Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES, 1989)

Why are their masks the same color?

If you were a child in the 80’s and early 90’s you were a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It didn’t matter what sex, race, or religion you were, you loved that cartoon. If you didn’t you would be labeled a social outcast and live on the fringe of society sitting in the corner quietly with that one kid in the class that ate Play-Doh. When kids found out there was a Nintendo game coming out featuring the hottest property on Earth it was like having 5 snow days in a row, eating ice cream for dinner, and getting to stay up late all rolled into one brief moment. Two of your favorite things on the planet were coming together. Nintendo and Ninja Turtles. Life couldn’t get any sweeter than that.

Unfortunately like so many things in life the game ended up being a huge letdown. Everyone played the crap out of it anyway and most kids either owned it, knew someone that owned it, or rented it. After all the game sold over 4 million copies. But great sales do not translate into a great game. Phantom Menace made a ton of money at the box office but it sucked as bad as TMNT on the NES. Or TMNT sucks as bad as Phantom Menace. The point is everyone saw the game and wondered how it got butchered so badly, and if they didn’t think that its because they were living in a fantasy land.

To give you an idea how badly this game sucked, as a kid I rejected the chance to own it. That’s right, my mom was looking for gift ideas and asked me if I was interested in this game and my reply was “no, it hurts my eyes”. When a kid that loved the Ninja Turtles passed on the chance to own a Ninja Turtles game, you know it’s a real piece of garbage. I wasn’t lying either. The graphics were so poor and the flicker on this game so bad that it really did hurt my eyes to play it.

This game sucks

First and foremost, the game doesn’t use very many characters from the Ninja Turtles cartoon. All the developer really had to do was have the turtles beating up foot soldiers, mousers, rock soldiers, and other assorted enemies from the show while squaring off against main characters as bosses. They pretty much nailed it as far as bosses are concerned, but the grunt enemies on this game are just plain terrible. Let’s try and jog your memory.

Chainsaw ManiacGiant FrogFire Freak

Remember that guy from the cartoon that lit himself on fire and then was able to throw his flaming arms and legs at the Turtles? Me either.  As well as that baffling addition you had the chainsaw maniac, the evil dragon flies, the weird looking ninja guy that fell asleep when you got close to him (somehow making him immune to attacks) and then threw moons or sand at you when you got far away, the eyeballs with legs etc etc. What lunatic came up with these enemies and why did they toss them into a Ninja Turtles game? It’s obvious the people that cranked this out never watched the show. They just took a bunch of enemies that were probably in development for another game and tossed them into this one to get it out on shelves faster.


The map screens were terrible. The player would walk around looking for buildings or manholes to enter while trying to avoid steam roller cars that would flatten your character resulting in an instant one hit death. In addition to that, most of the time the map screens were really big mazes with roadblocks and obstacles all over the place. You never knew where to go. To make matters worse, the enemies re-spawned if you moved the screen even a hair. Chase a bad guy to kill him, then go back to your original objective and there was the enemy again! Since enemies like the steamroller took multiple hits there was no way to kill these guys without either back tracking out of their way or chasing them. If you had to backtrack to avoid a steamroller and then killed it, guess what was waiting for you when you proceeded to your original destination. There were legitimate situations in which you were basically forced to take damage because an enemy in your path could not be dispatched without getting hit.


When you make it off the map and to the actual levels the game play was equally frustrating. The screen would spawn with so many strange enemies that the game would slow down and the sprites would start flickering. The crappy re-spawning took place here as well. For instance, lets say you are clearing out a building to get the missiles for the Turtle Van. When you make it to the last room and get the missiles, you have to fight your way all the way back through the building to the entrance. None of the enemies you killed stay dead. To compound this issue, the game is filled with incredibly frustrating jumps. Either the ceiling is too low, or the enemies spawn right in the middle of your jump and BANG, you have to start all over by clearing the rooms again. Furthermore, every time your turtle gets hit it makes the most excruciating “electrocution” sound effect and your turtle bounces back 5 feet. If there’s a hole, you can be assured that you will get bounced back into it. Within minutes you will learn to despise the sound effect from taking damage. Have you ever watched TV and heard the sound of an alarm clock causing shivers to go down your spine? That’s how I feel when I hear the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles damage sound.

The enemies suck, the map screen sucks, the game play sucks, what about the story? I’ll give the developers credit for consistency because it sucks too. The game starts with the typical premise that April O’Neil has been kidnapped by the Foot clan and the Turtles have to rescue her. The first stage sees the player defeat Bebop and then Rocksteady to rescue April. It happens unexpectedly quickly. Once April has been rescued she tells you that the Foot clan have planted some bombs under a dam and plan to blow it up. It’s your job to disarm the bombs in one of the most dreaded levels in NES history. April makes sure you know that you have her support, which effectively amounts to nothing. After fighting your way through the hordes of crappy enemies and braving at least one frustrating jump you find yourself underwater with a time limit racing to disarm all of the bombs. In your path are some kind of tasers that send out electric shocks, some seaweed that also electrocutes you, and some more sinister seaweed that engulfs your turtle and results in an instant death. Keep in mind that this is all underwater so the control is difficult enough and some of the trap layouts are downright brutal. Everyone hated this level and there are probably several kids that never made it past this point in the game.

Damn the Dam!

If you manage to get past the dam the next stage of the game begins with the Turtles returning home to find that Master Splinter has been kidnapped by the Foot Clan. An extremely well timed broadcast airs over the TV with Shredder explaining that he has Splinter and that the Turtles had better come after him if they ever hope to see him alive again. Thus begins the big map maze. On the plus side you get to drive the Turtle Van here. Unfortunately you have to run all over the place trying to find the correct path to the boss of the level which is the evil Mecha Turtle. Beat him and you free Splinter. Then a helicopter shows up on screen and Splinter tells you to go after them. Again this story has no real direction.


Apparently to go after the bad guys the Turtles need to go to JFK International Airport to get in the Turtle Blimp. Why does the staff at JFK let the Turtles keep their blimp there? Why do the airplanes that fly overhead drop bombs on the Turtles at a civilian airport? Whatever. It’s a shitty game so I guess it’s best not to over think things and just roll with the punches. To get to the Turtle Blimp you are forced to navigate a labyrinthine path of sewer tunnels. If you don’t pay attention to the numbers in the background you will find yourself back at the start of the level. To make matters worse there are large fires in some areas near the end that result in an instant death. Why are there large controlled fires inside of the buildings of JFK? Toss logic aside and press forward until you find the giant Mouser that is guarding the Turtle Blimp. Yes, the Foot Clan knew where the Turtle Blimp was (as well as the Turtle’s lair as we saw earlier) and rather than simply destroy the thing they planted a giant mouser in the hanger bay. This game is mentally fatiguing on so many levels. Defeat the boss and get into the Turtle Blimp and you’re off to the hideout of the Foot Clan!


By this point the helicopter has to have been long gone so now I’m really confused. Are we to believe that the Turtles managed to get to the blimp in time to track down the helicopter and follow it to the hideout? Or did the Turtles already know where the hideout was? If that’s the case why didn’t they just go after them in the first place? I can accept a terrible story if the game is good. Blaster Master was an awesome game but had a ridiculous premise. However, if the developers can’t release a solid game the least they could do is create a game with a coherent story line. What a piece of shit.

The objective of the last level is to trudge through the base in an attempt to find the Technodrome. The correct entrance is randomized so every time you play the game you’ll search aimlessly for the path to the end. Find the Technodrome and you have to attack it’s eye while dodging enemies and other hazards. Why are the Turtles almost 1/3 of the total height of this thing? In the cartoon it’s huge! What a piece of shit. I hate ending consecutive paragraphs with an identical sentence so I’ll add this in.

What's with the scale?shredder

Defeat the eye and now you go inside the Technodrome. Of course now it’s huge! We just saw it from the outside and the scale would have you believe that Shredder is just on the other side of the hole that you entered from! Now we get inside and it’s huge? When you’re a kid and you get into a tent a lot of times you’d look around and comment on how it’s a lot bigger inside than it looked from the outside so I’ll just chalk it up to the same phenomenon. Wander around facing hordes of enemies until you find the Shredder. Beat him and the agony is over. So what do you get for suffering through this abomination?

Okkkk......That is one big pile of shit.

Huh? So was Splinter able to transform back into a human this whole time and he stayed a rat to motivate the Turtles into defeating Shredder? Or did somehow beating Shredder enable him to magically un-mutate himself? What a piece of shit.

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