Saturday, April 17, 2010

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989, Ultra, NES)


TMNT is probably my favorite T.V show ever. I always loved the cheesy surfer-dude talk and the general plot and setting of the series (I don't know, Ninjas in cities are cool.). A big name like TMNT is sure to have big licencing, like with video games. And so, in 1989 Konami, under their sister company Ultra Games released Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. And not surprisingly it sold over a million copies in America alone. However the critical reaction to the game has been less positive. Out of curiosity, I found, bought, and played through it.

TMNT is a side-scrolling action game with some Zelda-like overhead exploration thrown in. You control the 4 titular heroes: Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. All 4 turtles generally handle the same way, but their weapons are of course totally different. Leo's katanas are used for general combat, Donatello's Bo staff is a great long-range weapon, and both Mike and Raph are (as far as I can tell) useless.

The game has some exploration in it, requiring you to find etc. on a overhead field of some sort. This is the most needless part of the entire game. It probably would be a bit better if they just made the game linear, as it's core gameplay is straightforward action, which to be honest is quite questionable as it is. The action parts consist of the turtle you are controlling moving through a environment destroying bad guys (which almost all have nothing to do with the TMNT license) until you get to a boss or another exploration part.

The graphics are okay, I suppose. The turtles look like their supposed to, and the enemies look okay too, even if they don't belong there. The stages, however lack detail and color, making the environments seem a bit lifeless. But still the game looks the part, mostly.

The music is pretty bad. It sounds good but there is a distinct lack of the TMNT theme, which seems kind of silly not to include, seeing that this is a TMNT game. Not to mention, the music that is there is mostly just filler, nothing that you will be humming in your head all day long.

The gameplay is the biggest issue. The game itself is basic side-scrolling action, but the difficulty and controls come awfully close to ruining the whole experience. TMNT is a brutally hard video game, even with a Game Genie. Enemies have awkward patterns and can easily swarm the player, draining your health bar rapidly. Stage design is sloppy with tight jumps and awkwardly placed(and respawning) enemies. The Dam stage is so frustrating and broken that most people never finished this game because of it. There is nothing wrong with challenge, but TMNT takes it a bit too far in this regard. The control is too loose for the type of jumps you are required to make. The jumping is floaty. It's hard to land on anything precise and you move too slow. But in reality the control problems are capable of working around.

Overall, TMNT is disappointing. I heard a lot of flak about it, and typically I disagree with the masses when it comes to criticizing old video games (too many compare them to games today, which makes no sense to me) but in TMNT's case they're pretty much right on the money. It is available for the Wii's Virtual Console service, but it costs more due to the license and there are much better game you could be buying with those points. Save your Turtle Power for the sequels, and pass on this flawed relic.

+ Decent visuals.
+ Non-linear gameplay.

- Way, way too hard for it's own good.
- Meaningless use of the TMNT license.
- Imprecise controls that lead to a lot of cheap hits.
- Haphazard level design.

OVERALL: 5 out of 10

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