“Listen to me now, New York City! I have in my possession the treasure of Dimension X. It will allow me to take control of New York City today, and soon, the entire world. In my hand is the Hyperstone. I know you’re watching Turtles. You’ve gotten lucky in the past, but you won’t stop me this time!” – Shredder, from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist game manual.
By 1992, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were household names, or at least in households with boys between the ages of 4-14. They had a comic book and an animated television series, two live action feature films with soundtracks featuring early 90s rap luminaries such as M.C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice, a multitude of toys and other licensed merchandise, including arcade and home console video games. It should go without saying that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were inescapable.
The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles home video game on the NES had come out a few years prior and two additional NES titles (TMNT II: The Arcade Game & TMNT III: The Manhattan Project) plus additional Gameboy and Super Nintendo releases, all developed by Konami, cemented their status as gaming icons. Their appearances on Nintendo handhelds and consoles implied that the turtle creators, Mirage Studios, had exclusively signed a deal to be distributed by Nintendo. That wasn’t true at all, however. Mirage was likely just interested in ensuring their cash cow of a toy brand was available on the most successful consoles and handhelds, which up to about 1991, was Nintendo and Nintendo only.
Sega’s breakthrough console, the Genesis / Mega Drive had proven to be quite successful on its own merits and by 1992, was rivaling the Super Nintendo in sales. That sounded like an opportunity to get the Turtles onto a whole new gaming system and as a result, potentially introducing a whole new set of video gaming fans to the Turtles’ awesomeness!
The game that ended up being released for the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive, was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist. This was yet another Konami action brawler with a similar style game-play as The Arcade Game, The Manhattan Project and Turtles in Time. The Hyperstone Heist finds the Turtles, again battling Shredder (who else) after he uses the mysterious Hyperstone to shrink the entire city of New York.
Before getting started on your latest quest to defeat Shredder’s evil plans, you must select any one of the four Turtles; Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael are all available to play as on your mission. The game can be played as single player or two-player co-op, which is how all brawlers should be played, if possible. Each Turtle uses their own distinct weapon (Katana blade, nunchakus, Bo staff, or Sai daggers) as well as special attacks which can be earned through the eating of specially designated pizza boxes, or from pressing buttons A+B simultaneously. The A+B method has its drawbacks, however, since it takes a couple of health bars away to use, so proceed with caution!
As for Hyperstone Heist’s controls, they are very simple to learn and master. Using a standard 3-button Genesis controller, A is your attack button, B is for jump and C is the dash attack. The dash is a character specific attack performed while running towards an enemy. The aforementioned A+B will result in the special attack (if your Turtle has enough energy) and first pressing B, then A results in a jump attack. You should get used to pounding on that A button though, as this is going to be your primary and most effective means to take out enemies in all directions. Rapid attacks on a single enemy will result in a knock-down blow so this is usually your most effective means of taking out most Foot Soldiers.
Each Turtle has an energy bar that depletes when hit and once your energy bar gets to zero, you lose a Turtle life. Lose all of your lives, the number of which can be adjusted using the settings option on the menu screen, and your game is over. You can earn an extra life once reaching 100 points and then every subsequent 200 points onward. Pizza boxes are sporadically placed in stages and will recharge your Turtle’s energy. A solid strategy when you come across a pizza box is to wait until all enemies on the screen are defeated before consuming it, unless you’re already very low as soon as you enter that screen. Now that you have your character(s) selected and the controls figured out, its time to move on to the game itself.
Stage 1: New York City – The game’s first stage takes you from the city streets and down to the sewer. NYC is an easy level with lots of basic Foot Soldier enemies that don’t have much in the way of protection or weapons. Use this level to master your various attack techniques. The occasional Mouser (rat-like robot) and Pizza Monster (floating sewer monster) can be found on this level as well but they aren’t that hard to kill or avoid. The level boss is Leatherhead, a mutant Cajun alligator that bounces from top to bottom of the screen, and vice versa, throwing what appear to be knives (or crayfish according to the manual). It’s fairly easy to dodge his weapon throws and then blast him with your melee-weapon attacks. Get out of his way when he gets down on his four legs and attacks you and you’ll be fine. Repeat until he’s defeated.
Stage 2: Mysterious Ghost Ship – This stage starts off on the water, with your turtle riding a water-board/motorized surf board of sorts, battling enemies coming at you from the right. This is the only time you’ll experience this style of stage design, that propels you forward automatically. While riding on the board and battling enemies, you also must avoid hazards such as barrels, spikes, logs, etc. that pop up from the right side of the screen as you move. After this short section is complete, you then hop onto the deck of the ghost ship and fight more foot soldiers that possess more varied attacking techniques and weapons (throwing stars, nun-chucks, swords, etc) than the first stage. Stone Warriors (big, muscular looking dudes that sometimes brandish guns) make their first appearance at this section of stage 2. The stage finishes either under ground or below deck (I don’t recall and honestly, most of the scenes in the first few stages look very similar) with stalactites falling from the ceiling and more weapons based foot soldiers and Stone Warriors. Rocksteady is the level boss and to defeat him you simply need to jump out of the way when he bull-rushes you while staying out of the line of his gun fire. Rocksteady is not too difficult since his movement patterns are fairly easy to figure out.
Stage 3: Shredder’s Hideout – This stage begins at the entry hallway to Shredder’s hideout then takes you underground (again) before meeting up with Tatsu, the Foot Soldier master. For better or for worse, he’s another fairly easy to defeat boss. Your plan against Tatsu should be to attack, attack, take out the occasional foot soldier, reflect his own shots back at him, and attack some more. Be aggressive, otherwise, the Foot Soldiers supply he sends after you is endless. Only take them out when they get in your way, otherwise, focus all your energy on Tatsu. This level introduces the annoying Roadkill Rodneys, smaller versions of Mousers, which makes them harder to hit.
Stage 4: The Gauntlet – As the name of the stage might indicate, this is a short, but fairly difficult level where you must defeat the three bosses you’ve already encountered after traveling a short ways in Shredder’s hideout cave, battling (or avoiding) the Pizza Monsters. Once you defeat all the previous three bosses (Leatherhead, Rocksteady, Tatsu), you take on Stockman, the master of the Mousers. He flies slightly above you so you can either defeat him by jumping up and slashing at him or you can wait until his air vehicle drops low enough to hit it from the ground. Slow and steady wins this race.
Stage 5: Technodrome – The Final Shell Shock – Since this is the final stage, there are lots of “final stage” type hazards (electric fields, bouncing blue balls that like to flatten turtles, holes to fall in, etc.) that make it a bit more challenging. In addition, you have a smorgasbord of enemies that pull out all the stops in an effort to stop you from reaching Shredder. After a short side scrolling section, the stage continues when your Turtle enters an elevator and begins riding it down into the depths of Shredder’s lair. The elevator makes pit stops on every floor so you can battle Foot Soldiers, Mousers and Roadkill Rodneys that enter the elevator from both sides. You must use all of your reflexive powers and attack technique varieties to get through the elevator section unscathed. Thankfully there is a pizza box riding with you that you should only consume once your life meter is low.
Once you reach the bottom of the elevator shaft, you exit to take on the mini-boss, Krang Robot. Krang is the brain-like military leader that must inhabit an artificial body in order to fight for himself. The Krang Robot is a massive humanoid that Krang controls from inside. Krang Robot jumps around the stage, kicking at you like a spazz while trying to land on you with his big, beefy, artificial body. He will also drop some explosives from the sky that you must avoid to prevent major damage, but otherwise, like the rest of the bosses in this game so far, Krang Robot can be defeated without too much trouble if you’re patient and quick with the reflexes.
Once you defeat Krang, you enter Shredder’s room for the game’s final showdown. Shredder can be legitimately tough (it’s about damn time) as he teleports to various spots around the room before employing a variety of attack techniques aimed to take you out and keep you off guard such as fire balls, energy balls, and ice beams. Each time he employs one of these attacks, he flashes one of the three colors (red for fire, green for energy ball and blue for ice beam), which is the tell you need to know what attack is coming next. While flashing, Shredder is invincible which means you can’t get near him without taking damage and getting knocked on your butt. Since all of Shredder’s attacks are ranged attacks that expand out in front of him, that leaves very few windows of opportunity where you can safely attack. Shredder can be terribly frustrating until you figure out that most of his attacks are to simply be avoided until he employs his diagonal ice beam attack. When shooting his ice beam into the air, he’s defenseless for a longer than normal period of time. This is the ideal time to sneak in from behind and go in for the attack. There are other techniques you can use to defeat Shredder, but this is how I ultimately got the job done. If you use this method, you still must use extreme patience to avoid his fire and energy beam attacks or else he will get the best of your Turtle. Take him out and save Manhattan!
I prefer to use Donatello as my Turtle of choice, thanks to his Bo staff which is excellent for long range attacks. All of the Turtles work just fine in this game and you can’t go wrong picking any of them.
The coolest move in my book, is the body slam. When you can pull this one off, your Turtle will grab a Foot Soldier and slam him on the ground while you swing his body from side to side like a rag doll. It’s mondo to the extreme!
I think the most interesting scene from a visual standpoint would be the first section of stage 2. The one where you’re “surfing” while being attacked by Foot Soldiers. However, this section doesn’t play as well as it looks because it’s a bit too easy to simply avoid many of the enemies all together, which leaves it a bit lacking in fun. The best scene for action and challenge would have to be the entire final stage. You get your side scrolling brawler, you get the unique elevator scene, and you get not one, but two boss fights. What more do you want?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist, is a fun, quality game overall, but I was expecting better graphics and sound for a 16-bit title released in 1992. It’s a step up compared to the NES games but not up to par with the SNES released Turtles in Time either, in my opinion. The action in Hyperstone Heist is fast and exciting but also a tad repetitive, but you could make that same argument for many 16-bit brawlers such as Final Fight and Streets of Rage. Overall, I would recommend owning or playing this title for your Genesis or Mega Drive and it’s hard to be disappointed by such a simple, but fun concept. Cowabunga!