This last week my mother came to visit me/clean my apartment and one of the things she was kind enough to bring me, upon request, were my four really cool Ninja Turtle action figures based off the black and white comics. I set them up on my shelf to constantly remind me of my Turtley roots, so I got to thinking about where my two favorite childhood loves crossed paths. I decided I’d like to talk about Ninja Turtle video games today, so sit back and grab a nice cool mutagent canister ‘cause this trip down memory lane is gonna be radical.
Sweet Memories of a Better time
The very first Ninja Turtle game I had the chance to play, as with most kids, was the game simply titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. It’s the only Ninja Turtle game like it, and it’s unfairly difficult. If you’ve played it then you already know how tough it can be, and even if you haven’t played it you’re probably familiar with the common knowledge that it’s completely unforgivable. It’s a strictly one-player game but you’re allowed to switch between the four Turtles at any moment to utilize their various weapons. Leo has his katana, which get twice as powerful when he’s at half health, Raph has his sai, which become very effective against later enemies, Don has the all-powerful long-range bo, and Mike is worthless. It always broke my heart but Mike had to be used as the damage sponge since his usefulness otherwise depended on which secondary weapon he’s picked up. The big trick to the game is patience. Anyone could dominate in the game as long as you take the time to max out each Turtle with the scroll weapon, but it’s tedious and takes exactly one forever. I never beat this one but I’ve become progressively better and better each time I attempt it.
I still loved the challenge of a good NES game, so when I got my hands on TMNT the Arcade Game for the NES, also known as TMNT 2, I was incredibly happy. It became the standard style for Turtle games from then on since it adhered to the Beat ‘Em Up formula, a genre that works perfectly here. You could finally have a second player join in the fight and the game was at least reasonably beatable, something that I did and did with gusto. I got so good I could beat this one without losing a single life. I was amazing. You just had to know the special attack that destroyed every minor enemy with one hit. Sadly, the Turtles all played exactly the same, just with different skins.
While I had played the actual TMNT Arcade Game in arcades as a kid, I never got very far before the difficulty became tremendous. After all, the game was built to suck quarters, and it knew just how to suck quarters. However, the NES version had more levels, so I wasn’t sure which I preferred. It wasn’t until Xbox Live got a port of the arcade game that I was able to truly appreciate the Arcade Game the way it was meant to be enjoyed: with all four Turtles at once. Awesome, despite the problems with lag. I still had a few weeks mastering the game once again, and while I don’t think it’s possible to beat it without losing a life, I’ve gotten quite good again.
The successor to the Arcade Game was Manhattan Project, TMNT 3 for the NES. This wasn’t a port of an arcade title but a game built specifically for the NES. Once again, it was amazing. Konami knew how to treat the Turtles well, something I’m sad to say Ubisoft, the current holders of the Turtle rights, don’t have a clue about, hence why none of the newer games are going to show up in a favorable review from me. TMNT 3 took the style from 2 and pushed it further so that each Turtle did actually play differently and had individual special moves, except now they cost life to use, meaning you couldn’t just spam your way through the game with them. This was another one I never beat but I’ve been to the final boss many, many times. I only wish it’d get an Xbox Live treatment like the Arcade Game, with updated graphics and levels and all that for four players. Oh well.
The jump to the SNES was huge. Turtles in Time, TMNT IV, is one of my favorite SNES games and my absolute favorite Ninja Turtle game since it controls so perfectly. It’s tough to pinpoint what the precise aspect of the game is that makes it good, but the remake doesn’t have it, in case you missed that review. It may just be the soundtrack, but I can’t even come to a consensus with myself which version has the better music between the SNES version and the arcade version. I prefer the SNES version of the game since there are once again more levels, plus a ton of bonus features like Time Trials and the option to change the art style to the comic versions, making each Turtle look a bit different in comparison. Nothing huge, but it was great. Still, the prospect of four-player Turtles is always tempting.
My final memory with Turtle games happens to be the biggest stretch for the franchise, Tournament Fighters. I played the NES and SNES version, but I can safely say the SNES version was the best. It was a shameless Street Fighter rip-off, with the various moves assigned to the different Turtle cast such as Don knowing Chun-Li’s Spinning Bird Kick, Leo knowing Guile’s Flash Kick, and Mike capable of the Shoryu-ken, though he calls it “Rising Thunder” in this game. While the four Turtles are obviously playable, as well as Shredder, the other fighters are more obscure, assuming they even appeared in the Turtles catalog to begin with. You have Wingnut, which I know they had as an action figure, Chrome Dome, another action figure and character in the cartoon, and the Rat King, though you had to input a code to play as him. Otherwise the other players are Armaggon, a shark mutant, War, a spiky thing, and Aska, the girl character. The final boss is Karai, a character none of us knew at the time of the game’s release but who has become fairly well known at this point. My favorite aspect to the whole game was the special meter that charged up as you did damage and blocked attacks. When it was full you could unleash your super move, with Mike’s “Dance of Fury” being my favorite since he just bum-rushed his opponent and used every single move he had to beat the heck out of them. It wasn’t a great game, but it had Turtles in it, so I was rather happy with the outcome.
You may be asking, where are the Game Boy Turtles games? Well, I only played Rise of the Foot Clan, and while I thought it was pretty great, I don’t have much to say about it. I never played the others, despite my desire to do so. Overall, these are my memories, which I write to you as I listen to various Ninja Turtle game remixes and the soundtrack to Turtles in Time. I’ll just never tell you which version of the soundtrack I’m listening to. That’s my secret. Okay, it’s the SNES version. But my memories are running out, which means it’s your turn to talk Turtle for a bit. What were your favorite Turtle games? Did you ever beat TMNT on the NES? Do you wish Ubisoft would just give the rights back to Konami? Me, too.