A side-scrolling platform game
released in 1989 (1990 for the PAL region) for the Nintendo Entertainment System
and 1991 for computers. As you could tell by the title, it was a video game adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
which had become a cash cow franchise towards the end of The Eighties
thanks to the hit cartoon
. While it did borrow some elements from the cartoon, such as Master Splinter being a human-turned-rat and the villainous duo of Bebop and Rocksteady, the art style was heavily influenced by the comic created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
, which a lot of people don't know said cartoon was based on, even to this very day
. Perhaps due to brand recognition, this game was one of the best selling NES titles published by a third-party company. It also has the distinction of being the fifth game reviewed by James Rolfe
's "The Angry Video Game Nerd
" character, then known as the Angry Nintendo Nerd.
The four eponymous characters—brothers Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael—are in hot pursuit of the Foot Clan, the most dangerous criminal empire New York has ever seen. Their babe-licious human friend, Channel 6 News field reporter April O'Neil, had just been kidnapped by the Shredder, the deadly leader of the Foot. To give you an idea of how deadly he is, the instruction manual describes him as "a villain more vicious than an army of mind altered Bruce Lees
." That's deadly
. His plan? Brainwash April and train her in ninjitsu so she will become part of the Foot! The Turtles must save April, storm the Shredder's Technodrome lair
, and steal his
Life Transformer Gun, which can turn their beloved Master Splinter back to his original human form of Hamato Yoshi.
There are six levels total, and gameplay is divided into two modes: initially, you start the level in a top-down perspective hub
world, and you walk your way to a platforming segment. Progression to the next level is gained by beating each platforming segment.
Although only a single player game, you can switch between the Turtles on the fly at the pause screen. Each turtle is essentially a life, meaning you have four lives. When the vitality gauge of a turtle is completely depleted, he is "captured." When all four are captured, it's Game Over
, and you are only given a chance to continue twice. It can get very painful when you are down to only Raph and Mikey, as Donatello's bo staff has the best range, while Raph and Mikey's weapons, the Sai and Nunchakus repsectively, have the worst. Still, you are given a few chances to rescue captured turtles.
The most infamous aspect of the game is its difficulty, ultimately making it a Love It or Hate It
affair; you either love it because it's Nintendo Hard
, or hate it because it's Nintendo Hard
Released a little later in '89 was the arcade game
, which was nowhere near as polarizing and is almost unanimously considered a classic in the Beat 'em Up
genre. Thanks to the arcade game's success, most games based on the Ninja Turtles henceforth would be beat em ups
as well, although some, such as a couple of the Game Boy
titles, would be platformers like this puppy.
, of Kaizo Mario World
LPing fame, in honor of the game's then-recent re-release on Virtual Console
(speaking of the VC release, it's 600 Wii points, instead of the usual 500 for an NES game, due to licensing issues; and said licensing expired, causing the game to be de-listed, although previous buyers can still re-download it).
This game provides examples of:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer
- All There in the Manual: It's only in the instruction book that it's mentioned that the Turtles are after Shredder's Life Transformer gun; as a result, those who don't have the manual are of course confused by Splinter turning human at the end of the game.
- Beef Gate: If you try walking around the building from the starting area, a roller (One-Hit KO) will approach as an attempt to guide you into the sewer. However, you can walk around it as it approaches by keeping to the left or simply hit it with your weapon.
- Big Dam Plot: Area 2, which has you trying to stop the Foot Clan from blowing up a dam.
- Completely Different Title: The Famicom version's title, Geki Kame Ninja Den, roughly translates "Fierce Turtle Ninja Legend". This was before the Japanese dubs of the cartoons and films were made, since the later games kept the original American moniker in Japan.
- Difficulty Spike: Area 3, and it only gets worse from there.
- Down the Drain: Area 2.
- Eternal Engine: The Technodrome.
- Guide Dang It: Area 4's correct hatch sequence. Area 5 has the Technodrome, which is mentioned in depth below.
- Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: The further along in the game you get, the easier the bosses get. Shredder in particular has a very predictable movement pattern and can be defeated without the player taking a single hit.
- High Voltage Death: One of the most notoriously annoying levels in the game is an underwater level where you have to swim through obstacles that can zap the turtles with electricity if you don't time your movements right. There are many of them, they're hard to avoid, and they will kill you over time if you're not extremely careful with timing your movements.
- Luck-Based Mission: In Area 5, the boss of the Area (The Technodrome) can be at the end of one of three caves. You have no way of knowing which one it'll be in short of trying each one and hoping it's there. Making this even worse is the fact that it's most likely (A 1 in 2 chance) to be at the end of the furthest, most difficult cave.
- Marathon Level: Areas 3 and 4.
- The Maze: The third (where you rescue Splinter) and fourth (the Foot Clan air base) areas have a maze of some sort.
- Never Say "Die": The Turtles are always 'captured' upon losing all their health.
- Justified, in that you have a few chances to rescue captured turtles later, clearly still alive.
- Nintendo Hard: Area 2 is the infamous swimming stage, level 3 is a maze to find Splinter (though once you have the missiles, you can go right to where he is if you know the way obviously. Level 4 is a "choose your path" with different roads to take to get to the end and towards the end are instant kill traps like fire pits and sliding spike walls. Level 5 is full of tough enemies and has a randomly placed boss who is difficult to defeat and level 6 is FULL of tough enemies. The jet pack equipped laser troopers will make you tear your hair out. This game is TOUGH. But it is certainly NOT impossible.
- Oddball in the Series: A rare first-installment case. All of its successors were Beat Em Ups that are held up as quality licensed games. This installment was a Platform Game best remembered for being Nintendo Hard.
- Super Drowning Skills and Super Not-Drowning Skills: The Turtles know how to swim in Stage 2 but they suddenly lose that skill afterwards. Justified in the latter case as the currents are too strong to swim in. If a turtle falls in the water, they aren't "captured". They're simply carried back to the beginning of the level.
- Totally Radical: The instruction manual is full of flip lingo, dude.
- Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: There's a gap between two platforms that is about as wide as your character and impossible to jump across, as the ceiling is too low and you end up hitting it and falling. The solution is to simply walk over it.
- Unwinnable by Mistake: The North American MS-DOS port features a jump that can't be made unless you cheat. Is it any wonder why this version's considered a porting disaster?
- Many people think this refers to the one-square gap that you have to walk over instead of jumping it. Nope. It's a jump in the sewer that was inexplicably modified from the original version to have a wider gap and lower ceiling. The UK Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles release corrected this by extending the platform.
- Luckily, there is a Good Bad Bug that allows you to bypass this problem, as seen on the YMMV page. 
See Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
for the information on the franchise in general and similarly named works.