Reunited – Pokémon Gold

Have you ever lost a game? Not simply seeing the “Round Lost” or continue screen, but you could no longer find a game once in your possession. Anyone who played enough games as a kid or has amassed enough games as a collector will likely have had something similar happen to them. Pokémon Gold was one of my favorite Game Boy Color games and one that represented many cherished childhood memories. Somewhere over the course of moving from my parents house(and several other times), I had lost track of my copy of Pokémon Gold. I had looked through every nook and cranny where I had scattered my collection of games, but….just couldn’t find it. I had slowly just accepted the idea that I MUST have sold the game in one of the couple times I went through with downsizing my collection, but…I still had the box and manual from the game. However, if I had gone through and sold the game in an episode of foolishness…why would I have not bothered to sell the game as a complete-in-box(CIB) copy and made the extra cash for it?

It was just this past weekend that I was surprised with my original, childhood copy of Pokémon Gold. It turns out, a nephew had…”borrowed” the game years back and “forgot” to return it, assuming I wouldn’t have noticed or cared the game was missing. Along with it, I found myself with the copy of Pokémon FireRed for the Game Boy Advance that I had also assumed was long gone…it was a joyous reunion, nonetheless.

Then why did I have the bowl, Bart? Why did I have the bowl…?

It’s been eighty-four years just over twenty years now since I first played Pokémon Gold. The game was released in North America on October 15, 2000, nearly a full year after Gold & Silver had been released in Japan. I had come down with a severe case of Poké-mania a year or so prior, and had finally gotten a Game Boy Color and copy of Pokémon Red of my own earlier that year. I remember most of my time in the spring/summer of 2000 was spent reading through my prized issues of Nintendo Power, which usually contained a wealth of Pokémon-related news or game tips and getting hyped for the release of the next Pokémon game, along with another little Nintendo 64 game titled Perfect Dark…which I may have also mentioned once or twice on this blog.

I don’t recall the date when I got Pokémon Gold, but I remember it being only a few weeks after it was released, so I’d say it was probably the beginning of November. I had been extra-motivated to assist my parents around our home and managed to actually save, yes, NOT spend every cent of my allowance as I was determined to begin another journey through the Johto Region on my way to becoming a Pokémon master. I can still remember pretty clearly the day we went into town for my parents to pick up a few things. We stopped by the K-Mart store in town(yes, this WAS twenty-one years ago) and I was able to finally grab a copy of Pokémon Gold, a game I had wanted more than anything else in the world. Before we had left for town, I had realized that I had enough money saved up for a couple games…how awesome is that? Along with Pokémon Gold, I decided on the Spider-Man Game Boy Color game – the one based off the 90’s cartoon, one of my other favorites next to the Batman and Pokémon animated series’. After that, I still had just enough money to pick up an official Game Boy Color travel case so I could somewhat protect my precious handheld as well as carry around a few games. I remember the feeling of pride and satisfaction at being able to point to something that I paid for with my own hard-earned(?) cash as I attempted to plug in my little accessory light and play Pokémon Gold on the ride back home.

* I sadly don’t still have the Spider-Man game and I’m not entirely sure what happened to the travel case…one mystery at a time, I guess.

It does feel pretty nice having my original childhood copy of Pokémon Gold, especially after assuming I’d either lost or, for some reason, sold the game and wasn’t likely to see it again. The game has much sentimental value in being a game I felt such pride in being able to go into a store and buy myself, as well as something I loved playing in those early Junior High School days. It also has a monetary value, as the prices of older Nintendo, especially Pokémon games have been skyrocketing the past few years…so, it’s a double-win!

So, how about you? Have you ever lost track of an old game from your childhood and assumed it was lost forever, only to stumble across it years later? Let me know. Thanks for reading, fellow trainers!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time

Going back as far as I can remember, there were three things I loved as a kid more than anything else – Batman, video games, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Dark Knight had been popular ever since his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939 and through Adam West’s run as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the 60’s tv show, before another surge of popularity in the late 80’s with the release of Tim Burton’s film iteration of Batman. Video games had been steadily rising in popularity as a pastime once again thanks to the Nintendo Entertainment System after the industry had been considered dead thanks to market oversaturation by the likes of Atari and Mattel. Those whose childhood years were spent in the late-80’s/early-90’s will most likely know exactly what you’re talking about should you utter the catch phrases “Cowabunga!” or “Turtle Power!” and surely remember how significant the ninja turtle craze of the era was. Just a few examples:

  • cartoons – I had probably a dozen or so VHS tapes I watched religiously(along with the movies)
  • action figures – yup, owned just about every single one. Never got the Turtle Blimp though, sadly…
  • breakfast cereals – the TMNT cereal was my absolute favorite(complete with turtle-shaped bowl)
  • all manner of clothing – lots of pajamas and t-shirts

Of course, there’s been a number of TMNT video games, beginning with the very first games for the NES. I spent a lot of time playing the first game on the family NES, but don’t remember ever getting past the infamous “dam level” where you had to swim through a hazardous underwater maze defusing bombs before the time runs out. One game, that I enjoyed more than any other was TMNT IV: Turtles In Time; I absolutely loved this game as a kid, and, to be honest, anything TMNT was enough to ensure I wanted to play it back then. The game felt taken straight from the animated series, like I was playing something I had on VHS and would pop into the VCR on some random afternoon.

Turtles In Time is an arcade-style beat ’em up game in which you pummel waves of enemies as you make your way through the different levels of the game, with each level progressively adding a greater variety of enemy types, and in greater numbers. Anyone who has ever played a Final Fight or Streets of Rage game will be familiar with the genre already – I considered Turtles In Time to be the Streets of Rage to Battletoads’ Final Fight at the time. The game was developed by Konami, the same as the previous NES games, and initially released as an arcade game in 1991 before finding its way to the Super Nintendo the following year. The SNES version of the game saw the addition of the a couple stages and bosses, as well as a few minor changes to the in-game audio/soundtrack. One of the biggest differences between the arcade and SNES versions is the fact the arcade version features four player co-op, where standard two person co-op is the only option available on the Super Nintendo.

Turtles In Time begins with Krang stealing the Statue of Liberty from Liberty Island as Shredder takes over the tv airwaves, sending a message to our half-shell heroes daring them to try and stop him as they make their way across the streets(and sewers) of New York City shortly afterward, before battling Shredder in the Technodrome. After his defeat, Shredder leaps through a time vortex, traveling backwards in time. The turtles follow Shredder through the past and into the future as they work to foil Krang & Shredder’s diabolical plans once again.

The game features 10 different levels, with the first few stages of the game taking place in NYC and the Technodrome before following Shredder through various historical stages, each one featuring a different boss fight at the end of it. When starting the game, you select one of the four turtles – Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michaelangelo as the gameplay is as straightforward as most other beat ’em ups – see enemy, clobber enemy. Turtles In Time sticks to the traditional formula of: fight a bunch of enemies(with a wider variety of enemies thrown into the mix as the game progresses), face off against boss at the end of level, and repeat. The SNES version of Turtles In Time deviates slightly from the arcade version; in the levels Sewer Surfin’ and Neon Night Riders play like a short bonus level where you navigate surf the sewers of New York City.

The first level on the other side of Shredder’s time machine takes you to the Prehistoric Age where you battle Foot Soldiers and Krang’s Dimension X Rock Soldiers while avoiding falling stalactites in caverns and being trampled by stampeding dinosaurs. The next level finds you battling a swashbuckling Bebop and Rocksteady aboard a pirate ship set in the 1500’s before traveling by train through the 1800’s Old West, culminating with a fight against the Cajun gator, Leatherhead. The game then jumps into the future as you ride your hoverboard through the streets of an unnamed city(ironically set in the year 2020…) on your way to fight Krang in his android body and then to a Space Station, where you will battle Krang for a second time. The final level of the game takes place back in the Technodrome where you square off against Super Shredder as the stolen Statue of Liberty can be seen in the background. I remember thinking it was pretty cool that the SNES version of Turtles In Time had references to the movie, TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze – Tokka, Rahzar, Super Shredder, who were level bosses in the game, despite the movie was only released a year prior.

The game gets a bit difficult towards the end, as most of the Foot Soldiers you face have weapons of their own, the Foot Soldiers sporting projectile weapons are pretty easily the most annoying ones you have to fight. While it may very well be my favorite(?) example of the genre, it still shares many of the same criticisms I have with most beat ’em ups. For as well as the controls themselves typically work, pummeling the numerous enemies on screen isn’t always as easy to accomplish as one would assume due to constantly having to line up your character in the same background/foreground plane as the enemies on screen. Anyone who’s spent any amount of time playing Streets of Rage or Final Fight will undoubtedly know the frustration of rearing back to land a punch on an enemy in front of you, only to swing and miss before quickly finding yourself on the receiving end of a retaliatory attack. This also means it is critical to keeping the on-screen enemies on the same side of your character, as most of the time an enemy won’t immediately attack you, but slowly attempt to wander behind your character and surround you. Again, this is nothing unique to Turtles In Time, but rather something to be expected in beat ’em up games. Fortunately, there’s no enemies in Turtles In Time like the knife-wielding thugs in the Streets of Rage games that will usually take a diagonal path across the screen towards you, making them very difficult to hit…

An enhanced 3D remake of the game titled, Turtles In Time Re-Shelled was released for the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network back in 2009 but was pulled from the store in 2011. This was considered an enhanced 3D remake of the game, which was modeled after the original arcade version of the game and not the SNES version. Not wanting to venture into “rant about Konami” territory, I will add that it’s a shame the once-revered studio doesn’t show greater interest in more(any?) of its many game series; I often bring up how awesome a slightly updated version of some of their older arcade/console games like Turtles In Time or Sunset Riders would be right at home among the many ports and remasters of retro(as well as indie) games on the Nintendo Switch.

Does Turtles In Time still hold up? There’s still a multitude of gamers out there who still hold the game up as one of the best beat ’em ups of the era, if not ever, and I’d be inclined to side with that opinion. The game still plays about as good as it ever did and doesn’t feel as ravaged by the effects of time(travel) like many games released much later than 1992. Turtles In Time manages to capture the essence of what so many loved about the popular animated series, along with a great soundtrack that will end up stuck in your head for hours afterwards. I have so many fond memories of playing the game; it’s still incredibly fun and a must-play for beat ’em up and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans alike.

Thanks for reading and…cowabunga!!