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Cowabunga: Revisiting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Video Games

Published 1 year, 5 months ago by Robert Workman

Unless you've been living down in a sewer, you probably caught the news yesterday that Activision is teaming up with the folks at Nickelodeon and Viacom to make and release games based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Saturday morning cartoon series, which is a huge audience hit.  This is big news for both parties, as the Turtles have always had a pretty big impact in games – even if not every release was a hit.

Since we've got "shell shock" on the brain, we've decided to turn back time and take a look at the most significant – and lacking – Ninja Turtles-licensed games over the years, including Konami's stellar arcade releases, an NES game that left us shaking our controller, a fighting game, and various other titles throughout the years.  Order up a pizza and enjoy, dudes!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

Released back in 1989, the first Turtles game was a combination of overhead exploration in a ninja-filled city and side-scrolling segments where you destroyed enemies with attacks.  Though being able to choose from any of the Turtles was a nice touch, the game's design was frustrating, with enough cheap hits and bad, slowdown-filled graphics to leave fans cursing at the TV screen.  Even the bomb-defusing segments weren't as good as they could've been.  Bummer, dude.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game (Arcade, NES, Xbox Live Arcade)

Now THIS is how you make a good Turtle game.  Konami knocked this one out of the park, featuring various villains from the animated series (Baxter Stockman!) and great four-player action, with friends able to team up with one another to bring down Shredder and company.  The NES port was pretty good for a 1990 release (a big improvement over the first game), but the real gem is the now-discontinued 2007 Xbox Live Arcade release, complete with online play.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (Konami)

An Arcade Game sequel that didn't quite take off in concept like Konami was hoping, Manhattan Project delivered some arcade fun, at the very least.  Featuring a variety of bosses to take on, cool special attacks for each character (Leo's spinning katanas are most effective) and good graphics, it was a fun romp while it lasted.  But still…who kidnaps an ENTIRE city and manages to keep it floating in the clouds?  What is this, Columbia?!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan (Game Boy)

Made back in 1991, Fall of the Foot Clan simply didn't have the same level of quality as the arcade or later NES releases, with simple graphics and one-button gameplay that didn't go anywhere fast.  Sadly, following Game Boy games followed a similar fate, particularly Back From the Sewers, which came out a year later.  They just weren't meant for black and white.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time (Arcade/SNES)

Konami took its successful arcade formula and improved it with another Turtles coin-op, this time featuring all new villains (like Tokka and Rahzar from the Secret of the Ooze live-action film) and scenarios taking place throughout history.  But the real surprise here is how much better the SNES port turned out to be.  Sure, it only supported two players, but the additional Mode 7 effects (like a boss battle where you threw enemies into Shredder) and the return of Bebop and Rocksteady were quite welcome.  Sadly, the same didn't fare for Ubisoft's 2009 Reshelled release for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, featuring below-average graphics and music, and gameplay that changed the fun nature of the original.  It's been discontinued as well.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Sega Genesis)

While Genesis owners couldn't get a taste of Turtles In Time, Konami offered them the next best thing, an original beat-em-up with plenty of non-stop action, a few new characters (like Tatsu from the movies) and two player co-op support.  The graphics and sound were a bit lesser than expected (the voice samples are particularly awful), but it's still a fun game if the 16-bit Genesis is your thing.  It's ideal for play on the handheld Nomad system as well.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (SNES/Genesis)

With this versus fighting game, Tournament Fighters went one of two ways.  You either picked up the Genesis version and realized how awful the gameplay was, with stunted controls and special moves, lame character selection (why is April in ninja gear?) and bad presentation; or you went with the SNES edition, which is easily one of the best original fighters for the system.  That version includes a number of great characters – like Wingnut and Screwloose from the comics – and has solid controls, as well as terrific graphics with an original artistic touch, paying tribute to the Eastman and Laird comics.  If you have to go with one version of Tournament Fighters, it's the SNES one.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (GameCube/PlayStation 2/Xbox)

In an effort to reintroduce the TMNT brand to the public, Konami relaunched the series with a trio of 3D based brawlers, starting with this game and continuing through Battle Nexus and Mutant Nightmare.  The end results were somewhat mixed, with good looking graphics, but repetitive gameplay and occasional missteps in design, particularly with the introduction of a vehicular stage.  But all was not lost, as the games reintroduced arcade perfect renditions of both arcade games, supporting four players.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Melee (Xbox/PlayStation 2/GameCube)

In an attempt to jump on board the "party game" train, Konami attempted to recreate the atmosphere of the Turtles' world in mini-game format.  Unfortunately, it didn't really work that well, since the button-mashing gameplay got old rather quickly.  Skip this and go right to…

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up (Wii/PlayStation 2)

Ubisoft, acquiring the license in time for the 2007 animated film's release, tried its hand at a Super Smash Bros.-like design for a fighting game, featuring various heroes and villains from the film.  In honesty, it couldn't keep up with Nintendo's juggernaut, but it wasn't bad either.  And considering the PS2 didn't have a competitive beat-em-up for four players at the time, Smash-Up arrived just in time.

TMNT (Xbox 360/PlayStation 2/GameCube)

Finally, this in-depth 3D action/adventure took the characters from the CG-animated film of the same name and pitted them in a battle against thugs, ninjas and four deadly stone warriors looking to take over the world.  The game featured exquisite gameplay reminiscent of Prince of Persia, with plenty of wall-running, combo-laden attacks and ledge jumping.  However, it was pretty cut and dry in design, and you could beat it in a few hours' time.  It's still worth revisiting, however, if you feel like unlocking some quick Achievements on Xbox 360.

What are your favorite Ninja Turtles games?

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