Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game

Multiplayer arcade games used to be goldmines in the arcades. There’s not much better as a teenager than spending your pocket money battling alongside your friends in a bid to rescue a (insert person here). Many of these games were ported to home consoles meaning you could do battle without leaving the comfort of your own home. However, not all converted coin-op games were successful. How did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game fair?

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game (TMNT II on the NES) is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up, developed and released by Konami for the Arcade in 1989. It was ported to the NES in 1990 with some additional levels and enemies that were different from the arcade version. In 1991, it was released for the ZX Spectrum, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, PC and Commodore 64. I reviewed the NES version.

Tempted by a large bounty placed on the heads of the Turtles by arch-nemesis Shredder, two intergalactic bounty hunters kidnap April O’Neil and use her as bait to lure the Turtles out into the open. The Turtles give chase and must fight their way through 10 hazardous levels, enemies and boss battles to defeat Shredder and rescue their friend.

The graphics are far superior to the original Nes TMNT game (Screenshot taken by the author)

Straight away, it is clear to see how much the graphics have been improved when compared to the first TMNT Nes game. The levels and characters look great! They are colourful and vibrant, and the sprites are very well animated. The intro, although short, gets you straight into the action and contains the authentic TMNT theme. The game is faster, slicker, and the upbeat music really gets your blood pumping.

You start with three lives but can gain more every 200 enemies you defeat. You can also regain health by eating pizza slices.

Donatello takes on Bebop (Screenshot taken by the author)

I do, however, have a few gripes with this game. Firstly, these are supposed to be “ninja” Turtles, yet they have maybe three different moves: a flying kick, and two different ways to swing their weapons. WTF? There are no throws, there are no kick or punch combinations, and you cannot pick up extra weapons to throw at the enemies. Earlier games such as Double Dragon had more of a move set to prevent the fighting from becoming monotonous. Secondly, Donatello is supposed to have a bo, a long wooden stick. Yet, his reach is pitiful. You have to get close to the enemies, within their striking range, to attack. If you don’t wish the game to be too easy, simply slow down his attack or make his bo attacks weaker. These points made the game very frsutrating and dull for me.

Disappointingly, the NES version could only cope with a one- and two-player mode, so it loses some of what made the arcade version an awesome fighting experience.

Did I complete the game?

No, nowhere near.

What the critics said:

GamePro: “The heavy-duty faithful-to-the-arcade style game play (and it’s a long game!) are real crowd pleasers, and the radioactive mutants are as personable as ever. The new scenes blended in with the original arcade scenes are a great addition. The music could have been better but, hey, you can’t have everything.Overall 4.6/5.[1]

My verdict:

“This game looks fantastic! With the music, it looks and sounds just like a Turtle game should be! However, the gameplay is dull. These guys are supposed to be ninjas. Where are all their moves? The game becomes very boring, very quickly, even in two-player mode. I think this is a game for the younger gamer. It is overrated and only hardcore Turtles fans should bother with this game.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @Nicklovestogame.


[1] Arcade, J., ‘Proview – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game’. GamePro. (December 1990). :106-8. (https://retrocdn.net/images/9/90/GamePro_US_017.pdf Accessed 24th August 2020).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Review

“They’re the world’s most fearsome fighting team.
(We’re really hip!)
They’re heroes in a half-shell and they’re green.
(Hey, get a grip!)
When the evil Shredder attacks,
These Turtle boys don’t cut him no slack!”

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles burst onto our TV screens in 1987. I had very mixed feelings towards them. On the one hand, ninjas were cool to most boys when I was a kid. On the otherhand, it coincided with the end of my favourite cartoon series Transformers. Over the next few years their star rose culminating in a trio of mediocre live action films in 1990, 1991, and 1993. With such a high evel of popularity, it was only a matter of time before video games featuring Turtle Power would appear.

A picture containing food

Description automatically generated
Title screen (Screenshot taken by author)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Konami in 1989 for the NES (Ultra Games published it for the North American and European markets in 1989 and 1990 respectively). It was later released on the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX, ZX Spectrum, and Playchoice 10. For this review, I played the NES version.

The story follows the main objective of the animated series. Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michaelangelo must retrieve the Life Transformer Gun from Shredder in order to return Splinter to his human form.

The overworld map allows you to explore buildings before heading back to the sewers (Screenshot taken by author)

There is a basic intro which shows the Turtles mutating from their smaller selves, before showing the range of moves they can perform. It music over the intro is quite good as to seems signifying the tough attitude of the Turtles. Sadly, the intro is pretty dull when compared to the likes of Batman and Castlevania III.

There are three aspects to the game: A side-scrolling platform part, a swimming part, and top down adventure style part.

The menu screen allows you to see a map of your area, receive instructions from Splinter, and change between the Turtles if their energy is getting too low (Screenshot taken by author)

You begin in the overworld adventure mode, on the streets of the city. There is some catchy music playing whilst you investigate your surroundings. For some reason the energy meter at the bottom flickers, and I’m unsure if that was intentional, to draw your attention to it, or simply an error on the creators’ part. If at anytime you are unsure what to do, you can select the information area where either Splinter or April will explain your task. You can also see a map of the area, and the energy levels of each Turtle. If you need to, you can select which Turtle to use at any time.

When you enter buildings and sewers, you begin the platform part of the game. Which involves battling through enemies from left to right, and interestingly, right to left. Each Turtle is equipped with their respective weapon of either a katana, sai, bow and nunchuks. Along the way they can also pick up weapons such as shurikens with which to throw at the baddies. To gain health, keep an eye out for slices of pizza.

The sewers contain lots of baddies for you to defeat (Screenshot taken by author)

During all levels you can change between Turtles at any time. Each Turtle is distinguishable by their coloured bands and weapons just like the animated series. I tended to favour Donatello because of his long reach and power with the bow.

The gameplay itself is simple. Walk, jump, swing your weapons in various directions, and throw projectiles. Annoyingly, the movement can get a bit choppy and jerky when there are too many enemies on screen.

Occasionally you get a cut scene using a mix of in-game sprites and nicer drawn character close-ups. I feel they could have done better with these cut scenes, they feel lazy and uninspiring.

Some of the baddies are poorly illustrated , and it is unclear exactly what they are (Screenshot taken by author)

In overworld areas, the graphics are clean and colourful. However, some of sprites during the platform section are poorly illustrated and it’s difficult to identify what they are. Some enemies are clearly defined, but others look a bit hazy, and stick out like a sore thumb. The NES is clearly capable of so much more. You only have to look at Duck Tales and Batman to see how naff the platform level sprites are, including the Turtles themselves.

The swimming level is notoriously tough. You need to find and disarm bombs that have been planted to destroy the dam. Although they can breathe underwater (not accurate for turtles but we won’t hold that against the creators), for Turtles, they don’t seem to be able to swim very well, and are hard to control. Often you must swim through tight gaps where “electric seaweed” damages you if you touch it. You also need to evade electric beams and disarm all the bombs before the time runs out.

The swimming level has gone down in history as being very tough to complete (Screenshot taken by author)

The music, though fitting for the game, lacks the recognisable traits of the animated series. The only time you hear anything resembling the original theme at certain times like when you rescue April or finish the swimming level. This is stark contrast to games like Duck Tales where the recognisable theme is present throughout.

The game is notoriously challenging. There are lots of baddies to kill but completing missions with all Turtles and health intact is nigh impossible. If you re-enter buildings and sewers, the levels are reset meaning you have to fight all the baddies again, but this is handy when needing to find pizza to gain health.

Did I complete the game?

No, I just about got past the swimming level.

What the critics said:

Computer & Video Games: “The graphics are great, a bit on the blocky side at times but with lots of colour and some nice additions such as the opening sequence which shows the turtles being transformed into their mutant alter-egos. The game itself is very tough…the high level of difficulty isn’t at all frustrating, in fact it only adds to the overall brilliance of the product. Overall 89%[1]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: Donn – “TMNT wasn’t overly impressive – I thought it would have been much better considering all the hype that t achieved. The game play is there and the graphics are nice, but the whole cart didn’t meet my expectations. It is good, but I was expecting more. Overall 5.75/10.[2]

Nintendo Power: “The sound effects and the music in the tunnels and buildings are excellent…Great graphics and excellent character control in Action Scenes make this an exceptional game…cool storyboard graphics. Overall 4.125/5.[3]

The Games Machine: “The game kicks off to a great start with an oriental tune and some impressive portraits of the turtles. Though, sadly, some of the in-game graphics are a bit iffy and there is the odd screen glitch. Initial playability is high, all the turtle sprites are well drawn and animated and the bad guys present quite a challenge. Overall 86%.[4]

Gamepro: “The absence of a multi-player option detracts from the whole concept of Turtle togetherness, the overall action is average, and it’s nearly impossible to finish with only two continues. Also, although the Turtles look cool, the Foot Clanners’ graphics are a little weak. Turtles Overall 3.8/5.[5]

Raze: “The difficulty factory is set just right; frustrating but nothing to put your Nintendo in physical danger. The graphics are impressive for the NES, with superb use of vivid colours and impressive animation. Overall 87%.[6]

Mean Machines: “Bodacious stuff! Definitely worth shelling out for! Overall 90%.[7]

Awards:

Best Theme, Fun 1989 – Nintendo Power Awards 1989[8]

Best Overall 1989 – Nintendo Power Awards 1989[9]

Most Eagerly Anticipated Game (That Was Released) – Electronic Gaming Monthly Best and Worst of 1989[10]

My verdict:

“TMNT is as tough as I remember. Graphically, the platform levels should have been much better. The gameplay would be great if it wasn’t so choppy, and it was disappointing that the original theme tune didn’t feature more. However, It was still a fond trip down memory lane, and I will certainly pick it up the controller up again at some point to try and beat the game in the future.”

Rating:

What are your memories of TMNT? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Rand, P., ‘Mean Machines: Nintendo – Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles’. Computer and Video Games. (June 1990). Issue 104:98-9. (https://archive.org/details/computer-and-videogames-104/page/n97/mode/2up Accessed 20th March 2020).

[2] ‘Review Crew – TMNT’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (October 1989). Issue 4:10. (https://retrocdn.net/images/6/6e/EGM_US_004.pdf Accessed 20th March 2020).

[3] ‘Previews – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.’ Nintendo Power. (March/April 1989). Issue 5:52-5. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20005%20March-April%201989#page/n47/mode/2up Accessed 20th March 2020).

[4] Caswell, M., ‘Reviews – Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles.’ The Games Machine. (July 1990). Issue 32:28-9. (https://archive.org/details/the-games-machine-32/page/n27/mode/2up Accessed 20th March 2020).

[5] Slasher Quan, ‘Pro Classics – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. Gamepro. (March 1991). Volume 3 Issue 3:28-9. (https://retrocdn.net/images/9/92/GamePro_US_020.pdf Accessed 20th March 2020).

[6] Ellis, L., ‘Reviews – Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles.’ Raze. (December 1990). Issue 2:46-7. (https://archive.org/details/raze-magazine-02/page/n45/mode/2up Accessed 20th March 2020).

[7] ‘NES Review – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. Mean Machines. (October 1990). Issue 1:62-4. (https://archive.org/details/Mean_Machines_Issue_01_1990-10_EMAP_Images_GB/page/n63/mode/2up Accessed 23rd September 2020).

[8] ‘Nintendo Power Awards ‘89’. Nintendo Power. (May/June 1990). Issue 12:27. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20012%20May-June%201990#page/n23/mode/2up Accessed 1st July 2020).

[9] ‘Nintendo Power Awards ‘89’. Nintendo Power. (May/June 1990). Issue 12:28. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20012%20May-June%201990#page/n23/mode/2up Accessed 1st July 2020).

[10] ‘Best and Worst of 1989’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1990 Video Game Buyer’s guide. Issue 5:19. (https://retrocdn.net/images/d/d5/EGM_US_005.pdf Accessed 1st July 2020).