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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Mumm-Ra (382)
Written on  :  Oct 19, 2004
Platform  :  NES
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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The original TMNT game!

The Good

Not much has remained of the Ninja Turtles -the heroes in a half shack - these days (at least of the original ones, as there is a new version of them). But back to the late 80s and early 90s, they were all the rage! They were one of the symbols of a time which, although far from perfect, had its own magic (which is probably lost somewhere). Well, don't you remember them? This US$ 4 billion franchise had its own comics, cartoons, toys and even movies. Yes, movies! TMNT was crap, but also a huge success in 1990. It was a kind of turtlemania. And, of course, there was a game.

This one we're talking about is the biggest turtle game. Not because it's the best, and it probably is; but mainly because it was the biggest title to be released that year. Let's face it. TMTN was released for Arcades in 1989. Konami took advantage of the huge success of the TV cartoon and produced a really good game. It was released on the right time. It had the traditional Double Dragon style (which we don't find in games anymore): a platform side-scrolling fighting game. But it had very beautiful, colored graphics, much better than anything else. The song reminded the cartoon. And it was possible to play with 4 characters simultaneously. The gameplay was great and the action was fast. The game was a hit, a huge hit, and it made Konami huge, more than any other of its titles (such as Contra or Castlevania). There was also a TMNT game for NES, released in 1989, which was totally different.

It took one year for Konami to release the original TMTN game for a video game console. The chosen one was not Sega Genesis, which was at the beginning (and would be the logic choice to port such a game). It was the largely popular NES, although many would consider impossible to do such a transition from the Arcades. Konami put a lot of effort in producing this one and it became one of the hottest titles of the year, as well as Super Mario Bros. 3.

TMTN 2: The Arcade Game was released in 1990, the same year as the movie, and it also proved to be a blockbuster. The 4 Megabits cartridge was a very good conversion of the Arcade. It could not have been perfect, because the original version used a 16-bit processor and far more colors than NES could support. But Konami did miracles using the limited NES capabilities. The game would beat many Sega Genesis games of the time, both in technical aspects and gameplay.

The graphics were simply great, better than any other 8-bit game. Konami did a great work here with 4 Megabits. The sprites were very big for NES and they moved fluently. The level of detail was fantastic for the time and could beat even early Sega Genesis games. The four turtles were perfectly recognizable and so were the enemies, such as the Foot Clan soldiers. Some details would amaze: the turtles had only two fingers on each foot, and that could be seen on the game! The bosses (Bebop, Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman, Krang, Shredder and others) used very big sprites for the time. Backgrounds were also very good: even paintings could be seen on the walls! On the first stage (the burning building), the flames of fire just seemed to dance to the sound of urgency!

Music was the same of the cartoon and was as good as NES could provide. They gave the perfect atmosphere to the game. The sound effects were also really nice.

Gameplay was exactly the same as of the Arcade. With one single exception, maybe: it was possible to play with two simultaneous characters (instead of 4). But it was great even so (I don't think NES could handle 4 turtles in the screen at the same time using big sprites). The 2-button NES gamepad fitted perfectly for a very nice conversion of the Arcade gameplay. It was not only jump and attack, but also the combinations of A and B buttons turned into different moves. It may seem a little obvious these days, but it absolutely wasn't back in 1990. The characters could also interfere with other elements of the screen (such as barrels and cars). Sometimes it would appear a pizza to recover the turtles energy and sometimes one of them would fall in a hole on the floor! Action was fast (not as fast as the Arcade). It consisted basically in beating everything that appeared on the screen. And it was great! The gameplay was so good Konami kept it for the upcoming Turtles titles, including the SNES and Genesis versions.

The game was not short and Konami included some levels which did not exist in the original Arcade version, so the game became even longer. It would take one hour or one hour and a half to reach the end. But you could not get tired of playing. It had some sort of indescribable magic most games lack.

And the game was not easy and not difficult. It had just the perfect difficulty level. It seemed Konami lost its touch in the following games, as they were far easier (and shorter) than this.

It was a stupendous game for the time. TMNT 3, released a year later, had improved graphics and gameplay and provided a deeper experience, but was built on the same TMNT 2 basis. Plus, the levels were not so nice and the Turtlemania was not at its peak anymore. And the third game was far from revolutionary.

To sum it up, it may not be the best TMNT game, but it is the most important one.

The Bad

For a NES game, it was quite perfect. Nothing to complain about gameplay, which was great.

Graphics lacked colors. OK, NES has a limited color palette. And most of the stages were quite colorful. But the bosses were in black and white, while they were full of colors in the Arcade version. The NES graphics looked like a pastel color version of the Arcade. The game feels like somewhat monochromatic.

There was no difficulty level to choose from. This may be annoying for beginners, who think the game is too hard, and for experts, for whom it is too easy.

The game may be too long for some. It took over an hour to reach the end. OK, it's a plus, I agree, but some people may find it too much.

And it may sound too repetitive. All you have to do is kill Foot Clan soldiers, which do not stop appearing. There are other enemies, such as mechanical rats and robots, but you also have to kill them. And then, at the end, you have to kill the bosses. You keep beating and killing until you reach the Technodrome and face Krang. What do you do? You beat him and then you confront Shredder. For what? To defeat him. Although it is great, it may not please everybody. Some people may actually find it really boring.

Finally, the game is dated. Who remebers TMNT? Lots of people, because of the new series. But the game is based on the old cartoon (which was far more successful) and the whole idea was much more adequated in 1990s than in 2000s. It is not a timeless Disney concept. The turtle appeal is not there anymore.

The Bottom Line

TRUE CLASSIC. This is the legendary turtles game, which marked a whole era of video games.