TUCSON, Ariz. — “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection” includes 13 games from the 1980s and 1990s for arcade, NES, Super Nintendo, Game Boy and Sega Genesis.
Many of the games were used as inspiration for the fantastic “TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge” which was released earlier this year.
Phil Villarreal: I grew up with all these games. Going through them was a torrent of good and bad childhood memories. The two arcade beat-em-up games were among my favorites, and the ability to continue with a simple tap on the “start” button was a relief.
Revisiting the 1989 NES version, truly one of the worst and most difficult games I’ve ever played, was a bit traumatic.
I love the depth and breadth of this collection. It would have been easy to overlook the Game Boy games, but they made the cut. Revisiting monochrome split pea soup platformers was a rare treat.
Sean, as someone who is somewhat new to these old games, which one caught your eye?
Sean Newgent: As a fan of classic fighting games, I immediately jumped into the four-player cooperative arcade fighting games “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Turtles in Time.”
The games are difficult adventures that take a quarter of an hour and perfectly capture that little moment in gaming history when every cartoon and movie had to be accompanied by a game where you walk down the street and everyone wants get the tar out of you These games inspired “Shredder’s Revenge,” which we both really enjoyed, Phil. But with that said, I almost feel like these two games needed to be included as part of that title, not just for context, but because everything else in this collection is of lesser quality.
The infamous NES game is probably more famous for drawing the ire of “The Angry Video Game Nerd” than anything else. Then a slew of old-school Game Boy games and even a “Street Fighter 2” clone that, while competent, doesn’t feel like something I, as a modern gamer, should revisit.
There are modern concessions, some online matchmaking, and plenty of “Game Genie”-style ways to improve games to make them more enjoyable for the modern, challenged gamer. But a few levers can make already excruciatingly difficult games that much more insurmountable.
What additions did you enjoy, Phil, and do you think the collection lost any games?
Phil Villarreal: I appreciated the comic panel style menu system that lets you quickly scroll through the baker’s dozen games and shows you how many players each one can support.
I would have loved to see four-player support in some of the other fighting games, like “Turtles in Time” and “Hyperstone Heist.”
More unlockables could have also spiced things up. The ability to replace the Japanese versions with the arcade versions was welcome, and the addition of online play, at least for multiplayer titles, is a godsend.
This game feels like it’s aimed specifically at gamers like me, with little awareness or concern for those like you. Our different reactions make sense. To me, this collection is a brilliant time capsule of the Pandora’s Box that was the TMNT games of yesteryear. I choose to embrace the good and look back with a wince and a smirk at the bad.
Final thoughts, Sean?
Sean Newgent: I have fond memories of some of the TMNT games from the PS2 era when the series took a windfall, thanks to a fairly successful cartoon. That was my introduction to the series that I have since realized was a parody of comics that became a franchise selling children’s toys. So in a way, this collection is interesting because you get to see that period where the turtles went from tough parody to parent-approved radness. That’s featured in the comic book panels and all the included extras, a treasure trove of high quality comic book scans, manuals and other materials that fans will enjoy.
But the rest of the pack didn’t excite me as a player in 2022. We’ve covered a lot of time capsule sets this summer, and some of my issues with the game may be due to that. But also, compared to many of those collections, this one doesn’t have the games to back it up. Nothing here is a certified classic, so your mileage with this package will come down to whether or not you grew up with gaming and if you like “TMNT.” Since I don’t belong to either category, it makes this collection less of a necessity and more of a curiosity.
Plus, for the starting price of $40, there are more modern and interesting games to shell out your money for.
The publisher provided the codes. Phil played on Xbox Series X. Sean played on PS4.
Sean and Phil’s past game reviews:
Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy
Resurrected Diablo II
NEO: The world ends with you
Rainbow Six: Extraction
King of Fighters XV
Tiny Tina’s Wonderland
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge
Capcom Fighting Collection
Capcom Arcade: Second Stage
cult of the lamb