The two games I’m looking forward to most in 2009 are Bionic Commando and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We’ve talked about the former before, this is about the latter.

The January 2009 issue of Nintendo Power has lots of previews of the year’s coming attractions, and the cover story is the return of the Green Machine, lookin’ mean and coming to the Wii. You can find out more bits and pieces here, here, and here, but I’ll share some of the info right here.

First, the game is being published by Ubisoft, with development done by Game Arts, who helped create Super Smash Bros. Brawl under Masahiro Sakurai, along with former members of Tecmo’s Team Ninja, who were responsible for awesome games such as Dead Or Alive and Ninja Gaiden. The game is going to be a fighter, seemingly somewhere between Super Smash Bros. and a traditional fighting game, the latter in that your goal is to knock out your opponents, rather than send them off screen in a flash of light and energy. The developers are also hoping to include online capabilities, correcting the flaws which hindered Brawl‘s online mode.

The title is beholden to no single branch of the Turtles franchise, be it cartoon, comic, or other. It is for this reason, without the crutch of a tie-in, that the Producer has said the game will have to be good so that it can survive on its own. But with the kind of pedigree the developers are bringing to the table, I’m confident they will succeed. Hopefully, and this is just my own conjecture, though a sentiment shared by many, the team will be able to cherry-pick elements and characters from across the Turtles spectrum– perhaps not unlike what Konami once did for the Super NES version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters. My vote for the best version of Shredder to use is the one from the recent 4Kids 2K3 cartoon. Hell, you can get some real mileage out of that one, since there are numerous Shredders, including the demon Shredder and the Utrom Shredder’s adoptive daughter taking up his name.

But though the title isn’t strictly based on any one version of the Turtles, the look is another matter. Last year’s TMNT film has more or less become the modern default look for the Turtles, with the designs of the toys and even the newest season of the cartoon, Back to the Sewer, deferring to it. But unless you really loathe the look of the movie, then it’s all good; the style was chosen in part because it worked best for the creation of this game.

But that’s not the only influence, either; note the scene at the top of this article, one of the best in that picture. The game contains a stage which is very similar to it, and looks great, with a number of twists, including a destructible water tower that can flood out one’s foes, or a neon sign that’ll singe a shell or two. Hopefully some alternate costumes, like Mike’s giant turtle head or Raph’s vigilante outfit will make it in as well.

The only characters known so far are the four Turtles and their Master Splinter, but some staples, such as Karai and Shredder are practically no-brainers. Perhaps we’ll see a Triceraton or two, which isn’t unlikely given how big into triceratops co-creator Peter Laird is. And as it just so happens, he’s helping to work on the story, which won’t play out as a platformer as “The Subspace Emissary” did in Brawl. Plus, his Mirage Studios are also helping in the character selection process.

Relatively little is known about the game right now, though it’s already been in development for a year. But for what is known, the game sounds fantastic. Could this possibly become game of the year? I wouldn’t hold my breath, but how cool would that be if a licensed game of all things took the honor? If it’s even on some people’s Top 10 or whatever, that would still be a great achievement, in my estimation.

The developers are hoping to get the game out in September, but it’s not set in stone yet. I hope they’ll take extra time if they need it, but hopefully they won’t require too much– it would be a shame if this wound up missing out on the 25th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.

–LBD “Nytetrayn”

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