RETRO REBOOT!! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

You want a hot take? I still think that despite this game's flaws, it's still one of the most entertaining TMNT games out there. Like Karate Champ, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one of those NES carts almost every kid had and every kid played. The difference being is that while Karate Champ was a deliciously bad title that was fun to goof around in, I'll stand my ground that this game is better than the reputation that precedes it. Like, maybe that guilty pleasure bad that buys a passport into "kinda good, but..".

Developed by Konami in 1989 and published by Ultra Games in the United States (Palcom and U.S. Gold in the European regions), TMNT is a 2D side scroller that was pretty ahead of its time. You can select Leo, Raph, Mike, and Donnie, each with varying weapon lengths, speed and strength. If a Turtle loses their health or run over by the Foot Clan's steamrollers, they are captured.

You do have a single chance to save them in stage three, but lose all four Turtles and it's game over. Secondary weapons can be gathered, like scrolls, boomerangs, and shurikens, placing an incentive on arming each Turtle for designated purposes. Mikey and Raph have incredibly short ranges, naturally, but can attack very quickly. Leo and Donnie are very rangey, making hitting enemies through narrow structures significantly easier. If spaced and timed correctly, you can stand atop the boxes and hit Rocksteady with Donatello's bo staff.

The overworld that leads to sub areas is something else I praise and I found it ambitious for an action game, similar to Rygar in some manner. Navigation is pretty straightforward in this area, you even get the Turtle Van to combat the enemy vehicles. 

As far as shortcomings go, some of the complaints about TMNT are fairly legit. The controls are pretty clunky and have a bit of a delay. The Turtles also have a pretty large hitbox and taking some damage can feel a touch unfair. There's many time where you trade damage with enemies when it looks as if you got the first shot on them. Getting the hang of jumping across the more stubborn platforms can be frustrating, as they generally send you falling into water and back to the outside. Meaning having to traverse all the way through the area AGAIN just to have another go at it. If only there were an irate classic game review personality to sum up how egregious that scenario is...

Of course, you can't talk about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles without mentioning the infamous bomb disarmament stage at the dam. It's notorious for being the breaking point for many a game at a young age.

While I won't say I'm a total ace at this game, I never found making my way through the seaweed all that hard. Sure, at first it can be pretty daunting, but all it takes is merely remembering the pattern and not taking the one wrong turn that depletes the time trying to turn back around. Even taking damage from the electric seaweed can be avoided with timing. It's also a change of pace from the rest of the action in the game, for better or worse, it's built from a completely different engine. The controls for the swimming are a touch strange, but it's more feasible than the legacy leads on. Frankly, I find the final stretch near the end of the game where you have to find the Technodrome much harder, that thing just appears whenever it wants to.

As time went on, I grew to like this game more and more. Yes, it is pretty rough around the edges and unpolished, but I felt Konami should have tried taking a go at making another TMNT game like this. Other than Tournament Fighters and Danger of the Ooze (from WayForward and released on the PS3, Xbox 360, and 3DS) and UbiSoft's TMNT based on the movie, Ninja Turtles games are mostly brawler beat'em ups. A straight combat centric game featuring the Green Machines is fine, but as games advanced and the franchise saw a resurgence in the early 2000's, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is possibly the most progressive entry in the Turtles' video game library, in spite of its flaws.

It's also hard to dislike these enemies, especially the ones that tried to work hard, but came up short for that trademark branding. Did you know that simply being obsessed with fire gives you total control over its properties and how it functions? 

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