened. Even better, every misstep and mistake can be instantly rewound and tried again. Or, if you just want the authentic retro experience, warts and all, you can play the game exactly as intended. The range of options on offer to the player is utterly sublime.
Where The Cowabunga Collection truly shines is in its behind-the-scenes offering. To be discovered in the Turtles Lair is an absolute treasure trove of content, sure to leave any diehard Turtles fan frothing at the mouth. Almost everything you’d ever want to see from decades worth of Turtles history is here to be enjoyed. Of most interest is the original game design documents, many including hand notations, and covering every game in the collection. These are fascinating; exploring character design, enemy types, and level plans. Digital Eclipse doesn’t skimp on the aspect, there are hundreds of design documents to explore, joined by virtual versions of original game boxes and manuals recreated in all their gorgeous glory. Add to that stills from the various TMNT cartoons and cover art from the comics and you have a truly comprehensive digital museum of the series.
Your enjoyment of The Cowabunga Collection won’t be negatively impacted by the emulation then, nor by the behind-the-scenes content, instead, it depends on how much you want to play a bunch of old Turtles games. There are some absolute gems on offer here, the standout being TMNT: Turtles in Time. This game still holds up, offering players an immensely enjoyable arcade scrolling beat ‘em up. The rest of the scrolling duff ‘em ups are well worth a look too, and there’s an unmistakable thrill to finally being able to play TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist.
Okay, here’s where I start to get controversial: Tournament Fighters, whether on SNES, Genesis, or NES, remains as turgid as I remember. This Street Fighter II wannabe is as insipid and borderline unplayable as it ever was. Really the fighting series’ only saving grace is that it draws upon a wide and varied cast of characters. Also, whilst the Game Boy Turtles games were decent back in the day, mother time has not been kind to them. Frankly, house chores would be more appealing than the prolonged play of TMNT II: Back from the Sewers. In short, if you have golden-hued nostalgic memories of these games you’ll probably get a kick out of playing them again, for anyone new to the franchise you’ll likely wonder what all the fuss was about.
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