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Retro Review : Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Konami - NES 

When most gamers talk about the retro TMNT  games, we always talk about how much we loved TMNT4:Turtles in Time for the SNES, but we often over look the first 3 Konami titles.

Why? Well, because they weren’t all that good…..

TMNT 2 for the nes was fun, but the Arcade version was way better, and 3 felt a little dull and repetitive. They were still fun games, but they weren’t balanced for 1 person play, and even with co-op the difficulty curve was steep. This goes back to a problem that a lot of arcade ports had in the retro years. The problem was that the ports often had limited continues and lives. So, unlike in arcades where if the game beat your ass, you just dropped in another quarter and picked up from where you died, with consoles when you died, it was back to stage one. 

Now, the difference between TMNT 1 and its 2 NES sequels was that it was a 2D action side scroller, not a beat um up.  


In the game, you were able to switch on the fly between the 4 turtles; each wielding their trademark weapon. Leonardo’s Katanas had decent range but were a little slow. Michelangelo’s nunchucks had medium range and fast speed. Raphael’s Si’s were very short range but had extreme speed, and my personal fav Donatello’s Bo was a bit slow but had great reach and was twice was strong as the other weapons. You also could find a number of side weapons throughout the game from random enemies. You had ninja stars (1 or 3 star bursts), flying blade attacks and boomerangs.  

Tip - The boomerang was the only sub weapon that came back to you when used and if you wanted to split them up between the brothers there is a little trick. You can throw up to 3 at a time, so once you throw them press start and switch to another turtle. The boomerangs will return to the new turtle and he will now be able to use the ones he catches himself.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this game was the graphics. The sprites were very clean and well detailed for the most part ( some enemies were a bit blurry, mainly the Mousers), and the overall style of the game was really nice. Cool enemy designs, and nice level detail and use of color made the game very visually pleasing. The game also switched between an overhead view for the exploration bits and vehicle sections (seriously, driving around in the Turtle Van was boss) to the standard side scrolling play for the action and boss sections. I also loved the soundtrack for the game. The music was really catchy and had a nice energy to it. 

Now, this is the problem…the game sucks. The game was just poorly designed. The levels were confusing, many of the buildings didn’t need to be entered to progress and are just there to lead you into a huge fight that left you with no reward. The game also had this habit of randomly changing the types of enemies that you fought. To explain what I mean, the game had 3 sets of basic enemies. There was the Purple team (foot clan, Mousers, flies, etc), the Yellow Team (ufo like enemies, strong chainsaw psychos, fire monsters that split into smaller fire monsters,and crouching ninjas that were invulnerable while crouching) and the Douche team ( dive bombing moths, frog mutants, bomb balloons and enemies whose heads flew off and attacked you in diagonal sweeps once you hit them). The first few stages mainly used the Purple team, which were medium strength enemies, but from there on the games would throw the other 2 enemy types at you and often switched the types mid level. These other 2 teams are all very strong enemies with very different attack patterns, and the fact that they change at random makes it impossible to prepare for the next scene. 

Also, going back to level designs for a moment, there was this one level that has become infamous with retro gamers.  

Oh yeah….that one.

Now, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, after beating the first 2 midbosses Rocksteady and Be-Bop, you went on a mission to defuse some bombs that threatened to blow up a dam. This level is hated by many, and is so infamous that a homage to it has been put in a new Wiiware/XBLA download called Retro City Rampage, because of the obstacles that are set between you and the bombs.  

Electrified seaweed tunnels, instant kill vines, electrified beams, spinning bars, and the biggest obstacle of all, the awful swimming controls. This level haunted my childhood. I actually played the game so much as a kid that I eventually was able to navigate the level taking almost no damage, but this level is still too this day one of the cheapest things I have ever encountered in gaming.

The rest of the game wasn’t much easier. If you were actually able to make it all the way to the Technodrome, you will find jetpack enemies that hover just above your reach and continuously pepper you with gunfire, and long lines of other projectile firing enemies that make victory more luck then skill.

And honestly, I don’t even wanna talk about how completely insane and nonsensical the ending cut scene is… 

Tmnt for NES isn’t the worst game on the system by far, and it can still be fun to play, but suffers from so many little problems and sloppy design that it often becomes too tedious to enjoy. It’s sad, since that game had some really cool ideas that if properly applied could have made a great game. Much like other NES titles from Konami like Simon’s Quest and the Metal Gear ports, the good is just far too outweighed by the bad. Although the games introduced some original and interesting concepts that were often used in later games to great success, the games themselves just felt incomplete. 

If you ever get the chance, give it a play. It’s still a neat game and you may have some fun with it, but really, no rush guys. I wouldn’t make playing this game anytime soon a top priority. 


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