Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

“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. The version I reviewed was a on the NES.

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).

Star Wars: Rebel Assault

Star Wars is one of the most loved franchises in movie history, and has a place in the hearts of millions of cinema goers everywhere. Now it’s your turn to get into the cockpit and help fight against the evil Galactic Empire. May the Force be with you!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Star Wars: Rebel Assault is a rail shooter developed and published by LucasArts, and released in 1993 for DOS, MAC, Sega-CD, and 3DO Interactive Multiplayer. I played the version downloaded from Steam. There is a spoiler below so watch out for it.

Training missions will see you flying through canyons at high speed… (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game is set during Star Wars: A New Hope, although for some reason, the Battle of Hoth seems to takes place too. You play as Rookie 1, who is a trainee Rebel pilot. Once you complete the trainee missions, you are sent to take on the Empire in battles that sees you navigate asteroid belts, fly in close proximity to a Star Destroyer and many other hazardous situations. There are three aspects to this game. First person shooter, overhead view, and third person view, depending on which level you are on.

…tracking and shooting Imperial Probes… (Screenshot taken by the author)

For the time, the graphics looked great, and the SFX and music are authentic music and sounds from the movie which really adds to the atmosphere of the game, making you believe you are in a Star Wars movie. Nowadays, the pixelated film footage from the movies looks fuzzy and cheap, and for some reason the original dialogue containing voices of the original actors has been replaced, which detracts from the game because it sticks out like a sore thumb.

…and traversing through asteroid fields. (Screenshot taken by the author)

Star Wars: Rebel Assault had so much potential, and as a Star Wars fan I loathe to criticise the franchise, but the gameplay really lets this game down, to the point where the fun of playing was drained out of the experience. An example of this is during the battle scenes. The cross hair used to aim is so jittery, and because you don’t have control of the craft, aiming is incredibly difficult and accuracy goes in the toilet. Using a mouse as oppose to a joystick or joypad surprisingly only makes things worse. Flying through the canyons and through caves also becomes frustrating because it is difficult to gauge when you are going to hit obstacles. The attempt to make the game 3D simply plays havoc with your depth perception, especially because this is a rail shooter and you have no control over the craft.

Cut scenes from the original movie was added which I thought looked great at the time (Screenshot taken by the author)

SPOILER ALERT!!!

Another odd factor was that the ending of A New Hope was re-written for this game. There is no sign of Luke, Wedge or Han Solo, and it’s you who destroys the Death Star. You are then shown the ceremony at the end of A New Hope and see Luke Skywalker as he walks down to collect his medal…how come you aren’t awarded a medal? Unless that is supposed to be you of course, which wouldn’t make sense if you choose your pilot to be female.

One mission sees you take on a Star Destroyer (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I complete the game:

Sadly, I could not get past the asteroid field in Chapter 6 and became so frustrated that I decided not to continue playing.

What the critics said:

NEXT Generation: “The clips from the Star Wars movies, the music, and the 3D rendered graphics are all great – however, they all function as little more than window dressing for a not-so-hot, shooter-style game. The control is none too solid, and the gameplay is rudimentary. Overall 2/5.”[1]

NEXT Generation: “Yes the gameplay is silky and yes, the music and visuals are terrific, but this is, after all, an “arcade” game, and the rails here will get old fairly quickly. If you’re really into Star Wars, Rebel Assault will make you happy. Overall 2/5.”[2]

Computer Gaming World: “Rebel Assault is a gorgeous, fast-paced shooter that is a lot of fun to play. The problem is, the fun is too short lived, and the game certainly doesn’t lure us back to play again and again (No rating given).”[3]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “Being a Star Wars fan I tried to give this one a chance but to no avail…The digitalised looking graphics are just too grainy, and the gameplay is simple and not interesting enough to maintain your level of attention. Overall 5.75/10.”[4]

My Verdict:

“For me, this game was a cheap way to cash-in on the Star Wars franchise and has very few redeeming features. The music and some of the graphics are the only reason why this game gets a 2-star rating instead of a 1-star rating.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Star Wars: Rebel Assault? 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] ‘Review:PC – Rebel Assault’. NEXT Generation. (March 1995). Volume 1 Issue 3:89. (https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-003/page/n91 Accessed 8th January 2020).

[2] ‘Review:PC – Rebel Assault’. NEXT Generation. (December 1995). Volume 1 Issue 12:195. (https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-012/page/n195 Accessed 8th January 2020).

[3] Schuytema, P.C., ‘Begger’s Canyon Anyone?”. Computer Gaming World. (February 1993). Issue 115:176-8. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Gaming_World_Issue_115/page/n177 Accessed on 8th January 2020).

[4] ‘Review Crew:PC – Rebel Assault’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (July 1994). Volume 7 Issue 7:38. (https://retrocdn.net/images/a/af/EGM_US_060.pdf Accessed 8th January 2020).

Super Hang-On

Hold on to your hats guys, its time to rev that engine, feel the horsepower, and leave your competitors to eat your dust. Glory awaits!

Screenshot taken by the author

Super Hang-On is a single-player motorcycle racing game developed and published by Sega. Originally released in the arcade in 1987 as a sequel to Hang-On, it would later be released for the following:

1987 – Amstrad CPC, Arcade, Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum.

1989/1990 – Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, Macintosh, DOS, Sega Megadrive, and Sharp X68000.

2003 – Game Boy Advance (Sega Arcade Gallery)

2010 – Wii’s Virtual Console (2012 in North America)

2012 – Xbox Live Arcade (Sega Vintage Collection)

The version I reviewed was on the Sega Mega Drive and can be found in the Mega Games I package.

Whilst still similar to Hang-On, there is now a choice of four new tracks, based on the continents of the world. Each continent contains a different number of stages to increase difficulty (Africa = 6 stages, Asia = 10 stages etc.). A turbo button is also available should you need an extra boost.

Screenshot taken by the author

The Megadrive version, which I played as part of Sega’s Mega Games I, contains both the full arcade mode, and an original mode. The original mode is a bit more in-depth and allows you to gain sponsorship and earn money to upgrade your motorbike.

I have vague recollections of playing this in the arcade at Folkestone Rotunda Amusement Park when I was a pre-pubescent imp. It had the full arcade set up complete with a replica motorbike that you could sit on and use your weight to lean left or right. Being small at the time, my father would stand at the back of the bike and help me lean it, ensuring I didn’t go flying off.

Screenshot taken by the author

The bike is easy to control, and the game is easy to learn. The graphics are clean, with brightly coloured sprites making it easy to distinguish yourself from other riders. The backgrounds and time of day change as you move through the stages of a race giving you a real sense of location and distance. At the top of the screen you have information telling you your score, speed, what course and stage you are on, and a countdown dial.

The game can become frustrating when you crash in Arcade mode as there is no way to make the time up again, so you may as well restart the game. I also dislike the time countdown in arcade mode too. In the arcade one can understand a time limit as you want games that are “quarter guzzlers”, but for gaming at home, it’s just plain annoying. Admittedly I didn’t spend that much time on this game as I’m not a racing fan, but if you are, I am sure that you will enjoy the challenge of this game.

Did I complete the game?

Nope, nowhere near.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines: “A high quality racing game which is a must for speed freaks. Overall 86%.[1]

Mean Machines: “This cart manages to contain all of the playability of the coin-op, coulpled with slick audio-visuals. Definitely worth getting if you enjoyed the coin-op, or if you’re after a decent Mega Drive game at a bargain price. Overall 90%.”[2]

Sega Power: “Brilliant biking coin-op conversion. Terrific sensation of speed and movement, with good graphics and smooth 3D update. Thrilling to play and lasts for ages. Overall 5/5.[3]

Sega Power “Another coin-op classic of yesteryear. Fine, but a bit mouldy. Overall 4/5.”[4]

My Verdict: “I’m not a fan of racing games but if you are, this may prove a challenge. Beautiful graphics and scenery too, and enough replay value to make it worth adding to your collection.”

Ratings:

What are your memories of Super Hang-On? 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] ‘Mega Drive Review – Super Hang-On’. Mean Machines. (October 1990). Issue 1:82-4. (https://archive.org/details/Mean_Machines_Issue_01_1990-10_EMAP_Images_GB/page/n83/mode/2up Accessed 23rd September 2020).

[2] Leadbetter, R.,’Review: Mega Drive – Super Hang-On’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:127 (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n125/mode/2up Accessed 15th February 2020).

[3] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Super Hang-On’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:54. (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed on 29th July 2020.

[4] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Super Hang-On’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:98. (https://retrocdn.net/images/b/b9/SegaPower_UK_46.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).

Aladdin – Review

Aladdin is a Middle-Eastern folk tale about a boy who went from rags to riches with the help of a genie. The Western world embraced this story, and is one of the more well-known stories from the Arabic world. In 1992, Disney released their version, bringing the story to a whole new generation. Its popularity, due to a great soundtrack and an award winning performance by Robin Williams, saw a video game released a year after the films hit the cinemas.

Screenshot taken by the author

Aladdin was developed by Virgin Games. It was published in 1993 by Sega and Disney Software for the Sega Megadrive, and by Capcom for the SNES. It was later ported to the NES, Game Boy, Amiga and DOS formats. I chose to review the Mega Drive Version.

In this side-scrolling platform game you play as the hero Aladdin. The game closely follows the storyline of the Disney film. Whilst traversing the levels you are able to jump, crouch, and climb ropes. To defeat enemies, you have the choice of a scimitar with which to slash your opponent or you can collect apples to use as projectiles. If you collect tokens of the Genie’s head or Abu’s head, you will gain access to bonus stages to gain extra lives and such.

Screenshot taken by the author

The graphics are great and the animation is fun to watch. All the levels look beautiful and make you feel like you’re in the movie. The music consists of songs from the movie so no doubt you will be humming along. There are cut scenes between the levels allowing the storyline to move along, but you do not need to have seen the film in order to enjoy the game.

The difficulty of the levels increase as the game progresses. One level which sees our hero trying to escape the Cave of Wonders is particularly hard and had me swearing many times at the TV and/or controller pad. Frustratingly, at the end of the game you can only defeat Jafar by throwing apples at him. What the game doesn’t tell you is that you need 36 apples to defeat him. If you don’t have enough there is little else you can do other than restart the entire game, and ensure you use the apples sparingly.

Screenshot taken by the author

When the game is completed the ending is practically non-existant, which begs the question, should one have bothered to complete it in the first place. The answer, of course, is yes as this is a good game and worth playing.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, but I wasn’t happy about getting all the way to the end before realising that I had to restart and play through again to ensure I had enough apples to defeat Jafar at the end.

What the critics said:

Edge Magazine: “…almost perfect. The sound could have been better – but that’s a minor quibble. Anyway, at last the Mega Drive has a new platform king. Move over spiky blue one, Aladdin’s in town. Overall 8/10.”[1]

My verdict: “Prince Ali! Fabulous He! Ali Ababwa. A fun little game that is well worth your time. Great graphics and music, however older generations might get bored a little easily with this one.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Aladdin? 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] ‘Review Mega Drive: Aladdin’. Edge Magazine. (November 1993). Issue 2:92-3. (https://segaretro.org/index.php?title=File:Edge_UK_002.pdf&page=92 Accessed 10th December 2019).