It’s hard to believe that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around for almost 40 years now. What started as a passion parody project from the once-unknown duo of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird turned into a ubiquitous multi-billion-dollar franchise. If you have read a comic, watched TV, visited theaters, or played a video game, chances are you’re familiar with the heroes in a half-shell to some extent. Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, Raphael is cool but rude, and Michelangelo is a party dude.
Despite being a concept that is both simple and ridiculous, it works. The Ninja Turtles have appeared in many mediums, supporting different tones, art styles, voice actors, and writing hands. Some versions are lighter and funnier than others, while some are darker and more adult-oriented than you would expect. The 2012 CGI series, which aired on Nickelodeon, is my favorite version. It skillfully blended a serious tone and mature themes with snarky jokes and lovable characters, all while supporting a distinctive visual style.
However, a story that might take the cake as my favorite TMNT story ever, as it sucked me in and made sure I couldn't put it down, is The Last Ronin. Released between October 2020 and April 2022, the mini-series describes the efforts of the last remaining turtle going on a dangerous mission to avenge his fallen brothers and sensei. Starting from Eastman and Laird’s original intention for a conclusive storyline, it grew into a dark, emotionally charged, tightly written narrative with stunning illustrations. Although it may serve as an alternate future for the IDW comics, it stands out as an incredible and heart-wrenching story I recommend to every fan.
The Last Ronin was a success and even received a hybrid of a sequel and a midquel series titled Lost Years, which was just as gripping as the original. The creators are working on an official sequel that may be released by the time this story is published. However, what I found surprising was the announcement of a video game based on the story. We know very little about it aside from a small teaser; there’s no gameplay footage, release window, or even screenshots. Without a doubt, this game is at least a few years away.
But as a fan of the turtles and the storyline, I felt like sharing my predictions and personal hopes for this upcoming game.
What we know so far...
Let’s start with what we actually know about the game, as little as it is.
To begin, I must commend the short teaser that announced the game’s development. While it shows no gameplay and is barely a cutscene, it effectively presents the idea that three of the turtles are gone, leaving the last one determined to avenge them.
A candle symbolizes each turtle, slowly dimming until only one remains lit. The backdrop shows the demise of each turtle. Water engulfs the screen as the first candle fades, a reference to Raphael’s drowning in battle against Karai. Fire takes over the screen as the second candle fades, symbolizing Leonardo’s end in an explosion. The third candle’s dwindling time is shown through falling arrows, mirroring the fate of Donatello and Splinter, both impaled.
These little touches show that there’s not only love for the source material but that they’re intent on keeping true to it as much as they can. The details are minimal but effective. Whether or not you’ve read the comic, you can’t help but wonder about the significance behind those visuals—beyond the simple fact that only one turtle remains to take on the fight.
Concept art for The Last Ronin was also revealed, showing the Turtle squaring up against new foot-bots in a dark, cyberpunk version of New York. The trailer does not make clear what the story is or reveal the identity of the surviving turtle as Michelangelo, which makes me think it’s going to be a straightforward adaptation with little deviation. No need to spoil what the newcomers don’t know, right?
These little touches show that there’s not only love for the source material but that they’re intent on keeping true to it as much as they can.
The development of The Last Ronin is in the hands of Black Forest Games, with its parent company THQ Nordic set to publish the game. While I’m familiar with some of Black Forest’s works over the years, it’s sadly by name only as I have played none of them myself. However, most of their past titles seem to be in the action-adventure genre, as well as containing RPG elements. Given that they describe the game as an action RPG, in a similar vein to 2018’s God of War, the company is in familiar territory.
While their resume is not excellent in terms of critical reception (again, no personal experience with their games myself), it’s also far from terrible. In fact, Black Forest made a Bubsy game which isn't bad based on what I’ve heard. Hey, that’s an achievement if I’ve ever seen one!
One game I did play is 2018’s God of War, and its sequel, God of War Ragnarök. Seeing these games cited as the direction for The Last Ronin makes sense. Michelangelo and Kratos go through similar arcs in both of their adventures, both grappling with their tragic pasts and having to brave them to achieve their goals. Michelangelo also sports a much more masculine and wider body shape in the comic, which translates well to Kratos’s physique. Add to this the fact that, much like Kratos, Mikey masters all his brothers’ signature weapons alongside his reliable nunchucks, and we have a solid base for what we might expect from the gameplay.
In no way do I want this game to be a direct God of War clone. However, considering the type of stories both games have, the potential big arsenal of weapons, and similar character types, what is to be expected out of a Last Ronin game?
Black Forest picked the best blueprint to base this game around and it leaves me with a positive feeling about the direction we are heading in. All I can hope for is that they receive the time and budget to bring their envisioned game to life!
Besides the information we already have, I also have thoughts on what they should include in the game in order to pay homage to the comics. I am not implying the following predictions will happen for certain, I’m just sharing what I would like to see as a fan of the Turtles and the specific plotline.
The Last Ronin's story involves a lot of flashbacks and jumping between time periods. Michelangelo’s one-turtle war on Shredder’s grandson, Hiroto, only comprises three main action sequences in the comic. While there’s nothing wrong with less action for good storytelling in a comic book, video games rely on the action scenes.
They will most likely expand many of the sequences from the comic, and in my opinion, the flashbacks will serve the purpose of not only letting us experience the intense fights from the comic but also allowing us to play as all four turtles.
A four-player co-op multiplayer will not be available in this game because of the nature of the story. I think it’s a safe assumption to make, considering only one turtle is alive during the main events of the story. Admittedly, I was thinking of having the other three siblings playable as the illusions Michelangelo argues with during the comic, but it wouldn’t make much sense and might detract from the serious tone of the book. Hence, I believe it would be a fantastic idea to have full sequences where players take on the roles of the other turtles during their respective last battles.
Putting these sequences in the game will keep fans who have Leonardo, Donatello, or Raphael as their favorite turtle from feeling excluded from this Michelangelo-focused story. In addition, the opportunity to play their last missions can heighten the impact of their individual deaths when the moment comes. It can help you better understand each turtle’s weapons, providing needed insight when you return to playing as Mikey. Perhaps those flashback missions can even be the means to unlock the infamous Ronin’s weapons. Having practiced with the other turtles, now it’s time to master and upgrade that specific turtle’s signature weapon.
Besides that, I think they could also take a lot from the Lost Years midquel, as it provides great detail about Michelangelo’s journey after the death of his brothers. Lost Years shows Mikey meeting unique characters, learning and strengthening his craft as a ninja, and eventually taking down a dangerous crime lord before heading to New York to avenge his family.
I’m not entirely sure if those sections would work better as a flashback or as a build-up to the actual Last Ronin story, but they could meaningfully add extra content to the game without dragging out the plot of the original comic.
When thinking of the potential cast for this game, I envision Casey Marie Jones playing an Atreus-like role to Mikey’s Kratos – largely AI-controlled, yet with certain commands to assist. This not only proves helpful but also aligns with their sensei-student dynamic from the comic. Although April’s tech skills might not be useful in the field, she could easily adopt the role of weapons upgrader and gadget maker, serving a purpose in the game while remaining true to her story persona. If scenes from Lost Years are implemented, those sections could feature other characters taking on these roles.
While completely irrelevant and lacking any effect on the game, I believe Greg Cipes could reprise his role as Michelangelo from the 2012 show. I am completely aware this is most likely not going to happen, considering his take on the character does not fit with The Last Ronin’s tone. Yet, strangely enough, I think he has the chops to provide a darker and grittier version of Michelangelo.
This part is nothing more than a dream, but whichever actor ends up taking on the nunchucks, I’m sure they’ll do a great job.
The Last Ronin holds great potential as a video game and has the chance to become the best Ninja Turtles game to date. With a solid base in both story and gameplay, along with a competent developer at the helm, there’s good reason to be excited. While it doesn’t guarantee a great game, there’s plenty to be hopeful about!
Considering we have yet to see anything official about how the game plays, there’s a good chance everything I just discussed will not reflect the final product. I wouldn’t mind being wrong if the game ends up being fantastic and lives up to its source materials. Yet, should the game turn out to be a let down, I’ll lament over the aspects I believe could have been better handled.
To anyone from Black Forest reading this, I wish you the best of luck with this game! Regardless of the final result, I’m more than excited to join my favorite turtle in his last mission to avenge his family. While it might be a few years away at the time of this story, I cannot wait to give this game a resounding “cowabunga”!
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