It’s hard to find a video game that is more actively hated than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. Ever since the Angry Video Game Nerd’s review of it (possibly his most popular one ever) in which he called it “cowa-f*ckin’-dog shit,” the Internet agrees: this is one of the worst games ever made.
Is it? It’s not a great or even good game, but I do think that it’s been judged rather unfairly.
Plot: 5 out of 10
This game kind of runs like a six-part episode of the show would. You start out saving April O’Neill from The Shredder’s Foot Clan. Then The Shredder kidnaps Splinter and you have to rescue him. The last three levels are about the Turtles chasing Shredder around, eventually entering his Technodrome (giant, futuristic tank) for the final battle.
Despite how generic the story is, you have to give props for the twists and turns it takes. Back in the 1980s, a lot of games limited their plots to the manual and ending. although Splinter returning to his human form and being a rat again in the sequels that came over the next several years cost it some points. You might think that no Krang costs this category as well, but most who would bring it up think little of the fact that the 1990 film missed numerous characters itself.
Graphics: 6 out of 10
There’s a lot of competency here, but one big issue I’ve got is that the characters don’t fit in with the background quite right. Sometimes the little things can do a lot of damage.
Sound: 8 out of 10
The music is quite good. It fits the action-comedy nature of the show. The sound effects are outstanding as well, as they are accurate sounds of combat.
Gameplay: 3 out of 10
At first glance, this game plays pretty well. There’s two main styles of play. The map screen allows you to enter areas. In later levels you have to find your way to the location of the boss.
The other style of play is in the areas you enter. Here the game becomes a platformer. Instead of having lives or checkpoints, you can switch between Turtles. Leo’s sword slashes are quick and travel in almost a half circle. Donnie’s staff is powerful but slow and travels in a straight line, making it less than ideal for attacking small and/or flying enemies. Mikey and Raph are… not very effective, so I usually have them equip throwing weapons that destroyed foes sometimes leave behind.
While the controls work well for jumping up, walking, fighting, and the map screen as a whole, landing from a jump is very clumsy. And you have to make some pretty precise landings, too.
Of course, I can’t end this review without pointing out what the game is best known for, and in a very hostile way: the water section in the second level. The swim controls are godawful. They are jerky and unresponsive. It doesn’t help that, appropriate to the theme of you disarming explosives intended to destroy a dam, it’s game over if you run out of time. Did I mention that you have limited continues?
This game would handle well if not for the two blunders I just mentioned. Instead, it plays badly.
Challenge: 8 out of 10
Even if not for the gameplay gaffes mentioned above, TMNT would still be challenging. Enemies are creative and come in a wide variety. And for those who complain that some didn’t appear in the cartoon, I think (bear in mind that I’m no all-encompassing Ninja Turtle expert) most had shown up in the comic books at one point or another. Back to the challenge factor, one issue is that almost all the bosses are fairly easy.
You might think that I’d criticize Konami for making a game based on a children’s cartoon hard, but it sold four million copies. So never mind that.
Overall: 5 out of 10
Again, I just don’t see the hate. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t great by any means, but it’s OK. Not bad, let alone the plane crash some made it out to be.
But the sequels are far superior. Can’t argue with that.