For fans of the famous turtle franchise and retro gamers alike, one could do far worse than treat themselves to this 13slice offering of gaming goodness.

As I delve deeper into this collection of titles from yesteryear I’ll be the first to admit, that I’m mightily impressed and equally as surprised at the immense amount of fan service this release provides. The niche TMNT fandoms out there will quite rightly lap up this triumphant return to form which see’s us play as Michaelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo. For any casuals out there on the fence perhaps curious if this title would tick the nostalgia box, then it certainly passes that test and much more!

Before I comment on the games themselves, I’ll start with the Turtle Lair. A nod to arguably the hardcore fan of the kick-ass, ninja turtles, and the retro gamers out there, that grew up in a time where Saturday evenings were spent in the penny arcades, meeting up with friends for a soda & some 4player button-bashing fun that the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles provided were many other titles could not.

The Turtle lair may be of little interest to the casual player who just wants to dive straight into the thick of it. For those interested in learning about the origins/history of the popular turtle characters. Well, digital eclipse has made a tremendous effort here, boasting an abundance of turtle memorabilia including rare footage, manual snippets, marketing, and press releases, audio files, artwork, and more. One could argue the turtle lair would be the favorite mode for a dedicated fan as the wealth of content here would probably make the cost worth it alone. For those more hardcore fans of the series, no amount of gameplay will satisfy the feeling one could have to see the old artwork and comic releases all found in this section. I believe the confirmed amount of content here is over 2000 pieces. (Go grab yourselves a brew, a sarnie, and get your mitts into this nostalgic mode as you’ll be grinning from ear to ear but you could be here a while!).

Gamers have their money’s worth here as Konami has generously licensed out versions of the heavy hitters from the period of the boom during the late 80s and 90s when the Turtle games were high in popularity. Some would say the original arcade games (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and later the release of Turtles in Time were pioneers of the 2d side-scrolling beat ’em up genre of games. With many titles later down the line taking inspiration from what Konami achieved with the beloved franchise. The full list of games included is as follows:

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time (Arcade)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (SNES)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Genesis)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (Genesis)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattaan Project (NES)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (NES)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall Of The Foot Clan (Gameboy)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back From The Sewers (Gameboy)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (Gameboy)

The gist of the story in most of the games is to save one of their friends (Splinter/April) and America from the nasty villain Shredder and his goon squad, who kidnapp historic monuments, shrink islands and use a transformer gun to shapeshift Splinter. The levels see you go through the Streets of New York, underground in the sewers, to the Big Apple, fighting through a ghost ship, and navigating through stages on a surf/skateboard.

Some of the games have some new features making the games more accessible by today’s standards. Most notably (in my opinion) would be the rewind tool. Whilst being self-explanatory the tool does indeed let you go back and cheat death. Not that I’d ever dream of exploiting such a game-saving feature (looks at Shredder as he’s fried my ass for the umpteenth time.)

Some more modernizing features include the option to play some of the titles in widescreen or whatever aspect ratio, one prefers. For purists who would enjoy the more classic, original look where widescreen format wasn’t a thing, fear not, the feature doesn’t have to be applied if not wanted.

There’s also the save and load course of action for gamers wanting to jump in and out of levels when convenient, and a neat inclusion of level start preference. Useful for replay value once gamers have done the story and just want to enjoy their favorite stage.

Going on to the gameplay itself and I’ll confess my inner child came roaring out, I had as much fun playing the re-released original arcade games as I had all those years ago back in the day when amusements weren’t a niche. Seeing Donatello, Leonardo & co tear up new york city to the original soundtrack with the somewhat fuzzy sounding “cowabunga” voiceovers left me feeling sentimental and somewhat joyful. (And rather old…)

I’d be harsh to judge a retro game on its old skool sounding quality, yes it’s poor, fuzzy, and of a low standard by today’s benchmark. That’s all the more reason why the old skool gamer will love it. The lack of sound enhancements (where other re-releases get a new soundtrack) bolsters the vibes of yesteryear digital eclipse are looking to emulate.

My personal favorites would have to be TNMT (Arcade), Turtles In Time, and the rare Genesis release Hyperstone Heist. The games are short in length and the arcade releases all support four players. The gameplay is a button-bashing, repetitive slobber knocker but in a good way. There’s little variety to moves besides the option of leaping above enemies with flying kicks or using the environment to gain an advantage. That’s just how these games were back then due to a lack of technical capability of the machines in that era.

Turtles in time holds up nicely and offers a compelling playthrough with some thrills along the way. The Tournament Fighter editions were somewhat frustrating to enjoy. A varied choice of characters to select is all good and well if the gameplay holds up. Except I found Tournament Fighter uninspiring, difficult to pick up & play, and particularly irritating with some pretty tedious AI movements when looking to go on the offense. If looking to play these titles online then good luck to you. I only managed to find one lobby for online play with the Tournament Fighter title and as for the 4p online games, the input lag is game-breaking, constant freezing, and laggy animations make online an unplayable aspect of the release. As for the Gameboy and old releases they’ve aged pitifully. The animations, choppy gameplay, and tired-looking pixelated graphics don’t do this cowabunga edition any favors and would probably be best avoided by those expecting more of the enjoyable gameplay mechanics had in the other titles on offer.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been on a roll in recent times. With the successful launch of Shredders Revenge, the Cowabunga Collection could have interest from more casuals than expected. TMNT CC is a mixed bag, Digital Eclipse has put a lot of love into the game, love which will please the game’s cult audience looking for some thrills of a bygone era. Gamers looking for an 8bit/16bit thrill, using nunchakas, kendo sticks, katana’s and dropping some flying kicks will have immense enjoyment from this title, as will those of us on the rollercoaster of nostalgia. The gameplay has a mix of enjoyable co-op play and some challenging boss fights where a level of strategy with movements, timing, and going on the offense is required to advance. Of the 13 games, I’d say there are four, maybe five quality gems on offer here which would otherwise cost a striking amount on the second-hand market. Online certainly needs patching up, Tournament Fighter will rightly be compared to rival games like Street Fighter, King Of Fighters, etc, and is sadly nowhere near the standard of those games from that generation. TMNT CC is worth it for the bonus content found in the Turtle Lair and for solid fun to be had with the likes of TMNT, Turtles In Time, and Hyperstone Heist.

A review code was for TMNT: Cowabunga Collection Xbox was provided by Konami.