When a company knows how to stimulate the weak points of the fans, the success is guaranteed. We only have to check the path of Game Arts in the video games history to get into account that the JRPG genre is now in a second place. After working in big projects like Grandia, this studio was lucky enough to be both in the right place and time.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl is undoubtedly one of the best titles for the Wii. The game gathers all the qualities to be considered an outstanding game that enhances all what its predecessors offered, besides of including innovating elements for the genre. It seems that some companies were attracted to the unique style of Super Smash Bros; one of them is Ubisoft who in less than a year announced an apparent clone of the Mario's adventure. This time the protagonists are the Ninja Turtles who by strange reasons never have had enough luck in the video games industry.
After receiving adaptations focused on the fight of the past generations, the turtles have proven that they are capable enough to combine an interesting argument with a great playability. We all agree that the sense of humor of this giant turtles is enough to justify the insistence of some companies of still taking advantage of the franchise at any cost. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why the fans are more skeptics each time they receive a supposedly new innovating adventure that involves Splinter, Shredder, April and some other well known characters of the series.
It is now Ubisoft who has decided to yield the development of this Smash Up to Game Arts, with the strong condition of making a fighting game that utilizes the same style of Super Smash Bros. Actually the graphic engine is practically the same; the designs of the stages are changed but the essence remains.
The absence of a license is translated to a big lack of elements that fans will miss. The classic melody that identifies the turtles franchise doesn't appear at any time of the game and the plot is not related to any particular episode of the series. When you start the game, the classic video that introduces the characters is shown. After that, the menu pops up and even though it has some dull colors, it is pretty easy to navigate through it.
It is incredible the amount of options you have before starting the first battle. The adventure mode is splitted in two, the arcade mode and the mission mode. The story is told like if it was a comic and varies just a bit depending on the character you choose. This is a good detail for those who don't care about the plot and want to go straight to the fight.
Just as a good fighting game, Smash Up is not focused on the argument but in the feelings that the mechanics of the game transmits you when you are playing it alone or with some friends. The mission mode invites the player to overcome certain challenges that have specific conditions to beat them. There are not a lot of things that can surprise you in this mode, for example you have to fight against members of the foot clan or join a tournament to see who is able to pick five pizzas that are spread throughout the stage first.
Once you advance through the missions (they are easy to accomplish, but with three difficulty levels you will have some secured time of fun with them) you will be able to unlock new objects, extra stages and also shells that can be used in a specific minigame. The more shells you collect the more possibilities to give a long life to the game. What is true is that, by its nature, Smash Up is a game particularly long and not very demanding when we talk about Artificial Intelligence.
The extra content is a good incentive of the game. There is not only one way to obtain these shells, there are some minigames that you can access after having some battles at the arcade mode. Initially there are only six of these minigames and some of the objectives are simple like having to jump to the top of the stage before the time runs out, collect all the pizzas in a specific level or simply advance between platforms and obstacles to reach the longest distance.
Now that we know the two main modes of the game, it is time to focus on the mechanics of the game. As you know the base of the game is the style of Super Smash Bros, an idea that allows us to elaborate a mental sketch about how are we going to find ourselves at the first battles of the game. The 2D view is still the same to show the action without any trouble, zooming in or zooming out itself depending on how many players are on the screen.
This time is not a percentage meter what determines the victory or the defeat of a character, but a traditional life bar that will be reduced after receiving some hits or falling of the stage. We can also have the opportunity of jumping to the walls to perform special attacks and aerial combos; their relevance is now more important than on its direct competence.
Taking control of a character requires practice and dedication to train and make use of the different attack combinations that we can perform during the battles. Besides the classic light and strong punches, it is possible to grab your opponent, to perform special attacks or even special moves that require bouncing on the walls. It is not easy to dominate the whole variety of moves, especially because you can play with the Wiimote, using the Wiimote + Nunchuck combination, the classic controller or even the GameCube pad, so it will take you some time to see with which you will be more comfortable.
The gameplay drags some deficits that we have to take in count in order to value the game's quality. The most important is represented by the absence of key characters that have been an icon in the whole franchise. The fighters' rooster is just ridiculous compared with the one we saw in Brawl. In the other side, the items that appear randomly in Smash Up have a more coherent balance, measuring perfectly the duration of every ninja art and also the damage that provokes a bomb or a magnetic bolt.
The technical aspect is very close to the gameplay, especially on the designs of the stages. During the combats, it is possible that after striking a wall, it can fall down, causing a considerable damage or even that the floor to open up to travel to a completely different secondary level. This gives more variety to the battles but after paying attention to the stages, you will realize that some of them are just a recreation of some used during the TV episodes or the ones from the CGi movie, released some years ago.
The music from Smash Up is limited to basically repetitive electronic songs that probably are going to be enough reason for you to turn the volume of your TV down or even to mute it. This is nothing that surprises the fans since it is the same line that most of the beat' em ups follow. Something that will surely prevail with the passing of the time is the multiplayer mode. Game Arts is conscious that Brawl totally got the idea right by focusing its attention on this mode.
There are three modes where up to four players can play. Battle Mode, Tournament, and Substitution are destined to offer battles that are ruled by a certain number of characters on screen, rules, time and some other traditional variants of the genre. In the tournament mode, you can even design your own rewards as a try to customize the multiplayer aspect and to give more freedom to the players. In substitution mode, the TAG battles are featured where you can change characters and this is probably the most entertaining of all the multiplayer modes.
The inclusion of the WiFi connection only serves to boost all what we have been talking in this article. The friend battle mode allows us to compete against any friend around the world, as long as we have his credentials, of course. There's another mode that allows you to perform tournaments with default rules. It is important to mention that the developing of the online battles is way superior to the ones we had on Brawl, where the lag was a serious problem that was never solved. Let's give Game Arts some props for a job well done in that department.
Final Verdict - 7/10
TMNT: Smash Up is a title that offers more variety to the library of games the Nintendo's console has, even though it has some mistakes like a big lack of characters or an adventure mode that is far away of the quality levels. All in all, every lover of the genre should feel satisfied with the Games Arts work. It is very hard to not discriminate this game because at first glance it looks way inferior, but is not like that after you play it for some time and get into account that it actually offers a lot of modes to spend hours an hours in front of your TV and of course…to eat tons of pizza.