NES Review – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


As a kid growing up, Ninja Turtles was where it was at. As soon as the music from the show would go on, my brother and I (aged 5 or 6) would be jumping over chairs and flipping over the chesterfield in excitement, preparing for another awesome episode with the turtles.

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In this first TMNT iteration on the NES, you take control of the Turtles (selected one at a time) and make your ways through various levels (including over world maps which link together each side-scrolling level). There are no “lives” per se, but if one of the turtles looses all of his health, he get captured and must be rescued later on in the game.

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I was really excited to play this game as a kid, but could never get much further than the dreaded “dam” level. As an adult, I can now see the poor design choices that make this game so hard and unfair. For instance, there is just too much poison coral in the dam level! Also, there are times where you make your way through a level and are required to make a near-impossible jump or else drop back to the start of the level. This problem repeates itself throughout the game, which really highlight my main issues – poor controls and poor level design. I never felt like I could make the turtle do what I wanted him to do!

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The game does have some original ideas though – it was cool that you needed to rescue your fallen allies, and that you could drive around in the turtle van. There were a bunch of turtle weapons you could pick up too which is fairly unique for TMNT games. The game also had a cool open-endedness rarely found in NES games. You also get to travel through a city, into the worlds biggest airport, and finally into Shredders base!

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The graphics are actually quite good and very colourful. The music and sound effects were a bit annoying though – especially when a turtles’ health is low. Overall, this game has some great ideas that were just not executed well enough. Having said that, I had a chance to play this game on the Retron 5 recently and utilized the save-state feature; I ended up having a blast because the impossible jumps were not a problem anymore and actually enjoyed myself. The final score without the save-state feature is 5/10, and with is 6/10.


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