Wild Speculation: How will the Ninja Turtles play in Injustice 2?

The Ninja Turtles may be Injustice 2’s hypest character reveal yet.

Any child of the '80s or '90s remembers these heroes in the half shell, and if you are a true comic book nerd, you may have even read the original black and white run. Turtle fans may be excited to run these reptilian fighters up against DC’s finest, but how will they play?

Netherrealm has never revealed four characters at once in a fighter pack, leading many to believe that the Turtles are actually going to be combined into one character. There are many options Netherrealm can take when designing the gameplay of these iconic ninjas, so let’s take a look at a few.

Option #1 – All the Ninja Turtles are Separate Characters

This seems to be what everyone is hoping for, but it’s simultaneously the least likely scenario. Making a video game character is a lot of work. It takes a ton of time and money to animate, code, and balance every move. So the idea that Netherrealm created four new characters for the price of one is a longshot. Not to mention, four new character slots would crowd the character selection screen in an unsightly way. I hate to ruin your dreams, but there’s almost no chance that this is what Netherrealm is doing. Sorry.

Option #2 – The Ninja Turtles are Mortal Kombat X Style Variants

Now this is more likely.

Netherrealm made a whole game of “variant” characters with Mortal Kombat X. Each character had three separate fighting styles, which slightly altered their special moves and normals. There was even one character that had four separate fighting styles, Triborg. This gameplay feature seems plausible. The turtles would take up one character selection slot, and will mostly have the same normals and specials. However, the player will be able to choose between Leo, Donny, Raph, and Mikey before the match starts.

At that point, their weapons will likely determine their fighting styles. A forward stabbing normal might be a quick jab with Raph’s short ranged Sai, but a versatile poking tool with Donny’s long range Bo Staff. An overhead swing might be combo filler for Mikey’s spinning Nunchaku, or a mix-up for Leo’s swords. They will likely also have a variety of special moves that are unique to each variation. Raph might throw his Sai, but it would be weird if Leo threw his sword. Gear for the Turtles could then be further specialized, empowering certain turtles over others.

Yes, this does make the Turtles “clone characters,” something that the fighting game community has grown to detest, but in this case, it makes sense. They are brothers after all.

Option #3 – The Ninja Turtles Play Like a Tag Team

In the Injustice 2 Fighter Pack 3 reveal trailer, Leo says “we fight together.” This one offhand quote has exploded into a world of speculation that the Turtles may play like a Tag Team. In this case, each turtle would have their own life bar and move-list, likely taking the form of MKX variants as we described earlier. In this case, the Turtles would all share a special move to either tag into each other, or call in another Turtle as an assist. It’s even possible that this would be their special trait. They would essentially play like a tag fighter in a non-tag game.

This might seem weird to a lot of Injustice fans, but it’s not like there isn’t precedent. Netherrealm programmed in a tag team mode into Mortal Kombat 9. Killer Instinct successfully put a tag character into a non-tag game with Aria. Long story short, this not only could work, but it is also the design choice that would make the Turtles feel most like a cohesive whole.

Option #4 – The Turtles are Really Just Leo

This is perhaps one of the most depressing and uninteresting ways to implement the Turtles, but it’s a real possibility if only because it’s the easiest. In this scenario, players would play as one Turtle (likely Leo) with a full set of normals and all of his specials or special trait moves will involve calling in other turtles from off-screen. This would make the Turtles easiest to play and understand, which is a definite positive, but it would be sacrificing a lot of design potential for the sake of accessibility.

On the upside, this means that you can program in moves and references that you likely couldn’t with any of these other designs. Donny can come in from off-screen driving the turtle van. Mikey could skateboard in with a pizza to heal Leo’s health. Heck, if Netherrealm wanted to, they could program in Casey Jones as a special move. The actual design space here is quite large, even though this would mean the Turtles would play like any other Injustice 2 character with a green coat of paint.

Option #5 – The Ninja Turtles are Random

Here’s an interesting design choice that I’m sure everyone would hate. The Ninja Turtles could be completely random. Once again they would all be slight variants on the same character, with the same normals and, in this case, even the same special moves, with the caveat that the Turtle you’d end up controlling would be completely random. When the opponent manages to drain one of your health bars, your current Turtle would be knocked out and a new Turtle would come in to take his place. In fact, Netherrealm could also design it such that the Turtles would have four shorter health bars, so that you would have to defeat all four Turtles to win. Think of it as a more random version of the system from The King of Fighters.

Option #6 – The Ninja Turtles are a Stance Character

Finally, we come to the option that I want to see implemented, a compromise between all other designs. In this case, the Turtles would all be one character, sharing a standard Injustice 2 health bar. Players would likely start by controlling Leo, since he would be designed as the jack of all trades character. However, the Turtles’ special trait would be to “change stances” into another Turtle, gaining their unique normals and special moves.

This design would allow the Turtles to play similar to the tag design and the variant design outlined above, without any need for wonky health bar management. Players would still get to experience the unique personalities and fighting styles of each Turtle, but they wouldn’t be forced to control a Turtle they didn’t like. This design also opens up space for some really interesting combos. I can imagine a combo that starts with Donny launching the enemy with his pole, only to have Raph come in for an extended juggle. This design is easy to understand but also has a decent amount of personality to it, and it’s the design that I think Netherrealm should and will go for.

Breaking Down the Turtles One by One

Now that we have an idea about how the Turtles might control as a team, we have to wonder how they will they control individually. That’s hard to say, as we haven’t seen a single frame of gameplay, though we can always speculate by comparing them to similar fighting game characters.

Let’s start with Mikey. He is always portrayed as spinning his Nunchaku, which isn’t really how you use that weapon… but let’s just chalk that up to artistic license. Spinning moves like that tend to be multi-hit in fighting games and multi-hit moves point toward two things: combos and pressure. This leads me to believe that Mikey will be the combo monster of the group. He will be able to keep his opponents on block for extended periods of time, and his juggles will be easier because his multi-hitting moves will keep opponents in the air longer. He might have longer start-ups on his moves to compensate and it’s likely that his standard normals and pokes will be some of the worst the team has to offer. Remember Maxi from Soul Calibur? Yeah, me too, unfortunately.

If Mikey is a combo monster, then Raph will probably play as a standard rushdown character. It’s obvious that his Sai will have the shortest range of any of the Turtles, thus he has to compensate with higher speed and damage. Raph’s moves will all be quick and safe, lending themselves to an aggressive playstyle (which also fits with his personality.) While he may not have as much combo potential as Mikey, he will have much more mix-up potential, allowing him to penetrate the opponent’s defenses with quick high-lows and cross-ups. Raph will likely be your go to Turtle if you like to get into the opponents face.

Donny will love playing the footsie game. His staff will give him the greatest range of all the Turtles, and he will have to rely on this range since he will be slower than most. Donny will spend most of the match out-spacing the opponent, using his massive disjointed hit-boxes to prevent them from coming at him and doing damage. If they do get up in his face though, he may not have many tools to get out of it. Donny may also be one of the most mobile Turtles, springing off his Bo Staff in order to leap across the stage and get out of a jam. His archetype will be mostly based on the response. He doesn’t want to get into the opponent’s face. He wants the opponent to screw up and then capitalize on that screw up.

Leo will likely be a compromise between the other Turtles’ fighting styles. Longer reach than Raph and Mikey, but not as fast. Decent range like Donny, but able to play an aggro game. Leo has always been designed as the jack of all trades, and I think that design is going to carry over here. Unfortunately, that may make him the most boring turtle to play. Sorry Leo fans.

What do you think? How do you think the Turtles will control in Injustice 2? Which of the above design options would you like to see implemented? Let us know in the comments.