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Video Game / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Best enjoyed with pizza, of course. Or Aspirin.
"Anyone unfortunate enough to have a Nintendo device in the house will be familiar with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who star in one of the most insidiously addictive Nintendo games. The turtles live in the subways beneath Manhattan, where, exposed to radiation, they have grown into teenager-sized, intelligent creatures, and have absorbed such items from the culture as surfer jargon."

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 '80s thanks to the hit cartoon. Although it is often thought to be based on the comic created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, nearly everything about it - Splinter being Hamato Yoshi, the Technodrome, The Shredder being alive and having a retromutagen gun, the existence of Bebop and Rocksteady, and April O'Neil as a reporter using her cartoon design, all came from the cartoon, though the box art and some of the in-game art style came from the comics. 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 longest range and strongest attack power, Leonardo's katana has middling range and attack power, Raph's sai has the worst range and strong attack power, and Mikey's nunchaku have short range and the weakest attack power. This means that if you're down to Raph and Mike, you're likely going to be taking a lot of damage since you have to be right up on the enemies in order to hit them, and most don't die in one hit. 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 divisive 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.

LP'ed here by ProtonJon, 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).

In March 2022, the game was announced to be a part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection, which would be released for all platforms later that year.

This game provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: As to be expected from he franchise, the sewers are huge.
  • Adapted Out: Even though the Technodrome is in this game (as a boss even), Krang is nowhere to be found despite his status as a series staple.
  • 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, except in the PC port) 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.
  • Bigger on the Inside: You actually fight the Technodrome as a boss in this game and enter it upon defeat. It's scaled down to fit on the screen but it serves as the final area of the game which is much, much bigger.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: There are no checkpoints inside the Technodrome. Losing a Turtle at any point results in resuming from the very beginning of the level. It's also chock-full of dangerous foes, most of which are unique to the final level, too.
  • 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.
  • Damsel in Distress: The plot kicks off with Shredder kidnapping April. You save her at the end of the first Area.
  • Distressed Dude: Splinter get captured by the Foot Clan at the beginning of the third Area. He is rescued at the end of the same Area.
  • Down the Drain: The dam in Area 2.
  • Dub Text: Geki Kame Ninja Den turned April into Splinter's daughter.
  • Eternal Engine: The Technodrome.
  • Final Boss: The Shredder, naturally. This trend would continue for most future games in the franchise.
  • 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. The final boss, Shredder, is considered the easiest boss because he has a very predictable movement pattern and takes knockback from any hit you do to him (a feature that no boss in the game possesses).
  • High-Voltage Death: The dam in Area 2 is filled with electric plants that can zap the turtles upon contact.
  • 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 one-in-two chance) to be at the end of the furthest, most difficult cave.
  • Man on Fire: One of the enemies.
  • Marathon Level: Areas 3 and 4.
    • Also, the final area.
  • The Maze: The third (where you rescue Splinter) and fourth (the Foot Clan air base) areas have a maze of some sort.
  • Negative Continuity: Though the villains are defeated and Splinter is turned back into a human, this has no effect on the story of subsequent games.
  • 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: Level 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.
  • Non Standard Game Over: If you fail to defuse the bombs in the underwater portion of Area 2, the bombs explode, causing an instant game over, regardless of how many Turtles were remaining.
  • Oddball in the Series: Overlapping with Early Installment Weirdness. Most 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.
  • One-Hit KO: In addition to the rollers mentioned under Beef Gate, there's a weapon called the Scroll Weapon which basically does this. Shredder's gun will also kill you in one hit.
  • Point of No Continues: Your game will be over with no possibility to continue if all four Turtles are captured after continuing twice!
  • Respawning Enemies: A common complaint about the game is that the enemies respawn and aren't always the same enemy that you killed.
  • Secondary Adaptation: A 1989 single player Platform Game that took plot cues from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987), despite basing more of the art style on the cartoon's comicbook origin, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage). It was initially released for the Nintendo Entertainment System console.
  • Super Drowning Skills and Super Not-Drowning Skills: The Turtles know how to swim in Level 2 but they suddenly lose that skill afterwards. Justified in the latter case as the currents are too strong to swim. If a Turtle falls in the water, they aren't "captured". They're simply carried back to the beginning of the level.
  • Timed Mission: The dam in Area 2 gives you 2 minutes and 30 seconds to defuse all of the bombs.
  • Totally Radical: The instruction manual is full of flip lingo, dude.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: In the first building in Area 3, just in front of the Turtle Van missiles, 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.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: The North American MS-DOS port features a jump that can't be made unless you cheat.

See Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for information on the franchise in general and similarly named works.