Wednesday 12 August 2015

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES review)

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Ultra Games
Released: 1989

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an action-platformer that's loosely based on the 1987 animated TV series.

There's five levels and you can switch between all four turtles at any point. They each have unique abilities but Raphael and Michaelangelo's standard attacks only work at short range. Leonardo and Donatello are the most useful as they have long range attacks and their weapons can hit enemies on higher platforms. Power-ups such as Shurikens and Boomerangs allow you to take out bad guys from a distance but ammo is limited. The top-down hub world is advanced for a 1989 game as it lets you wander freely and choose which sewer to enter next. There's some satisfying hack 'n' slash gameplay involved in each stage but enemies constantly respawn; it's annoying when you move the screen back to fight an enemy, kill him and then try to progress, only for him to reappear. Enemies also have a tendency to appear right next to you as soon as you climb a ladder which means you'll take unavoidable damage. There's tons of flicker and at times the screen jumps in a really jarring fashion. In the swimming sections you have to defuse all of the bombs against the clock. It's a great idea but the controls are awful; to swim upwards you have to mash the B button which makes it difficult to pull off precise movements. The difficulty is uneven throughout, especially later in the game as the final level inside the Technodrome is brutal but the encounter with Shredder is a breeze. Despite the unrefined gameplay and uneven difficulty there's just something inherently likeable about the game. There's a good amount of variety in both the level design and enemies and things never get stale or predictable.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was bested by its sequel but there's some great ideas in here such as the open world hub and the ability to change characters at will. The gameplay is decent but I just wish it was more polished to make the difficulty more reasonable and the enemy respawning less frequent!

Random trivia: The game was ported to various home computers including the Commodore 64 and Amiga, and it was also re-released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007.

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