Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a franchise that just seemingly won’t die. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is slated to be released this June and is the sequel to the 2014 film simply titled “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. Of course, to us old fogies in our 30’s we understand the ramifications of that title as we now have to differentiate the new film from what we watched as children. Anytime we refer to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie we grew up with, we are forced to tack on the obligatory (1990) after the title. Or in person we say “the old one”. The franchise has never really gone away since the cartoon became a phenomenon in the late 1980’s. Although there was a bit of a lull period in the late 1990’s when the original animated series was cancelled, the franchise was rebooted in 2003 and has been a staple on Nickelodeon ever since.
Honestly, I have zero experience with the newer iteration of the franchise or even with the original comic books. My sole exposure to TMNT is through the 1980’s and 90’s animated series and it’s associated merchandise. Oh and there was plenty of merchandise. In 1990 one of the most enduring and acclaimed pieces of the marketing machine hit retail shelves: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game for the NES.
Developed by Konami in 1989 the arcade release was a smash hit. Vibrant and colorful, the arcade game featured digitized voice samples, excellent graphics, and addicting game play. As typical of games of the era, the game was a standard beat-em up where the player would navigate their chosen turtle from left to right across the stage mashing buttons in an effort to clear the screen of any adversaries. Although it wasn’t an original concept the control was tight, the stages were varied, and the overall experience was memorable.
In 1990 Ultra Games, a subsidiary of Konami, ported the arcade game to the NES as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game. It was considered a sequel to the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989 NES game which I panned last year. Unlike that game, which I rejected the opportunity to own, I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to get my hands on TMNT II. Although the graphics and sound weren’t as impressive as the arcade original the port was still impressive looking for an NES title and boasted expanded stages and two brand new levels made exclusively for the NES. More importantly the arcade style gameplay and action transitioned well to the NES and provided a much better experience than the abomination that was the first TMNT title.
After selecting your character the game begins with the turtles on a roof top seeing a fire at the news building where April works. That’s what I’ve always assumed anyway. Some people seem to think that it’s April’s apartment building but at the end of the stage we see April in her yellow working jumpsuit and she’s in a room with no door blocking the doorway and a computer in the background on a desk. Given the empirical evidence I’m going to assume this is an office building. Regardless the turtles are thrust into action as they leap from their current vantage point onto the roof of the burning building and head inside for the rescue. Each stage opens with a black screen and a caption meant to set the tone. In this case we begin with “Scene 1: Fire! We gotta get April out!” I assume that the Foot clan started the blaze as the instant you enter the news building you are greeted with several mechanized members of the diabolical gang. The floor is littered with Foot Soldiers; the goomba’s of the TMNT universe. Here we already see several improvements over the first shitty TMNT outing. Our primary adversaries are Foot Soldiers. Not chainsaw wielding maniacs, guys on fire that can throw their appendages, or enormous dragon flies but Foot Soldiers; you know, the most common enemies on the TV show. Just the notion that we are seeing actual enemies from the TV show is an immense improvement! Now let’s start playing!
Immediately we are introduced to a key mechanic in this game. The color of the Foot Soldier dictates the type of weapon they attack with. Purple Foot Soldiers are the most common enemy and they simply attack with their fists punching and jump kicking at our heroes (with a few exceptions). They also have the ability to grab your character from behind and hold him in place while another enemy begins pummeling you. It looks like the pro-wrestling cliche where a bad guy holds the good guy by his arms as the other bad guy moves in with a steel chair. In this case however it isn’t possible to duck and watch one Foot Soldier deck another. Bummer. Some of them will pelt you with throwing stars.
As we beat up these Foot flunkies and proceed to the right we happen upon the blue versions of the Foot Soldiers. These guys are capable of throwing knives. As they close in they like to approach from behind and stab you in the back. I suppose it should be noted that your shell offers zero protection in this game so don’t let these blue clad buffoons sneak behind you. Here I paused the game and was greeted by that sweet old school “Konami pause sound” and was reminded that even though the game is paused the fire on the bottom of the screen is still animated and continues to roar. Forgot what the Konami pause sound is? Music to your ears:
Keep moving right and not much changes as we move through the level but we are introduced to another gameplay mechanic: entrances. Yes our foes love to make a dramatic entrance and this is a recurring theme throughout the rest of the game. Part of the appeal and fun is the interesting and unique ways the enemies introduce themselves throughout the stage. More often than not they just approach by walking onto the screen from the edges but each level includes unique entrance animations as well. In the first level several Foot soldiers come onto screen by kicking down doors in the background or exiting from elevators. As the game progresses they will find more dramatic ways to ambush. Eventually near the end of the stage some Wheel-Bots emerge from under the floor without leaving any holes or other visible sign of damage. Impressive. I hated these things. They’re really annoying assholes. They zip around the screen at quick speeds shooting lasers at you and ensnaring you in electrified lassos. They also take a gazillion hits to kill. Six to be precise.
When the screen is cleared of those pests we hear April scream and the Turtles rush into an open doorway to the final act of the stage. April is in the background and we kill off a few remaining foot soldiers. Some of them have weird looking guns that look like small vacuums. Fortunately they always shoot downwards at an angle so they can be dispersed with a few well timed jump kicks. These guys are red by the way if you are taking notes on the various Foot Clan color clad codes and their corresponding weapons which I sincerely doubt that you are. Clear the area of the last Foot Soldiers and a transport module emerges from beneath the floor behind us accompanied by what sounds and looks like an earthquake. Rocksteady exits the module and begins shooting and kicking the protagonists. One bad thing about the bosses in this game is a complete lack of a health bar. As you beat on them they start flashing. The more damage they take, the faster the flashing gets until they go down giving the Turtle who delivered the final blow an impressive single point. Whoa. After Rocksteady is downed Shredder comes out of the transport module, grabs April, and jumps out of the window to end the first level.
Since I brought up the notion of points I’ll take an aside to briefly discuss them and their purpose. This game has an extremely simple point system. Kill an enemy, get a point. It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple purple Foot Soldier, a mouser, or an end boss, they are all worth one point. Rack up 200 points and you get an extra life. Cowabunga.
So Shredder just grabbed April and lept out of a window to the street below with the Turtles hot on his heels which leads us to our second screen caption. “C’mon after that Shredder creep!!” The preceding end of level animated still clearly showed Shredder with April in tow and the Turtles immediately behind him in hot pursuit. When the stage begins however he is nowhere in sight and we are left trekking from left to right fighting lackey’s again. Where did Shredder and April go? How did he escape so quickly without the Turtles being able to keep up? To be honest with you, the story line in this game doesn’t make any more sense than the crazy series of events of the first Turtle outing.
Our first adversary propels himself up from a manhole and flings the lid at us. A simple slash of the attack button sends the manhole lid flying back at the foot soldier which kills him in one hit. Radical! Next we see a foot soldier smashing through a background window to attack us! Wow this stage is full of cool entrances already for these guys! As we move forward there are parking meters and fire hydrants throughout the level which can be interacted with. The parking meters fly forward and kill any enemy in their path and the same goes for the fire hydrant plug which will then continue to spew water. In the background we see April on a TV screen in a store window with the speech bubble “help me!” immediately followed by an image of Shredder and the speech bubble “ha ha ha”. Apparently he not only disappeared from the scene in a flash but is now in a TV studio capable of broadcasting insults directed specifically at the Turtles. It also seems to be daytime on the streets despite the last act clearly taking place at night time. Weird.
This level introduces us to yellow foot soldiers that throw boomerangs at us and purple foot soldiers that fling dynamite. The open manholes can also take you health if you fall down them prompting a speech bubble with something stupid like “who turned the lights out” or “are we having fun yet” or something to that extent. The enemies can walk right over the open manholes without falling in so they are also capable of defying gravity in addition to being immune to the big bowling balls from the previous level.
March forward and we happen upon our first power up: a slice of pizza that completely regenerates your health. Nothing can create tension in a two player game like one person selfishly hoarding all of the pizza slices. As a kid my friends and I would agree that the pizza would go to whomever had the lower health bar but inevitably someone would “accidentally” get it. Uh huh. Near the pizza a busty chick zips by on a skateboard. Slash at her and she ducks and screams and you are rewarded with a point. Neat.
Eventually we start moving downwards at a diagonal and foot soldiers continue to jump kick through windows at us. Finally at the bottom of the building we see two giant Pizza Hut billboards on the wall in a brilliant early display of product placement in video games. I did neglect to mention that stage 1 also features some background Pizza Hut logos but they made far less sense in that stage as I don’t remember ever seeing framed Pizza Hut logos in the hallways of a place of business (or apartment complex if you’re convinced it’s an apartment building). Don’t walk under the billboards as they will fall and squish you revealing some nefarious Foot Soldiers behind them. Finally at the end of the level we take on Beebop who shoots with a strange gun that emits floating circles, delivers punishing uppercuts, and of course hammers us with the obligatory charge that both he and Rocksteady perform.
Bebop was always quite a bit more difficult for me than Rocksteady. I’m sure that’s how it was supposed to be since Rocksteady was the game’s first boss but I never could quite get down the timing of his uppercuts that would send your turtle flying to the side of the screen. His strange ray gun was also more devastating because if you got hit with the first “ring” you would likely be nailed by the subsequent two meaning one blast from his barrel would deal three strikes of damage. In the background is a smashed up car that I always thought was Bebop’s Foot Cruiser but I’ve never proven this.
After Bebop is dispatched the Turtles jump down the open manhole near the bottom of the screen and into the sewer where the next level takes place. I don’t understand what’s going on here. If you’ll recall the game begins with the Turtles trying to rescue April O’Neil from a building fire. The evil Shredder appears and absconds with April by leaping out of a window to the streets below with the Turtles in pursuit. So why are they going to the sewers? The answer of course is because no TMNT game would be complete without a sewer level since so much time in the show was spent in the sewers. Just like the first game, the story here is complete bullshit but we will go along for the ride. There are some new Foot Soldiers here clad in maroon that try to crack open your shell with some massive sledge hammers. When I was a kid I thought they were attacking with push brooms. Perhaps that began my life long aversion to sweeping. Mousers, the small robots that chew through masonry also make their debut nibbling through the wall in the background and pouring through the hole. The sewers in NYC are also more dangerous than any other sewage infrastructure on the globe as submerging yourself in the water near the bottom of the screen provokes a barrage of missiles to launch at your player from an unseen foe. Midway through the level there is also a large iron grate that repeatedly slams up and down in an attempt to crush your turtle if you proceed at the pace of a tortoise. I haven’t figured out why the designer integrated that feature into the sewer system all these years later. At the end of the sewer we square off against Baxter Stockman in human form who flies around the screen in a strange looking hover craft with jet exhaust spewing from the bottom. As he flies around he tosses mousers out at you. Overall he’s a weak and simple end boss as his only means of dealing damage is through the mousers he lobs at you.
After defeating Baxter Stockman we watch as our turtle leaps off of the top of the screen and are treated to a brief cutscene with Shredder and the mutated Baxter Stockman in the foreground with a bound hostage April O’Neil in the background. How did Baxter mutate so quickly? We seriously JUST beat him not even 10 seconds ago as he zipped around in his odd flying machine in the sewers. Did the explosions cause him to turn into a fly? What the hell is going on here? Maybe the subtitle will clear things up. Scene 3: “Let’s melt snow and rebuild N.Y. city.” Nope no clarification there.
This is the first of two exclusive stages added specifically for the NES port of the game. Why is it winter now? After defeating Bebop we take a brief interlude in the sewers and emerge to a city blanketed in snow? The Turtles also seem completely unfazed by this turn of events acting as if hourly seasonal changes are par for the course. The level isn’t bad honestly but the story here is baffling. Anyway we are treated to a snow covered NYC skyline in the background as the Turtles proceed through Central Park beating up their foes in frigid temperatures. Although the story doesn’t make sense the level is pretty well done with what seems to be some parallax scrolling going on between the background bushes and the cityscape behind it. As we proceed through the level we are introduced to Frosty the Hitman, a robotic snowman that shoots missiles from his carrot looking nose. The designers at Konami were certainly inventive with their enemies. Hit these baddies a few times and the snow crumbles off revealing their robotic endoskeleton’s which continue to hop around the screen launching missiles. There are also some level exclusive light blue Foot Soldiers that pelt you with snowballs. Assholes! I’ll bet they packed them with ice which is a cheap shot. Also be careful as some malicious snow plows will occasionally drive by and they will injure your turtle if they run over you. Bastards.
As you proceed there are some mounds of snow that collapse if you walk over them revealing opening manholes as well as chunks of ice that fall out of the open sky. Watch the shadows to avoid them. As we pass a few more of the obligatory Pizza Hut background signs we finally come to an open transport module with a strange floating orb just in front of it. Tora, a leather coat clad polar bear emerges from the opening and begins throwing some open handed slaps. Aside from that he can summon ice chunks from the skies and toss them. He must be telepathic. Honestly he’s pretty effortless to defeat.
After finishing off Tora we watch as our turtle jump kicks the floating orb which destructs in a barrage of explosions. Afterwards we see the overcast skies of New York immediately clear up as the snow instantaneously melts away. It would seem that the floating orb had engulfed NYC in a premature winter. Of course! That answers all of our questions! We should have known better than to doubt the folks at Konami on their story telling because it all makes sense now. Our turtle then walks from left to right pausing briefly to announce that “Spring is Here!” Cowabunga!
Now we’re in a parking garage. Ok. New additions to this level are traffic cones which act just like the parking meters did in level 2. Hit them and they fly across the screen instantaneously killing any Foot Soldiers in their path. We also see some oil drums in the background. If you hit it with your weapon it will start smoking for a few seconds before it explodes destroying any enemies nearby and also injuring your turtle if you remain too close. Otherwise the enemies here are the same as in past levels but they do emerge in some unique ways. For instance, there are some vans parked in the backgrounds and the doors will fly open as several Foot Soldiers emerge to ambush you. Secondly a few of the background cars will actually start up and take off running you over if you don’t quickly move. I always liked that as a kid. Otherwise no new enemies here and the end boss is Baxter Stockman in his mutated fly form. He emerges from a service elevator along with April O’Neil. Again, he’s kind of a push over end boss as his only attack is shooting some glowing orbs at your turtle from his mutated arms. Jump kick him to oblivion.
Once he’s finished April somehow unties herself and waves to you. Man she has a sweet rack. Load her up into the Turtle Van and you are rewarded with a kiss with the comment “I owe you one”. Maybe he can redeem that debt with a shell job. Fortunately April was being held hostage in a random parking garage rather than in the heavily guarded Technodrome. Say what you will about the diabolical Shredder but at least he gives the Turtles a fair shake at making these rescue attempts.
Scene 4: “Let’s get to that secret factory!!” What secret factory? When did we discover it’s existence? Again, there’s zero continuity in story here but rather a series of events that happen to create different backdrops for levels. Despite no factory being mentioned at any time it is now imperative that our heroes locate it and shut down it’s operations. Whatever. Despite having just seen your character and the busty damsel in distress depart the parking garage in the Turtle Van apparently the fastest way to the factory is by walking along the highway which is where our next level takes place. Ok.
There isn’t much to say about this level although there are a few different enemies here. Foot soldiers in convertibles will occasionally drive past as will some motorcycles. Besides the usual assortment of foes we are introduced to some spear totting soldiers and a few that brazenly hold bombs over their heads. Although the difficulty level is ramped up here the game is starting to get a bit redundant at this point. Keep walking and at the end of the level the highway is closed off with a few piles of massive tires acting as a roadblock. A foot soldier will hop from underneath of each stack with the top tire being held overhead and he will toss it at you. Otherwise there is no end boss. Good background music here but the level made less sense to me than the sewer or snow levels.
Now we’re on a rocket propelled skateboard taking on foot soldiers who are also riding rocket propelled skate boards on an open freeway. That was a logical next choice. We also battle small helicopters armed with front mounted machine guns and an unlimited amount of small bombs. Man the Foot Clan does not mess around! Although it doesn’t make any sense at all this is a fun level and it adds a much needed change of pace to the game as things were beginning to get really stale. The screen constantly scrolls forward adding a sensation of a very fast pace even though the enemies merely stay on screen until defeated. Again there is no end boss and the level finishes with our Turtle catching up to the Turtle Van and getting inside. The van then crashes into a barrier flying over the side of a turn.
Apparently this crash was intentional as they have landed outside of the no longer clandestine factory where Scene 5 begins. “C’mon let’s bust this joint!!” The level starts with Splinter being carried off on the backs of a few mousers. I’m actually quite surprised that Splinter was even in the vehicle. There are a few new enemies in this stage. Some strange discs that drop from the sky will sprout legs and heads on an elongated neck and shoot those circular beams at you. Midway through the level a transport module will emerge unleashing some flying mini copters that look like mosquitos and shoot lasers at you. Speaking of lasers, there are several laser emitting weapons throughout the level that the enemies are naturally immune to and even some large laser firing guns mounted to some kind of a track that will scroll up and down firing repeatedly. Hit them a few times and they freeze in place and turn orange. At the end of the level we see Master Splinter tied to the far wall while we battle the first end boss since the mutated Baxter Stockman in the parking garage. Granitor is the nemesis and he will take some pistol whipping swings at you while also unleashing some flames from his flame thrower.
Beat Granitor and he blows to smithereens leaving behind nothing but a hot pile of glowing rocks. A few extra pebbles will fall from the sky and add to the pile. Splinter will then somehow gently glide down to the ground and his restraint will vanish as he throws his arms over his head in celebration. “Thank you my turtles!” is his message of gratitude as we proceed to the next stage.
Stage 6: “Let’s defeat the enemy’s ninja magic!!” This is another NES exclusive level that takes place in a mystical dojo. Apparently the elevator shaft in the secret factory leads up to this hideout where the enemy is somehow imbued with otherworldly powers that enhance their fighting abilities. I guess that’s what happens anyway since I’m extrapolating on the subtitle for the stage. We’ve already established that the story here is pretty much nothing more than a mish mash of crap tied in after the fact. It’s pretty apparent that coming up with different levels and locales was the priority and they were developed first with the story tacked on later.
Konami made sure to pack this exclusive level with many unique enemies. Most irritating are the magic tigers that materialize from background art. They run back and forth across the screen leaping at you. As a kid these legitimately frightened me for some reason despite them not being the least bit eerie. Maybe it’s the fact that they materialized out of the painting in the background. We had a lot of antique artwork and advertising in my house as a child and I always feared that some of them were haunted and the characters would emerge from the art and pull me in. Kids have those kinds of fears.
There are also some big metal scorpions that shoot lasers from their tails. They aren’t very formidable if you stay on them but the barbarian’s that leap around the screen throwing knives at you are annoying. I hate these guys. They take several hits to kill and they recoil quite a bit after a strike preventing you from landing multiple hits. They then counter attack by attempting to stab you or by leaping high in the air and throwing their daggers. You can tell we are getting near the end of the game when facing tough opponents like that. Unique entrances by the Foot Soldiers include them bursting up from underneath the floor and emerging from secret passages. There are a few candle sticks in the background that can be used like the parking meters and traffic cones from the previous levels.
At the end of the stage is a dead end with some Japanese characters in the background; probably an advertisement for Pizza Hut in the orient. Suddenly a ghoul appears: Shogun. This guy is tough. He attacks with what I’ve heard is called a Naginata but I have no idea if that’s accurate. Regardless, it’s a long range weapon that makes getting in close difficult. On top of that, his head detaches from his body and floats around the stage inflicting damage if you come into contact with it. Unless you’re an extremely seasoned player you are going to lose a life. When you finish him off he explodes (?) leaving behind the skeletal remains of his legs, pelvis, and the base of his spine (??) which remain standing and eventually topple forward. Wow that was pretty gruesome and confusing at the same time. But hey, I like it. Then the floor opens up and the Turtles jump into the abyss for their greatest challenge yet.
We are then treated to a cut scene where the Turtles are in an enormous cavern underneath the earth with the massive Technodrome before them. A speech bubble states “There it is!” and we watch as they leap forward towards it. Afterwards we get the subtitle for Scene 7: “We gotta find the Technodrome!!” Wait what? We just found it. That’s what prompted our central character to state, and I quote, “There it is!” What kind of a stupid stage title is this? It should say “we gotta find Shredder” or something to that extent. I guess it’s better than other NES offerings such as “A Winner is You!” so I can’t complain too much I suppose.
So apparently the only way to get to the Technodrome was to find the factory, climb up to floor 7 of the building, and then somehow find a shaft that drops all the way from the 7th floor deep beneath the earth. You have to give credit to the Turtles for sleuthing that location because I’m certain no one else in the world could have solved that mystery. Nevertheless here we are in the legendary Technodrome.
Now, I haven’t made many comparisons between the first NES Turtles game and the 2nd since they are so different, but I will right here. THIS is what the Technodrome should be like. The first game had such a stupid representation of it where you first battle the eye on the outside in a grossly out of scale fight and then you proceed to enter the small structure where it ends up being cavernous and filled with characters that were not only unfairly difficult but not even part of the Ninja Turtle universe. Here the Technodrome is perfectly represented and I have to hand it to Konami for a job well done.
The structure is loaded with traps including stationary laser guns, artillery guns, freeze rays, and hordes of enemies. You will face wave after wave of enemies and although they aren’t particularly difficult the sheer quantity of them will test your mettle. Eventually you start heading down a large elevator and the large bowling balls from stage 1 make another appearance as they come crashing at you. At the end of the stage you find a door. Stay away from it because it gets blown off of the hinges by General Tragg of the evil Rock Soldiers from Dimension X. This guy knows how to make an entrance. He’s honestly not too difficult though. He fires missiles at you and attempts to pistol whip you like his colleague Granitor earlier although I’ve always found Granitor and his flame thrower more challenging. When he’s been destroyed it’s time for the final leg of the game.
Beyond the doorway Tragg entered from lies the end of our journey, but it won’t be easy. A massive portal screen is in the background and Krang comes onto the scene inside of his giant mechanical body. As an aside, whomever came up with these characters and universe was certainly one creative SOB when you think about it. Ninja trained turtles are fighting a talking brain that resides in the stomach of a mechanical body in this act, and all of us who watched the show accepted this kind of action as the norm. Anyway Krang is quite a challenging boss. If you get close he kicks you. If you are midrange he fires lasers from his eyes. If you try to stay far away he will kneel down and fire his hand like a rocket at you. Essentially there is no quarter anywhere on the screen to get a breather. He also absorbs a lot of damage. Eventually when he is defeated his mechanical body will explode (just like all of the other bosses seem to) and Krang himself will be left floating on some kind of hovering platform. He will taunt you with the phrase “I’m invincible” and he’ll rocket up and away.
Whew that’s it right? Of course not. No TMNT game would be complete without a final showdown against the arch nemesis of the Turtles, the evil Shredder. He enters from the same portal as Krang and quickly splits into two. This fight is a real doozy. Not only do you have to make sure you’re beating up the right Shredder but he has some single hit kill tricks up his sleeve. If the Shredder you’re attacking loses his helmet pretty quickly, then it’s the clone. Start nailing the real McCoy but be careful because if he backs up a few steps to raise his hand he’s about to unleash his one hit kill maneuver: a large bolt of electricity that de-mutates your turtle and turns him back into a regular old pet store turtle. When you knock the helmet off of the real Shredder he loses his ability to unleash this deadly attack and he also no longer has the capacity to clone.
Once the knockout blow is delivered the Technodrome begins to violently shake and we are cut to an exterior view as it changes colors and explodes. We are then treated to the following epilogue and ending credits:
Honestly it doesn’t matter. Yes the story makes no sense but it never hurt the playability of this gem because it’s not a story based game to begin with. This is a beat ’em up through and through that existed to provide great action and capitalize on the license. It succeeded. Although the game does start to wear a bit thin by the latter third there’s still enough to keep your attention. This game is everything the first outing should have been. Of course it’s not without it’s gameplay shortcomings that prevents it from being perfect. Each turtle in the actual arcade game had it’s own unique strengths and weaknesses whereas here it doesn’t matter which turtle is selected as their range and attributes are all identical. There is also a shortage of moves. The turtles are limited to a standard slash attack, a jump kick, and a jumping attack that deals double damage. When compared to similar games like Double Dragon the variety is certainly lacking although that game didn’t allow two player simultaneous action. That said, the enemies and stages are varied, the music is memorable, the controls are tight, and the game is challenging but not so difficult that it’s frustrating. It is also true to the license and uses enemies, characters, and locations that were explored in the cartoon rather than making up a bunch of crap and slapping the turtles onto it. Overall it’s one of my favorite NES games and has provided countless hours of entertainment and memories over the last few decades. It is worthy of every letter of this 6,000 word opus.