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SummaryThey really kowa-bungled this one.
The GoodOk, so I'll admit I was not a huge Turtles fan when they were all the rage, which is the same time that this game was released. Still, I did watch the animated TV show sometimes, and it could be entertaining enough. The promise of a good game with a popular license appealed to me back then just as it does now, so I was looking forward to the release of this game on the NES. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment back then, and it continues to disappoint after all these years.
The game’s basic concept is good: put all four Turtles (and their different weapons) at the player’s disposal, and force the player to swap them out and play them one at a time. It feels a bit awkward at first, but you get used to it, and it gives the game a surprising RPG quality. There is significant strategy involved, as you need to select a Turtle based not only on the weapons you want to use in a given scenario, but also based on his remaining health. You may want to use Leonardo, but if he’s at death’s door, you’ll need to call on another Turtle and hope he gets the job done.
The BadOnce we get beyond concept to execution, things start to go downhill pretty fast.
The graphics are unimpressive. Yes, the Turtles and their enemies are represented by nice, large sprites. This comes at a price, however, and the tradeoff is not worth it. There is far too much flicker and slowdown when you get more than a 4-5 character sprites onscreen at the same time. The combat animations are also quite slow, which further detracts from the uninspired gameplay.
The sound effects are adequate but nothing to write home about. The music is all-too-typical NES fare. It’s catchy, memorable, and incredibly annoying. Still, I give the programmers credit for getting in a decent rendition of the Turtles theme song. Too bad we don’t hear it more often.
Sub-par graphics and sound aside, this game sinks like a stone due to aggravating and unsatisfying gameplay. The Turtles do not control like teenage ninjas here. They do not dart, slash, or soar gracefully through the air. Instead, they slowly lumber around like a bunch of card-carrying AARP members. They are too sluggish when you command them to attack with their basic weapons. Hit detection is pretty sloppy, and the fairly frequent flicker/slowdown makes the problem even worse.
Worst of all, the hack-and-slash action of later TMNT titles is largely absent here, replaced instead with some highly frustrating platform jumping. Because your Turtles are not especially agile, and because they are almost always forced to operate in tight quarters (there is little-to-no headroom in the buildings and sewers), you will have to attempt even fairly short, easy-looking chasm jumps multiple times.
When you fail, you fall. When you fall, you have to fight your way back to your previous position, with all of the recently vanquished enemies having fully regenerated. Sometimes you have to repeat one jump before you can repeat the one you missed before, and if you miss that one, you get set even farther back. Yuck. This is not the best way to add replay value to a game—especially when the game isn’t much fun to play in the first place.
There are some underwater bomb-defusing sequences which break up the monotony of the 2D platforming bits, but they offer up their own set of frustrations and disappointments. The variety helps, to be sure, but it’s not nearly enough to save this game. When you aren’t having fun with a game, the path of least resistance is to quit playing it. That’s what I did with TMNT, and I bet you will do the same.