Friday, July 31, 2015

Month Overview: July 2015

 Games finished in July 2015:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(GBA)                                                          7.0
Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles                                             5.5
Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Danger of the Ooze             6.5
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(Movie)                                                        7.5
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 - Mutant Nightmare(DS)                         4.0
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 - Battle Nexus                                          2.5

 Exams, studying, reading and Turtle Month 2015. Well, I'm not gonna dance around it, Turtle Month 2015 blew, who knew Ninja Turtles games could get so bad? There were a couple of good ones, at least, but the bad ones got oh so bad.

 Game of July:
 Who'd knew a game, based on a Michael Bay movie could get so good? Fitting the franchise around the genre, instead of the other way around, seems to have been the right call. As fun as it was, it needed more of everything. More environments, more stages, more loot! But hey, there's always the next time!

 It's funny, and sad, when you think about it, but Konami built a decent foundation for future games with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was too short and lacked a bit more tuning, but it was fun while it lasted. And then Konami said to hell with it and built TMNT 2 Battle Nexus almost from the ground up, and it was terrible. And for the third entry they decided to take a little bit from both games, but even then, it couldn't match the first one. Goddammit, Konami.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review #249: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 - Battle Nexus(GBA)

 I'm gonna be blunt 'ere: It's terrible.
 Oh, Konami, your TMNT games are supposed to be good! The first handheld game of their 2000's offerings was a more than decent first attempt, as it showed promise, albeit in need of some polishing here and there. But Konami opted to start back from scratch, and the result is disastrous.

 The game is a very, veeeeery loose retelling of the series' second season. There're four modes: Story Mode, Multiplayer(Which I couldn't try), Battle Mode, which has you collecting crystals in a very small arena under a certain time limit, and Race, which is an interesting 2-D skateboard mini game against the other turtles. The Story Mode has been overhauled for the worse. There're five worlds with 6 stages each, which is already an improvement over the shorter first game... but more of a bad thing is not a good thing, in this case, having more to dredge through isn't something to boast about.
 The previous game was rather straightforward in its approach, and for whatever reason, they decided that being straightforward was a bad idea. Most levels are made up of maze-like environments in which you have to find your weapons, and then gather crystals. Yes, you have to find your weapons first. It sounds like a good idea, at first your turtle is vulnerable, and you have to make your way through enemies, using stealth, alongside new actions like hiding underneath certain background elements, and make your way to your weapons. But it soon becomes tedious. Y'see, in order to progress into other levels, you have to gather 85 out of 100 crystals, so you have to explore the levels. You have to traverse them to find your weapons, then, probably, backtrack and gather everything that you couldn't before. Then there's the fact that each turtle has different abilities, so only some of them can obtain some crystals, which sounds great at first... until you realize that it forces you to replay levels in order to meet the crystal quota. And lest we forget that the game gets rather hard once you reach world 4, and there are no checkpoints... it translates to a lot of busy work, a lot of backtracking and a lot of replaying. There's tedious, then there's hard... but hard and tedious? Thanks, but no thanks. Mind you, it's not insanely hard, at most I must've retried a level 6 times before finishing it, but the whole ordeal of: Gathering weapons, then gathering crystals then, probably, retrying with another Turtle, with the chance of dying mid-level and having to redo everything again... yeah, it's just tedious.

 Controls have been slightly changed, slides and double jumps are gone, but there's the new hiding mechanics. Each turtle has unique skills, Mikey can hover with his 'chucks or throw them to break stuff at distance, Raphael can climb walls with his Sai and Donatello can access computer terminals. Leonardo gets nothing, really, your best bet is to play each level with Raph and/or Mikey, since they have the most unique crystals per level. Combat has been simplified, characters have a simple A button attack combo and three different charge attacks, but the charge is now instantaneous. It's not half bad really, but it's the tediousness of it all that really brings the game down. On paper, I adore the idea of each character having unique skills, but in practice it only translates to some turtles being able to reach crystals that others cannot, and they use it as an excuse to force you to retry each level in order to gather more crystals. They also kept the annoying mechanic were characters will break into a run after taking a few steps.
 Graphics received an overhaul as well, but not for the best. Everything is smaller now, and lacks detail. The animation is nothing to write home about either. Music is forgettable if anything.

 And thus ends Turtle Month 2015... on a whimper. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 - Battle Nexus is the worst of the Konami games, but at least, at least it can be fun, when it's not tedious. And hey, at least it's not TMNT for the PSP.

 2.5 out of 10

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review #248: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 - Mutant Nightmare(DS)

 Tough as a shell.
 Konami's run with TMNT on Home Consoles, during the 2000s, was pretty good... it's a shame that the handheld games didn't fare as well. Just as with the console games, it seems like Konami had a hard time finding an identity for these games, however, while they knocked it out of the park when it came to Mutant Nightmare on PS2, the DS version wasn't half as good.

 Mutant Nightmare is based off the third season of the show, but very, very loosely. It does dabble in some of the storylines, but just barely. As far as the set-up goes, Single Player is made up of 4 'worlds', Worlds 1-3 are made up of 7-8 stages each, while World 4 is made up of 5 stages. Each turtle has slightly different abilities, which means that some turtles will be able to explore certain areas the others can't, what's more, each turtle only has access to six stages per world, so some levels aren't available for some! Which sounds really cool, and in theory, it is, but Konami made it as obnoxious as the could. Y'see, progress for each turtle is individual, so you have to play the game four times if you want to see everything. As a matter of fact, the game is cut short on 'Easy', only letting you finish World 3, and the only way to get the real ending on 'Normal' or 'Hard' is to finish the game with all four turtles, which implies playing the same levels 4 times, even, EVEN if sometimes you go through different areas. There's also a 'cooperative mode', which I wasn't able to try out, and a 'Battle mode', which is a 'collect the crystals' mini-game.
 The game is a beat'em up with certain exploring elements, when you are not bashing skulls, you are avoiding traps, by jumping, swimming, swinging or crawling around. They got rid of the annoying 'find your weapon!' mechanic from TMNT 2, THANK GOD, and combat borrows mostly from TMNT 1. You mash the B button to attack, you can charge for some special attacks, or use a desperation move by pressing jump and attack at the same time. New to the game is calling the other turtles, but it's a bit... cheap. Each world allows you to call a turtle to attack enemies up to three times(It's predetermined for each character, for instance, Leonardo calls Raph to attack), while the other two can be called to solve 'puzzles', for instance, Donatello helps Leonardo jump higher, Mikey helps Donnie jump higher, etc... except that they can only be called on predetermined spots, so basically, no thinking involved. Heck, there's some obstacles that could easily be avoided by calling another turtle to help you jump, but alas, they can only be summoned on predetermined spots. Lame.

 Now then, each stage is fairly short, 1-3 minutes tops, but they make up for it by making it brutally difficult. Keep in mind that the turtles have slow, deliberate movements, but the game will demand you to move all over the stage in order to avoid attacks and counterattack. Enemies are aggressive, and most of them have some sort of projectile attack, so you need to learn to avoid and deal with many enemies at the same time. It is pretty taxing, and surprisingly difficult for a licensed game. World 4 is particularly brutal, unfair even. It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly why, but it's not a challenge that I enjoyed. It's probably a mixture of the game being so dull, the turtles' agility not being up to snuff and Konami pretending for me to replay the entire game four times if I wanted to see the true ending.
 The presentation has received yet another facelift, kinda. The four turtles' stances were redrawn, and they look much better, in theory, for example, Raphael is now huge, since he is the muscle of the group.... however, the stances are the only thing they redrew, as soon as Raphael starts moving, jumping or crawling, he reverts to the smaller sized sprites shared between all four. It can be pretty jarring, particularly as Raphael. That said, it's a colorful game, and the DS allowed them to add 3D elements to the backgrounds, which don't look bad at all. The music is fairly forgettable, sadly.

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 - Mutant Nightmare is far from unplayable, but even die-hard TMNT fans will have trouble liking this game.
 4.0 out of 10

Monday, July 6, 2015

Now Playing: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 - Mutant Nightmares

 Konami, whachoo doin'?
 And for the third, and last, entry in the series, Konami decided to mix elements from both previous games. Now mind you, TMNT 1 and TMNT 2, on consoles, were decent at worst and good at best, so mixing the best elements of both resulted in a great game. TMNT 1 on the GBA was good, while TMNT 2 is atrocious, so bad that I stopped playing it. Mixing elements from both was not necessarily a good idea.

 The Bad: The sprites have been redrawn, again, and for the most part they are pretty good, characters now have different proportions and what not... but they revert to generic sprites when going into shared actions, like jumping on walking, which means that Raphael slims down considerably, and Leonardo loses some muscle. It's only really bothersome with Raph though.
 Crystals are back! I hope only optional stuff is locked behind it, no levels or what not.
 You have to replay the entire game as other turtles. Yep, even if you clear stage four with Leo, if you want to replay the same stage as, say, Mikey, you are gonna have to clear stage 1 to four with Mikey. There are optional passages that only certain turtles can traverse, forcing you to replay every single stage to get to them with another turtle is really annoying. Gimmicky touch-based activities.

 The Good: The fighting is more akin to TMNT 1. Heck, you don't need to find your weapons again, which was one of the stupidest things TMNT 2 did.

 Overall: Not impressed.

Review #247: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(Movie)

 Why is this game so good?!
 Previous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game have made the genre fit the franchise, which was probably the right way to go about it, but Magic Pockets instead opted to make the franchise fit the genre.... and they developed one of the best TMNT games in recent memory. This is a hack-and-slash RPG, in the same vein as Diablo, and as unfitting as it sounds for the Ninja Turtles, it's a great game on its own right.

 The game takes place after the movie, yes, that movie, the one by Michael Bay. The plot is paper-thin, but you really aren't playing this game for the story. The game is made up of 15 different stages, 10 ''side quest' stages and about 20 challenges, all in all, it should take anywhere from 3-5 hours to wrap it up. Which is a bit disappointing, as the game will certainly leave you wanting more. That said, you can always replay previous stages or side-quests to level up your turtles.
 Being a hack-and-slash RPG, you'll spend most of your time walking across narrow dungeons(Streets and Sewers actually), mowing down dozens of enemies in hope of better loot. At your command lie all four turtles, and you can swap them at will by tapping the directional pad or tapping their faces on the bottom screen. While they have separate life-bars, the XP gauge and level are shared among the four, and losing any turtle means dying.... but checkpoints are plentiful, and there are no consequences to dying, so it's not that hard. Another thing to keep in mind is that each level translates into 2 Skill Points, so you have to pick which turtle gets skills. There's about 10 different skills per Turtle, both passive and active skills. Passive skills grant bonuses just by learning them, while active skills are assigned to the A, B or X button(The Y button is used for normal attacks). One really neat touch is that every turtle has their own style. Take Michelangelo, his passive and active skills are all built around his 'Shuriken' skill, active skills will deal increased damage to enemies hit by shurikens, for example, or passive skills will grant bonus damage and shorter CDs to Shurikens. Meanwhile, Donnie is built around Crowd control, with many tools to deal damage in large areas and over time. Leo is mostly the DPS and Raph is the tank. One minor gripe with the system, is that the HUD is on the bottom screen, so in order to keep up with the cool down on your skills you are gonna have to look to the bottom screen, probably diverting you from whatever is happening on the top screen.

 As fun as the overall game is, and as well as they built the different skills and the four turtles, there's a noticeable flaw with the loot system. Mainly, how limited it is. Props to making the different weapons reflect on the character models, though! But I digress, the problem is how loot works and how little there is of it, namely, Weapons can only be crafted or found, randomly, on chests. Enemies do not drop weapons, and they can't be bought. What enemies do drop is materials, items(Like pizza(potions) or buff-giving items) and gold, which is used to buy items on the shop. Weapons don't come in different rarities, although some deal different elemental damage. Still, it could've been so much more than the same boring 10 or so different weapons per character, you'll have seen every possible weapon each Turtle can equip by the end of the game. The crafting system is also very simple: You gather materials, and you craft weapons from a list. Another thing I would've liked, that should be mandatory on this kind of game is randomly generated dungeons.
 Presentation is very simple, character models are rather small, albeit decently detailed, which is noticeable when you pause the game and you can look at the character models. It's pretty colorful, although it could've used more tilesets, there's only: Subway, City, Warehouse/Docks and Sewers. Music is surprisingly good, not particularly catchy or memorable, but it's not a bad listen.

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a great little game for the 3DS. They managed to work the license around the genre, and I particularly enjoyed how different the four turtles were. That said, the game is lacking, namely, a better loot system and more stages, or at least randomly generated dungeons to make up for that. Still, at the end of the day I had a blast with it, probably one of the better TMNT games released lately.
 7.5 out of 10

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Now Playing: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(Movie)

 I knew that this was a Diablo clone, but as soon as the game starts I read 'Magic Pockets, the devs from the very first Nickelodeon TMNT game. I was scared.

 Then I played it, and it was amazing. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a Diablo clone, you fight enemies, you earn XP and loot. As you level up you also learn skills, and all four turtles have different skills. Holy crap. I guess that having all four Turtles on-screen at the same time might've been asking too much, but it doesn't matter.

 The game feels so good. I love this game. I barely played two missions, hey I haveta study!, and I know that I love this game. I need to keep on playing. I need new weapons. I NEED MORE XP.

Review #246: Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Danger of the Ooze

 Erm... which ooze?
 While the previous TMNT game wasn't bad by any means, it wasn't particularly good either, so Activision lent the franchise to Wayforward. Instead of a beat'em up, they opted for a single player Metroidvania romp, and while still far from being the ideal Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, it's still a step up from the previous offering.

 The story... is almost non-existent. The Foot Clan, lead by Shredder, are dealing with the Krang in developing a new weapon, so it's up to the turtles to stop them. During the adventure they'll come across allies like Casey, Slash, Karai and April, even though they do little more than say a couple of lines and teach you a new move, and fight foes like Rahzar, Baxter Stockman, Tiger Claw and the Newtrominator. It manages to cover most of the really important characters, even if they only get to say a few lines, and the writing feels straight out of the show, so that's fine. One neat little touch is, since you can swap Turtles at will, each turtle has different, voiced lines when initiating each scene!
 The game plays mostly like the original TMNT game on the NES, but with a Metroidvania flair. The entire 'world' of the game is interconnected: Sewers, City, TCRI and Dimension X, and the more you play, the more 'connections' between areas that you'll discover. This being a Metroidvania, at the start you won't be able to go everywhere, some ledges might be out of reach, or doors that you can't open may block your progress, but by exploring, you'll earn new abilities that allow you passage through them. First complaint: Most of the 'obstacles' are doors that require ammo-based weapons. Why? Whose idea was it? Usually, behind each gate there's a machine that spawns infinite enemies so that you can kill them endlessly in hopes that they drop ammo for that particular sub weapon. To be fair, Shurikens are plentiful, and I only had to farm for smoke bombs once, but the fact remains that there's the possibility for tedium, and since that was the case, I just avoided using subweapons as much as possible in order to conserve them. Not a good design choice. But the worst one? Inspired by the first TMNT game, losing all your health with a turtle means that he gets 'captured' and you must find him in one of the many 'Rescue rooms' throughout the game. These translates to artificial length, by forcing you to backtrack in order to get him back. As a matter of fact, I lost Leonardo, my favorite turtle, to the first boss... and as luck would have it, he was 'captured' in one of the latter areas of the game, which meant I spent over an hour without my favorite turtle. Fun. You can eventually find an item that tells you in which particular room they got sent to, but while it cuts down on the wandering, you will still have to backtrack. And you just know that they did it to extend the game's life, as having lost Leo twice, and only him, I 100%ed the game in little over four hours.

 The game is one of those floaty, slidey kinda games, you know, those games in which it feels as if everything lacked weight. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I'm not particularly fond of it, that said, after a while I got used to it and didn't mind it at all. The combat is a simple 'mash Y' matter, although they did bother to add a parry mechanic, which you don't really need. At all. They also did this weird 4 hit combo, but the way it works is that after the third hit, you press Y a fourth time and hold it, then couple it with a direction in order to pull one of four different finishers. Each one has a different purpose, 'Down+Y' breaks defenses, 'Up+Y' breaks shields and juggles enemies, 'Forward+Y' pushes the enemy with a kick, and 'Back+Y' makes you somersault over the enemy. The 'Hold Y' thing is baffling, but you can just mash Y, so don't even bother with it. There's also sub weapons: Smoke Bombs, Shurikens, Electric Shurikens and... Exploding Shurikens. Just save them up for the different doors, really. And hey, it wouldn't be a Wayforward game without a few bugs, the ones I came across were: The game crashed once, during Shredder's boss fight an enemy got 'stuck' in the middle of the arena, he couldn't move, I couldn't harm him, but touching him would hurt me! And lastly, sometimes the Squirrel enemies would default to their 'standing' animation just for kicks.
 Just like the previous game, the presentation is rather overwhelming. Graphically, it took two steps forward and one step back: Character models look worse than before, however, they are more detailed, with Raph even having the trademark chip on his shell. The animation is rather poor as well, for instance, the rolling looks all kinds of terrible. Even so, the stages, while simple, are visually appealing, I was particularly taken by the 'City' backgrounds. The music is... believe or not, it's actually quite good! And the voice acting is every bit as good as the previous one.

 Danger of the Ooze is far from perfect, it's very flawed as a matter of fact, but when it comes to it, it's quite fun. Maybe it's just my inner Metroidvania fan talking, but beneath the bugs, beneath the lackluster graphics, beneath the questionable design choices, it's fun.
 6.5 out of 10

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Now Playing: Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Danger of the Ooze

 I believed in you, and you failed me.
 There's this company called Wayforward, they've done some neat, little games for handhelds before. Remember that Thor game for the DS? Pretty good, right? Aliens Infestation was pretty cool as well. And Contra 4 was as good as the classics. I trust Wayforward, if someone could get a modern TMNT game right, it was them.

 Well, maybe I'm being a tad harsh. Danger of the Ooze is a Metroidvania, y'know, one of my favorite videogame genres. And it was developed by Wayforward. Double whammy. And yet, there's something... something missing. I can't quite put my finger on what feels off, what feels out of place, why I'm not liking this game as much as I think I should.

 Just as with the previous game, it has that cheap, floaty, slidey feel to it, like nothing really has weight. The combat is kinda odd, how after the third hit you have to hold Y before using a finisher? What's up with that? A simple press of the button would've been better, heck, I just mash the Y button and the direction.

 The music is pretty good, but the graphics are.... they are bad. Cutscene graphics look much better than the previous game's, but in-game... it's not a pretty game to look at.

 Eh, I dunno, I'm not giving up on it. And hey, at least it ain't TMNT on the PSP!

Review #245: Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

 After Peter Laird sold the rights to TMNT to Nickelodeon, fans were worried. Then the initial renditions of the new fab four were released, and fans were not happy. Joke was on us, the new TMNT reimaging by IDW is, to date, my favorite version of the TMNT, and Nickelodeon's show, while not quite as tight as 2003's, is fantastic. So of course a videogame had to follow.

 Gotta give credit where credit is due, if Activision's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got something right, it's the feel of the show. The dialogue isn't quite as polished, but dammit if it doesn't feel like an episode of the show. The plot has to do with the Turtles tailing Xever, Dog Pound and Baxter Stockman before they can complete a Mutagen Bomb, but eventually, and naturally, they have to deal with the big bad himself, The Shredder. The story isn't particularly good all well written, but the dialogue, the characters, that's where it's at.
 The game is just your run of the mill beat'em up: You walk to the right(Sometimes left!), then the scrolling freezes until you defeat every single enemy. There's not a whole lot more to the game! You play as any of the four turtles, and can switch character's at a button press, while the others tag along, either as other players or as CPUs. Something that should surprise nobody is that the CPU is terribly, content with just watching what's going on than take part in it, still, the game is easy enough that their input isn't really needed. And even though extra Lives are shared among turtles, it seems that turtles used by the CPU are extra resistant to damage. Throughout each level you'll find canisters, which unlock extras, and sparks, which can also be found from fallen enemies, that allow you to upgrade your four turtles. The extras are: Survival, in which you try to survive waves of enemies, Time Attack, in which you try to finish stages as fast as possible, and a shoot'em up minigame that isn't half bad. The upgrades are rather boring, but at least it's something to work towards to.

 As far as gameplay goes, it's very simple: B jumps, A attacks, C grabs(Only and ONLY when the enemies are near death), Z does a special attack and + or - are used for the rather useless extra weapons, like Shuriken or smoke bombs. I'd never go too hard on a beat'em up for being simple, it's a staple of the genre, particularly the earlier ones, as long as they got the feel of the hits right. And they didn't. The game has that very floaty, slidey, cheap feel that low budget games have. Collision detection seems to be off at times. As a matter of fact, sometimes, even though the 'C' symbol above weak enemies is flashing, it won't allow you to grab them, heck, sometimes fallen enemies will stop you dead on your tracks unless you angle your run. Not to mention the occasional bug, like that one time that Leonard got stuck behind an invisible barrier he couldn't cross, at least the game will respawn turtles near you if they fall behind. As for the bosses, they are really easy, but take so long to kill! Still, I'd lie if I said that there's no fun to be had with the game, as long as you like 'Beat'em ups', it's not too bad.
 Fun fact: This game is a port of a 3DS game, and it shows. However, let me set the record straight, even for a 3DS game, this would've looked bad. Character models are devoid of detail, for example Raphael's shell missing dent, are coated with muddy textures and the animation isn't very good. Stages don't fare much better, but at least they make a decent job at emulating the backdrops of the TV Show. The music is forgettable, but there's very few tunes so you'll hear the same tunes quite often, that said, I think there's a remix of the Japanese Opening, sans lyrics, in there? I could be wrong. The voice acting is amazing, they got the cast of the show and they knocked it out of the park.... but for some reason, some audio lines have very bad quality, with a lot of garbage noise accompanying them.

 Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is mediocre. It's not particularly bad, but it doesn't do anything particularly well, besides getting the feel of the show.
 5.5 out of 10

Now Playing: Nickelodeon'sTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

 Not too bad
 I was planning on finishing the Konami handheld games before going into the Activision era... but Mutant Nightmare is so bad(Not as bad as TMNT on the PSP though) that I got tired. I mean, one thing is being hard. Another thing is being tedious. But being hard AND tedious? I'll elaborate on the review, but I got tired of that game to the point of not wanting to play it any more.

 Nickelodeon's TMNT plays and looks like a budget title, it's even got that trademark cheap floaty feel these games have. And y'know what, at first I thought it was a bad game, but by level 9, I can attest to having had fun with it. Is it perfect? Far from it, is it as good as Konami PS2 games? No quite. But it's not a bad game, it's just simple and lacking in production values.

 That said, it nailed the feel of the show perfectly, the script and dialogue made me feel as if I was watching an episode of the show. A+ for effort.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Now Playing: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 - Battle Nexus(GBA)

 No bueno. Konami, what'd you do!?
 So, um... I heard that this was supposed to be an improved sequel... but sadly, I'm not seeing it. First of all, new modes for multiplayer, even if they are just mini-games... that's something, right? But the game was overhauled in more ways than one, and I can't say that it was for the better.

 Firstly, characters have been redrawn, and they don't look particularly good. They've been shrunk, but I fear some animation frames were lost as well? Tied to this, the fighting is different, characters have different combos, and now the up+b, down+b variations are done with the hold B thingie, which at least, is now almost instantaneous. Regardless, I'm not convinced.

 I only finished the first stage, and attempted the second one... So this 'Start with no weapons' is gonna be a thing now? I like the new stealth mechanics, but having to find my weapons in each level, and also collect crystals so that I can open up new worlds... It doesn't sound like my cup of tea.

 First Impressions: Not good, not good at all. I heard it was supposed to be better than the first one, but so far it feels like a huge misstep. Hopefully it picks up.

Review #244: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(GBA)

 Enter Konami.
 Back in 2003, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles finally got the TV adaptation they deserved. It was a happy medium between the gritty comics and the dumb show for kids from 1987. Alongside with the reboot, Konami was tasked with handling the videogames, like they did in the past. TMNT for the GBA is a very interesting beat'em up that plays it safe, but doing what it does well.

 The game has no form of multiplayer, and it's made up of 13 levels. Each Turtle has 4 'Acts', or stages, to its name, as well as an unlockable 13th scenario. Each set of four levels is a loose retelling of particular episodes in the series, for instance, Leo's 4 acts would be the very first Baxter Stockman episode, while Raphael gets to play through the episode in which he meets Casey. All four acts are made up of two beat'em up sections, a vehicle stage and a boss fight of sorts. Sadly, each Act can be finished in between 6-15 minutes each, to call it short is an understatement. Lastly, the 13th scenario allows you to play as any turtle as you take down Shredder.
 Basic controls are the same for each turtle. B initiates a normal attack string, B+Up is a juggling move, B+A is a desperation attack that consumes some health, every one but Mikey gets a B+Down variation, then there's the A button which is used for jump. The game also uses a 'charge' mechanic, holding down the B button allows you to use two different special moves depending on how much you held the button down. It's a bit... weird in this kind of game, but enemies, at least in the normal difficulty, are dumb enough to allow you to charge your attacks. Controls are responsive, and are just fine, for the most part... For some reason, they decided that after walking for a few seconds, your turtle will automatically start running. This is absolutely annoying, as 'dash attacks' are a thing. Sometimes I just want to get close to an enemy in order to initiate a combo, not knock'em down with a dash attack. Why it was done this way, particularly when dashing can be done by double tapping, is beyond me, and annoyed me quite a bit more than I'd have liked.

 One little touch that I did enjoy is that every turtle is slightly different from each other. Take Mikey, he can instantly turn around from a dash, heck, he can initiate a turn around attack from a dash, which no other turtle can do, although he can't crouch, which can be a huge handicap when facing the overpowered shooting enemies. Lastly, Mikey is the only turtle capable of double jumping... which he only uses in one level. Donatello's dash attack is a flying kick, which propels him forward quite a bit, and must be used for some platforming. He can also use his staff to do a pole jump, at the cost of the double jumps his brothers can perform. Then there's Raph, he can use his Sai to climb certain walls, on that one stage of his. And Leo is the only one that can crawl. This is very neat, but very underutilized, take Raph's climbing, he only gets to do it in one of his stages, a 10-15 minute stage.
 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' presentation is a bit lacking on the visual department. Sprites are colorful, and I appreciated the different animations for each Turtle, but.... said animations could've used a few more frames, I think. The style in which the turtles were drawn takes a bit of getting used to, as they have huge shoulders, but tiny legs! On the flip side, the game has quite a few different tunes, and, as far as the Gameboy Advance goes, they are pretty darn good.

 All in all, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a valiant first attempt for a then-next generation Turtles game. It's a bit short, and some features go underutilized, but at its core it's a really good game.
 7.0 out of 10

Favorite Game Franchises.

 So, yeah, why not?

Honorable Mentions:
 Shin Megami Tensei: Probably the best JRPGs around nowadays, everything since and past Nocturne has been pretty much awesome as far as I'm concerned. Digital Devil Saga, SMT III: Nocturne and Persona 4 being among my favorite games of all time! It only just barely didn't make it into the list, but taking into account that I'm in no hurry to play the older games, I just couldn't place above other entries.

 Borderlands: Borderlands 1? Loved it. Borderlands 2? Adored it. These games seem tailor-made to my tastes, I just can't get tired of them. Reason it didn't make it into the list? It's only two games long, and as much as I love the games, the Spin offs and alternate adaptations(like the comics) don't really interest me in the least. Which means, as much as I love the main games, I just can't be arsed to get invested in everything Borderlands(Which probably speaks volumes of just how much I love the gameplay).

 Pursuit Force: Pursuit Force is awesome, it's like a playable over-the-top popcorn action movie. Just like Borderlands, these games also seemed to be tailor made to my tastes. Why didn't it make it? It's only two games long.

 Suda 51: Goichi Suda is my favorite videogame director, and everything he makes, I must play. Reason it didn't make it?... This isn't really a franchise per say, but a long list of games that share many elements and themes, made by the same director.

 Orcs & Elves/Doom RPG/Wolfenstein RPG: ID Software really struck gold with Doom RPG and the eventual Doom RPG 2. Then they branched off into an original series with Orcs and Elves and Orcs & Elves 2, ending with Wolfenstein RPG. These are mobile games, although Orcs & Elves had a fantastic DS port, but they are amazing. Highly addictive, fast paced(For turn based games!) and perfectly suited for on-the-go gaming. I finished every game a thousand of times, and I've yet to get tired of any of them. Why it didn't make it in? I just preferred  the other franchises a tiny bit more!

 Final Fantasy: Man, I've such sweet memories of the franchise. Final Fantasy IV? Great. Final Fantasy VI? Amazing. Final Fantasy VII? Grandiose. I'll admit that not every game in the franchise has aged very well, particularly VIII, but at the time, Final Fantasy meant business. Why didn't it make it into the list? Final Fantasy just ain't what it used to be. Back in the day, reading 'Final Fantasy' in a headline meant rushing to read whatever it said, now a days, I just don't care any more. After Final Fantasy X, it was misstep after misstep. Square has lost its mojo, and now Final Fantasy isn't synonymous of 'fantastic JRPGs' anymore.

 10) Dragon Ball Z - Yes, this is technically not a videogame franchise, which is why it's at the last spot. But I've never much cared about the series, however, the games? I'm always up for new Dragom Ball games. I've grown accustomed to Goku and his friends gracing almost every console in existence, and I've yet to grow tired of playing as them. Seriously, I could care less about the series, just give me the games.

 9) Mega Man: I admit I haven't played as many Mega Man as I'd like to admit(Off the top of my head: 3, X1 to X7, Soccer, The Power Battles 1, 2 and Wonderswan, Command Mission, Battle Network 1, Legends, the entire Star Force, ZX and Zero Series) but my love for the franchise remains true. I don't know what is it about Mega Man, probably the fact that Rockman 3 was one of the very first videogames I ever played and finished, but I love the blue bomber. As for the spin offs? X is probably my favorite incarnation, the Zero and ZX series were amazing, Star Force, back in the day, was my 'thang', and while I never played the rest of the Battle Network series, when I was younger I was pretty fond of the first one.

 8) Dynasty Warriors: I don't care what people say, Dynasty Warriors is awesome. The games are the evolution of the old 'Beat'em up genre'. Some people call the franchise 'mindless button mashers' as if it was a bad thing. Sometimes, sometimes I like to be a badass chinese warlord and lay waste on hundreds, nay, thousands of enemies, using over the top attacks. And that's what Dynasty Warriors is, a power trip, and it's oh so satisfying. Another common complaint: 'They never change', well, buddy, the amount of changes between installments is far, far larger than the changes between Mega Man games, and you don't see anyone crying about how every Mega Man game is the same, now do you? Then there's the 'Enemies are so stupid and don't attack you'... well, d'oh? If the hundreds, upon hundreds of enemies surrounded you attacked you at the same time, you'd probably lose in a couple of seconds. This is not Dark Souls, YOU are the badass in these games, and enemies must be careful when taking you on. 'Sides, play these games in higher difficulties and you won't be so patronizing any more. Just sayin'.

 7) Wario Land: I love Wario, it probably has to do with the fact that yellow is my favorite color, but it also has to do with the fact that his games are amazing. Wario Land 1 was great, Wario Land 2 was excellent and Wario Land 3 perfected the formula. It received an overhaul with Wario Land 4, but it was just as good. Wario World on the Gamecube was surprisingly good, and Wario Land Shake-it... eh, it wasn't really up to snuff. Regardless, Wario Land games are a decidedly different branch of 'Mario' games, saving princess is for heroes, Wario wants the gold, and he will get the gold. And he is so strong, that in some games, while enemies may be able to alter his appearance, they can't kill him. Wario is a total badass, and so are his games, but seeing how 'Shake It' didn't do very well, the chances for a new game in the franchise are slim.

 6) Ace Attorney: Back when I was younger, I remember going through a phase in which I adored 'Graphic Adventure' games. Games like Monkey Island, King Quest or Day of the Tentacle. I loved the genre, but eventually I grew out of it. Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney harkens back to those games, and it does it perfectly. Every game is both funny and engaging, the spritework being one of the highlights of the series, watching the culprits freak out is one of the most satisfying things you'll get to watch. There were two spin offs centered around Miles Edgeworth, sadly we only got the first one, but it was every bit as good as the main series, this time playing more like the Adventure games I mentioned before.

 5) Castlevania: When it comes to Castlevania, there's usually two camps of people: Those that like the 2D sidescrolling action games, or Retrovanias, and those that like the Metroid-like adventure-RPGs, Metroidvanias. Me? I like both. There's something about the challenging, methodical and slow paced side scrolling adventures that I just can't resist, while gradually getting stronger, and earning new abilities while exploring a huge Castle is something I just can't get tired of.

4) Darksiders: Alright, so maybe, maaaaaaaybe it's a bit higher than I should've, particularly since it's only a two-game franchise, and that was a deciding factor for not including some games in here. But the fact is, Darksiders 1 is one of my favorite games of all time, and while I didn't think Darksiders 2 was just quite as good as the first one, it was still a phenomenal game in its own right. But what makes this franchise different than say... Borderlands? The fact that I was completely sold on into the lore. I just can't get enough Darksiders. I read the comics, and sought every single little morsel of information I could about any sequel. They owe us two horsemen! If it has 'Darksiders' on its title, I will most probably buy it, which is more than I can say for others.

 3) The Legacy of Kain: I'm a firm believer that 'Gameplay > Story=Graphics', however, The Legacy of Kain puts that to the test. Every game in the series was incredibly ambitious, every game contains a lot of cut content. None of the games were all that they could've been. Heck, I can find faults in every game, mostly which add up to tedium.... And yet the story always kept me going. I can't think of any other franchise with a lore as rich or well thought out as this one(Maybe Warcraft?). None of the games were the best at what they did, all five of them were flawed in one way or another, and yet the game's story was always a major driving force. So what if the platforming was terrible, I was Raziel, and my vengeance would not be denied. So what if the combat grew boring and I was avoiding it as much as I could? I was Kain, and my will would not be denied.

 2) Gundam VS series: It's no secret that I love fighting games, though looking at this list would make you wonder. I also happen to like Arcade-like gameplay, fast-paced, instantly gratifying and based around points. Oh, and I also like Gundam! Now mix all three, and you get the Gundam VS series. My first dip into the series was with Federation VS Zeon, made by Capcom, and it was love at first sight. And while Capcom would abandon the series after VS Seed(Not the exact title), it's a series that only got better with each entry. As far as I'm concerned, Gundam Extreme Vs is as close to perfection as you can get, and here I lie patiently waiting for a console port of Maxi Boost.

 1) Onimusha: I've been talking about games that mixed elements that I really liked, or how they felt tailor made for me. Well, I lied a bit. If one franchise, if ONE franchise had everything a game needed for me to like it, it'd be Onimusha. Lemme mention them:
A) Sword wielding heroes.
B) You can level up equipment, both weapons and armor change, and said changes reflect on the character's model. You can also extend your life bar and magic bar via items, and I like powering up my characters.
C) Color-coded, elemental weapons.
D) The main character has some sort of transformation. I love transforming heroes.
E) Supernatural elements, in the way of monsters and magic.
F) Fast, arcade-like gameplay. You can argue that point, but Onimusha is a fast paced series, as a matter of fact, the combat's main gimmick, 'Issen', is a twitch-based mechanic, pressing Attack just before you get hit will produce an instant kill. And you can chain them. And it's glorious.
G) This may seem superfluous, but if there's one thing I hate, is when combat feels like it amounts to nothing. Games like Zelda, where enemies are just... there. Why do I need to kill them? For money? Money to buy... what? I can get everything I need from bushes! Not in Onimusha, enemies drop souls, the currency used to enhance your equipment. You want to fight enemies, heck, you want to score Issen instant kills so that the rewards are bigger. Combat is rewarding, killing enemies matters.
H) Flippin' Samurai.
 I'll admit that Shin Onimusha did away with some of these things, but it made it up with other features. There was also the 'Blade Warriors' spin off, which apparently, 'fans' loved but... I'm not gonna lie, I hated Blade Warriors, it was a bad Smash Rip-off, but even then, even then, I could play as Samanosuke side by side with Jubei, which was badass. And then there was 'Onimusha Tactics', which most critics labeled as an 'uninspired SRPG', but I actually really, really liked. Some of the characters, like Onimaru and Ageha, were badass, and it's a shame they never managed to make an appearance on the main games.
 At the end of the day, Onimusha is a perfect concoction of a ton of things I really, really like in a video game. Capcom, where's Onimusha 5?

Month Overview: June 2015

 Games finished in June 2015:
Persona 4 - The Golden                                                          10
Persona 4 - Arena Ultimax                                                     7.5
TMNT(PSP)                                                                           1.5
TMNT(GBA)                                                                         8.0
TMNT(GC)                                                                            5.0
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Arcade Attack                     4.0

Eh, it was a rather uneventful moth, chalk it up to me deciding to catch up with my Book backloggery and the final tests of the Semester. Also, decided to give Ninja Turtle Month an early start.

Game of June:
 Persona 4 still got it. Every bit as good as it once was. The new content is mostly fluff, but hey, it's more of Persona 4, so I can't exactly complain!

 Ubisoft's run with the franchise was, at least disappointing and at most terrible, but if they did one thing right, it was TMNT on the GBA. It's pretty friggin' good, and I wouldn't be surprised if they used it as the foundation for Scott Pilgrim VS the World.