DEVELOPERS: Konami (originals)/Digital Eclipse (compilation)
REVIEWED ON: Xbox Series X from a copy purchased by the author.
Comic book video games, or really licensed titles in general, are in danger of becoming lost. That’s true for the computer entertainment industry at large, but I don’t think anyone really needs to be afraid that something like Super Mario 64 or Halo: Combat Evolved are going to become lost to time. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, a barely 10 year old game starring one of the most popular characters on the planet that spearheaded the concept of the Spider-Verse on the other hand, can only be experienced via emulation unless you already own a copy. Even then you must still have the hardware to run it unless you bought it on PC via Steam.
It’s for that reason that it still feels like the recently released Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is something out of a dream. It’s as if one day you would pick up your copy only to see it turn to dust in your hands, then search for it online only to see no news about it. Never in a million years did anyone expect to see a collection of some of the most influential licensed games ever crafted get assembled, let alone in a package that has raised the bar for other compilations that will now come after it. With only some minor, near insignificant issues, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is everything your wildest imagination can think of and then some.
Developed by Digital Eclipse, who have been around for decades now but have been absolutely crushing it lately with retro gatherings based around franchises like Street Fighter, Mega Man, and some of Capcom’s best Disney software, The Cowabunga Collection includes the following games:
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Arcade/SNES)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (NES/SNES/Genesis)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Genesis)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of The Foot Clan (Game Boy)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back From The Sewers (Game Boy)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (Game Boy)
Though there will most certainly be those who will be able to pick up on details that are less than perfect, for just about everyone else all the titles here look, sound, and feel just like you remember them. Even things like the slow down in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES and flicker in The Manhattan Project are present, and if you want to, you can polish such things up with but a few button presses in some easy to navigate menus. Many will rush to this collection to experience marquis hits like Turtles in Time, but there’s a lot of variety in the offerings here from arcade brawlers, one-on-one fighters, to side-scrolling action, even a Metroid style offering in the case of Radical Rescue, a game even die-hard TMNT fans may be experiencing for the first time here.
For purists, you can tackle everything in The Cowabunga Collection as if you were dropping a quarter into a coin slot or sliding in a cartridge, but Digital Eclipse also went above and beyond in giving players new ways to experience some admittedly tough classics. You have the ability to save anywhere and rewind mistakes – staples at this point really – but also a feature wherein you can view a full playthrough of each included game and jump in at any time. Stuck at a tricky boss? You can either study their patterns in watch mode, or bypass them completely and dive in after they’ve been beaten.
On top of all of those features, each title has their own specific enhancements you can turn on if you wish. In the case of Radical Rescue for example, you can change the map to resemble its Japanese release which has helpful markers for easier navigation and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game has a handy level select. The region for all the included games can also be swapped, and in some cases like The Manhattan Project, it fundamentally changes the game in some significant ways. For that titles’ North American release, extra lives and easy mode could only be accessed by inputting the Konami code, but these features were merely options when it launched in Japan. Conversely, for those looking for an added challenge, Nightmare mode can be turned on in both the arcade games.
If its not already evident, Digital Eclipse simply didn’t just collect over a dozen retro TMNT titles and call it a day. In fact, The Cowabunga Collection‘s bonus material threatens to outshine the games themselves. Firstly, housed within the a pause menu for all of the featured software are Nintendo Power-esque hints and tricks laid out like the beloved magazine. These can range from boss strategies, tips, cheat codes, and in the case of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES, full blown maps of the various hub worlds.
Then there’s the Turtles’ Lair, accessed from the main menu, that’s pretty much a dream come true for anyone who had a toybox full of Foot Soldiers and anthropomorphic mutants growing up. Here you can not only view comic covers, stills from the animated show, vintage ads, full boxes AND manuals, but also never before seen design documents that until now have only been seen by a select few who have access to an offsite Konami storage facility. As great as it is to get to easily play these games again on modern hardware, even on the go in the case of the Nintendo Switch, these treasures are what make The Cowabunga Collection truly something special.
While there’s more than enough included content to make this an easy recommendation, there are but a few areas in which it falters ever so slightly. For one, in recent Konami collections from developer M2, their Game Boy titles have a filter that does an astonishing job of recreating the original dot matrix display which is missed greatly here. Also, the map navigation for titles like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) and Radical Rescue could really use a free look option. You can click around designated zoomed in spots, but when trying to navigate something as big as the first area after the dam in TMNT (NES), it’s not exactly ideal when trying to plot the best route. Whether this could be altered in a patch remains to be seen, but it’s a minor inconvenience at best.
The Cowabunga Collection allows you to play online for both the arcade games, The Hyperstone Heist and Tournament Fighters (SNES). As of this writing, we’ve been unable to setup a multiplayer session but the review will be updated once we’re able to go online.
If Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection featured just the included games, it would still be worthy of celebration. At a low price of just $49.99 Canadian, you’re granted easy access to some of the best licensed titles ever made, some of which are multiple times the asking price of this compilation alone. What Digital Eclipse has done in terms of extra material though has not only set a new bar for collections based on a pre-existing property, but of every gathering of video games that will come after it. Minor issues aside, there’s very little reason not to pick up a copy, or two, or three of The Cowabunga Collection. That rings true for both the nostalgic and new comers alike.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is available now on the PlayStation and Xbox family of consoles, Nintendo Switch and PC.