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Video Game / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game

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A 1989 Beat 'em Up by Konami based on the adolescent humanoid shinobi terrapins created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird... more specifically, the 1987 cartoon. As the title suggests, this game was released in the arcades, though only as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Several ports renamed it Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game to disambiguate it from the first console game [the Famicom version kept the original name, as its version of the previous game was renamed Geki Kame Ninja Den (Fierce Turtle Ninja Legend)].

The plot is fairly simple: the four eponymous Turtles — Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael — must rescue their news reporter friend April O'Neil, and later their beloved Master Splinter, from the clutches of the Shredder and the Foot Clan. The action takes the Turtles from New York to the city's depths, where after saving their friends, the quartet heads into the Technodrome to defeat Krang and then the Shredder himself.


The arcade version of this game was a milestone in the genre. Up to four players could play, and the Turtles varied a little from each other in terms of attack range and speed. Donatello possesses excellent range with his bo staff but hits the slowest. Michelangelo and Raphael hit the fastest, but their weapons — the nunchaku and sais respectively — provide limited range. Team leader Leonardo hits with average speed and range using his katanas.

Many later games, to say the least, have tried to emulate this one's style. Konami themselves would adapt and refine the game style for several later beat em ups (The Simpsons, Captain Bucky O Hare, Sunset Riders, Violent Storm, etc.) and years later would even attempt this for the games based off the 2003 series with varying degrees of quality. A stand alone game, Out of the Shadows (no relation to the 2014 movie), attempted to put a 3D spin on it. Raw Thrills even did an arcade game of their own for the 2012 series in a beat em up fashion. Heck, even PlatinumGames' own Ninja Turtle game, Mutants in Manhattan, gleaned a bit from the arcade for its inspiration.


There were several ports of this game. The Nintendo Entertainment System version featured downgraded graphics and audio, and allowed only up to two players (obviously since the NES's hardware wasn't exactly arcade quality), but it did add two new stages and swapped the second fight vs. Rocksteady and Bebop with a fight against Baxter Stockman in his fly form, making it the best port one could find of the game until the arcade version was re-released in 2007 for Xbox Live Arcade. The computer ports varied greatly in quality, from passable to underwhelming. A direct port of the original arcade game can also be unlocked in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus, but with altered music and the ability to put infinite credits into the game for unlimited lives.

In 1991, the game would receive a sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (which for the SNES port, listed it as the fourth game in the series, after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Manhattan Project).

In 2021, a game in the style of the old arcade games, Shredder's Revenge, developed by Dotemu (Streets of Rage 4, Windjammers 2) and Tribute Games (Panzer Paladin, Mercenary Kings) was announced.

This game provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: One stage is such, but considering the source material...
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • One of the most badass versions of Shredder in the franchise. While the cartoons generally depicted him as something of a joke and not really all that dangerous, (especially compared to later adaptations) the final battle against Shredder in the arcade game can verge on outright That One Boss.
    • Bebop and Rocksteady, while still early bosses, are far more competent than their cartoon counterparts.
  • Adaptation Expansion: To compensate for the downgraded graphics and the lack of 4-Player support, the NES version adds two new stages (snowy Central Park and the 13th Floor) and replaces the Rocksteady and Bebop dual boss battle with a fight against Baxter's fly form.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: Averted, surprisingly. See the USA box art on the top page? That same cover was used for the EU and JAP version of the game.
  • Animorphism: In the NES version, immediately after you defeat Baxter in his human form, he reappears in a short scene as his fly form.
  • April Fools' Day: Electronic Gaming Monthly's first infamous joke involved playing this game as Simon Belmont.
  • Aside Glance: On the NES version, each of the Turtles have this in their standing poses.
  • Badass in Distress: As if having to save April wasn't enough, Splinter is taken hostage too in one stage. (And given how the Boss appears when you find him, he was probably kidnapped to lure the Turtles into an ambush.)
  • Big "NO!": The same exact one is uttered by some of the bosses when they're defeated, such as Rocksteady and Bebop.
  • Boss-Only Level: The final stage is sort of like this, except you fight two bosses, one after another. First Krang, then Shredder, who's the Final Boss.
  • Canon Foreigner: Tora the Wolfman and Shogun Warrior in the NES version.
  • Cherry Tapping: The safest way to defeat most any enemy in the game, be it lowly Foot Soldier or boss, is to jump kick him, then jump away before he can recover from the hit. The jump kick does little damage, but its high mobility generally trumps the more powerful standard attacks which nearly guarantee taking damage in return.
  • Classic Cheat Code: In the NES version, there's button-pressing codes you can enter on the title screen for nine lives, stage select, or both. Oddly for the time period, none of them are the Konami Code.
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer: Leonardo (Player 1) is blue, Michelangelo (Player 2) is yellow, Donatello (Player 3) is purple, and Raphael (Player 4) is red.
  • Convection Schmonvection: That burning building doesn't seem to actually be doing any harm to anyone. In fact, you can walk until you're chest deep in the flames with no ill effects.
  • Damsel in Distress: April. In Stage 1, she is in danger of being grilled to perfection. After beating the stage boss — Rocksteady — Shredder swoops out of nowhere and kidnaps April.
  • Dual Boss: Rocksteady and Bebop in the arcade version. Occasionally they both charge forward, only to miss and headbutt each other instead.
  • Dummied Out: At one point, the game was to have special power ups in the form of color-coded pizzas: "Speedy," "Whirly," "Zappy," and "Energy." "Energy" remains in the final game as a life-up, and "Whirly" and "Speedy" pretty obviously show up in the sequel as the instant-kill invincibility attack and the Turtles' automatic dash attack, respectively. The odd one out is "Zappy," which gives the Turtles a laser gun to use. This one likely got nixed because the cartoon's licensors did not want to see depictions of the Turtles shooting people, realistic guns or not.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: The Technodrome has a descending inclined elevator where giant marbles roll past trying to squash you.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The epilogue, which gushes about how the Technodrome has been destroyed, notes that Shredder may have survived. The NES version goes one step further, showing the Shredder laughing after the credits to indicate he'll be back.
  • Flunky Boss: Baxter, the third Boss, attacks while throwing Mousers at you, but if you deplete his Life Meter, they all blow up; however, if he throws them all, he leaves, and you have to destroy them all to win the fight.
    • Shredder, the Final Boss, can make duplicates of himself that do much less damage than he does (but can still hurt you). Only the real Shredder can use the Anti-Mutagen Beam, the best way to tell them apart. (Assuming you dodge it.)
  • Game Lobby: The X Box Live Arcade version works this way, requiring players to get together in a group if they wish to play together. While four-player play was part of the original game's appeal, this system makes it nearly impossible to get a four-player match going.
  • Heroic Fire Rescue: The first stage is the Channel 6 News building set ablaze, where your mission is to save April.
  • Konami Code: Uses a variant with the A and B buttons reversed. Allows you to choose which stage to start from, along with granting nine lives instead of the default three.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Defeating Shredder at the end of the game caused the Technodrome to explode for... whatever reason. Naturally it's fine in subsequent games.
  • Market-Based Title: The arcade game itself was simply titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When it was ported to the NES, it was retitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game to distinguish it from the earlier unrelated NES game while at the same time making it clear to players that it was based on the arcade game. The Famicom version had no such issue, since the Famicom version of the first NES game actually had a different title in Japanese.
  • Made of Explodium: The Foot Soldiers explode when you kill them, and a few bosses (the two giant Rock Soldiers and Krang) go out in very dramatic explosions.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • The arcade version, and unapologetically so, with an interesting twist: Aside from the difficulty dip-switch, this game features a sort of Dynamic Difficulty involving the enemy count that kicks in depending on several factors, including how many people are playing in the game, and — chiefly in one-player mode — whether or not the player has died/continued. Beating any level without losing a life will make the subsequent level much tougher (in that you have many more enemies to contend with in each wave), and dying at all will reset the soldier count to an easier level. Also, some bosses (namely the Dual Boss with Rocksteady & Bebop, and the final battle with Shredder) will have more health if you reach them without dying.
    • Now bear in mind that, by default, your life bar can take on average about 3~8 hits before you die, depending on what it is that damaged you, and the original arcade game settings allow for one life per credit. The Xbox Live Arcade version gives you 20 lives. Nintendo Hard indeed.
    • The NES version itself is quite difficult, as it uses the standard three Lives and three Continues format and extra lives are far and few in between — only given every 200 kills; which is roughly every two or three stages in a single player game; kills are not shared in a two player game, and there are two extra stages in the NES version compared to the Arcade version. And it only allows for two players. To compensate, the Turtles in the NES version can take much more punishment before dying, and the Dynamic Difficulty feature mentioned above has been removed.
  • One-Hit Kill: Shredder possesses an anti-mutagen beam that can revert your turtle back into a regular turtle if hit, resulting in an instant life loss. Possibly the cutest One-Hit Kill ever.
  • Palette Swap: Much like the Turtles themselves, the Foot Soldiers are color-coded to indicate their weapons of choice. Bosses on critical health will flash red or yellow via "Konami seizure time", except Baxter Stockman who will rather flash red only when he gets hit.
  • Pinball Scoring: Only in the Famicom version of the game. The others allot you exactly one point per defeated enemy.
  • Power-Up Food: Pizza, naturally, used to replenish the Life Meter.
  • Product Placement: The NES version featured some instances of the Pizza Hut logo in-game, as well as Pizza Hut coupons in the manual.
  • Recurring Boss: Bebop and Rocksteady are both fought twice in the arcade version, first individually, then as a team. Baxter appears as two separate boss battles in the NES version, first as a human, then in his mutated fly form.
  • Rewarding Vandalism: Striking the skateboarding girl in the second stage yields a point for some bizarre reason.
  • Secondary Adaptation: A 1989 single-to-four player Beat 'em Up game based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987), which is based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage). As its name implies, it was initially released as an arcade cabinet, but was also distributed on the Nintendo Entertainment System console.
  • Sequential Boss: The game ends with you fighting General Traag, Krang, and Shredder, all in a row — though the latter two fights are fought in a final boss room that is actually considered a new stage on the NES version.
  • Smooch of Victory: April gives one to the Turtle with the highest score when she is rescued.
  • Stealth Pun: In the bonus dojo stage in the NES version, an illustration of a tiger painted on the paper wall comes to life and attacks the players. It's a literal paper tiger!
  • Title: The Adaptation: In the NES version, it was given both a sequel number (to the earlier game for the system) and The Arcade Game subtitle.
  • Trash Talk:
    Bebop: You're dead, shellbrain!
    Bebop: Watch your mouth, slime ball!
  • Turns Red: Possibly the Trope Codifier, for the genre at least.
    • The helicopter enemies had a variation in turning green, upon getting hit.
  • Unique Enemy: The NES version has three unique enemies in a single stage. The Shogun's stage had Robot Gorilla Ninjas, Robot Scorpions, and Robot Tigers that come to life out of door paintings. There are also snowman-disguised robots in Stage 4.
  • X-Ray Sparks: The Turtles suffer this effect when zapped by Roadkill Rodneys and laser cannons.


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