Ah Turtles in Time. It’s a bit of an understatement when I say I spent illegal amounts of time playing it back in the day. The original Turtles arcade game was awesome, and in my mind that meant this would be too. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have an arcade or mom and pop store close by that had it, so my only chance to play the game came whenever my middle school would have a field trip to the roller skating rink. I spent more time playing the arcade machine than trying to hold hands skating with girls. Is that sad or embarrassing? Nah, I was enjoying myself and in the end that’s all that matters. My limited funds meant I never finished the game, at least not until the glorious SNES version was released the following year.
Shredder and Krang have stolen the Statue of Liberty, causing the Turtles to spring into action. What should have been a simple retrieval turns into a time hopping trip home. Released in the summer of 1992 the home port was everything you could dream of and then some. Arcade ports were nothing new, going as far back as the Atari 2600 but the 16-bit systems were very much at the point where you could in a lot of cases make an exact 100% arcade port. While that isn’t the case here Turtles in Time had many additions that made the game a fuller experience.
Turtles in Time is largely similar to the original game in terms of graphics and gameplay. All 4 turtles had minor differences in terms of speed, strength, and reach although not to the extent where it makes much of a difference like in the original NES game. The game comprises 10 levels in the home version with 2 considered bonus stages. The journey through the game at first comprises the standard levels you would expect to see in a turtles game, but after level 4 (the Technodrome), you are sent hurtling through time. This allows the game to take you through a variety of set pieces, and avoid what I feel is one of the major banes of the beat em up genre: lack of enemy variety. To a large degree the enemies consist of different colored foot soldiers, but each type has different forms of attack which you’ll be keen to recognize. Most of the time periods introduce specific enemies for that era or environmental hazards that add to each stage’s unique feel.
Bucking the other trend in beat em ups, you have a large arsenal of moves at your disposal, something a bit uncommon in the genre. The two biggest additions to the game are the ability to throw enemies into the screen and to body slam them left and right, excellent for fighting multiple enemies at a time. A lot of the moves come across as fluff, but through trial and error you’ll find certain moves are more effective against enemy types. The dash covers ground faster and can lead into combos. These moves make you think about what is best in a given situation and also serve as a gameplay variant. Throwing an enemy into the screen gives you 3 points, while body slamming only gives two but can clear the screen when timed right. Every 200 points nets an extra life so decisions, decisions.
Graphically, the game is fantastic. The SNES color palette is put to full use and mimics the arcade admirably. New to the home version is the option to choose different color palettes for the turtles as well as an additional boss fight against Shredder in the Technodrome. Frames of animation are missing here and there but not to the extent where you’ll notice. The animation is otherwise excellent, especially the Turtles. Literally every stage has some new effect that will have you in stitches. The soundtrack is very catchy and stacks up against the arcade machine pretty well. Some of the voice samples as well as the title theme song are missing though.
What we have here is not only an excellent arcade port but just an excellent game. Konami, along with Capcom, made excellent licensed games during that era, with Turtles in Time continuing that trend. Even to this day I still bust it out and do a quick play through, which is truly the mark of quality.