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Video Game / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)

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Leonardo: Remember, be ready for anything

Several games were released to tie into the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, all of them beat-em-up's released by Konami.

The first game, simply titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was released in 2003 and adapts most of Season 1. The main gameplay loosely adapts the following season one episodes: "Things Change", "A Better Mouse Trap", "Attack of the Mousers", "Meet Casey Jones", "Nano", "Darkness on the Edge of Town", "The Way of Invisibility", the "Notes From the Underground" three-parter, and the "Return to New York" three-parter, as well as a level that is not derived from the animated series at all. Cutscenes used were directly lifted from the 2003 TV series, with some cutscenes being original for the game. The story consequently is a loose adaptation of the general plot of the first season; the Turtles slowly become involved in a conflict with the criminal Foot Clan led by the Shredder; the Turtles encounter his lieutenants like Hun and Baxter Stockman and contend with various oddities and foes across New York, culminating in a siege on the Shredder's skyscraper headquarters.


The player can play as either Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo or Raphael. Each turtle has his own unique set of levels to complete. There is a story mode for one or two players, and there is also a versus mode where two players can fight head to head. Unlockable characters are Spinter, Casey Jones (both of which can play in the story mode), Turtlebot, Hun, Shredder, Oroku Saki and Hamato Yoshi.

The game got two sequels, the first being Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus in 2004, which adapted a vast majority of the show's second season. This time, up to four players can play as either the Turtles or the four unlockable characters, Splinter, Casey, Karai, and Canon Foreigner Slashuur. After the game re-adapts the final episodes of Season 1, the Turtles are sent into space and become involved in a galactic war between the Triceratons and the Federation, two warmongering alien races. When they finally return home, the Turtles learn some surprising truths about the Shredder and once again contend with the everyday adventures in New York, including a gang war, a trip to the future, further confrontations with the Shredder, and even a journey beyond their own dimension. Aside from the lengthy campaign, the game also features unlockable costumes, a tournament mode that also adapts the Season 2 finale, and a mode set in April O'Neil's antique shop Second Time Around, in which the player can unlock pieces of concept art, pieces of lore from the show, and even the original arcade game ported for a new generation of fans.


In 2005, two separate games based on the show were released; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Melee. While Mutant Nightmare continued the trend of adapting a season of the show, this one adapting the third season, Mutant Melee is a fighting game that does not follow a narrative plot. These would be the final main games to be released based on the show.

Mutant Nightmare consists of four arcs based on several episodes of the third season. The first, "Space Invaders", adapts the half-eponymous arc from the show consisting of the "Space Invaders" and "Worlds Collide" three-parters, in which the Turtles work together with Professor Honeycutt and Traximus to fend off the Triceraton invasion of Earth. The second, "Bishop's Gambit", has the basic premise of the episode of the same name - in which the Turtles go to rescue Splinter from black ops agent John Bishop - albeit slightly expanded to include some elements from other episodes such as "Touch and Go". The third, "Exodus", adapts the episode "New Blood" and the "Exodus" two-parter, detailing the Turtles' final confrontations with the Shredder and Karai. Though the credits roll after completion of this stage, a fourth arc called "Nightmare" adapts the Ultimate Drako Simultaneous Arcs storyline in which the Turtles are flung across time and space by the resurgent Ultimate Drako.

This game provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The level 'Sewers'.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The 2003 game has its chapters based on the early episodes of the show, with some of them being mashed together.
  • Adaptation Expansion: In addition to combining the plots of multiple episodes for some of its chapters, the first game also expands upon the plots of certain episodes.
    • The episode 'Nano', for example, is reimagined with the turtles facing off with not only the titular Nano himself, but also the Purple Dragons and various Mecha-Mooks that Nano created to fight them.
    • The chapter 'Tengu', based on "Darkness on the Edge of Town", expands upon the episode's museum fight by having the turtles face off with not only the Foot, but also the Foot Mystics and a Foot Mech robot.
  • Adorable Evil Minions: The mousers may have a painful bite, but their duck-like design makes them cute.
  • After Boss Recovery: In a large long level, often there are more healing items placed after a boss.
  • Airborne Mook: Foot bees. They aren't literally bees, just foot ninjas piloting a sort of hovercraft.
  • Arc Villain:
    • Mutant Nightmare features four different story arcs with the turtles fighting a different threat in each. Chapter 1 is based on the Triceraton invasion led by Zanramon, chapter 2 is centered around Agent Bishop, chapter 3 has the Shredder, and Ultimate Drako is the villain of the Nightmare chapter.
    • The GBA version of the first game splits the story up between the four Turtles, each with their own end boss. Leonardo has one of Baxter Stockman's mecha, Raphael had the Purple Dragons and Casey Jones, Donatello had the Foot Tech Ninjas, and Mikey had the Foot Geneticist who created the Underground Monsters. Shredder himself is the villain of the final chapter.
  • Arm Cannon: In the first mission of Battle Nexus, Donatello gets an arm-mounted laser gun that replaces his shuriken attacks with a Slow Laser that bounces off walls.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Mutant Nightmare, unlike the previous two games, allows all four Turtles to be active at once, with the AI taking over the turtles that aren't player-controlled. Unfortunately, their behavior is... inconsistent, to say the least.
    • Bot turtles often have trouble determining when is or isn't a good time to use their Limit Breaks. Donnie and Raph are particularly bad about whiffing due to their limited range. Similarly, it's often a bad idea to trust them with Genbu as they tend to be extremely trigger-happy with it, even using them against ordinary mooks.
    • Bot turtles will often fail to do the inputs for continuing a team attack for absolutely no reason.
    • Stunning a boss will, around half the time, lead to the bots dogpiling on the helpless boss. The other half of the time, they'll stand around and do nothing.
    • Their AI gets even worse in shuriken and cannon stages, and most of the time you'll see their crosshairs wandering around aimlessly and not even attempting to attack enemies most of the time. And when they do, they'll usually just fire one or two shots at a time.
    • Regardless of stage type, the AI seems chronically incapable of dodging attacks, even highly-telegraphed ones like Oroku Saki's lightning and Bishop's energy blasts. And don't be surprised if they decide the best course of action against, say, Ultimate Drako is to try and guard against his unblockable fireballs.
  • Ascended Extra: The Mutant Rats. In the show, they only appeared in one scene as a gag. In Battle Nexus however, they're a boss fight fought in both the Peblak Sewers and the Battle Nexus Tournament.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: To Dr. Stockman and Nano Monster 3.0.
  • Batter Up!: One of the thug variants uses a baseball bat.
  • Beneath the Earth: The entire premise of the stage 'Notes From the Underground'
  • Boss Arena Idiocy:
    • Nano Monster 3.0 has a weak point that's too high to reach. However around you are scaffolding you can climb to easily hit that.
    • Mega Shredder in Mutant Nightmare is surrounded by an invisible shield that makes him immune to damage. You could disable the shield by hitting him enough, or you can use the conveniently-placed laser cannon to disable it instantly.
  • Boss Arena Recovery: Also present in some boss battles, mainly the boss-only levels.
  • Boss-Only Level: Quite a few present.
  • Boss Bonanza:
    • The final stage of the main Battle Nexus campaign has a boss fight for just about every level. You have to go through the four Foot Elite, Hun, Karai, and a two-part Final Boss with the Shredder.
    • Mutant Nightmare's chapter 2 puts you through a gauntlet of 3 bosses right at the start: a turret fight against an Unknown Chopper, a hoverboard chase with the Unknown Car, and finally a traditional fight against Touch & Go.
    • Chapter 3 then throws in three more boss levels at the end: Karai, the Power Core, and Exo-Shredder.
  • Boss Rush:
    • Done in a spread out fashion in the last stage.
    • The eponymous tournament in Battle Nexus, only accessible after completing the main story, is basically a long series of boss fights against previously-encountered opponents, ending with a fight against Miyamoto Usagi and another against Drako.
    • Leo's Nightmare in Mutant Nightmare has you fighting four bosses in quick succession. Three of them (Touch and Go, Ultimate Slayer, and Karai) are from earlier in the story, while the fourth boss, Felkyrie, is new.
  • Bottomless Pits: All over the place in Battle Nexus, often around platforming sections. Falling in won't instantly kill you, though, instead sending you back to the nearest solid ground after making you take a chunk of damage (although there's a cheat code to make them kill you). The ability to pick up and throw enemies in this game means they can also be easily weaponized.
  • Breakable Power-Up: The Doppelganger ability present in Battle Nexus and Mutant Nightmare gives an extra health bar and can be carried over between levels. However, once your extra health bar is depleted, the Doppelganger is gone and you'll have to get another one to use it again.
  • Canon Foreigner: While most characters are taken from the TV series, the games introduced a few characters of their own. One of the most significant additions is the scythe-wielding Noble Demon Slashuur from Battle Nexus, who is fought several times as a boss and serves as a playable Secret Character.
  • Cat-and-Mouse Boss: Genochimera Foot in Mutant Nightmare, who flips between two patterns each time he gets stunned: an aggressive one that uses a plethora of energy attacks, and a cowardly one that tries to run away and only attacks by jumping around and flailing his arms blindly.
  • Canon Immigrant: Evil Turtlebot, a boss in the first game, appeared in the second season of the 2003 cartoon, albeit just called "Turtlebot" in supplementary materials.
  • Classic Cheat Code: Present in all three games, though they really only started getting interesting in the second onward. The second and third games will randomly show you a code that you can enter in the settings menu (but only once and will urge you to write them down), but not what the code does... and cheat codes in this game range from making you invincible or replacing all healing items with pizza (which is a full heal) or sushi (in Mutant Nightmare, which fully heals and fills up the super meter), to making you die in one hit.
  • Climax Boss: Shredder.
  • Co-Dragons: Hun and Dr. Stockman.
  • Color-Coded Characters: In addition to the turtles, enemies in Mutant Nightmare are also tiered by color: grey mooks are the weakest, purple enemies are somewhat stronger, and red are Elite Mooks.
  • Cowardly Boss: Nano Monster 2.1 in Junkyard level is fought midstage and run away to be fought again at the end of the level.
  • Cyber Cyclops: The mousers. Although they are not humanoid.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Robotic enemies tend to explode on death. In Battle Nexus, the explosion actually does damage.
  • Degraded Boss: Razorfist and King Nail were fought in the 2nd last stage of the first game. But in Battle Nexus they're fought in the 1st stage after the tutorial stages. Subverted with Hun, as he's the first boss of Battle Nexus but you fight him again in the last stage as the 3rd last boss.
  • Difficulty Spike: The 3rd stage Planet Zero in Battle Nexus is much more difficult than the earlier stages with tougher enemies and tricky platforming.
  • Dual Boss:
    • The double giant mousers in Mouser Arsenal.
    • Razorfist fights alongside an unnamed spider mutant in Battle Nexus.
    • Touch and Go in Mutant Nightmare. The game encourages you to take one of them down before the other: Mr. Touch can't do a whole lot without Mr. Go, and Mr. Go has limited power that he can't recharge effectively without Mr. Touch.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: In the 2003 Game Boy Advance game, you wouldn't able to access the final stages that take place in Foot Headquarters building and the Turtles' final battle with Shredder in the game if you play Easy Mode.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: As a HUD, also displaying the number of enemies in the area. Foot Tech Ninjas do not visibly show up on the radar but the number does (although they show up fine on the HUD in the third game).
  • Enemy Posturing: Subverted with Evil Turtlebot. Occasionally he will stand there and make some lightsaber-like noise, which renders him open to attack. But it wasn't a taunt, he was switching between fighting styles.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Damaging a car enough will cause it to catch on fire and then explode, hurting anyone nearby.
  • Exploding Barrels: Barrels when hit with a strong attack will be sent flying and explode when they land. Temporarily changed in the second game to explode when hit with any attack; however, this game lets you pick them up and throw them.
  • Faceless Goons: The Foot ninjas have their faces covered.
  • Facial Markings: Dragon Face, who has a dragon tattoo on his face.
  • Fighting Your Friend: Happens in the stage 'Ordeal'. Granted, it's just sparring.
    • If you are playing as Raph, Mikey or Don, you fight Leonardo as a boss.
    • If you are playing as Leo, you fight Splinter.
  • Giant Mook: The purple mutant and orange nanobot.
  • Goomba Stomp: A villainous example. Foot tech ninjas will jump on your head when invisible.
  • High-Altitude Battle:
    • Evil Turtlebot 1.5, who is fought in the level 'Air', which takes place on a cargo crate carried by a helicopter.
    • The second battle against Slashuur in Battle Nexus takes place on a glowing platform suspended in midair. Incidentally, this level is also titled 'Air'.
  • Humongous Mecha: The giant mouser robot in the first game, and Zanramon's Trigolem in the third.
  • Hydrant Geyser: Attacking a fire hydrant will cause it to spray high pressurized water that will hurt anyone, even you.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Collecting food items will heal you.
  • In Case of Boss Fight, Break Glass: Dr. Stockman can initially only be harmed when you attack the cockpit which requires an air attack. After breaking it, he can be harmed anywhere.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Ultimate Turtle scrolls in Mutant Nightmare, which don't appear at all in the collection until you fill their unlock conditions: beating all the Nightmare chapters, then Ultimate Drako, then beating the Nightmare chapters a second time. They're every bit worth the effort needed to get them, giving the respective Turtle a flashy Super Mode that hugely powers them up to the point where most attacks deal Scratch Damage to their massive health pool and allows them to kill most bosses in seconds, while also replacing their shuriken with a powerful Kamehame Hadouken. They even avoid the usual "nothing to use them on" problem most ultimate items have (despite the entire story mode being more than done by the time you unlock them) by being very useful for progressing through the Free Battle levels, with the Nightmare chapter's Free Battles having mooks so tough that you basically need the Ultimate scrolls to progress past the first few areas.
  • Invisible Means Undodgeable: Gun attacks tend to be invisible and will almost always hit.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The foot techs wear a technology that invokes this. Hitting them a few times will short out the cloak and render them visible.
  • Involuntary Group Split: There was a cavein in the sewer, separating the turtles from Splinter. This drives the plot of 'Things Change' where they have to take a route to reunite with Splinter.
  • Legacy Boss Battle:
    • Hun is fought at least once per game, with similar attacks each time.
    • The Final Boss fight against Shredder in Battle Nexus is recycled for the Oroku Saki fight in Mutant Nightmare, with only one real change in his attacks. Similarly, Karai's fight in Mutant Nightmare is heavily based on her fight from Battle Nexus.
    • Razorfist and King Nail, after being fought in the first game, both return as mini-bosses in Battle Nexus.
  • Limit Break: In Mutant Nightmare, each Turtle gets an Ougi Meter that can be used for various super moves when filled.
    • Raphael dives at the enemy while Wreathed in Flames.
    • Michaelangelo unleashes a tornado that hits things in front of him.
    • Leonardo launches a crescent-shaped Sword Beam.
    • Donatello swings his staff around himself to hit surrounding enemies.
    • Additionally, the purchasable upgrade Genbu gives them access to an even stronger attack but can only be used once before having to be bought again.
    • Boss fights have a variant of this in Mutant Nightmare. Dealing damage to the boss fills up a gauge underneath their health, and if that gauge fills fully, the boss will be briefly stunned. Note that, for some bosses, the gauge drains quickly, meaning that you have to put out a lot of damage in a short time to stun them.
  • Lone Wolf Boss: Nano Monster, who is affiliated with Harry and not at all the Shredder.
  • Make My Monster Grow: Nano Monster absorbs all the surrounding junk and grows to 30 feet tall.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The mousers and nanobots.
  • Mini Mook: The Mousers are around 2 feet tall.
  • Mirror Boss: Evil Turtlebot who has a fighting style exactly like one of the turtles, and can switch between them.
  • Mook Mobile: Foot bees are piloted by a foot ninja.
  • No Fair Cheating: While the game otherwise doesn't prevent you from using cheat codes, Battle Nexus disables their effects in the tournament modes.
  • Pipe Pain: One of the thug variants uses a pipe.
  • Promoted to Playable: Splinter, Karai, and Casey Jones become playable characters in the second game, although they must first be unlocked.
  • Recurring Boss:
    • Nano Monster who is fought multiple times within stage 'Nano'.
    • The Mystics Ninjas are first fought in the stage 'Tengu' and then later in 'Justice'.
    • Slashuur and Hun are fought twice each in Battle Nexus, and both can optionally be fought a third time in Tournament Mode.
    • Touch and Go are fought twice in chapter 2 of Mutant Nightmare, and once more as part of a Boss Rush.
  • Ring-Out Boss: The Feudal Shredder in Battle Nexus is fought atop a cliff. Smacking him off it defeats him instantly.
  • Scorpion People: Razorfist and King Nail. Both of which were formerly human.
  • Shared Life Meter: Battle Nexus has this for the player. You can cycle between turtles at will, but no matter who takes damage, it all comes out of that single health bar. If you're playing multiplayer, everyone shares that health bar. On the enemies' side, the Ninja Rats also have this mechanic.
  • Shockwave Clap: Nano Monster 3.0 can use this as an attack.
  • Shockwave Stomp: Used by too many bosses to count. Mostly from Mutant Nightmare, where virtually every boss has one.
  • Stealthy Mook: Foot tech ninjas, who start out invisible until you hit them. Heavily downplayed in the third game, where they spend most of their time visible.
  • Suicide Attack: Taking too long to defeat a nanobot will result in it turning red and also exploding. Mousers can also do this from the second game onward.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: Felkyrie in Mutant Nightmare. It's usually immune to attack entirely, except for a brief moment after some of its attacks. Its teleportation move at least has an opening so short that you basically have to be standing in the spot Felkyrie teleports to before the move even finishes to exploit it, but its highly-telegraphed dive attack gives you a good few seconds to wail on the thing before it recovers. At low health, Felkyrie will shield itself with its wings if attacked after the dive... but then becomes vulnerable when letting its guard down.
  • Taking You with Me: Foot bees and nanobots explode upon defeat.
  • Teleport Spam: Quarry.
  • Time-Limit Boss: A few show up in Mutant Nightmare.
    • While the Unknown Chopper in chapter 2 doesn't exactly have a timer, it will periodically use an unblockable machine gun attack that hits all four turtles. The fight thus comes down to defeating the chopper before it kills everyone.
    • Koyoshada in Raph's Nightmare appears in the last minute of each stage and has to be defeated before the timer runs out and he crosses the finish line.
    • Sliver in Mikey's Nightmare has a time limit of 2 minutes and 30 seconds for no adequately explained reason, and must be defeated before time runs out.
  • True Final Boss:
    • In the original game: Oroku Saki, who can be fought by beating Shredder with all 4 turtles.
    • The third game's is Ultimate Drako, who can only be fought by beating the story, then all four Turtles' Nightmare episodes.
  • Turns Red:
    • Hun upon hitting half life literally turns red, and gains a massive increase in speed.
    • Most of the bosses in the latter two games will become more powerful at low health, usually indicated by some sort of Battle Aura. This can give them new attacks, improve their existing attacks, make them Immune to Flinching, or any combination of the above. Ultimate Drako in particular does this twice, unlocking new attacks each time and powering up his existing ones when he does it the second time.
  • Uncertain Doom: Two cases of this show up in Mutant Nightmare.
    • While Zanramon was dethroned and captured in the TV series, this is not shown in the game, and it is left uncertain whether he escapes the exploding Trigolem after being defeated.
    • The cutscene after Ultimate Slayer is defeated, paired with the fact that the Rat King is a no-show, makes it ambiguous whether he survives the battle with the Turtles (and whether he manages to escape Bishop's base after it's set to self-destruct).
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The first GBA game gave each of the Turtles' stories one level that wasn't a beat-em-up action stage. Leonardo got an arcade-style shooter, Raphael had a motorcycle race against Casey, Donatello had a horizontal shoot-em-up, and Michelangelo had a skateboard section similar to the Special Stages from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
  • Video Game Dashing: You can dash to quickly move out of the way. Leo's dash in Battle Nexus actually deals damage since he puts his sword in front of him while dashing. Nerfed in Mutant Nightmare to require a specific upgrade instead of being available from the start and to only be usable while blocking.
  • Visible Invisibility: The foot tech ninjas when activating invincibility appear as a distortion.
  • Victory Fakeout: Happens after defeating Nano Monster 2.1 at the end of level 'Junkyard', where he grows into Nano Monster 3.0.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss:
    • Evil Turtlebot, who appears only in the 3rd stage, and is EXTREMELY aggressive.
    • If you haven't figured out the combat system in Battle Nexus by the time you fight Slashuur, he'll make sure you know it well by the time you finally beat him. Otherwise, have fun getting torn apart by his powerful, life-draining attacks.
  • Warm-Up Boss:
    • The first game has Dragon Face, who's basically just a souped-up basic enemy. Ditto for Casey Jones.
    • The second game's is Hun, who fights you with mostly basic melee attacks and a Ground Punch that drops chunks of the ceiling, none of which are particularly threatening, and he has no other gimmicks other than becoming Immune to Flinching if you hit him enough in succession. When you fight him the second time late in the campaign, he stops holding back.
    • The third game has Commander Mozar, whose gun and melee attacks are all slow and highly telegraphed. Additionally, his stun gauge goes up quickly and barely drains at all, meaning you'll have plenty of opportunities to stun him for easy hits.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: Mutant Nightmare has all four turtles active at the same time, with any turtle not controlled by a player taken over by the AI instead. However, if all human players are taken out, the level immediately ends even if AI-controlled turtles are still alive.
  • Wolfpack Boss:
    • The Ninja Rats in Battle Nexus. You fight all 4 of them simultaneously, but they have a Shared Life Meter; once it runs out, all four of them fall over.
    • The three Amazonian Blade Bots in Mutant Nightmare.
  • Written Sound Effect: Explosions, stun effects, and attack hits are all labelled with one of these. These were toned down in Battle Nexus and removed completely in Mutant Nightmare.