Regardless of their quality, Konami had three extremely popular Ninja Turtles games for the NES under its belt and when the Street Fighter craze swept the world, the company had no better license to slap onto a fighter than the heroes in a half shell. While this meant the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis received yet another obligatory fighter in its pile, surprisingly, NES owners were treated to one of the very few one-on-one titles ever officially released for the system.
The menus are very clean and the up-close character portraits are very detailed, but in-game, the characters resemble the small models seen in previous NES entries, making the large character Hothead seem much more detailed than the others. Regardless of detail, however, the bigger distraction is the massive flickering occurs during every second of the match. While players learn to ignore it, it is by far the biggest nuisance of the entire game. If the character models and animation could have measured up to the rest of the game, Tournament Fighters would be a perfect graphical concoction. Thankfully, excellent music and “voice effects” are present to flesh out an overall superb presentation.
Although the control is mapped to only two buttons, the fighters have a lot of versatility during matches, with a number of punches, kicks, running attacks, special moves, throws and even a super projectile that can be executed after picking up an item. While the turtles mostly play the same, all of the characters differ slightly in some way so players should be able to find a favorite among the seven playable fighters. The real joy of playing the game is in multiplayer since the CPU fights pathetically unless pumped up to the hard difficulty. With a total of four players alternating the controllers, the game’s tournament mode alone can produce hours of intense play and rounds out the surprisingly robust option set the game offers.
Overall, when it comes to the NES, Tournament Fighters may surpass what gamers expect from an 8-bit fighter. While the single-player mode lacks depth and flicker runs rampant, the title will certainly entertain those who can look past the flaws. Collectors should take special note of the title as for a number of reasons: Releasing in 1993, it was Konami’s final NES offering in the U.S.; Tournament is the final game series based on the original 1987 animation; it is the only game in the TMNT universe where the turtles do not use their trademark weapons; complete copies feature the NES variant cover of Leonardo fighting Hothead. As such, values on the cart are climbing insanely fast with a recent eBay auction netting nearly $140 for the complete package.
GemuBaka Final Review Score: 3 of 5