If there was ever any doubt about the topic, the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge a little over two months ago proved that there is still a vibrant fanbase for old-school side-scroller games. It also proved that the TMNT brand still has appeal among a wide variety of demographics and that there is money to be made by bringing old titles in the franchise back from the dead.
And now, Digital Eclipse, the developers behind many other re-releases like the Mega Man Legacy Collection and the Samurai Shodown NeoGeo Collection, have released The Cowabunga Collection on all modern platforms. This is a compilation of 13 TMNT titles originally released between the years 1989 to 1993. Some of these games are beloved classics, while others did not really stand the test of time.
I’ve been playing this charming little package non-stop for the past couple of days, and I have some thoughts that I would like to discuss in this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection review. So without further ado, let’s get right into it.
To start, let’s go ahead and list each of the thirteen versions of games that players will get as a single package with The Cowabunga Collection. We will also mention the original platforms that they were available on.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – (NES)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – (Arcade)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game – (NES)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan – (Game Boy)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time – (Arcade)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers – (Game Boy)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project – (NES)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time – (SNES)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist – (Sega Genesis)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue – (Game Boy)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters – (SNES)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters – (Sega Genesis)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters – (NES)
These games are from a point in time when balancing was not something developers focused on all that often and sheer difficulty was mistaken as an actual challenge by most people. Playing through a title was as much about memorizing each and every single aspect of a level, as it was about actual skill.
As a result, many of us probably spent hours, if not days, trying to get through games with limited lives and often completely unreasonable obstacles. It was frustrating, and many times kids left games unfinished because completing a playthrough simply felt insurmountable. But sometimes you still kept trying, and everyone has those few games that they brag about beating in one sitting. Or ones that they memorized so thoroughly that they could play through repeatedly without issue.
I fondly remember playing Turtles In Time by myself as a child, but it took me years before I actually managed to finish the game. It has really hard, and I simply wasn’t a good enough player at the time. But I still loved the experience of trying again and again until the pieces fell into place and I could finally beat Shredder.
But Digital Eclipse understands that while nostalgia is all well and good, a lot of people don’t want to go through all that repetitiveness again. So like a lot of their other compilations, they have also added ‘Watch Mode’ to The Cowabunga Collection.
This is a nifty little feature that allows you to watch a playthrough of each game so that you can learn what you have to do and where you have to do it in order to clear a level. And no, this is not like watching a video playthrough of a game, this is an actual mechanic where the computer plays the game for you in an extremely methodical way. There are no mistakes, and there is no human error involved.
So using this, you can conveniently skip past really tough areas that you might otherwise have a lot of trouble with. And best of all, you can choose to take over whenever you want, and the computer will simply hand the reigns back to you. It’s an incredibly impressive feature that will not only save you a lot of time and effort, it will actually show you where you, the player, are making mistakes. So that on later runs you can learn and do better.
Now, this is the part of the review where I risk saying some things that might be a bit controversial.
While I do personally think that titles like Turtles in Time and The Hyperstone Heist are classics, I am fully willing to admit that my opinion is tainted by the hand of nostalgia. I was a child when I first played these games, and it is virtually impossible for me to give you an opinion free from bias. Because that’s what this review is at the end of the day; my opinion on how good The Cowabunga Collection is.
And the thing is, I honestly loved my time with this collection. It has some incredible games that I loved revisiting, and some more gems like Radical Rescue that I never got to play. This entire package was worth it for me based on these two things alone.
But, and this is a big but, quite a few of the games in the collection do not hold up as well as fans might remember them. I remember playing through the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES way back in the day, and it didn’t really click with me back then. I tried it again here, and it’s still not all that fun.
It’s repetitive, simplistic, and extremely lacking not only according to modern standards, but also compared to some of the more recent games in the compilation. Playing through it was extremely annoying, and I don’t see how anyone except the most dedicated of fans will find value in it.
In the end though, I think this is something that will be true for each game in this package to a degree. The fans who grew up with them will be able to get a lot out of them, but for newer players, there won’t be a lot of value here. I personally had a lot of fun revisiting most of these titles as part of our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection Review.
Visuals And Performance
While you can choose to play each of these in their original unaltered form, the developers have also decided to make a bunch of visual and gameplay changes to them for those looking for newer quality of life upgrades.
The changes are not the same for each title, but depending on what you’re playing you will find bug fixes, stability patches, or even improvements to problems like sprites not loading properly. On top of this, you will find that certain difficult titles let you turn on God mode, or even allow you to infinitely add coins for further lives in the absence of a proper arcade cabinet.
There are even options to allow you to choose which levels you would like to start a game at, or even give yourself extra lives if you so want and negate death penalties. As expected, quicksave options and a rewind function are also present.
All of these features come together to create what are without a doubt some of the most approachable and user-friendly accessibility options for players for titles this old.
In terms of the actual emulation, each of the games has been improved to be able to look good on modern TVs and monitors. They by no means look sharp or high definition, but the visuals are of a much higher resolution, and the framerate also feels much smoother. Don’t quote me on that last part though.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection Verdict
The Cowabunga Collection is a fantastic compilation of some of the best TMNT games ever made, and it’s one of the premiere examples of a property managing to make the jump to video games without losing what makes it special in the first place.
But the truth is that while there are a lot of great games here, your enjoyment of them will depend on your personal connection to them. If you enjoyed a title while growing up, then you’re probably going to love getting to revisit it on a modern platform. If you have no connection to any of these games, then the sale will be a bit harder.
A number of the older games have also not aged all that well, and newer players especially will not find a lot to enjoy there. As they are right now, they serve more as an important look back at an older generation of titles, than actually enjoyable experiences.
Overall though, the entire package is extremely worth it. And the new improvements to the visuals and the numerous accessibility options make The Cowabunga Collection the definitive way to play all of these games
This has been our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection Review. While you’re here, why not also check out some of our other articles.
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