Retro Achiever Game #54: TMNT Hyperstone Heist

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a huge part of the arcade scene as calendars flipped over into the 1990s, and I’ve detailed before how important Konami’s 1989 release of TMNT was to me. We later received a version of the game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, but the smashed-down product into an 8-bit cart always left me wanting a little more.

I could go on and on, really, but even though my NES gave me suitable versions of Bubble Bobble, Rush ‘N’ Attack and the like, TMNT became the first time I wasn’t satisfied, even though the NES version received two extra stages, thus beginning my arcade envy.

Around that time, with the advancement of technology, it was becoming clear that consoles needed to head somewhere in order to keep up with the glorious looking titles found only in arcades. The answer to this quickly became the Super Nintendo, which, while the 16-bit technology was still a tad behind the arcade’s true power, gave us games that actually looked and played like arcade games from the comfort of our own home. Through this time, Konami quietly snuck out a TMNT arcade sequel entitled Turtles in Time, which dramatically ramped up the turtle’s movesets, gave each character distinct differences and gave the game a graphical boost while tossing in nearly every staple character ever to appear in the mainstream TMNT series. Eventually this title would release on the SNES while the company was on fire and, thankfully, the SNES version hit the spot. It featured a myriad of content not featured in the arcade version, including extra stages, boss fights and a two-player versus mode. Even the Genesis “spinoff” title The Hyperstone Heist featured great game play while remixing the storyline and concepts found in Turtles in Time. While I accepted the quality game provided at home, still, again, the fact the game wasn’t four players really bugged me. Perhaps I was in the minority, but I grew up with arcades and I wanted what those games provided me.

Now that the arcade version of TMNT 1989 is way more readily available through an arcade resurgence, brand-new 1UP home arcade machines, an Xbox 360 downloadable and other means of emulation, that envy has died down inside of me. The sequel, Turtles in Time, was a weird case where it was at least five years after its release that I ever saw an arcade cabinet of the title. We were saved by Konami’s home port to the SNES, which, in my opinion, if it somehow featured a four-player mode, would make the arcade version virtually obsolete.

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To get the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive into the action, Konami put together The Hyperstone Heist, which I feel gets mislabeled as a mere clone of Turtles in Time. It obviously borrows the majority of its assets from Turtles in Time, but I feel it wisely remixes these elements to put forth a slightly fresh experience. This was key in a time where it was oftentimes worth it to own the “same game” on different consoles.

What I appreciate the most about The Hyperstone Heist is in the “lost ground” it covers after seeing four mainline TMNT games releasing on Nintendo’s consoles. The Turtles in Time elements are largely advertised here, with the Alleycat Blues alleyway, the sewers, the pirate ship, the prehistoric caves, the starbase and the Technodrome elevator reappearing in some form. However, Konami sprinkles in elements that serve as classic nods, such as the moving car trap from the original arcade game, an on-rails surfing segment similar to The Manhattan Project, a stage that feels similar to the bonus dojo stage in the NES version of the arcade game. You even get the addition of Master Tatsu, who appeared in the first two TMNT theatrical movies, as a boss.

hyperturtles

What’s great is, even though Turtles in Time stages get cycled in, many of them are reskinned to still slant them toward something different. The pirate ship now looks as if it is haunted, the turtles run through reskinned sewers instead of surfing through them and the Technodrome elevator GOES DOWN INSTEAD OF UP! Sure, I can’t argue that the core of the SNES and Genesis versions are the same, but Konami makes this fresh coat of paint go a long way.

I even enjoy the revised intro, which starts similar to Turtles in Time, but Shredder has grabbed the Hyperstone from Dimension X and is shrinking landmarks to hold them hostage. Known as Return of the Shredder in its Japanese version, the Genesis version of the game features a really sweet looking anime Shredder with crazy muscles. When the characters of the series get a combination comic book/anime touch from its Japanese-developed games, like also seen the SNES version of Tournament Fighters, I genuinely love the results.

hypershredder

Now, while I defend The Hyperstone Heist against being labeled as a straight-up port of Turtles in Time, it does take a slight dive from that point. The game plays just as fine as Turtles in Time on SNES (it even plays at a slightly faster speed if I recall correctly), but there are a number of areas where it doesn’t compare to the Nintendo counterpart.

The gameplay and graphics largely hold up (outside of the inability to scale foot soldiers for the signature screen toss), but the sound does take a hit being transferred as-is from Turtles in Time. You get an original music track for the dojo stage, but all of the other audio is shoveled over with a small dip in quality.

Perhaps the biggest crime in the game, though, is its pacing. While the environments are wisely remixed, they are chunked together in five large stages instead of being packaged in more manageable bits like Turtles in Time. The damage values were seemingly tinkered with, resulting in the foot soldiers taking more punishment to defeat (Raph’s kicks are nerfed hard here compared to his SNES outing). This also results in fewer characters from the TMNT series appearing in the game, capped by a completely lame human Baxter Stockman fight from his original arcade game appearance.

The slog is further dragged down by the baffling addition of “The Gauntlet,” a cave-based stage that leads up to the Technodrome. This stage is nothing more than a rush of the game’s previous boss characters, with waves of pizza monsters and the Baxter Stockman battle mixed in. It’s tedious, and it’s disappointing to think that, if a few things were swapped around, this could have been an original stage instead of a rehash. This stage is my biggest hangup with the game and is oftentimes what changes my mind when I think about playing this game.

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Also, outside of changing the difficulty, there is no differing ways to play the game. The scoring isn’t nuanced like in the SNES version, there is no two-player battle mode, there is no time attack and there are no real secrets to be found. Hyperstone Heist would definitely be a worth-it blessing to someone back in the day who only had a Genesis and no SNES, but in today’s market, the money would be far better served toward a Turtles in Time cartridge.

Playing the game for Retro Achiever allowed me to do everything there really is to do in the game and it served as another 100% completion. Any scoring achievement is easily farmed by destroying Baxter Stockman’s mousers, so the heavy lifting is in being comfortable enough in the game to beat it on the hard difficulty. From there, it’s just a matter of beating the game with all four turtles, which, I’m not sure I could do in one sitting given the game’s pacing.

Interestingly enough, this was the first of the “mainline” games in the series I’ve cleared on Retro Achiever. I cleared Tournament Fighters and Fall of the Foot Clan, but managed to botch TMNT II and III toward the end of the game. The series seems to have it out for me, so, I’m glad I managed a small victory in that regard.

Now, with Hyperstone Heist out of the way, I might have to jump on the bandwagon of practicing the original arcade game …

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Categories: GemuBaka Feature, IndieSnack

Author:indiesnack

Indie Snack is a video gaming Web site focusing on independent developers and game releases. Indie Snack will also soon have services made available to independent developers to include tools aiding them in public relations and game marketing.

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