Review by Skyrax

"Wasted Potential."

When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles debuted in October 2003, it was greeted with a fairly lukewarm welcome. Simple, somewhat repetitive and peppered with one of the most annoying voiceovers in recent history, it still showed incredible potential. Flash forward to October 2004, with the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus. Does it deliver on the start from last year?

More care has been given to the presentation of the game, as well as the overall layout. You're given a more lenient approach to the game, which now has multiple paths to take and several non-critical side missions. These deal with non-critical stories from the television show, which allows a little bit of background but also gives the player the feeling of freedom. There are also several levels in which you either pilot a jetboard or a space fighter. These are simple enough in nature, but also have their pitfalls (which will be touched on later). The Turtles can now be upgraded on four fronts, earning new combos, extra abilities and defensive techniques. It's also multiplayer-enabled in all modes, allowing four characters to go at it. More unlockables abound, ranging from character art to secret playable characters to a port of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game from 1989. The combo system has been reworked and each Turtle now has character-specific abilities.

With all this stuff, how could the game possibly be ranked lower than its predecessor?

Graphics

Graphically, the environments sport more detail, especially in the futuristic areas. There is still an alarming lack of things to do, as everything you can interact with is just a few steps short of having an indicator over it. The characters have more detail to their bodies, and the effect seem to pack a little (just a little) more punch visually. The cutscenes are of better quality, and the "idle rocking" scenes are gone. The Turtles actually looked good in the 3D cutscenes; they could have done the entire game this way and it wouldn't have been too bad. The enemies vary in detail, however. The ninjas look acceptable, but the Mafia and Purple Dragons looked weird. Still a step up overall though.

Sound

They got rid of the incessant one-liners the Turtles spouted off when they so much as moved in the first game. Now they only say things when you switch between turtles or pick up items. Yet there are odd instances when they say things that have nothing do with anything. Unless pizza is some secret mutant turtle synonym for fire. Also, memories of the first game pop up when you play a level in which you do the same thing repeatedly, most notably the vehicle levels and Ultimate Ninja's truck chase.

The music is inoffensive, much like last year's effort. Strangely you won't really notice it, despite the lack of noise in the game. Unless it suddenly cuts out, which happens in levels where there is a constant looping background effect, like fire.

Gameplay

Most of the extra stuff added in this game falls flat. The Turtle specific abilities rarely ever come into play, and it seems that Raphael got the extremely short end of the stick here, since every other character has at least one ability that can feasibly translate to assisting in battle.

Konami opted to spice up the previously so-so levels of the first game by adding platforming elements to the levels. This is a sound idea in theory, but unfortunately, this comes apparently at a sacrifice to enemy numbers. Any level with platforming in it is bound to have pitifully few enemy numbers. This seems to be done to prevent the players from being attacked while maneuvering the platforms. However, the players is often plagued by odd camera angles, sluggish control and bats. Bats aren't always a bad thing, but when bats reverse your controls you can inadvertently fall. In a multiplayer situation, this can cause death if the player isn't adept at avoiding bats or if he isn't playing Michaelangelo.

The revamped combo engine gives players the chance to block somewhat, fire shuriken while jumping, and perform grabs. You also earn longer combos via upgrading. You can no longer juggle enemies, and dashes no longer offer a viable alternative for defense since it has a delay. However, you no longer have access to the varying moves that the last game had. Since your combo strings are now VASTLY reduced, stunning enemies is now a matter of luck, and clear out moves don't exist unless you count Mikey's dashing attack. To even earn a decent combo string you'd have to just about finish the game, by which point it's no longer needed, since all you need to finish the game is Leo's dash cancel and Mikey's jump attack. Grabbing a foe from the rear is impossible unless you freeze them, and even then the payoff isn't worth it. In fact, you can actually fail a mission if you grab too much.

Jumping is also odd. A problem which is rarely a combat issue, it absolutely sucks for platforming. Wall jumping is unnecessary in combat, and is iffy in practice: you have to mash the heck out of the jump button to get anywhere. Even with a double jump, moving platforms can be hell, and when you have four players who have to pass the same puzzle, you can be there for a long time if you get accidentally pushed off by a comrade.

All Turtle also inexplicably share a single health bar. This means that if a friend is making tons of mistakes, all of you suffer for it. This is especially painful in platforming missions, where you can end up losing massive amounts of health by the time you all make it across.

In the vehicle levels, the game's controls are floaty. This can be explained away by the fact that all your vehicles are frictionless, but it becomes tricky to do anything if you haven't memorized the levels. In the jetboarding levels, there are certain areas where if you hit an obstacle, you will respawn in such a way that you automatically fall into another trap. And another. And another. Four players can actually be hell in this mode, since you're all on the same plane. The spaceship levels are more tolerable, except you can't really gauge where an item is due to no shadows.

Enemies are still idiot-savants; they can stand there forever doing nothing and then suddenly act like a crack commando squad. The long-ranged enemies can fire in such a way that you are constantly pelted by weapons. They also fire when you least expect it, or in such a manner that you can never reach them. Even the melee enemies act like idiots or expert warriors. It blows the mind that futuristic ninja are no problem but ancient forest ninja can kick your butt using nothing but kicks, literally. Giant Foot sumo do nothing but seem menacing, but bats can attack like they were possessed. Enemy difficulty is uneven, and you can actually get blindsided due to the crappy camera.

The camera in game is hideous. It is often so far away you can't really enjoy what your Turtle is doing, and you can actually GO offscreen. All Turtles can do this, which defeats the entire point of the game if you can't even see what is going on. This once led to an unintentionally cartoony moment when all four of us entered a Triceraton ship with three other Tricteratons and killed them all, without even being able to see them because of the camera angle. You can't adjust the camera, so if you're entering a puzzle area and you don't like the camera, tough.

Bosses are a little more tolerable this time around, as they actually give you a break between their onslaughts. However, some bosses are still incredibly cheap, most notably Ultimate Ninja, Karai and the Shredder. This is because they have attacks that have little chance of escaping once it is performed(Shredder), or because they always stay midair (Karai). Ultimate Ninja's level is just hell. Whoever decided this guy should chase you with a truck for 5 minutes should be shot.

Rewards

You can unlock quite a bit of character art, sketches and information. You can acquire antiques for viewing later. These offer more information on things glossed over on in the cartoon, and as a bonus some of these antiques unlock codes for the game and even the arcade game mentioned earlier. This is quite a bit of gear to unlock, and it's doubtful that anyone could unlock everything in one go.

Most of these items are only of real consequence to the diehard Turtles fan. It bears mentioning that the Turtles Arcade game is NOT arcade perfect. The music has changed completely and the voices in the game are all gone, except for "Cowabunga" when you "insert" a quarter. It is still a good game to blow through in 15 minutes, but this alone is NOT worth the full price of admission. Plus to even get it you have to play through 80% of the real game.

In Conclusion

Not the sequel that we could have gotten. The game makes some steps forward, but takes so many back it's actually painful. Veterans need not apply, and if you MUST get some Turtles action, play the first one. Seriously, that one is significantly less painful than this one. Wasted potential indeed.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 10/25/04


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