Video Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

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Throughout the late eighties and early nineties, children everywhere were completely engrossed in the universe of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The Ninja Turtles' humble beginning started in the pulpy pages of graphic novels.  Once the Turtles progressed to action figures, turtle fever swept the country.  From there, a cartoon was produced (by the astounding DIC Entertainment), and thousands of products were slathered with the mugs of the four turtles.   As awesome as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are, not every piece of Turtles merchandise was "tubular."  The original TMNT game for the Nintendo Entertainment System is one of those sub-par pieces of licensed merch.  You may be asking, "How could they screw up such an easy home run?"  Well...

Just a normal, calm day as a Ninja Turtle...

Story:  As per usual with the NES, the story is pretty simple, although each mission has a different objective.  In the first mission, you must save April from the clutches of Bebop and Rocksteady.  In the second mission, the Turtles must disarm bombs planted on a dam in the waters of the Hudson River.  Splinter needs rescuing during the third mission.  Missions four and five see you locating the Turtle blimp and the Technodrome.  In the final mission, you fight your way through the Technodrome to find and defeat Shredder.  One of the oddest things about the game is the absence of some big-name enemies.  No Krang, Rat King, or Baxtor Stockman!  This game was produced two years after the debut of the television series, so there isn't much excuse to leave out a revered villain such as Krang.  Especially since much of the game takes place in Krang's domain, the Technodrome!

...and also a bunch of insects and aliens...

Graphics:  This game holds up fairly well graphically for a late-eighties NES title.  There are a fair amount of bright colors and you can (generally) tell what the enemies and surroundings are supposed to be (the insect enemies look like insects, you can tell where you can and can't walk, etc).  However, one of the game's largest problems lies with a certain flickering that occurs when there are an inordinate amount of characters on the screen.  TMNT can really tax the memory of the Nintendo, much like it has taxed my own memory...*rimshot*

Don't hang your head in shame at me, Mikey-boy...

Sound:  TMNT contains some pretty up-beat and catchy tunes.  The songs are short in numbers and in length, though.  At some point, your girlfriend/boyfriend/mom is going to mute it away.

Control & Gameplay:  If there is an area where TNMT stands out it is in the controls.  In fact, the jump feature may be a more important tool than the turtles' actual weapons.  In this game, avoiding your enemy is just as important as attacking them.  You're given a great deal of control in your jumping ability, which is necessary because there is shit flying EVERYWHERE.  Yes, instead of planning a smart enemy layout (Ala the Mega Man series), the programmers decided to throw as many enemies on the screen as the NES memory would allow.  This is not an exaggeration, folks.  There are times when the game practically slows to a crawl and the characters on the screen flicker because the game bogs the system down.  Of course, slicing through said enemies can loosen the glitches up a bit, and once you do that, you'll find out that not all of the Turtles were created equal.

Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello can all be controlled, each with their signature weapon in tow.  You may switch back and forth between turtles on the pause screen, which is useful in order to keep from completely losing a turtle.  I found this feature necessary, as you will need to apply some strategy in order to keep the best turtles longer.  Now, by "best" I mean the two most useful.  Raph's sai have the shortest range and he almost always takes damage while dealing out damage.  He's pretty much "cannon fodder."  Michelangelo has a range only slightly better than Raph, so he would be next to go.  Leo's katana has a decent range and he can swing it fast, much like a metal-head's hair.  Don's staff has the longest range (wo-oh!), but it's the slowest to use. 

"I'm gonna steadily rock this staff in your f*cking skull."

Most of your time will be spent in the side-scrolling, platforming portions of the missions.  As you hack your way through low-level enemies, you may notice that this game has a serious case of Ninja Gaiden Disease.  That's right, the enemies regenerate.  Every time I missed a jump and had to go back through an area, I daydreamed about pulling my kneepad down and knee-dropping my NES, Ric Flair-style.  (I'm kidding.  I didn't have kneepads then.)

Its kinda like this...

Once you weather the low-rent bad guys and make the jumps to get through the levels you will find that the bosses are...surprisingly easy to deal with.  They all have a basic trick or place to stand in order to easily dispose of them.  (Don't stand in front of Bebop, stand on the ledge with Donatello for Rocksteady, use the ridiculously overpowered Kiai scroll weapon on the Mecha-turtle, stand between the eyes of the Mech-mouser with Don, and use the Kiai on the Technodrome and Shredder.)

I've found that many people, even still to this day, cannot diffuse all of the bombs strapped to the Hudson river dam.  You will need a little finesse with the controls to live through the second mission, and due to the electrified eel plants, you will take some damage.  My strategy was always to save Raphael for this part (see fodder, cannon). 

"F*ck this.  Send in Ralph!"

The second mission is potentially the most difficult of the game, yet I feel it is the best part of the game.  It is difficult, but its the kind of difficult that leaves you with a sense of accomplishment when you succeed.

I just wanted to show you guys that I could do it.

Fun Factor:  This game CAN be fun, its just that the frustration usually far outweighs the fun. 

It outweighs it by about this much...

I would suggest visiting only the essential buildings and manholes in order to beat the game.  After that, give the extra areas a try on a second playthrough.  Be forewarned, you will give up more life chasing after a slice of pizza then you will gain by actually eating it.

The Verdict:  Well, it is definitely not the worst Nintendo game on the market.  Unless you love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and/or are looking for a nostalgia kick, then it might be best to put the controller down for this one.

Rating: out of

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