Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection review

2022 has been a big year for the Heroes in a Half-Shell. First, we got Shredder’s Revenge, and then Konami decided to release the ultimate package for Turtles fans with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Cowabunga Collection. This is a collection of NES, SNES, Megadrive and Gameboy games, plus a load of instruction manuals and supporting information, music and artwork. If you’re a fan of the Turtles or scrolling beat ’em ups, this is a collection not to be missed.

Konami hasn’t been on their a-game in the video games space for some time, but this is probably the best thing they have put out in years. Back in the 80s and 90s Konami’s arcade games were legendary; X-men, The Simpsons, Gradius and of course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This collection is going to cater for the nostalgic audience, those of us who lived through the 80s and 90s playing games. As soon as you boot up the game you get a nice animated Turtles intro, then you can dive into the collector’s items which include comic covers, music playlists for all the games, shots from the animated TV series, game manuals, and loads of design documents from the original games. The sheer amount of stuff here is pretty staggering, and a must-have for any Turtles fan.

Let’s get to the games. We have 13 games in total in the collection, which are made available in their North American and Japanese versions. Even the game selection menu has gloss, with a very nice comic book-style selection screen, showing you what the game is before you play it. One of the killer features is related to the video mode, where you can choose to watch the games being played, then at any moment dive into the action and pick up where the ‘watch mode’ has got to. It’s very impressive. As well to the presentation there are various modes, including online co-op. Konami has even implemented rollback net code for a seamless online experience, and this is especially good when it comes to TMNT Tournament Fighters from the SNES. Each game has various enhancements or old-school cheats like invincibility, turbo, stage selection and other modes too.

Let’s get to the games, and the Cowabunga Collection includes

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Arcade)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (NES)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (Super Nintendo)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (Super Nintendo)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Sega Genesis)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (Sega Genesis)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of The Foot Clan (Game Boy)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back From The Sewers (Game Boy)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (Game Boy)

Starting with the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade). Going back to the original arcade game it’s not the best in terms of gameplay, but the nostalgia is strongest here for me. The gameplay is fairly simplistic, but that opening scene where you have to save April from a burning building gets me every time.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Arcade) is up next, and mechanically this one is much better, introducing features like throwing opponents into the screen and the ability to tie up enemies with attacks, plus slightly more sophisticated jump attacks. The story is richer here too, as the four Turtles travel through time beating up the Foot Clan as they go.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) is next, and this was one tough! This has the infamous overground, top-down map, plus you switch between Turtles rather than select who you want to play as. I distinctly remember getting this on the NES when I was a kid and being disappointed it wasn’t like the arcade game, I’d have to wait a little bit for that.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES) was the game I wanted the first time around, albeit with worse graphics than the ‘true’ arcade version. My little kid brain didn’t understand why there was a difference at the time, but looking back it’s a miracle the developers managed to get anything like the original arcade game working on an 8-Bit console.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES), is another scrolling beat ’em up, with new bosses and an improvement to the graphics of the previous game. I missed this one when I was younger, so it was good to go back and play it. It’s not as engaging as the others, but that could be due to me not having nostalgia for it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (Super Nintendo) is one of the best SNES games I remember from my collection, and it’s a very close port to the arcade version, implementing the mode 7 graphics back in the day for the screen throwing technique. Bebop, Rocksteady, and Super Shredder were also added to this port, which makes sense from a marketing POV, but not so much for the story. This was a great SNES game, but I do prefer the Turtles In Time Arcade version, which has a Neo Geo feel to it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Sega Megadrive) is a similar game to Turtles in Time, albeit a little shorter, although it does have new stages and bosses, which take inspiration (and assets) from the arcade version. It’s a mash-up in all senses of the word. You can’t throw enemies into the screen on this one, which was one of the big features the game introduced, so it’s a thumbs down from me, but then again, I was a Nintendo kid.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of The Foot Clan (Game Boy) is the first Game Boy game of the collection. It’s impressive what they did on such a limited system. It’s a scrolling beat ’em up, but it feels very much like a first-generation Game Boy game. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back From The Sewers (Game Boy) feels even worse, which is odd because it’s a sequel, although it does add different types of levels like skateboarding, emulating Turtles In Time and the more recent Shredder’s Revenge. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (Game Boy) is more of a maze-like game where you have to save your fellow Turtles, and is a completely different experience from the other games.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (Super Nintendo) is a Street Fighter II clone, and was looking to cash in on the popularity of the Turtles, as well as the fighting genre back then. In 1992 and 1993, fighting games were some of the biggest games on the market like Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat, and Tournament Fighters tried to muscle in on the action. Each character has a bunch of special moves, and it plays how you would want a game like this to play. It’s also very hard! There is also Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (Sega Megadrive), which isn’t so good. This version chugs along, rather than the smooth nature of the SNES game.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (NES) is the last game, and this shouldn’t really be on an 8-bit system. While it’s possible to do, that doesn’t mean you should do it. It would be good fun if nothing else was available, and unfortunately for this game, there are 12 other options. Not for me, but I am sure it could be appreciated.

Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is the ultimate collection of TMNT games. I thought having Shredder’s Revenge release this year was a treat, but this collection is almost unbelievable for a Turtles fan. I played roughly half of these games back in the day, mainly the scrolling beat em ups either on the NES, SNES, Game Boy or arcade. I didn’t play the fighting game clones, so it was good to check those out. As well as the game you have all the music, artwork, manuals and more. Konami has really outdone itself, and I haven’t said that for many years. I 100% recommend it.

Developer: Digital Eclipse
Publisher: Konami
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 5
Release date: 30th August 2022