Memories of SEGA: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles- The Hyperstone Heist
Dreaming of a white Christmas? Why have that when you can have a green one instead? Today, we look back at one of Konami's first SEGA titles!
For me, one of the best things about being a retro gamer is getting the chance to experience games I never played back in my youth. Back then, there were so many games that caught my eye, but I could only ever get to play a select few of them. Not having much in the way of money, I would only be able to get a small amount of games a year- a couple for my birthday, maybe one or two for Christmas, and the games I got with my money from both occasions. That was it. These days though, it’s much easier to get my hands on the games I badly wanted to play back then, thanks to having a job and a steady income. And ever since I restarted my Mega Drive collection, I’ve certainly gotten to play many games I never had the chance to in the past. In this edition of Memories of SEGA, I’ll be looking at one such game, and one that I only got to play for the first time just over a month ago. That game is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist.
Also known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Return of the Shredder in Japan, and the word Ninja being replaced by Hero in Europe (Because ninjas were too violent and yay censorship), this game was one of the first Konami developed for the Mega Drive. Having been responsible for some of Nintendo’s most beloved series, it was great to finally see Konami work on a SEGA console. Of course, it would later prove to be a match made in Heaven thanks to games like Rocket Knight Adventures and Mega CD cult favourite Snatcher, but Hyperstone Heist, along with fellow cartoon licence Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure, showed that the company meant business with SEGA right from the get go.
I can’t quite remember if I had heard news about a Turtles game coming out on the Mega Drive beforehand back in the day, but I do remember first properly seeing the game in an issue of Sega Force magazine. It looked quite similar to the original arcade game, and looked pretty cool, but I had more or less lost interest in the Turtles at that point, so it was a game I only had a passing interest in. That changed when I watched the Mean Machines SEGA 101 Turbo Tips video (Something I covered in a previous Memories of SEGA article!). Hyperstone Heist was one of the games featured on it, and though the segment was barely a minute long, it was enough to make me think it looked really cool. I wanted to check it out. Sadly, by this time- about mid 1996 or so, the game was impossible to find in any shop. Even the pre-owned sections never saw any copies of it. This would continue into much of my adult life as well. It became something of a rare title, not to mention expensive. Even if I was lucky enough to find a copy online, it wasn’t complete- not really what I wanted. I wondered if I would ever find it. However, my long search finally came to an end this October at London Comic Con. While looking around the show, I found a stall selling retro games. One of quite a few, actually, but I find every one of them is worth checking out in case you find something rare in one. And I certainly did here- there, on a rack, was a copy of the game! Complete, and in decent condition, there was no way I wasn’t picking this one up! So, with the game finally in my collection, I was at long last able to play it…
Some footage of the game in action.
The game is a scrolling beat em up that takes its inspiration from the original 1989 TMNT arcade game, though it’s based more on its 1991 sequel, Turtles in Time- along with it’s much loved Super Nintendo port. Hyperstone Heist pinches several elements from Turtles in Time- mainly the soundtrack, while some levels are very loosely based on its SNES counterpart as well. However, it’s very much its own game as well. There is a plot in there- basically Shredder has shrunk New York and is out to take over the world again- but it’s really nothing more than an excuse to get out there and raise some shell! You can choose between all four turtles, and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Raphael, for example, is fast but weak, while Donatello has the best reach, but is also the slowest of the four. Sadly, due to technical limitations, the four player mode of the arcade game is missing, but there’s still a two player mode if you want to bring a friend along for the ride.
The controls are very simple. You only have one attack button, with the B and C buttons being used to jump and dash respectively. Despite this, there are a few moves available. As well as your basic combo attack, you can also perform various jump kicks and tackles- performed while dashing- a grab attack where you slam the enemy into the ground several times, and the obligatory special attack that does a lot of damage, but drains your life when it connects.
There are five stages to fight your way through. That may not sound like many (and that’s half as many as Turtles in Time), but each stage is split up into various scenes, and they’re all quite long. In fact, the stages are so long, it’ll take about an hour to get through the entire game, so it’s definitely not as short as it sounds. Obviously it would be a very poor beat em up if there weren’t any enemies to fight, and while Hyperstone Heist doesn’t have a huge amount of variety of goons to bash, the sheer number of them keeps things from getting boring. Your most common foes are Foot Soldiers, which come in various colours that indicate both their strength and the weapons they use. Some will require different tactics than others to beat- the white ones, for example, can block attacks, so you’ll need to find a way of breaking through their defences. Less common are Rock Soldiers, who take more of a beating and can charge at you- not to mention can also carry weapons! There’s also plenty of mechanical enemies to face too, including those ever pesky Mousers. All this fighting can be a real strain on your health, but this can be restored by eating- what else- pizza. Only one other pick up is available in the game- a special pizza which causes your Turtle to spin constantly. During this brief phase, you’re invincible and can take down anything in one hit.
You can also use obejects like fire hydrants and explosive oil drums to damage foes.
At the end of each stage, you’ll encounter a boss, almost all of whom are familiar faces from the show. The exception is the stage three boss, Tatsu. He was Shredder’s second in command in the original live action movie, and Hyperstone Heist is to my knowledge the only video game he has appeared in. The rest of the bosses are instantly recognisable though. You’ll face Leatherhead at the end of the first stage, Rocksteady in stage two, while Baxter Stockman waits at the end of stage four. The final stage has you taking on Krang before the final showdown with Shredder himself. “But wait!” I hear you say. “Isn’t someone missing?” Indeed. Despite Rocksteady showing up, we don’t get to see Bebop at any point. And let’s face it, you can’t really have one without the other, can you? So that certainly is quite disappointing.
There’s a lot to like, graphics wise. It’s all very colourful, as well as nicely animated. You can even change the Turtles’ colour scheme in the options menu from their normal shade of green from the cartoon, to the darker shade as seen in the original comics. A purely cosmetic touch, but a nice one. There’s also a very comical aspect to the game. This mostly comes from the way the Turtles get hurt in the game. These range from being flattened, burnt to a crisp, electrocuted or even getting their toes squished. The last one in particular comes with an amusing “My toe! My toe!” speech sample. Touches like this add a lot of personality to the game. There’s also a few other bits of speech in the game- a bit scratchy sounding, but quite nice nonetheless- while the soundtrack is very catchy. Konami were excellent at making great soundtracks in the nineties, and this was definitely the case in Hyperstone Heist as well. Most of the tunes are taken from the earlier Turtles in Time, though there are a few new tracks created just for this game as well. Though it could be argued that the music in the SNES game was of a better quality, it still sounded good here, and it’ll be tough to get it out of your head!
You'll get to use a surf board as well, but the gameplay doesn't change at all.
Ultimately, I found the game a lot of fun to play. Despite the long levels and limited move set, the game rarely gets boring. Helping the case are a bunch of environmental hazards to avoid in each stage. Yup, as well as the basic goons, there’s also stuff like lasers, giant cannon balls and even loose gangplanks to watch out for along the way. The pace is quite hectic to say the least! However, the game isn’t particularly hard to beat. There are a few tricky spots, but nothing a seasoned gamer can’t handle. Mind you, I did have a real facepalm moment in my last play through when I fought Baxter- He tends to float about dropping Mousers on you, but for a while I had a good rhythm with using my jump kicks to hit him. But then, the Mousers started overwhelming me and I struggled getting any more damage to him until I ended up losing a life. Finally, I managed to get another hit in… and it was the last hit I needed to finish him off! I was really kicking myself there.
By contrast however, I found the final battle with Shredder to be disappointingly easy. You face him in his Super Shredder form, as seen in the second live action movie. But there’s not that much super about him- all he really does is teleport around, glow in a fiery aura, and uses one of three attacks on you. You can tell what attack he’s going to use by the colour of the aura, but they’re all so easy to avoid that’s unlikely you’ll ever be hit by them. The only challenging aspect of this fight is his speed- it’s hard to get a good clean hit on him. But it’s still very much a triviality. It is a fun fight, and the music that plays during it is very intense, but I wish it was a little bit harder. Thankfully, you have to beat the game on the Hard difficulty to get the full ending, so at least that boosts lastability a little. But this game still isn’t very challenging.
Any second now, and Donnie is going to get a retractable spear in a very painful place...
So, after waiting to play this game for so long, was it worth it? Absolutely. Some people may say that Turtles in Time was the better game, and it probably was, but Hyperstone Heist is still a very enjoyable game. No, it’s not a particularly tough game to beat, and the thought of having Rocksteady in there but not Bebop is just, well… wrong. But the gameplay is addicting and a lot of fun. If you’re looking for a great scrolling beat em up for the Mega Drive that isn’t called Streets of Rage, and if you can find it, it’s well worth a look regardless if you like the Turtles or not. It’s certainly one I’ll be going back to every now and again!
And hey, I managed to get through this whole feature without once saying “Cowabunga!”
An aligator in the sewers. How original.
This will be the last Memories of SEGA article for this year, but I’ll be back in 2015 for more trips down memory lane. Until then, have a very merry Christmas, and a happy new year!
24th December, 2014 - 21:23 GMT
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