By Tyler Lubben / August 23rd, 2014
|Title||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue
|Release Date||November 25, 1993|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Everyone|
In honor of the recent movie about masked reptiles beating the crap out of street thugs and evil shinobi, I thought I would talk about a title near and dear to my heart. As a child of the 80s and 90s, it’s pretty much a requirement that I would be a massive fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles growing up. From the various TV shows to the movies, comics and one really bad Christmas musical, I ate it all up like so much greasy pizza. Of course, along with this was a collection of video games that ranged from utterly fantastic (Turtles in Time- SNES) to utterly infuriating (Ninja Turtles 1– NES). And, really, I suppose we could take a stroll down Memory Lane on any one of those titles, but today, I’d like to talk about one that I almost never hear anyone mention. For as long as there have been Ninja Turtles games, there have been portable titles to go along with the assortment of arcade and home releases. The one that stuck with me (and possibly only me) the most was a fairly unknown Game Boy title called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue. However, it is my hope to show that even the obscure ones can be just as entertaining as their home console brethren.
After coming home one day, Michelangelo finds the place deserted. As he wonders where Splinter and the others are, Shredder suddenly appears on the TV and tells Mikey that he has captured the other turtles and Splinter, and, if he wants to save them, to come to the abandoned mine outside the city. With that, Mikey springs into action to rescue the rest of the team. Michelangelo will have to fight through waves of enemies in forests, mines, enemy bases and volcanic caverns to save his brothers, Master Splinter and April. This is about the extent of the game’s story as, after this point, there is almost no break in the gameplay. That’s fine, though, as that gameplay more than makes up for the lack of story.
Probably the most unique feature of Radical Rescue is that the game has very strong elements of the Metroidvania genre. That’s right, a Ninja Turtles game with free exploration! Right off the bat, players are given a map of the entire game that can be accessed by pressing the Select Button. This is presented as a basic grid with dots indicating special items. It might not seem like much, but there is a bit of deciphering necessary, as, given the limitations of the system, there’s no way to tell where rooms are connected and when they’re simply walled off from each other. Also, while the dots on the map indicate some kind of important feature, players won’t know what they’re working towards until they get there. It could be a boss room, key card or something else completely. Strangely, the Japanese version of the game had a much more helpful map, so it’s hard to say why the localized version has one that’s so much more… obscure. There are also a few types of hidden items that don’t appear on the map, like full pizzas that will replenish players’ health when they run out, and hidden hearts that will slightly increase the turtles’ max health. Of course, the best way to figure out what and where everything is is to get out there and explore!
As you can probably guess, players are initially locked into only using Michelangelo. While exploring, players will find locked cells holding one of the turtles. To open them, they will have to locate a boss room elsewhere and defeat the villain holding one of the keys. It is then possible to go back and free the imprisoned turtle. After this is done, players can freely switch between turtles from the Pause menu. There is almost no difference between the turtles’ fighting abilities, as attack range and damage are, as far as I can tell, practically identical. So, what is the point of unlocking the other turtles? As I already said, this is a Metroidvania game. However, rather than unlocking new abilities as you explore, each turtle is a special ability that, with each one rescued, makes more of the game’s map accessible. To start things off, Michelangelo can spin his nunchuks like a helicopter, which is useful in slowing his descent and crossing large gaps. Leonardo can use his katanas like a drill, allowing him to dig through cracked ground. Raphael has the ability to withdraw into his shell, with the dual benefit of entering enclosed spaces the much like Samus’s Morph Ball and also crossing spiked terrain safely. Lastly, Donatello is able to climb walls, opening access to many different exits and out-of-reach platforms that players had to pass by earlier in the game. As such, players will be switching between the turtles often as new puzzles present themselves, even if they fight enemies the same way.
While Ninja Turtles games tend to be beat ‘em ups, as a Metroidvania title, Radical Rescue is a strictly 2D affair. With the two-button setup of the Game Boy, things are pretty simple; the A Button is for jumping, the B Button is for attacking. They do mix things up with a few contextual attacks depending on what the turtle is doing when attacking. When on the ground, the turtles will attack directly in front of them with their weapon (though Donnie’s is a bit lower, which lets him take out smaller enemies without needing to duck). Attacking in the air has the turtles perform a small forward kick attack. Finally, attacking while on a ladder will throw out a shuriken, which is great for airborne enemies trying to dislodge you. Strangely, it is impossible to use these throwing stars during normal gameplay, which is a shame because there certainly are times when you’ll really wish you could take an enemy out from a distance. Also, since this is a Game Boy game, the screen isn’t quite as big as other systems, and I often ended up landing on an enemy or trap after a big fall. It would have been nice if there was some kind of downward attack to address this issue, but, alas, the game contains a few more leaps of faith than I would have liked.
Though there isn’t a huge variety of enemies throughout the course of the rescue mission, the ones you see do a fine enough job of challenging your forward momentum. Much of the time, you’ll be fighting Shredder’s robotic Foot Soldiers, most of whom can be destroyed in one hit. You’ll also see smaller, faster robots skittering along the ground and bats that will drop down and attack when you approach them. Super Foot Soldiers work much the same as the standard ones, but will dash towards you when they see you, and require additional hits to defeat. When they aren’t simply walking, Foot Soldiers will throw bombs, and attack from the air with jetpacks in later areas of the game, making them highly dangerous. Many enemies will simply pace back and forth endlessly, making them easy to defeat with the right timing. Most can be dispatched easily, but, as I mentioned earlier, with such a small window of vision, there will be times when you’ll simply be hit before you can react if you aren’t careful. This, coupled with your low life at the beginning of the game and somewhat rare health drops, can make the early game particularly tricky.
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