Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters, the game we deserve

Between 1993 and 1994, Konami developed a series of fighting games for some of the most popular and revered gaming consoles in history. No less than three versions of this game were developed for the NES, SNES and the Sega Genesis. Taking more than a little influence from the reigning king of fighters, Street Fighter, TMNT: Tournament Fighters saw the Turtles and their many friends and enemies engaged in one-on-one combat, while the Sega version of the game offered something of a level select system, the SNES version is possibly the most well-received version of the game, offering a tournament style of gameplay seeing the Turtles and co. entering a tournament to win…bags and bags of money. Why not? I’m not sure what the NES version that offered in terms of gameplay as I have never played it, and probably never will as it demands a massive price tag due to how late it was developed in the NES’ life cycle.  With all of that being said, why this game? Why a one-on-one fighting game when the market is knee-deep in Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat clones?


No one is expecting this


There’s a reason I started this whole two-part thing by breaking down what would make a great world for the game. The art style, the story, the graphical presentation, all of it is because no one would ever expect the next TMNT video game to be a fighting game, and that sucks because while I know everyone always comments on how good or bad a representation of Ninjitsu these four mutant turtle teens are, no one ever talks about their capacity for a good ass kicking. The Turtles have fought the likes of ninjas, gangbangers, alien threats and supernatural entities and lived to tell the tale. You know why, it’s because they fight tooth and nail when the situation calls for it. I mean the Turtles have fought side by side with Batman for crying out loud, even people that don’t read comics know he is like THE ninja of the DC Universe, and a brand new video game should reflect just how talented, skilled and straight up dangerous the Turtles are. Not only that, but you have to be a serious butt-kicker to hang with them or even hope to stand against them.


Bursting with character

The SNES version of Tournament Fighters saw one of the most eclectic fighting game rosters that Turtle fans had seen up to that point, and I would argue that no other TMNT game has compared to it. The Turtles had to knuckle up to the likes of the Shredder the Rat King and Armaggon, while also fighting their friends like Wingnut and Hothead (and April O’Neil and Casey Jones in the Sega version). While we can almost certainly expect series mainstays like the Shredder and Casey Jones to make an appearance, the Turtles have the unique advantage of over thirty years of history to pull from. While it’s obvious that guys like Bebop and Rocksteady will show up, we can also see appearances from characters that fans have come to love over the years like Mondo Gecko or Old Hob. And for the love of all that is holy, can we get Ace Duck into a video game, please!? Ace_duck_cartoonAlso, this would be a great opportunity for a developer to flex some creative muscle and create a brand new character, much like Aska on the SNES version. Yes I know Aska was supposed to be Mitsu from the third movie, but she wasn’t so, moving on. Speaking of a developer, who could possibly have the resources, kreativity, know-how and recognition required to bring this game to life? The answer is simple…


NetherRealm Studios, ‘nuff said


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the TMNT are the reason I still play Injustice 2. While NetherRealm Studios is famous for bring us the Mortal Kombat series, and fundamentally changing the video game industry as a whole, their work with DC Comics and the Injustice fighting game series is a monumental achievement that should not g unnoticed. You might think it is the easiest thing in the world to make a fighting game about comic book characters, but when Injustice: Gods Among Us was first announced, people were…upset that the Chicago-based developer weren’t diving straight into Mortal Kombat 10. But fresh off the success of the 2009 reboot, Mortal Kombat, NetherRealm Studios undertook the daunting task of making the friggin’ Justice League their own by telling the story of worlds colliding and a Superman that gave a shit no more. It was dark, edgy and surprisingly fun and the quality of the game, as well as a tie-in comic that is still going to this day, easily won over fans and made the Injustice series an FGC mainstay at tournaments. In 2018, Injustice 2 saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles released as part of the dlc Fighter Pack 3 and were something of a love letter to the Turtles and the fans that stuck with them for decades now. The Turtles had the look of the 1990 film, the referenced the ’87 animated series and Konami video games constantly, and most importantly, they are an absolute blast to play as. Merging the four Turtles into basically a single character was both a ballsy move and a stroke of genius on the part of NetherRealm Studios and it’s this type of creative thinking and bold strides forward that the Turtles honestly deserve.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know how licensing works, but I do know that the Turtles are owned by Nickelodeon, which is owned by Viacom, and NetherRealm Studios is owned by Warner Bros., but the Turtles appeared in a decidedly Warner Bros. video game, so if it can work once on a “smaller” scale like dlc, than it stands to reason that NetherRealm and Nickelodeon can worker together again on a much larger project which stands a helluva chance at making both parties a lot of money in the process.  I won’t get in to too many details here because I don’t know the legal intricacies at a joint venture like a fighting game, but considering that Nickelodeon seemingly has no in-house video game developer, I’m sure they would be interested in a fighting game that is an almost guaranteed hit.

Plus, maybe I’m biased, but I believe NetherRealm Studios to be the perfect develop for this game purely because of their commitment to the fighting game genre. While many developers have fighting games in their library, these are games that have to compete with genres that are unfair comparisons in the long run. Take a look at Capcom for instance. As a studio, Capcom has created one of the most important video games in history, let alone the fighting game genre, with the Street Fighter series. While Capcom has seen massive success with the most recent entry in the series, Street Fighter 5, even they have to compete with themselves when it comes to gaming in 2019. Capcom not only has to deal with the runaway success of Resident Evil 2, but also the massive anticipation with Devil May Cry 5’s upcoming release in March of this year. NetherRealm Studios doesn’t have to worry about that kind of baggage. Right now, they’re known for two titles, Mortal Kombat and Injustice and both of those series’ fall under the fighting game umbrella.


Also, I would argue that NetherRealm Studios has done more for the fighting game genre than virtually any other series to date. Moving beyond the obvious things like ninjas and Fatality’s, NetherRealm Studios was willing to risk a lot when they gave us Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, a “tame” game at the time from a developer that wanted to bank hard on the potential drama and hilarity or seeing Batman fight Sub-Zero. While that game was crapped on from shifting the rating from “Mature” to “Teen”, the spirit of Mortal Kombat was left intact, and it gave way to the epic story modes that fans have come to demand from their fighting games. For decade’s players were content with a simple thirty second character ending featuring static images and text crawls. Then come MK v DC and all of a sudden we’re given a full-blown story with voice actors and action scenes outside of the gameplay. This was then taken up a notch with the release of 2009’s Mortal Kombat…I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.

The point is is that the Turtles have had such a rich history over the course of thirty five years that NetherRealm Studios had source material to cherry pick their favorite bits from. While I am not expecting an “M” rated game featuring the Turtles, it should be known that “Teen” doesn’t necessarily mean for kids.


Did you watch that video, Superman just smoked a fourteen year old kid (long story). Now imagine if te Turtles were given the same treatment. Imagine seeing a truly dangerous Shredder or a sadistic Rat King. Imagine seeing Raphael finally loose it on Baxter Stockman or April having to violently defend Casey Jones and tell me that the Turtles don’t deserve to be treated with a bit more maturity and respect. While I’ll always love the whimsy and flights of fancy that has become the norm over in the sewers, I would love to see a game about pushing the Turtles to their physical and mental limits, and the creators over at NetherRealm Studios have guts to really go for it in terms of storytelling, and they have the track record of success to prove that we should all want to see a Turtles game from them. Here’s to hoping that what comes after Mortal Kombat 11 isn’t injustice 3, but the first in a long line of TMNT fighters from the best in the business.


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