Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review
The oldest entry in the Green Team's video game legacy is still one of the best!
Note: This is the first in a series of Retro Reviews called “Best Old School Games EVER” from TGS.
To coincide with the release of the new brawler Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up, it’s a perfect time to examine the “heroes-in-a-half-shell’s” video gaming roots. Twenty years ago, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the Nintendo Entertainment System made history by becoming one of the highest-selling NES games of all time. Due to the TMNT craze, what with the original cartoon, vastly successful toy line, multiple comic book series, and live action motion picture adaptation, the game went on to sell more than 4 million copies and rake in $125 million for publisher Ultra Games (owned by parent company Konami).
So does TMNT live up to the hype? Opinions widely vary. Some vilify the game for seemingly having little to do with the 80’s cartoon series upon which it is based, for lacking the multi-player side-scrolling brawler action that became the norm for future games in the series, and for its brutal difficulty; other die-hard Ninja Turtles fans like myself see it as one of the greatest video games of all time. Who’s right?
I will be the first to admit that the game contains only a few elements of the cartoon: health is restored by finding pizza slices, villains Bebop and Rocksteady are first level bosses, Splinter is originally a human turned into a mutant rat, and the final level takes place in the huge mobile fortress the Technodrome. It appears the designers took many notes from the original gritty, violent Mirage Studios comics, which many people have no idea even exist. Prime example: The box artwork by Michael Dooney features all four Turtles wearing red masks in a scene taken directly from Issue #4. Yes, the game is one-player, with the player switching between the four Turtles. And yes, it is one of the hardest NES games ever (remember when video games were hard?).
But it’s still one of the best.
The game rocks from the very beginning when the fast, beat-driven title screen music starts up; the player is treated to awesome visuals of the Turtles mutating from helpless pet reptiles to butt-kicking warriors, throwing out rapid-fire displays of their weapons skills. It is quickly apparent that the quest to rescue April from the evil Shredder is no light-hearted romp; this is war.