Earlier today I was watching the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, you know, the one made in 1990 that used a mixture of muppetry (thanks to Jim Henson Studios) and animatronics to bring the turtles to life on the big screen. After watching the movie for the “God only knows” time, it got me thinking about how much the Turtles where more than just a movie, comic, set of video games, and just about every other consumer good you could think of. They were a way of life.
Be honest, who here was a Ninja Turtle for Halloween? Hell, who was a Ninja Turtle for at least four years, enough to do each turtle. How about pizza? I know we all love pizza, but who started trying those weird mixes of pizza toppings like Cream Cheese and Cucumber (man, my mom most of hated me)? Everything was Ninja Turtles, bed sheets, clothes, birthday cakes, toys, everything!
Just take a minute and think about it. Pizza? Yes! Turtles? Sweet! Ninjas? Hell Yes! That right there, is a winning formula. They combined three of kids favorite things: Pizza, Animals, and Martial Arts (it was the era of the Power Rangers and the Three Ninjas after all). The only cartoon that could rival that kind of winning combination was Extreme Dinosaurs, which combined dinosaurs with stuff that exploded! LETS FOSSILIZE THEM! Oh no, this article is supposed to be about the Turtles not the Extreme Dinosaurs.
Moving on, the Ninja Turtles had a handful of video games that came out during this era. I’m going to focus on the first one, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This game… Oh this game… How I hate you and love you at the same time. This game was one of the best-selling Non-Nintendo games for the NES. It sold over four million copies on the NES and that doesn’t count any of the other formats it was available for. That is a very impressive feat for a third-party developer in 1990. The primary problem was that this game was geared towards children, but it was freaking impossible.
Now I, like most children my age, upon opening up his first Christmas present and finding a nice shiny new grey cartridge that read “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” nearly lost my mind (see N64 Kid to get a pretty good idea of my reaction). To top it off, upon sliding the game into my NES and turning it on, I was greeted with this:
Come on, try to tell me that wasn’t EPIC! That was enough to make any kid born after 1985 lose his freaking mind. While playing, you can switch between any of the four Turtles: Donny had the most damage and range but was the slowest attacker, Leo was a solid mix, while Mikey and Raph both had short-range but very fast attacks. When one turtle died, you could not get him back, so it was in your best interest to keep them alive. Life was restored by eating pizza and there were a handful of power ups. All of that seems great, until you start to play. Any enemy that was killed, would re-spawn once that part of the map was no longer seen on the screen, this resulted in making backtracking very difficult. Enemies could take upwards for 5 hits each to kill, and took out a block of life each time they touched you. The game also suffered from buggy platforming. Sometimes, you needed to jump at the exact right spot to fit into the pathway you needed to take. To make the game a little easier, they allowed two continues where you would restart from where you where with all the turtles at max life. The one exception is the Dam level. In this level you needed to disarm bombs under the dam so it wouldn’t explode. If you fail to disarm them in time or all of your turtles die, you have to start the WHOLE game over. For a kids game, that’s pretty damn intense. I, like most kids, struggled getting through the first level. In fact, I never even made it past the under water dam level ( I still can’t to this day). It was FAR to difficult of a game. Throw its difficulty on top of its glitchy game mechanics and you have an awful time on your hands(Check out this episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd to see just how bad it is. WARNING: NSFW). However, I, like all kids, still loved the game as well as still play it to this very day.
Check it out some time, if you want a real challenge.