TURN TO CHANNEL 3: ‘Tournament Fighters’ offered mature fighting game take on TMNT
Believe it or not, young gamers, there was a time when fighting games were king, and the idea of first-person shooters or even open world games was but a twinkle in the eye of the gaming industry. Like today, when the gaming market becomes so saturated with one particular genre, many fall flat of the mark, with only a few carrying the banner proud for years to come. Despite this natural phenomenon in gaming, there are always those hidden gems and, in this case, licensed games that, while not as popular as your “Mortal Kombat” or “Street Fighter” games, can still pack a punch.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters” (SNES)
With subtle tones to open the game, the soundtrack obviously opens up during the actual action, within each character’s respective stage. With musical selections ranging from rock tunes to something with more of an Asian flavor to it, there’s something here for everyone, which isn’t a shock with Konami at the helm for this one.
What is often overlooked, yet truly just as important as the actual fighting itself, is setting the tone for the game with sounds that keep players coming back. In “TMNT: Tournament Fighters,” you have some voiceover work that adds to the personality of each character as well, despite it being severely limited and only apparent during certain special moves or as celebration for a victorious round of battle.
I will be delving into this more during the gameplay section, but it is definitely worth noting that “TMNT: Tournament Fighters” has a much different style of artwork in comparison to its ultra popular brother, “TMNT IV: Turtles in Time” on the SNES, which sheds a more cartoonish light on our heroes. “Tournament Fighters,” in stark contrast, captures more of the darker, grittier aspect of things that is far more apparent in the TMNT comics that many devout fans of the brand have grown up to collect and enjoy. There’s definitely a far more mature vibe going on here, which I think is what needed to be done in an era where “Mortal Kombat” and “Street Fighter” reigned supreme in the genre.
Konami had three choices: to create something too closely related to the aforementioned games, to create something so outlandish it would be closer to “Clay Fighter” in likeness, or to find a nice middle ground, which is what we see here. The character sprites are large, but not too over-the-top, and their movements, along with the stage levels, combine into a nice mix of color and detail that grab you.
At the time, the idea of playing a fighting game with the Turtles was a dream come true, and many of us who grew up playing with the action figures obviously gravitated towards this like moths to a flame (or turtles to ooze, if you will). With characters that range from the traditional to those from the comics, and even one created strictly for this game, in a way, “Tournament Fighters” is a gaming love song to our beloved TMNT universe. Each character possesses various strengths and weaknesses, as well as special attacks; the ultimate forms of these are accessed when a meter is filled. To this day, I still enjoy watching Donatello raise his bo and send what appears to be the ghost of a dragon flying through his opponent.
In addition, the game also has a story mode, which focuses on our heroes and their quest to rescue Master Splinter from Shredder, with twists and turns throughout. The standard arcade mode also possesses a boss, the Rat King, to do battle with.
“Tournament Fighters” is not “Street Fighter II” or “Mortal Kombat II,” both of which got stellar receptions in their debuts on the SNES, and it isn’t “Turtles in Time,” either. What’s great is that it doesn’t need to be. In an industry that, at the time, was so oversaturated with fighting games, “TMNT: Tournament Fighters” stands out enough that, while possessing the same formula as the heavy hitters within the genre, tweaks just enough to be different, while not simply plastering the TMNT brand over it and calling it a day. If you don’t have this game in your SNES collection, I strongly encourage you to pick it up.
I hope you enjoyed this review. Next time on Turn to Channel 3, we head to Angel Grove as the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers debut on the Sega Genesis!
Until then, stay cool and make time to plop yourself in your favorite chair, crank up that AC, and game on!
by Nick DeMarco
Nick DeMarco is a blogger, retro video game small business owner, and lover of all things retro. Don't get stuck on an elevator with him, unless you know who Ace Harding is and why Crystal Pepsi deserves just as big a comeback as Surge.