Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Box Art

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

System: NES

Release Date: June 1989

Developer: Konami

Publisher: Ultra Games

Genre: Action

Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello make their way to the home console with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. One of the hottest properties of, let’s be honest, the past 35 years debuts on the NES. The story begins with Bebop and Rocksteady kidnapping April O’Neill and the fearsome foursome taking it to the streets, sewers, and buildings to get her back.

Action takes place mainly in platforming areas. Here there are weird enemies galore that spawn and respawn and downpour on you at all times. You need to take them out with your ninja weapon of choice. Leonardo wields the katanas. You’d think these would be the strongest of the weapons seeing that they are swords, but no, they’re actually pretty weak. Luckily, Leonardo has some range, which makes him useful. Raphael is equipped with sai which have basically no range. I see the internet talking about how Raph is strong, but I didn’t see it in normal gameplay, I didn’t get a ton of use out of the rude and crude dude. Michelangelo is the fastest turtle, but weak in every other way. He got used when I needed a meat shield to get through an area. The best character is Donatello. His bo staff is the strongest weapon with the greatest range. His attacks may be slow, but the power kills enemies before they can reach you.

The turtles are swarmed by some of the wildest looking enemies. Bugs and mousers are some weak enemies that everyone can kill in one hit. You’ll see hovering robot looking things, sleeping guys, ceiling crawlers, a mutated frog, living flame men, batlike things, eyeballs with legs. That’s just in one sewer! Bebop and Rocksteady are defeated early on and then disappear from the game. This takes you to the dam, which seems to be the bane of internet users everywhere. It’s not that bad, you just have to avoid the lasers, the grabbing seaweed, the rotating thingy, and the electric seaweed, while disabling the bombs along your way. This level is timed, but unless you screw around, you’ll get out with plenty of time left on the clock. Saving April and the dam isn’t the end of your journey, as Shredder and the Foot Clan use the distraction to abduct Splinter!

You will get hit in your adventure. A lot. The only way to recover your health is to find the turtles favorite food, pizza! The single slice recovers two squares of health, the half pizza recovers four squares, and the whole pizza fills the whole bar. You can switch among the turtles on the fly, which is helpful when you take a beating from a screen full of baddies. Also helpful are the occasional weapon powerups that are dropped by dead enemies. Throwing stars are a powerful tool. Triple throwing stars seems a little less powerful, but have a spread to them, which is nice. Boomerangs don’t have much range, but don’t disappear when hitting a target and can be caught so you can keep throwing. The most powerful weapon is the scroll. If you feel like farming for them, you can become a walking tank.

After saving the dam, you have to find missiles to blow up barricades to make your way to a fight with Mecha Turtle. But Shredder gets away and you need to find the turtle blimp at the airport. Why the Turtles were hiding it there, I have no idea. Right before the giant mouser boss is a number of screens where the walls squeeze in on you and you have to drop through one square wide holes. This is incredibly difficult and infuriating. A search for the Technodrome is next. I apparently got extremely lucky and found Shredder’s underground fortress on my first try. After crushing the Technodrome, you enter it to put an end to Oroku Saki. Another incredibly difficult sequence of screens with flying laser ninjas surely put an end to many a young players game, but thanks to some help from frequent commenter LeviathanMist, I learned to go slow on the most narrow portion and the laser ninjas would fly off screen allowing you easy passage. If you can get through, it’s a pretty easy fight with Shredder. Just avoid his anti-mutation gun and you can help Splinter return to his human form.

Graphics: 3.0

Everything looks above average. The enemies are all detailed in their own weird ways.

Sound: 3.0

I like the music throughout the game. It’s not top-tier, but it’s not going to get on your nerves. The low health alarm isn’t constant, which is welcome.

Gameplay: 2.0

Things start to go downhill here… attack stats aren’t balanced in any way. The jumping is god awful. Hitboxes are not correctly programmed. It’s a mess.

Difficulty: 2.0

This game is cheap. Like incredibly cheap. Enemies respawn incessantly. They take too many hits. The squeezing walls in area four. The flying laser ninja corridor near the end. It’s less than ideal.

Fun Factor: 2.5

TMNT may have been one of my oldest game memories, but it isn’t the best. I did finally make it past the airport, but I got really annoyed inside the Technodrome.

Overall Grade: 2.5

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles earns a B-. This isn’t one of Konami’s best games, but it’s a slightly above average title.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Video Review on YouTube