Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection

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TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection Developer Interview
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TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection Developer Interview

We grill Konami and Digital Eclipse about the collection's most unique games and features!

What a great year for fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Dotemu's TMNT: Shredder's Revenge was a smash hit on the gaming front, and Netflix's Rise of the TMNT animated movie pleased Rise fans and non-fans alike. Konami is ready to do its part as well. TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection arrives on consoles and PC on August 30, complete with 13 classic games and a treasure trove of bonus content. To learn more about the Cowabunga Collection, we interviewed Charles Murakami, Senior Producer at Konami Digital Entertainment, and Chris Kohler, Editorial Director at Digital Eclipse.

Charles Murakami and Chris Kohler

Charles Murakami (left) and Chris Kohler; Left image credit: Cheddar News

Co-Optimus: Thanks for taking the time to meet with us in our underground sewer lair. First, could you tell us a little about your experience in game development?

Charles Murakami: I’ve been producing games for over 17 years and was recently creating Yu-Gi-Oh! games before working on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection.

Chris Kohler: Thank you, what a lovely sewer you have. I joined Digital Eclipse in 2020 after a 25-year career in media. Whenever somebody asks what my favorite video game is, I always say Elite Beat Agents, even though the real answer is Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan.

Osu Tatakae Ouendan for Nintendo DS

Osu Tatakae Ouendan; Image source: Nintendo Everything

Co-Optimus: Hey, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan is an all-time fave of mine as well. Now then, let’s talk Turtles! What was your experience with the heroes in a half-shell prior to The Cowabunga Collection, and do you have any favorite movies or shows?

Charles Murakami: I grew up with the 80’s cartoon and comics, so they’ll always have a spot in my heart. But I watched all the shows, read many of the recent comics and watched all the movies to prepare for this collection. Of course, I played the games as well!

Chris Kohler: My Turtles fandom back in the day was very gaming-centric. While I did watch the movies and TV show a little bit, I was a huge fan of the games and was very excited when the NES version of TMNT II: The Arcade Game came out. The developers at Konami were absolute magicians.

TMNT Hyperstone Heist Sound Test The Cowabunga Collection

TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection

Co-Optimus: TMNT II: The Arcade Game was certainly a huge release for young Turtles fans, and now, gamers will have another chance to play it. Who first proposed The Cowabunga Collection, and what sort of hurdles did Konami and Digital Eclipse have to clear in order to make the collection happen?

Charles Murakami: After Konami released the Arcade, Contra, and Castlevania Anniversary Collections, many fans asked for the TMNT collection to come next! The fan outpour helped us get Konami, Nickelodeon, and Digital Eclipse together and deliver this project collectively.

Chris Kohler: The main hurdle we had to clear at Digital Eclipse once we signed this project was to stop fist-pumping and high-fiving long enough to actually sit down and make the game.

TMNT 2: Battle Nexus GameBoy Advance

TMNT 2: Battle Nexus (GBA, not included in The Cowabunga Collection)

Co-Optimus: The Cowabunga Collection contains all 13 TMNT games that Konami published between 1989-1994. However, Konami also released several TMNT games from 2003-2005. Is there any chance we might see those titles in a future collection?

Charles Murakami: I’m always encouraged to hear that people want more. It took an incredible effort to the get 13 games as well as the 11 Japanese versions into this collection, so we don’t currently have plans to add more. But I never say never!

TMNT III Radical Rescue GameBoy

TMNT III: Radical Rescue (GameBoy)

Co-Optimus: Well then, let’s focus on the awesome titles that The Cowabunga Collection offers. Do you have a favorite game in this collection, and what makes it stand out after all these years?

Charles Murakami: For pure nostalgia, I have happy memories playing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game in the arcades with friends. Working on this collection, I recently discovered TMNT III: Radical Rescue for the first time, and that game is great! It’s amazing to play a Metroidvania game [for] Game Boy. I hope people discover new favorites in this collection as well.

Chris Kohler: There are a lot of games in this collection that I really enjoy, but working on it gave me a new appreciation for TMNT III: The Manhattan Project for NES. At the time it originally released, I had moved on to the SNES and thought 8-bit stuff was obsolete (forgive me, I was literally 11 years old), but today I can see it’s an absolute masterpiece of that platform.

TMNT III The Manhattan Project - Cowabunga Collection

Co-Optimus: Agreed; what a great NES beat 'em up. Counting the NES, this compilation offers games from five different 8-bit and 16-bit platforms. Were there any technical challenges with emulating certain games or implementing the collection’s added enhancements?

Chris Kohler: Every platform we emulate brings with it its own special challenges! We also love to make our jobs harder at Digital Eclipse by going above and beyond and adding things like the ability to play as the bosses in TMNT: Tournament Fighters for the Genesis (not available in the original game, even with codes!) or disabling the bombs that penalize you if you stand around too long in the arcade games, (because we’re not after your quarters, and we want you to relax).

TMNT The Cowabunga Collection Pause Menu

Co-Optimus: Those are welcome features. What other enhancements can you tell us about? Will these features make it possible for the average gamer to complete even the notoriously tough TMNT for NES (which I somehow beat once as a kid)?

Chris Kohler: If I were to run down every new feature, it would be an entire article in and of itself! Here is a sampling:

Each game lets you save and load anywhere you want, and also has rewind. For the NES games, you can also turn off the flicker and slowdown that were part of the original releases. Hopefully, those things will help you get through that first game. Rewind especially should help!

Each game also has its own specific enhancements. I’ve already mentioned a few of them; others include the ability to turn on the boss characters and extra stages in TMNT: Tournament Fighters for the SNES without having to input lengthy codes, as well as more helpful map icons for TMNT: Radical Rescue—this was a feature exclusive to the Japanese version that we brought back into the U.S. version.

These are all optional, by the way. The default settings present the games as they appeared back in the day, and you can choose to turn these enhancements on, one by one.

Co-Optimus: That all sounds great. While we’re on the subject, I’d love to know what kind of widescreen borders the collection has in store for us.

Chris Kohler: As a fellow border fan, I am happy to tell you that each game has its own custom border built out of that game’s key art—and what’s more, if you’re playing the Japanese versions of the games, the borders will be based on the Japanese box art.

TMNT Turtles in Time The Cowabunga Collection

Co-Optimus: Several of the games on The Cowabunga Collection feature online multiplayer. A few games like TMNT III: The Manhattan Project, however, only have local multiplayer. How did you decide which games would get online multiplayer and which wouldn’t?

Charles Murakami: These games started on very different platforms; none originally had online play. So, we knew getting the games online would be quite an undertaking. The arcade games were chosen since getting four friends together is much easier with online play. The SNES Tournament Fighters was chosen as it is the most beloved of the competitive games. Finally, Hyperstone Heist was chosen for the Genesis fans, and [it's] an excellent beat ‘em up!

Co-Optimus: The Cowabunga Collection contains three different versions of TMNT: Tournament Fighters, a one-on-one fighting game. Just how different are these three versions, and do you prefer one over the others?

Charles Murakami: The three Tournament Fighters play completely differently. Not only do each have their own fighters, characters like Leonardo have unique move sets in each game. Also, Tournament Fighters for the NES is historically important as it is the final game Konami released for the system. I’m looking forward to seeing players try it out.

TMNT Hyperstone Heist Sega Genesis

TMNT: Hyperstone Heist (Sega Genesis)

Co-Optimus: Earlier, you mentioned TMNT: Hyperstone Heist, a 2-player cooperative beat ‘em up that was originally released on Sega Genesis. How does Hyperstone Heist compare to the better-known TMNT IV: Turtles in Time?

Charles Murakami: Both Hyperstone Heist and Turtles in Time are timeless classics. Hyperstone Heist is a faster game and includes the first appearance of Tatsu [Shredder's second-in-command in the original TMNT films -ed.] in a video game. Both games take themes from the comics and animated show with Turtles in Time introducing time travel and Hyperstone Heist bringing magical artifacts.

Co-Optimus: Thanks for the comparison. Given Konami’s grand history of TMNT arcade games, has there been any interest in a potential home arcade version of The Cowabunga Collection from Arcade1Up or iiRcade?

Charles Murakami: As far as I know, we haven’t been approached to bring The Cowabunga Collection to more platforms. But I’m always happy to bring it to as many fans as possible.

TMNT The Cowabunga Collection Strategy Guide Map

Co-Optimus: Finally, is there anything you’re proud of about The Cowabunga Collection that we haven’t already touched upon?

Charles Murakami: In addition to the games, we have a very extensive museum we call the "Turtles’ Lair." Digital Eclipse did an outstanding job including soundtracks, advertisements, strategy guides and hundreds of pages of never-before-seen design docs for the games! With help from Nickelodeon, the museum includes screens from the various TMNT animated shows and comic book covers from IDW. If you want to know where all the various characters originate from, the collection is great place to start!

Chris Kohler: The “Interactive Strategy Guide” is an all-new digital strategy guide that we created just for this release, and it’s full of secret codes, fighting game move lists, locations of secret bonus areas, maps, and more, all laid out like a vintage gaming magazine from the 1990s. The “interactive” part is that what appear to be screenshots, often turn out to be videos that you can view to watch the strats in action. This is an extension of our Watch Mode technology, in which you can view an emulated playthrough of the game and jump in at any time to start playing yourself. It’s just another tool in your belt that you can use to master these games—or just cheat your way right through them, which is also perfectly acceptable.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is due out on Tuesday, August 30. It will be released physically and digitally on Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch; and digitally on Steam. The price will be $39.99, and there will be a limited edition as well. In the meantime, check out our co-op review of TMNT: Shredder's Revenge!