Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Read the review here.

“This NES video game is arguably rather underrated for its innovation. Not only does it present a viable method for switching between different characters, and making the characters distinct enough to warrant such roster-juggling, but it is also a dynamic experience overall between the platforming action and the overworld traveling, including vehicle portions and simplistic overhead combat. It was also notably the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game to hit the Nintendo Entertainment System.

In fact, that is where its legacy ultimately stands. Although it is a decent game of its own merits, it will always be compared to its sequels, which were multi-player beat-‘em-up classics that more closely resembled the much-beloved TMNT arcade unit. This is, in the end, possibly an unfairly disproportional comparison. Aside from a questionably difficult difficulty level, this original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game for the NES was not as bad as many remember, and offers a better-than-average game.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.

Well, I could pretty much nearly count that excerpt as my commentary (and nearly the whole review too, sheesh), but seriously: A lot of people dislike or even hate this game, yet it is not a bad NES title. I am fully convinced that if 1) this was not a TMNT game with two better sequels and 2) the underwater bomb-disarming level were omitted, this would be regarded as a classic in its own right (echoes of Doki Doki Panic, anyone?).

It’s not one of my favorites, but it would be unfair to mark it down any further just because the sequels are better and the challenge rating is pretty dang high. Let me point out one of the fun aspects of this game that I don’t even mention in the full review (though you should still read that, of course): This is one of those games where repeated play reveals shortcuts and viable tactics for your next continue or attempt. From the pizzas that respawn at certain points to the utter brokenness of Don’s staff, it’s always great to find these neat little tricks you can use to get past a challenging area. Is that not like Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man, Castlevania, or other classics? And no, I’m not saying TMNT is as good as those, but give it another try if you haven’t picked up the controller in a few years.

And if you were one of the people who already liked the original Ninja Turtle NES game; then, uh, great.

6 Responses to “ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ”

  1. I think you’re right, especially about the underwater level. I also would’ve liked to see a password system, personally- if for no other reason than to be able to skip to Level 3 on starting back up…

  2. A brave stance, given how reviled this game generally seems to be. The main thing that bugged me with TMNT was the fact that different enemies would usually spawn in an area each time you entered it, which made planning a way through kind of a crapshoot. Plus they would reappear if you made even the slightest move off screen and came back.

    And, y’know, waterlevelsupremehatred.

  3. That was a great review of the first TMNT NES game you did there, Eric. However, there was one tiny little detail you left out, so allow me to explain it:

    At times this game comes under attack for not reflecting the TMNT 1987 cartoon all that well, especially by Youtube users who inexplicably do commentary with little to no research whatsoever. A quick timeline inspection from director of the first live action TMNT film, Steve Barron, and details from Bey Logan and the Golden Harvest production help clears up some questions and rumors surrounding the game.

    Negotiations for licensing rights began in 1986 with various developers on what was then, an underground comic sensation that had an upcoming toyline and TV miniseries that was not established in mainstream circles yet. When Konami was set to the task of making the game, their design documents and resources from Mirage Studios and Surge Licensing were based on the original TMNT comic by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman and a brief overview of the TV show that debuted in late December 1987. This resulted in the game becoming a hybrid of the original comic and 1987 cartoon series, a bridging of the two very different iterations of TMNT. Barron explains further that when the movie initially began funding and planning, the details on the story was very brief and only had certain scenes, the kidnapping of Splinter and the burning of the antique store. This is why some scenes are shared between the game and the movie despite them being so far apart in release date.

    This fact probably helped the game become the million dollar seller more than what it’s given credit for. The cartoonization of the very gritty reptilian mutants had left the original fanbase disgruntled, to put it mildly, and the 1987 show was as close to a bizarro world as it could be – a bright art style and slapstic humor, essentially a half hour toy commercial, though with a certain amount of heart. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for NES manages to blend elements just so both fanbases can find enjoyment within, and also creates a style unique to the game, for example blending the red clothed Shredder from the Mirage universe with the cartoony sidekicks Rocksteady and Bebop. A complaint that often arises from fans is the cast of enemies, which consists of weird aliens and an ensemble of unknowns. While it’s true the majority of the enemies are completely original, by the time the game was in actual development, the cartoon show simply didn’t feature a very large cast beyond the central figures. The more sci-fi inspired enemies featured does reflect the original comics which featured more science fiction elements due to Laird’s love for the genre. Further bridging was done with the cover art. Though probably more of an accidental move rather than planned marketing, the use of Mike Dooney’s art from the TMNT #4 reprint issue from 1987 drew in the comic book fans with a familiar image, though the red bands across the entire cast of turtles led to a common misperception that the cover was subject to a print error. For those who are only familiar with either the cartoon show or the origin comics might have trouble seeing the true benefit of this game’s content and style. I’m just saying.

  4. @Bahamut — Heh, thanks. I am sure I missed other details, but thank you very much for your informed, thorough insight there. Actually does explain a lot, and lends a whole new interesting wrinkle to perceiving the NES games. Much appreciated.

  5. smeared ink , on February 14th, 2012 at 4:19 am Said:

    Strangely, I don’t mind the bomb-disarming part. I remember finding it hard when I was a kid, but then I think I had a Nintendo Power or something that showed you exactly how to get through that part, and even when I haven’t played it for years, I can bust through there using that exact path. I’m sure I’d hate that part if I were playing it for the first time!

    When it really starts to get hard is after the area with the van collecting missiles and rope (as if that part wasn’t hard enough). So, so hard.

    Boy, TMNT was a weird game.

  6. […] the player can switch back and forth between them at any time, similar to the functionality of the first NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. In this cause, the primary usage is like just to switch to Hawkeye to shoot otherwise […]

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