Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants In Manhattan
Tonight, Platinum’s gonna party like it’s 1989
360, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One
This, if you’re of a certain age, is the game of your childhood dreams: a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game with comicbook-perfect visuals and fourplayer online co-op, made by the best action-game developer on the planet. With Transformers Devastation, PlatinumGames proved that it has a knack for blowing the cobwebs off ageing intellectual property. Now it’s looking to repeat the trick with the pizza-munching, surf-talking reptiles that were kings of the world for a spell in the late ’80s and early ’90s, spanning comics, movies, a cartoon and a highly lucrative toy line.
“I’m from a slightly older generation, so I didn’t watch the TMNT cartoon and didn’t realise quite how huge the Turtles were,” director Eiro Shirahama tells us. “However, when we were putting the dev team together for the project I talked to staff members who grew up with the Japanese version of the cartoon. I was bombarded with stories about mutagen and Dimension X – even a case of Leonardo being someone’s childhood crush. It was eye-opening, to say the least.”
The development team is primarily composed of staff who worked on The Legend Of Korra, Platinum’s first foray into licensedgame work for hire (on which Shirahama was also director), and Transformers Devastation. But staff from across Platinum have also got involved out of love for the source material. On paper, it sounds like a no-brainer, another way for Platinum to reskin its best-in-class action-game template for another group of childhood nostalgists. In reality, it poses several challenges to the way Platinum approaches making games. Shirahama admits the studio has changed tack a lot – “I’m sure we must have caused some migraines at
Activision with our constantly changing ideas,” he says – while the team worked out how to make its singleplayer action-game framework function in a co-op setting.
“Our games tend to feature incredibly fast and powerful characters,” Shirahama says, “so we also need to provide enemies with even more extraordinary abilities to make sure there’s a challenge. However, we would tune enemies to pose a solid challenge in singleplayer, but in a fourplayer environment, they would be absolutely trampled. You almost felt sorry for them.
“That was obviously detrimental, but we didn’t want to nerf the player-character’s speed or strength either. So our biggest challenge was to find a proper balance that worked in both single- and multiplayer. I think we reached a satisfying mix of mob enemies that are fun to beat up and bosses that will test your skills.”
Each of the quartet feels slightly different, their fighting style tailored to fit the personality, and speciality, of the original characters. Leonardo is the katana-wielding all-rounder, designed for beginners. Donatello is meant for advanced players, dealing with multiple enemies at once with his bo staff. Raphael is slow, but hard hitting, while Michelangelo steams in, nunchuks blazing. Each character has access to Ninjutsu special moves, governed by cooldown times. You’ll also be able to use the environment in battle – climbing walls, for example.
Platinum is also focusing on replayability, conscious that players will want to play through the game multiple times with different characters – another step out of its comfort zone. Yet with Korra, Transformers and now this, the biggest challenge facing the studio is staying faithful to the source material. The visual style was inspired by Mateus Santolouco, artist on IDW’s TMNT comics, while IDW writer Tom Waltz has penned the script. But 32 years after the Turtles’ comic-store debut, the studio has an overwhelming amount of reference material to call on, and remain true to.
“TMNT has such a rich history that it was difficult for us to figure out what to focus on,” Shirahama says. “We ended up mixing the light-hearted, comical nature of the ’80s and ’90s cartoon with the darker, more serious tones of the IDW comics and the 2014 movie.
“One of the most important aspects of developing a licensed title is to study and understand the IP, to make it your own, and to tune the design into something the current generation of players will find appealing. It’s important to correctly identify the elements that will make fans go, ‘Yes! This is the TMNT game I’ve always wanted!’” From what little we’ve seen, Platinum’s off to a positive start by putting ticks in all of the right boxes.
“TMNT has such a rich history that it was difficult for us to figure out what to focus on”
The screenshots released to date suggest a game of much greater environmental diversity than
Transformers Devastation, which took place over the same handful of backdrops
Assuming the game follows Platinum’s classic structure of ranking performance in each of a section’s levels, this could be the studio’s most replayable game to date as you seek out Pure Platinum medals for all of the four characters
Director Eiro Shirahama
TOP LEFT The sight of a sewer section recalls MetalGear
Rising:Revengeance, where a trip below street level reminded us of the way Platinum’s thirdperson camera struggles in tight spaces. With four players on the screen, it will need to be better than ever.
ABOVE This isn’t Platinum’s first foray into online multiplayer – that accolade goes to 2012 brawler
Anarchy Reigns. Hopefully the studio has made some improvements to its netcode in the intervening years
LEFT Along with Shredder and Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady are the most recognisable TMNT villains, a fixture in every form of Turtles media since its inception. While the pair were absent from the 2014 TMNT movie, they’ll return in this summer’s sequel
Shirahama says the turtles’ fighting styles reflect their personalities: “Sense of justice, strength, wisdom and cheerfulness.” We’re presuming the last, a reference to Michelangelo, was a mistranslation of ‘being annoying’