“This is no brain-heavy strategy title, nor a story-driven role-playing game; make no mistake, this is a constant, grinding, slash-and-hack beater through and through. Robots, creatures, aliens, and other big baddies galore launch a full-scale assault on the Turtle heroes throughout the entirety of the game.”
– excerpt from the full review, which can be read here.
The TMNT video games on the NES have, from what I can tell, gained a bad rap throughout the years. The original game has actually probably managed relatively well, considering its newfound spotlight in an AVGN video, and the emerging trend of it being chic to defend the game as being a classic once you get past the underwater stage.
The other two games, however, history has been less kind to. I believe I can understand why, though: the second title, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, occupies a very unique point in gaming history. It is a port of a beloved arcade cabinet; but, in being somewhat watered down, the retro fans of the original arcade unit do not like the game. Yet, outside of the retro scene, very few modern gamers would bother to find merit in the title either. Fans of the second game, therefore, fall into a unique demographic, like me, for the most part – players who enjoyed the arcade game but had no especially special attachment to its distinct iteration, who possibly were fans of the Turtles also, and just liked a solid beat-’em-up.
By the time the third game emerged, it is very reasonable to see it as “wow, another Turtles-licensed game?” and dismiss it as a late attempt at squeezing another dollar out of the TMNT franchise turnip. While the series has its fans, sure, I sometimes cringe to hear these titles viciously attacked by others – as lifeless, as uninspired, as unoriginal, as boring, etc.
But, dangit, I really like TMNT3. Go ahead and blame my once-upon-a-time fandom for all things TMNT, go ahead and blame the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia as I recall many fond hours (and hours, and hours!) spent playing this game, go ahead and blame me being a Nintendo fanboy/homer, whatever, but I am fond of this game, and here is two more reasons why that I do not even mention in the full review:
1) If you like beat-’em-ups, this is a solid example. This is a difficult fact to dispute. What element of this title does not shine among its beater cohorts? Sure, there were better examples, but there were much worse as well. Play Toxic Crusaders, then play TMNT3. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Thing is, Toxic Crusaders isn’t even that terrible of a game, but TMNT3 clearly outshines it on the side-scrolling pantheon. That’s just one instance.
2) Quick story time: I still play NES games (obviously?) and love firing up the ol’ toaster console unit. I have some retro gaming friends as well. I was visiting one of them a while back, and we ended up playing NES until late in the night. Among the titles we played was TMNT3. I think Contra may have been the best playthrough we had, sure, but amidst the tactical back-and-forth of teamwork, the laughs, the cheap beers, the non-stop action, and the ultimate defeat at the hands of Super Shredder and the vow to return one day for our revenge… in that pure, actual experience, actually playing the game, I cannot see how someone can hate it as much as I hear some do.
Okay, perhaps all of that rhetoric was way too defensive and might raise a few eyebrows. But, really, my point is this: TMNT3 is a solid, beefy game I would definitely recommend for fans of the NES, and especially for fans of the beat-’em-up, and one that I have fondly enjoyed time and time again throughout the years. This was a review I considered waiting a while to unleash but, what the heck, it felt right today.
NES Gameplay Tips for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project: Oh man, where to begin? I have no organized plan for this, so I am literally going to improvise here and just list little things as I think of them.
1) Reach matters, and both Leonardo and Donatello have a noticeably, quantifiably superior reach. One easy-to-see example: You know those triple-shot cannons in the near-background of the submarine surface level after the surfboarding? Both Leonardo and Donatello can, if you are careful, inch close to them and eventually be able to hit them without getting shot. If Raph or Mike try, they get their face blown off (which, of course, in TMNT game tradition just means one notch off the health bar).
2) Raphael’s special move, with its rapid speed and long reach, is the best – but Leonardo’s is useful as well, since it reaches in all directions and can hit certain bosses multiple times with each use. The specials are situational, with even Michaelangelo’s coming in handy for certain portions where pesky flying enemies may pose more harm to a player than the health used for the specials. But, really, you should probably just learn how to deal with the hovering guys.
3) When you have one health left, spam your special. Using the special can decrease your health, but it cannot kill you. Use it use it use it use it use it use it use it. Half the time, this is how you are likely to kill a boss.
4) At the point where the Turtles jump 2,000 feet into the air to get onto the floating Manhattan Island (what an awesome cutscene), as you are walking along the road, stay on the lower portion (other than the parts where doing so would make you fall into a bottomless pit, obviously) in order to avoid being run over by the enormous (seriously, among the biggest sprites ever animated on the NES – granted, just scrolling across, not really moving per part) vehicles that ride along. Getting chain-hit 2-3 times by one of them can be devastating.
5) Walking along the latter part of the beach level, at that one instance when several holes suddenly open up beneath the Turtles? If you cannot memorize the locations of the openings, just jump into the air when they start flying open. They are narrow enough that you always have enough time in mid-air to adjust for a safe landing.
6) I will not spoil it here, but there is a version of the Konami code that grants more lives and stage select, if you are that kind of gamer. Just sayin’.
7) Okay, that bull-rush boss, the one at the end of the submarine level after the surfboarding? I should probably post a video sometime to make this as clear as possible, but listen: It is possible to jump-kick him across the top of his back, at an angle, when he is charging, and do so without harming yourself. In fact, if you get the rhythm down, you can do this even when he is rapidly charging back and forth, inflicting damage on him with each pass but without taking damage yourself. If you are patient, you can even abuse this by only attacking him then and avoiding him while he is swinging the pipe. As the Mortal Kombat announcer would say, “Flawless Victory!”
8 ) Different attacks earn different amounts of points. While it is easy to dispatch of the foot clan robo-ninjas with the overhead throw move, keep in mind the extra lives that can be earned at certain intervals of 50,000 points.
9) Assume every boss has a projectile attack, even when it looks like they should not. It might be a beam from their helment, a sudden gun they pull out, or some other contrived improvised weapon, but do not remain right in front of them and keep moving. Making the mistake of standing right in front of them might earn you a one-hit kill in the Super Shredder fight.
10) When the mousers start pouring out of the wall, hit them one at a time as they first pop up, instantly killing them and not allowing them to start hopping around in a horde. For this reason alone, it is probably worthwhile to walk along the top of the level during the sewer portion, and when the wall starts a-cracking, head over to it right away.
11) Leatherhead, the crocodile boss with the shotgun – Jump kick the crap out of him. He tends to whip his tail right away if you attack up close, so stick and move. Once you find the proper rhythm, he really is not that difficult – especially since you get a health-restoring pizza slice just before his fight.
12) This game has lots of great little in-game quirks and humorous creativity. Two examples: First of all, see that screenshot above, with the statues that look like foot soldiers? Yeah, a couple of them come alive. How whimsical. And, secondly, in one cutscene, Shredder is insultingly referred to as “that bogart Shredder.” Bogart! Who says that?! Lol! Seriously, this is not even a gameplay tip, I just wanted to point it out. Perhaps the tip is this: Appreciate the nuanced touches the developers put into this game to really make it excel and not just a cookie-cutter license title.
13) When it comes to the sudden variety of new enemies in the Technodrome, all I can say is that practice makes perfect, each has their own weakness, and repeated plays will make defeating them become second-hand nature. Good luck. I will just say that some of the enemies are just plain cool, from the little four-legged laser-shooting bots that hatch from invincible eggs you can knock across the screen, to the crazy pistol-wielding robots that actually jump back when you try to hit them (approach from a diagonal).
14) Speaking of the Technodrome level, you know those little helicopter robots that shoot lasers after emerging from the two television screens? You can totally hit their laser shots. Seriously, if your timing is right (it is not supremely difficult), you can actually hit the laser in mid-air and make it harmlessly explode. Perhaps that is another little video I need to make.
15) One last tip for the Technodrome: Do not approach the final door directly, as it will burst forward across the screen and hit you before the boss battle. This is such a cheap tactic of the Shredder. But, once Rahzer (spelling?) actually appears, keep this trick in mind: If you are on the far-left side of the screen, somewhat in line with him, you will not be hit when he starts moving up and down and spitting freeze rays (seriously, the bosses in this game have the most bizarre, unpredictable-unless-previously-encountered attacks), but you will be able to hit him if you position yourself right.
16) Tokka (rooftop boss between Technodrome and spaceship after the elevator portion – what a crazy game) cannot take you. Just get in there, get close, and treat it like a gritty boxing match.
17) Krang and Super Shredder are cheap cheesy turds. Good luck.