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TMNT Smash-Up Preview: Will The Real April O’Neil Please Stand Up?

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up aims to combine not only the best of Wii fighting games with the TMNT franchise, but also to combine the best parts of the franchise into one game.

To that end, there will allegedly be different characters from the new kids TV show, the old kids TV show, the comic books and possibly even from the other video games. Unfortunately, Ubisoft is saving most of its announcements about TMNT's stage and character lineup for San Diego Comic Con later this month, but from what few characters were available, it looks like the April O'Neil they're working with is the anorexic-looking chick from the new show. Alas.

What Is It?
TMNT Smash-Up is a brawler in the same class as Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It even looks like Brawl probably due to the fact that the developer, Game Arts, did preliminary development on Brawl for Nintendo. Gameplay is a straight-up smackdown between for playable characters in various stages with environmental hazards like man (or turtle) eating crocodiles.


What We Saw
UbiNintendo's schedule was running a little bit behind, so journalists only got about 20 minutes of hands-on time with the brawl mode. The build we were on only had four selectable stages and just seven characters (although an additional two were announced at E3 and more are still to be announced at Comic Con, we're told).

How Far Along Is It?
Not very, based on what stages and which characters were available. The game is due out September 22, 2009.


What Needs Improvement?
My Thumbs For A GameCube Controller: Currently is only demoing two control schemes – a Nunchuck/Wiimote setup and a sideways Wiimote setup. Because this is a fast-paced brawler where you have to tap twice on the D-pad to dash, that second control scheme is absolute murder on your thumbs. I asked if the GameCube controller would be an option and was given a definite yes. Although, the associate producer did tell me that Game Arts is aware of Smash Bros. fans' preference for the GameCube controller.

I'm Uneasy About Motion Controls: I noticed a mechanic where if a player's grab was broken or they took a bad hit, they'd get dizzy and an icon would encourage the player to shake the Wii Remote to restore them. This was hard to accomplish with the sideways setup because you had to turn the controller around in your hand to a normal Wiimote position to shake – and it was border-lining on the tacked-on feel many Wii games give into when integrating motion controls. Again, the associate producer says the developer is aware of the revulsion many gamers have to waggle-fests.


Ugh. April: I'm sorry, but I just don't like this version of longtime turtles ally April O'Neil. Her character model isn't very attractive and the yellow ninja outfit she's sporting is even more of an eyesore than the yellow 80s jumpsuit she wore in the cartoon of my childhood. Bring back the raincoat-wearing, jean-sporting April from the comics; she was cool. And a computer hacker!

What Should Stay The Same?
Yay For Brawling! I rather liked the fighting styles of most of the characters and the controls were easy to figure out by virtue of knowing Smash Bros. inside and out. Donatello had a good range with his bo staff and Raphael had speedy combos with his sai; the special ninja attacks were easy to trigger even with the sideways Wiimote setup and the grab system allows for players to break free and inflict dizziness on the jerk who grabbed them.


Detailed Environments: One of the cityscape stages maybe a little bit too much like something out of Smash Bros. (think Earthbound levels), but I could tell the sewer and jungle levels were all turtle. Each environment was interactive in some way – like the jungle level, you can destroy the hanging platforms that would normally protect players from crocodile attacks – and it looks like some stages will have multiple parts.

Final Thoughts
It's early days yet, so I'm not really sure how I feel about TMNT Smash-Up. On the one hand, I'm glad to have another Wii brawler, especially one developed by the guys who had a hand in Brawl. But on the other hand, I don't really watch the new cartoon and I haven't seen enough homage done to other parts of the Ninja Turtle franchise for me to justify buying it. Guess I'll just have to wait and see what turns up at Comic Con.