We here at Source Gaming are fans of the Super Smash Bros. series of games. This should come as a surprise to know one, as we are, primarily, a Super Smash Bros. fan site. There is just something magical about seeing your favorite Nintendo characters duke it out in a 4 (or even 8) player arena. No other game has ever quite been able to match the frantic fun of a Smash Bros. match, but many have tried. That’s what we want to focus on in this series…. the games that tried to be Smash Bros., as Smash 64 not only launched a franchise, it also gave birth to a slew of copycat party brawlers. We want to examine some of these so called Smash clones to see how they stack up against the original, and to determine if they are worth your time. First up? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up.
Note: This is a joint review between Spazzy_D and TheAnvil, Spazzy’s text will be in black while TheAnvil’s text will be in blue. This game is available on both the Wii and the PlayStation 2, for the purposes of this review we both played the Wii version.
How is this game like Smash?
This game is a 4 player platformer brawler that leverages the players nostalgia and connection to an existing IP to create an instant connection with the characters. So yeah, it’s a lot like Smash Bros. You can also find a variety of items, most of them appropriately ninja related, to assist you in your fight. Amusingly enough, the game introduced colored outline to better identify your characters, something Smash 4 would do with team mode several years later.
Additionally, each and every fighter is given a unique and distinct move set that formats itself rather similarly to the fighters in Super Smash Bros. The way the movesets are laid out are similar in that you’re given A and B moves. For example, pressing up B on most characters will allow you to use a recovery move. Honestly, with minor tweaking any one of these characters could have seamlessly fit into Brawl. This should perhaps be unsurprising as many of the team members who worked on Brawl also worked on this game.
What makes this game different from Smash?
The basic game engine is very close to Smash. You have light attacks, you have strong attacks, you can jump and you can grab onto platforms. The game, unlike Smash Bros, uses health bars. This means that your primary goal is to get your opponent’s health bar to 0, not to knock them out….although ring outs are also instant KOs. This allows for the stage design to include more closed off stages as opposed to all Smash stages needing to have obvious blast zones. The game overall has less options then Smash, but it does have a tag team mode (akin to Tekken Tag or Marvel Vs. Capcom) which is pretty neat.
The real differences in this game stem from the differences in the tone of the IPs that it covers. Turtles can be cartoony and fun, like the 1980s show that arguably popularized it, however this game sees its focus more strongly on the 2007 CGI movie (which in my opinion is a good watch). The movie has a darker, more gritty undertone and this game leans towards that tone also.
But is it Good?
Ah, the real question. This game is, in my opinion, a lot of fun to play. The actual engine, while not Smash caliber, is amongst the most solid of any Smash clone I’ve played. It’s no wonder, either, as Game Arts, which assisted the development of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, was involved in the game. Arcade mode is short, but fun, as it does have a loose story and fights are broken up with easy but fun platforming sections. Level selection is a bit bare bones, but not altogether terrible. Stages like the Turtle’s Sewer Lair and Krang’s Technodrome are cool callbacks for fans, but a large portion of the remaining levels feel bland and uninspired.
The biggest issue with the game, however, is probably the roster. The game was advertised as a “25th Anniversary” game, but the majority of the characters come from the 2007 CGI movie, TMNT. Honestly, the only Ninja Turtles characters to come from outside that movie are the Utrominator, the Fugitoid, and (arguably) the Shredder, all of which use designs from the 2003 cartoon. The rest of the roster leaned heavily on that movie, and even included a second version of Raphael, the Nightwatchman. There were no shout outs to the 80s toon or the original Mirage comic, and the majority of the cast where “ordinary” human fighters. In addition to this, Ubisoft saw fit to add not 1, but 3 (!) Rabbids as unlockable characters. There is no excuse for that many rabbids in a franchise that has time traveling demon lords, cyborg shark men, and alien dinosaurs. This game came out at a time when the 80’s show was largely being ignored, so I can understand the lack of Bebop and Rocksteady… but no Leatherhead, no Rat King? Still, the character that are in the game play all feel distinct and are over all fun to play as. I would suggest this game to anyone looking for an occasional Smash alternative, as long as you don’t expect this copy to live up to the original.
First and foremost, this is without a doubt the best alternative to Smash Bros. on the market in my opinion. In terms of gameplay alone, this game excels greatly. Each character is distinct, and feels personable to whom they are supposed to represent. Stages are wide and varied, they range from traditional settings such as the Sewer, and the Dojo, to more… weird settings such as the cruise ship, and the old western town (which gives me serious Turtles in Time vibes). There are also environments set specifically on the 2007 movie.
When you’re looking for a game stylised on Smash, one of the key elements is surely fanservice. Unfortunately, this game is somewhat barebones on that front. With a roster totally just 15 characters, there’s just a feeling here that there was so much more they could do with this game. Even with the small roster, I think they could have just about got all the staple TMNT characters in. Instead, we were treated to two different Raphael characters, and 3 Rabbids. One of whom, was very fittingly dressed as a turtle, with a shell, a headband and two spatulas as weapons. Another of which is dressed as… Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell (what that has to do with Turtles I couldn’t possibly know). Most notably missing are Rocksteady and Bebop, two of the most popular and noteworthy characters in the entire franchise. These two characters alone would have been enough to elevate the roster tremendously. Not to mention the enormous cast of unique and memorable characters that have appeared in TMNT media since it first made its mark in 1984. I have to note though, that what’s here is for the most part great. Even some of the less desirable additions in the Nightwatcher and the Rabbids are a lot of fun to use and to fight against. Leonardo in particular has one of the most fun movesets in any fighting game I’ve ever played.
My other issue with this game really boils down to the lack of costumes on most of the characters. Some of the characters have a 2nd costume, but most do not. There are no palettes so if more than one person picks the same character it can lead to a bit of confusion. This all adds to the air of barebones-ness that plagues every area of the game with the exception of the core gameplay.
There’s a strong element of frustration that I feel towards this game. It could, it should have been so much more. But there’s no denying that this game is all around a ton of fun. I would love for a sequel that focused on Turtles in its entirety, and I recommend this to any Smash fan who would like an alternative.