video games

‘TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection’ review: One of the best retro collections of all time

Kyle Chua

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‘TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection’ review: One of the best retro collections of all time


Image from Konami

This collection of 13 beloved Turtles classics is only hampered by a nearly unplayable online experience

(Disclosure: Konami provided a digital copy of the game.)

There has probably never been a better time to be a fan of Turtles games than this year. 

Hot off the critical and commercial success of Shredder’s Revenge  (read my thoughts on that here) comes The Cowabunga Collection, a repackaging of retro games from the late 80s to the early 90s featuring the heroes in a half shell. Not only does this new release port 13 beloved classics that have since become hard-to-find – at least legally – it’s also a goldmine for Turtles content that fans would undoubtedly want to sink their teeths into, such as behind the scenes design documents and full-page magazine ads for the included games, among others. This is an excellent collection that lovingly celebrates the nostalgic appeal of the iconic foursome and their games. 

The Cowabunga Collection includes the following games: 

  1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)
  2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Arcade)
  3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
  4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)
  5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES)
  6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (NES)
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (Super Nintendo)
  8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (Super Nintendo)
  9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Sega Genesis)
  10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (Sega Genesis)
  11. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of The Foot Clan (Game Boy)
  12. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back From The Sewers (Game Boy)
  13. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (Game Boy)

You’ll notice that some of the games included are different ports of the same game. While there are differences between them, it’s worth pointing out that you’re only getting eight wholly original games instead of 13. That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate the inclusion of the ports here. Quite the opposite actually as I spent a fair bit of time playing through the different versions to spot the little differences on my own. There are even Japanese versions of 11 of the games, which can change things up further. 

As with all retro collections, a lot of the value in the games come from your personal connection and nostalgia for them. Admittedly, I’m only familiar with a couple of the titles here as consoles like the NES, the Super Nintendo, and the Sega Genesis were well before my time. That said, I still think you can come into this with fresh eyes and still have some fun with a lot of the games. Not all of them stand the test of time, but the ones that are good make the price of admission worth it. 

The highlight of the collection are the classic beat-em-ups, namely Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. These are two games that are as fun to play today as they were when they first launched decades ago. They’re simplistic in today’s standards, but they can easily provide hours of mindless button-mashing fun. 

Apart from the two, I enjoyed the different versions of Tournament Fighters, pictured in the screenshot below.

For those unfamiliar – like I was prior to playing them – these are 2D fighters featuring the Turtles and their fearsome foes. Regardless of which version you play, they all hold up pretty well. They’re not as intuitive as Capcom favorites like Street Fighter 2 and X-Men: Children of the Atom, but the overall feel is rather close. 

TMNT 3: Radical Rescue, I think, is also worth your time. It’s a Metroidvania take on the Turtles that’s equal parts challenging and engaging. 

Perhaps the best part about playing them today are the enhancements. For starters, you now have access to a rewind button, which you can hit at any point in your game to undo your actions. Its addition can be a godsend, with some of the games being notoriously difficult, if not somewhat broken. Hardcore fans likely won’t have much use for it, but at least the option is there. 

There also cheats for a number of games that you can activate to save you from hours of frustration. You can, for instance, toggle God Mode if you simply want to release your rage on Shredder and his Foot Clan. 

Another welcome addition are save states that let you save at any point in the game and pick up from it at a later time. That way, you don’t need to play through the games in one sitting. 

On top of all of these, you also have strategy guides that come complete with reference pictures and graphics – some of which even include video tips. Then, there’s The Lair, the multimedia vault of sorts for all the other good stuff outside of the games, including comic covers, concept art, game manuals, and magazine ads, to name a few, shown below.

You could lose hours browsing the content here in between your playthroughs. And what’s great about them is that they can give you a deeper appreciation of the collection, giving you more insight into the development and marketing process behind the included games. They’re essentially the cherry on top of what is already a worthwhile package. 

If there’s one thing that I’ll fault the game for, it’s that the online component needs a bit of work. Not all games have an online feature, but the ones that do don’t implement it well. You’d likely be hard-pressed to find players to join or compete with. When you do actually find a lobby, the lag makes the game unplayable. Hopefully, they continue to support the collection and improve this part. Otherwise, best to ignore the online entirely and stick to local play. 

Personally, The Cowabunga Collection is one of the best retro collections I’ve ever played. It takes all these old favorites and compiles them in what I believe is the most complete Turtles video game retrospectives to date. If you played any of the 13 games  growing up, this’ll be a dose of nostalgia that you won’t want to pass on. –

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