RETRO REBOOT - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)

If you regularly frequent the Retro Reboot section, you might be a touch familiar with my takes. They aren't overly polarizing, but there's a chance they might make a read go "...huh?". Such as the case with my review on the original TMNT game that was released for the NES. I mean, I liked it more than a lot of people (seaweed STILL isn't difficult), but it goes without saying that a giant sigh of relief was released when Konami brought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game to home platforms.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade game was one I spent a good number of quarters on at our local Hills (a department store that stretched from Indiana to New York) while our parents were cashing out at the register. The graphics and controls were great, and the music blew our minds.

It wasn't until an episode of the 1990 syndicated television show Video Power (oh yeah, I can FINALLY reference this amazing slice of very early 90's greatness) that highlighted tips and strategies for the NES version did our household become aware such an endeavor existed. Our family got our own NES just a year before (my dad loved Jackal and Top Gun so much, they were worth the purchase), and I was a massive TMNT fan as a child, so without question, this was a heavy rental until we eventually bought it not too much longer later.

Developed by Konami and ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990, TMNT: The Arcade Game was given the "II" for its home conversion, as to not confuse it with the previous Turtles games. Giving a version of a game a distinction (i.e. sequel or numerical moniker) to separate it from other releases would be regularly practiced and would never become a problem. Hang on, Final Fantasy is calling.

As a brawler, TMNT stays very true to its arcade papa, and for an 8-bit mock-up, it's incredibly well done. Gaming at the time, anything that even slightly resembled the arcade hardware performing on an NES or Mega Drive gave our young, stary eyes the distinction that anything was possible in the world of video game development. From the Heroes in a Half-Shell leaping into the burning apartment building, the likeness is great. The inferno blazing in the foreground as giant medicine balls tear down the stairs, it legit got the blood pumping through the veins. I remember I always used to ask why Rocksteady was black and white. I later learned in greater detail about the NES's limited color palette and that sprites were limited to what could be displayed. I'll be a touch on the picky side, I always had a problem that the Turtles always stared directly back at the player when sitting idle. It's hard to explain why it bothered me so much, but I have weird axes to grind. At max, only three enemies can be on the screen at most, so there's less action going on for this version.

The NES port also has some additions, like extended stages and new enemies, such as the parking garage level. Probably for the sake of processing limitations, the fly mutation of Baxter Stockman replaces Bebop and Rocksteady as the boss fight. The new level features a snow-covered New York and a battle with new villain Tora, who I thought was a wolf. It's an interesting aesthetic change, even if it runs the risk of destroying your eyesight.

While there isn't a whole lot to say about the gameplay, as it's as self explanatory as a brawler beat'em up can get, the controls are very tight and responsive. It feels very much like the arcade. Select either Leo, Raph, Donny, and Mike, rescue April and Master Splinter, and fight your way through the forces of the Foot Clan and take down Krang and Shredder There isn't a distinctive difference between how each of the Turtles play, that was removed for the NES port, due to sprite size limitations. The hit detection is pretty snug, and other than some graphical clipping and flickering due to the amount of action, it runs well, even during two player co-op. It is unfortunate that some of the unique moves were stripped, it makes TMNT II a little too one-dimensional when it comes to variables.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game is as good a home port of an arcade juggernaut as you can get. The music is very well produced, the 8-bit  rendition of the arcade tunes don't sound too bad coming out of the lil' grey box.

We played this one for many hours during the weekend, including one night where me and my older brother got so far, but had to leave the house right before the fight with Shredder. Our dad agreed to let us pause it until we returned home that night, and providing the system didn't glitch out, we could come back and hopefully beat the game. Mind you, we did this without Game Genie, so since our dad was as big a mark as we were for the Nintendo, he wanted to see us beat it probably more than we wanted to. The fight was absolutely grueling, but we did manage to take him down. That fight is tricky, since there's an illusion and you have to knock off Saki's helmet to effectively damage him.

So, yeah, The Arcade Game, technically a pretty decent conversion and a hell of a co-op game to satiate your 8-bit appetite. I do look forward to the Cowabunga Collection, even though I already own it.

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