Re(?)Considered: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus
I am ambivalent about being a turtle
The Turtles (Teenage Mutant Ninja ones, at the very least) have a storied history in the sophisticate's hobby of choice. I speak, of course, of videogames. Yes! The heroes in a half-shell have starred in many a banger over the years, with excellent showings on almost every major system and handheld. I suppose it's just a premise that lends itself brilliantly to gaming - four near-identical characters, each with signature weapons? Christ, you get so much as a look at the slimy bastards and you just want to start playing them.
So, coming off excellent games like Turtles in Time and Radical Rescue, I came into the 2004 Game Boy Advance sequel TMNT 2: Battle Nexus with an open mind. And was immediately greeted with a game that opens each level with the TMNT totally unarmed. Okay, game. Alright.
Yes, the goal in each level of Battle Nexus is to find your chosen turtle's weapon then utilise it to escape the stage. There are a few derisory vehicle stages, but by and large it's the first thing. Find weapon, find exit. But prior to acquiring your engine of pugilism, you've got to use that stealth. Which - as you well know - isn't something that traditionally works very well in 2D. Indeed, there was something of a vogue for 2D stealth on the GBA around this time. Even the freaking Madagascar tie-in game had stealth sections. But I digress. The stealth is rudimentary in the extreme, with the sound you make not taken into account in the slightest. No, you've just go to avoid being spotted, which means ducking into alcoves and dodging searchlights. Even if you do get noticed you can just duck into a hiding place and wait, or leave the screen. There's no ranking system and it all basically shakes out the same way, making it feel like busywork.Once you've got your stabber (or bludgeoner), things change, and your secondary objective becomes more manageable. Ah yes, there's a stuff-collecting element, too. Wouldn't be a GBA game if there wasn't! You're tasked with gathering unusual blue crystals, a certain number of which are needed before you can progress to the next world. On Hard Mode, that's literally all of them, so don't play Hard Mode. Problematically, the crystals are placed in spots that are awkward to reach - not so much difficult to find, but... awkward. Like there'll be a side-route leading to a crystal that's hidden inside a large rock. Only problem is, you can't break said rock without using Michelangelo's nunchuks, but you're currently playing as Donatello. That's a do-over. It feels like a pointless longeur to pad out the game's length. The issue is, of course, short fun games are better than long boring ones, and Battle Nexus, gawd bless it, sometimes falls into the latter.
It's not a bad game. It's certainly interesting, with every stage feeling distinct and well-designed outside of the aforementioned crystal hunt. It suffers in comparison to the original GBA TMNT which is a much more traditional side-scrolling beat-'em-up executed with a lot of flair. It's a shame, given that Konami clearly tried to build something different in Battle Nexus. They meant well, but sometimes meat and potatoes is better than turtle soup.