Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie Q&A--Early Details, Combat, and Movie Magic

We sit down with Ubisoft Montreal to discuss the newly announced Ninja Turtles game based on the motion picture.

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Those zany ninja turtles from those comic books and cartoons you remember from the 1980s and 1990s are making their way back to the silver screen next year. They'll also star in a brand-new video game in which they'll fight evil with their mighty ninja weapons and maybe a catchphrase or two. We caught up with Ubisoft Montreal's creative director, Nick Harper, to discuss the new game.

GameSpot: How closely are you following the movie's story?

Those rascally reptiles are back in a new feature film and a brand-new video game adventure.
Those rascally reptiles are back in a new feature film and a brand-new video game adventure.

Nick Harper: We are following the movie's story very closely and are really trying to explore the darker feelings of being a teenager, and at the same time, include lots of humor, intense combat, and action. We received an early version of the film script, and it was clear that this movie was about the strength of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles family.

We've added some characters from the turtles' history that aren't in the movie, and we've expanded on some elements that are present in the movie. Of course, we had the movie plot and script as our starting point, but I think the game and film will complement each other well. The game is really an extension of the movie experience.

GS: How much did you collaborate with the filmmakers?

Nick Harper: We have a really good relationship with Mirage Group and Imagi Animation Studios, the people making the movie. We traveled to Hong Kong to see early footage, and we are sharing assets on a daily basis. We are in continuous communication with Mirage and original cocreator Peter Laird. And so far, the relationship has been great, and the feedback from Peter has been really positive. They validate the look and ensure that we respect the universe, and they also help us create the dialogues. We regularly send them versions of the game, and they are great at giving us plenty of good suggestions and feedback.

GS: How involved is the film's cast? For instance, will the characters be voiced by their movie counterparts?

Nick Harper: The four turtles are voiced by the same actors in the movie and in the game.

GS: Tell us about the game. Will it offer straight-ahead action with items to pick up? Will it be some kind of action role-playing game where you gain levels for your turtles?

Nick Harper: This game is best described as over-the-top ninja action with lots of fighting and classic platforming elements mixed in.

GS: How many levels are in the game?

Nick Harper: There are 16 levels in the game.

GS: Can you walk us through the combat system?

Nick Harper: In combat, the turtles can pair up to perform "family attacks." Each attack is linked to the turtle who initiates it. So, for example, if Leo calls the attack, the brothers leap in the air and then slam down on the ground, creating a damaging ripple effect, whereas Mike's attack is more comical--he grabs his brother by the feet and spins him around like a helicopter, knocking the bad guys down and away. Individually, each turtle has his own fighting style based on his weapon, personality, and dedication to the ninja way. So Leo is very controlled and efficient, whereas Mikey is flamboyant and extravagant.

GS: How is the Jade engine helping you show off the turtles' unique abilities?

Nick Harper: Using the Prince of Persia engine definitely gave us a great head start, but the game mechanics have been optimized for the turtles' adventure. It was important for us to maintain a much more fluid experience. We wanted players to always be jumping and dashing along walls. We streamlined the input and animation systems to enable these abilities to flow together rapidly.

GS: What kind of multiplayer modes will the game have? Cooperative? Competitive?

Nick Harper: Since the game is based on the upcoming movie, it's really about the emotional toll of feeling the loss of the turtle family and the rewards of earning that unity back. So, we needed the turtles to be distanced, both physically and emotionally, just like in the film. Therefore, we opted for a single-player experience where players can control each turtle at certain parts in the game and then play the entire family once they have reunited all four brothers.

GS: Will there be any unique features specific to each platform?

The game's combat system will take each character's fighting style and personality into account.
The game's combat system will take each character's fighting style and personality into account.

Nick Harper: There will be some special content for the Wii version of the game, and we're taking advantage of the controller to make fighting and acrobatics more immersive and fun. We'll be able to provide more details on the Wii version of the game soon.

For the other console versions, we've taken lots of the movie imagery and sneak peeks and included them as Easter eggs in specific sections in the game.

GS: Will there be support for downloadable content for any of the games?

Nick Harper: Whether or not there will be additional content for next-generation consoles is still under wraps, but what we can share now is that we are leveraging the achievements system for Xbox Live, so that everyone with a Microsoft console can go online and see how ninja-like they truly are.

GS: Thanks for your time, Nick.

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