Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - NES (1989)
In the 80's you could be sure of two things in a child's bedroom: Some sort of Turtles product and a Nintendo NES. Nintendo dominated the home console market with the NES in the latter half of the 1980's, and was strong well into the 90s, beating off rival 16-Bit monster the Megadrive, and even managing to hold it's own for a bit against it's family in the form of the SNES.
In 1989 Konami (then under the branch name 'Ultra' and later 'Palcom' in 1990 for the European release) produced what is widely believed to be the very first ever Turtles themed video game. Based very loosely on the cartoon (the back of the box even says "Fresh from the classic comics"), the game takes the form of both an action platformer and top down gunner - and it was effing brilliant!
Graphically it's a little rough around the edges with some flicker here and there, but it's chunky and has a unique colour palette. The enemies are all imaginative (Crom knows what some of them are though), and the Turtles themselves are well animated. Some of the backgrounds on the later levels are really good, and there are even cool cut scenes between stages.
The sound has some great tunes which really get stuck in your head and suit the Turtles feel perfectly. There's loads of melodies done in that beautiful 'NES echo' tone, and the music actually suits the feel of each level instead of just being music there for music's sake. There are a few bits where the cartoon theme plays too, but it's mostly original compositions. The sound effects are standard NES fare, although they are far from whiny and do their job well. Some nice personalised FX for some of the Turtles just adds a sprinkling of sugar to the proceedings.
Gameplay wise, well you can't get more of a typical NES game than this. It's crazy good fun to play with plenty of action to keep you occupied. The controls are responsive, and there are tons of patterns which need to be memorised in order to progress. The game even throws in some slight puzzle elements too in that you have to collect certain items to beat bosses or pass stages.
Make no mistake though, this game is rock hard, but the beauty of it is that it doesn't start out like that. There's a nice learning curve, and the first couple of levels can be passed without much bother. Afterwords though, the Foot Clan really starts to pile on the pressure, with some fiendishly evil room designs. These include spiked floors, conveyor belts, lasers, and even spiked walls that move in over a vertical course of a multiple rooms. Some time based challenges such as the underwater level really give the game some variety too.
The game is often criticised for being frustrating, and it does have some "F**k sake!" moments with the jump direction or trying to reach an impossible pizza, but in all honesty it's more challenging than frustrating. The game has a real "One more go" factor which, considering that this this is a one eyed, battle scarred, and ruthless old school NES game with NO save function, is paramount to developing your skills in order to complete it.
The game preceded the 1990 film and was in development just a year after the cartoon launched. An interesting result of this was that the box art features the Turtles from their original comic days. All four Turtles are wearing red bandanas with white eyes and a much more sinister look. It also had the honour of being chosen to be bundled with the NES as a package, so for many people this would have been the first NES game they ever played.
I fired up my trusty 26 year old NES and whacked in the Turtles cart, just to make sure I wasn't remembering things through rose tinted glasses. I was pleasantly surprise to discover that I wasn't.
Ball breakingly good fun which embodies the very definition of 'old school', with some proper sweaty joypad action and a lifespan that will eventually cause a Quickening.
The Arcade Game (1989)
The game takes much more influence from the cartoon series, with the intro almost being reproduced to a tee and even the theme song being sampled. Turtles Arcade is a side scrolling beat 'em up, which were extremely popular at that time, and it amps up the action by being not just for two but FOUR players!
The in-game graphics really capture the animation style of the series. The sprites are detailed, extremely well animated, and the backgrounds offer familiar Easter eggs for keen-eyed fans. The cut-scenes between levels are also awesome, customised to how many players are actually playing the game at any one time, which is a neat touch.
The sound is great too. The music is energetic and slightly goofy, which is spot on for the theme they are going for. Loads of snippets of speech samples and some oddball sound effects inject adrenaline into the heart of the gameplay. The whole thing has a classic ’80s Nintendo feel to it, but with an arcade machine level of quality.
Gameplay wise it can be described with one word: Frantic! Scrolling beat ’em ups at that time all had this panic stricken button mashing thing going on as hoards of enemies swarm the screen, and TMNT is no different. Add to this the fact that it’s a four player game and you are in for some real fun. It’s a cracking laugh to play, and not only is the enemy variation really good, there are other gems like loose demolition balls, mousers, and Dimension X robots to contend with on top of the legion of Foot Clan soldiers.
Unfortunately, all this madness doesn't hide the fact that the game is first and foremost a coin guzzler, and it has some nippy traits to go with it. The hit detection is pretty ropy, and there seems to be very little skill involved in the attacks. In games like Final Fight, you had a set sequence of moves in a combination which never changed, but in the TMNT the combinations appear to be random, so you are unsure as to what you are actually doing at any given time. Add to this the fact that there doesn't seem to be any punch or impact sound effects when you hit an enemy, nor any sort of hit-spark, so it feels like you are slashing at air half the time with no real way to know if you made contact or not.
Overall, it’s a tremendous tribute to the cartoon series. A lot of care was taken with the cosmetics to accurately mimic the TV show, and the game hits the look, sound, and most importantly, the feel of the series absolutely spot on. It’s a shame then that the gameplay mechanics seem to have been flung together simply to be functional and no more. Combined with the sloppy hit detection it means death will occur often, costing you precious coin.
It certainly earns its place in history as one of the arcade’s most famous and recognisable machines, and the tech was used as the basis to create The Simpsons machine in 1991, which for all intent and purposes was the same game in new clothes.
A great laugh for short blasts, but not one you will strategically play for any great length of time.
Fall Of The Foot Clan - Gameboy (1990)
Fall Of The Foot clan is a side scrolling platform action/adventure spread over five levels.
The game's good fun to play, but isn't exactly super frantic. The pace is a little plodding, but there's plenty to do and it isn't exactly easy. Graphically it's decent enough for a monochrome title. Everything's just recognisable enough to work, and the backgrounds and scrolling are quite good. Some cool catchy tunes inspired by the cartoon plus some original compositions provide some background atmosphere, and the usual array of bleepy sound effect are on offer.
There's not a lot else to say about this game. A solid little title which arrived at the height of the craze, and is one of those Gameboy classics that everyone seems to remember.
I still have my cartridge kicking around somewhere, and it's nice to re-visit now and again, but although the Gameboy was a smart piece of kit at the time, let's face it, the screen was guff. If you want to play Fall of The Foot Clan it's recommended that you play on some sort of emulator such as BGB for a much better experience of the game.
Turtles In Time - SNES (1992)
In 1992, the Turtles craze was still about, although attentions were starting to wander a little, but there was still much life left in the franchise. With the release in the UK of the seminal Super Nintendo games console that same year it was still a ripe series to mine, especially for this new tech.
The game once again is in the form of a scrolling beat 'em up based on the arcade game of the same name, but became more famous for it's SNES port.
The graphics are almost identical to the style of the arcade, with beautiful well animated sprites and excellent backdrops. Some clever scaling and mode 7 is used to great effect, and it really emulated the feel of the animation.The sound is a collection of some goofy cartoon inspired tunes along with some meaty sound effect (something sorely missed from the arcade).
The game plays as you'd expect, but it has some new moves, and it's a cracking laugh to play, especially with a friend. The addition of extra stages and features is a huge bonus, and really makes you feel that you're money is well spent.
It's one flaw is that it gets very repetitive very quickly, and some players may find that they start to glaze after about 20 minutes or so.
Can't complain though. Amazing fun and a great SNES game.
The Hyperstone Heist - megadrive (1992)
The game is really nothing more than Turtles In Time but with some different levels. The moves and controls are virtually the same, as is the graphical and musical style.
One can only assume this was done in order to try to create some platform differences while saving some development time as well in re-used ideas.
There's not much that can be said about The Hyperstone Heist that hasn't already been said about Turtles In Time. It's a solid beat 'em up with great graphics and sound, and it will keep you entertained for hours. It suffers from the same repetitive nature of T.I.T. (HA!), but the same can be said for any scrolling beat 'em up really, so no points taken off for that.
Give it a whirl, you won't be disappointed!
Tournament Fighters - Cross Platform (1993)
Tournament fighters is a one on one beat 'em up released in 1993 and was popular among fans who were also keen on the tournament format of play at the time which was slowly replacing the scrolling beat 'em up format.
The game doesn't do anything special really, it's basically an out and out Streetfighter clone but the Turtles theme adds some spice and it's all done really quite well.
The graphics are great, usual Konami quality here with some big detailed sprites and great backdrops. and the sound as some nice FX and music. The addition of loads of characters bar the usual selection is refreshing and it digs deeper into Turtles lore to find them. The usual array of special moves are available and it'll take some time to master them all.
Totally unoriginal but great fun, even more so with a chum (and a bottle of Southern Comfort for extra challenge!)