Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [Retro Review]

  • Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Published by: Ultra Games
  • Developed by: Konami
  • Genre: Action
  • ESRB Rating: N/A
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Release Date: June 15th, 1989

It’s the weekend, and we all know what that means right? Its time for our weekend retro video game review! Or at least that’s what it means from here on out. To kick things off we are going to review Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. This is not to be confused with the Ninja Turtles Arcade game or the later Ninja Turtles beat ’em up titles that would release for the Super NES and the Sega Genesis consoles respectively. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a true piece of my childhood and it was fun going back to visit with a game that I had pretty good memories of. So, did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hold up after all these years?



The main difference between this Ninja Turtles game is that it’s strictly a single player game, which never really made a lot of sense to me because there are four turtles, so I’m glad this is something that was addressed in later Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games. The cool thing about this game being a single player experience is that you can change between any of the four turtles at any time you choose to. You start off the game in a top down perspective, you can go into buildings or the sewer and that starts a level, once you’re in a lever the game switches to a side scrolling view and its a game that plays a little like Shinobi. There are actually quite a lot of enemies that are on the screen at the same time, which does cause a bit of slow down from time to time. Since I went and played the game on an original NES, I got to experience all of the problems that came with it at the time of its launch.

Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo are all playable and surprisingly, each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Donatello for example has the weapon with the longest reach, but he is very slow in actually using his weapon, Raphael is really fast with his weapon, but his weapons are really short ranged and your likely to take a lot of damage when you play as him. Seeing as Raphael was my favorite turtle, I was a bit upset when I was a kid and tried to play this game. Sadly, I still have trouble when playing as Raphael because of his really short ranged attacks. The game stays pretty true to the television series, which was already an established hit at the time of this games release. I thought it was interesting that I hadn’t played this game in twenty plus years, but I remembered exactly how to defeat Rocksteady with Donatello, which is a bit of a cheat really. You simply get on top of the boxes in the right corner and use your bow in a downward motion and he wont be able to hit you at all. With a little patience, it’s really simple and easy to do.

Everything was going fine until I got to the dam stage, you have to go under water and defuse a series of bombs, the biggest problem is that you have to go through some electrified plants and its impossible to navigate through without taking a ton of damage, so by the time you finish this part, you’ve switched through your whole arsenal of turtles and are left with four turtles with no health. The controls aren’t all that responsive and even Nintendo’s patented D-Pad isn’t enough to help when a game has naturally wonky controls. After a few times going through this part I managed to save most of my turtles. If you lose a turtle, they aren’t dead, but captured and you can actually find them later in the game. The difficulty with this game is pure insanity, I don’t understand how games from so long ago can be so absolutely unforgiving. Even though I loved the game when I was younger, I have to admit I never actually beat the game back then. As an adult, it took a ton of skill and patience to finally accomplish this task.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a game of frustration and anger, when you clear a stage, if you accidentally leave a stage and come back, the enemies will have all spawned back in. This happens even if you move forward a bit and then go back, all the enemies will spawn back in, sometimes the enemies that spawn in will change from one set to another, the flaming enemies are the worst. There are six missions in all, but only the most skilled gamer’s will survive long enough to see the Technodrome in all its glory. The fact that you don’t have a set amount of lives and that pizza power ups are few and far between, means the game will probably only appeal to retro game fans and true Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans. Little things like the Turtle Van not having rockets to break down barriers really slow the pace of the game in general, instead of the van having rockets to begin with, you have to drive around and find them, the main problem with this is that there are tons of enemy vehicles that take down your health rather quickly, so to actually get rockets, you have to get out of the Turtle Van and enter a level and complete the level. It’s a lot of unnecessary hoops to jump through.

If I could change one game mechanic it would be the jumping, there are multiple times where you need an accurate jump, you just wont find a way to do that in this game. Some of the sewer levels require precise jumping, if you miss, you’ll end up floating away in the sewer. Yes, even though you’re a turtle, you cannot swim and you’ll lose health and have to start the stage all over again. After playing through this game, I can see wholeheartedly why developers went in a different direction with their future Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games. This game is full of nostalgia, but it’s also full of pain and I’m not sure its worth trying to tough out. The games biggest downfall is that it handles like a shopping cart, if a game has busted controls, it’s not something that’s easy to come back from. If you are a TMNT fan, liked the original cartoon and want to revisit something you probably remember liking as a kid, I’d recommend the game, but you’ll probably end up frustrated and breaking out the good ol Game Genie.



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