Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Cowabunga Collection review (PS4)

With no fewer than thirteen games, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is one of the most content-rich compilations we’ve seen thus far, but how do its games hold up? We played the PlayStation 4 version to find out.

When the excellent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge launched not too long ago, it made us look at the classic arcade brawler with rose-tinted glasses, evoking fond memories of a classic that helped define a generation. And where some retro collections are content to just offer barebones versions of the games on offer, Konami’s approach to the Cowabunga bundle is commendable – you get options to remap controls to your liking and to rescale the action to your desired size. Want to play in the classic 4:3 aspect ratio? You can, but if you’re less nostalgic you can choose to go for a widescreen option as well.

They’ve also added tweaks to individual games, in many cases to make them more accessible and add modern conveniences or difficulty options. In some games you can make yourself invincible, in some you can unlock additional characters without the need to meet the original objectives, and some titles even support extra challenging modes in case you feel like you mastered them long ago.

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You’ll also find a few technical optimizations, especially in titles for platforms that used to have some trouble keeping up with the action. And while you can still choose to play the NES-era games with all the associated flickering and slowdown during busy scenes, you can “fix” this for a smoother experience as well. The way that the emulation’s been implemented is one of the best examples we’ve seen thus far, and there are plenty of emulated classics out there these days.

And where most compilations (at least these days) are content to offer you not much more than the games themselves, what you get here is a great deal of “making of” content as well. This ranges from design documents that explain a lot about that creative process that went into these games to the stuff that came with the physical versions of these games – manuals and (digital recreations of) game boxes and all. On top of the games, there’s also a fair bit of content from the associated TV series and comics. It would have been great to have a few episodes to watch as well, but where do you stop in that case?

The thirteen games themselves span about half a decade of gaming history and a variety of platforms – these guys were prolific back in the day. As you’d expect, the Game Boy games and versions don’t hold up too well on the big screen, but are nice to have as a curiosity and for the sake of having a more complete collection. Out of the other games, which are spread across the NES, SNES, Genesis and arcade versions, the beat ’em up games that were based on classics like Double Dragon have held up best – they’re great fun, especially when playing with friends.

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The older NES game that played more like a mix of platforming and top-down adventure gaming feels quite clunky by comparison and wasn’t that fun to begin with, so there’s little to change that besides the option to make the experience a little smoother this time around. By comparison, the Tournament Fighters games that were designed to ride the coattails of Street Fighter 2 fare a lot better, though they’re far less polished than Capcom’s classic and are mainly interesting because they let you play as a few iconic other characters from the series, including the villains – which none of the other games do.

But while only a handful of these games has really stood the test of time well, those few are worth the purchase for any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. The presentation and fan service are both at a very high level here, and the beat ’em up games have instant appeal to newcomers looking to join a multiplayer game as well.

Score: 8.0/10

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