Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) launched 30 years ago in Japan

DunDunDunpachi

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May 12th, 1989, yet another Japanese fever-dream bought the world Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the Nintendo Famicom. It would launch a month later in North America. Alongside Konami's arcade title, TMNT NES was the first game released for home consoles based on the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.


The game was notoriously difficult due to spotty design and large hitboxes. When you're 7 and your favorite TV show became a videogame, maybe you don't care. The music was catchy, the sprites were pretty good for the time, and it was TMNT! It was particularly cool how each turtle had a unique main attack, their own health, and their own items. Kids had already played Mega Man and Bionic Commando, so the design was certainly a product of its time.

Do you have fond memories of this game? Did you rent it or buy it? Share your memories with GAF.

Most importantly, is this a game that you would recommend for modern children to play today? :pie_thinking:
 
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cireza

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I have memories of this game, but not fond lol. I was a kid and it was awfully difficult for me. I remember a section underwater where you have to deactivate bombs and moving around is extremely difficult with hazards everywhere.

What I do remember fondly, and I even have the original cartridges, are the two sequels : the Arcade Game and the Manhattan Project. I even had Tournament Fighters on NES back then, which I believe is a pretty rare game now. It was kinda okay for a fighting game on NES honestly.

NES was my first console, I still have it 30 years later and the console works perfectly. I still have a selection of my favorite games, all original cartridges, and for some of them, original box and manual.

The NES was a great introduction to video-gaming because of the high standard in quality that some series had, especially from Nintendo, Konami and Capcom to name a few. I have TMNT 2 & 3, Megaman 4 5 & 6, all three Castlevania games, the three Mario games, both Zelda games, Kirby, Home Alone, Metroid and MC Kids. All really great games if you ask me. I also have Duck Hunt and the gun. I am keeping all of this for the future, but have not invested in new games for the console for a very long time.
 
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I got this game for the Christmas that followed it's release. Though I did mostly like it, it was certainly an interesting game, it was also pretty challenging and even a bit odd. Definitely a practice makes perfect affair; I'd keep playing and get further and further each time, and faster because I would quickly make it through levels I had already previously mastered. Within time I did finish the game, and I used to know the most direct way in the complex levels from the beginning to the boss/end.

For kids today......nah. The game demands a line of thinking that I would argue was in line with what we were used to be back then, but might be more than a little obtuse for kids today. Knowing which turtle to use, how to negate the instant death traps, and figuring the way through the complex levels, all without the ability to save or continue (unless you play it on an emulator I guess) makes it something that would probably turn off most people who don't have the patience for that.

Heck, I have pretty good memories of it, thought it was a good game, and even I don't have any desire to ever play it again. I got my fill of it back then, and there was one time a few years ago (likely about 10 years at this point) that I replayed it for nostalgia, and the practice and memory kicked it, and I finished it, but I was definitely rusty and had like one turtle left (Raphael lol) by the time I finished it.....and he had a fucking sliver of health left. Needless to say, if I had got a Game Over, I likely would have just turned it off and called it day.

I don't know if it's looked back on fondly or not, I'm assuming it isn't, but I don't recall too many at the time that didn't like it when it was new. Anecdotal to be sure, but I remember most people I knew liking the game but with the caveat of admitting that it was definitely a challenge. I think once Turtles 2 (Arcade Game) came out on the NES, that became the preferred game and this one kind of fell behind as the universally accessible beat em up Turtles games became the norm.

I also remember how many outright weird enemies this game was packed with. I don't know if any of them came from the original comics or not (I had them back then but it has been so long), but I remember the dudes that were on fire, the weird flying things, enemies that looked like the Bic Razor man hopping around, and the guy who looks like he's squatting and wants to take a shit, but gets pissed when you approach him and starts unloading on you. It's bizarre, damned bizarre, but I actually kind of like it for some reason. It is Ninja Turtles after all, so I always figured it was a bunch of freaks who came from Dimension X or something like that.

Just as an aside, I remember playing Fall of the Foot Clan on the Game Boy and after the challenge that TMNT on the NES presented, I was actually pretty surprised at how unbelievably easy Fall of the Foot Clan was; like, I finished that game not too long after opening it for the first time and putting it into my Game Boy.

Oh yeah, I always loved the cover artwork for this game; I'm pretty sure it was from one issue of the comics (again, it's been so long and I don't have them anymore) but it was (still is to me) so badass looking. I was a big TMNT fan, and liked the cartoon, loved the first movie, but I adored the gritty look of the comics and the related artwork. TMNT 2 Arcade Game used the TV cartoon look, but it was neat to see Manhattan Project use the comic style again.
 

theHFIC

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Has anyone ever beaten this game? I just remember the underwater bomb defuse sequence being up there with landing the plane in Top Gun as impossible NES feats.
 

Airola

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It's a good game that has got a bad rap later on when internet comedians have made fun of its odd designs and difficulty.

It's a fun and challenging game to try to go through. At some point as a kid the underwater level felt impossible for a while but it didn't take that long to eventually learn how to beat it. Today the hardest part is the last low corridor in the final level. I've beat the game once or twice but still struggle in that part of the game. It's always pretty fun to try to beat it though.
 
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grainflavour

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I live in the UK and this game was in every Dixion(an electronics shop) store going and if it had a pad plugged in I always had a quick go. My mum always rushed me off it and dragged me to other shops. Come Xmas day and I thought I had opened all of my presents and was a little sad as I didnt get a Nes. I am one of four from a single parent family so mum didn't have much money so I couldn't expect too much.

Mum asked me to check if the postman had been and behind the front door was a wrapped up box. Obviously there is no post on Xmas day but I was ten years old . My heartbeat increased and I will never forget carrying it back into the living room so so excited. It was the Nes with TMH(hero)T included. I had the best time. Hard as nails but love the game to bits. Played it for months as it is a really well made game for the time. Great sprites, all the bad guys and all four turtles. Rose tinted spectacles perhaps but fuck it.

My mum didn't want me to play it in the shop so it wouldn't spoil the surprise. For memories alone my child, soon to be children, will be playing it.
 

chase

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An interesting, but not very well-designed game. Donatello was OP AF, the way enemy respawning worked, the slowdown, the town after the dam being trial and error. Somehow it was still fun to play, probably because we didn't know any better.
 
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Never beat it. Pretty sure I managed to get past the underwater bomb defusing section, but I never made it to Shredder.
 

TLZ

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My dad bought it for me. I was a huge TMNT fan back then. I even made a blue headband and a fake wooden Katana and was in a team of other "turtles" :messenger_tears_of_joy:
 

petran79

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I remember beating it but it was not something you could control.
Last stage was brutally difficult. Also short before Shredder, there was a runway full with flying robots shooting laser beams. You had to be equipped with the Kiai weapon. There were only 2 available in the entire game. The robots required 2 shots each to die. You could not approach them. If you ducked, the lasers would not touch you. But sometimes AI would play games on you and they'd shoot a little lower, depleting your energy. If this happened, there was no chance to finish the game. Had to reset the game.
5th level where you had to find Technodrome wasnt easy either. But the most annoying stage was the one with the Giant Mouser. There were so many traps and it was easy to lose a turtle with one wrong step.
I dont remember the game fondly but I liked the enemy designs, resembling more the Mirage comics instead of the cartoon
 

PsyEd

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I hated this TMNT game...but played it anyway...until TMNT2 came out and never looked back.
 

demigod

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I’m pretty sure I beat this game yet every time I see it I only remember the stupid water part. I just watched a youtube of some dude using cheat to beat it and I definitely remember the boss fight before shredder.

I don’t think any game was harder than fucking Battletoads. That part where you’re on your bike and you have to jump over stuff and if you don’t beat it, GAME OVER. I managed to beat that stage and ended up dying on next stage, never beat that game.
 

Krappadizzle

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Still have nightmares about that water bomb defusal level. Don't think I ever beat the game but I do remember enjoying it as a kid.
 

Orta

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This game holds such special memories for me. It was the first 'real' videogame I ever owned having upgraded from an Atari 2600 and amateurish garbage ike Wing War and Desert Falcon to an exotic looking NES console and a big name tie-in with amazing graphics, music and proper game mechanics. I got it Christmas morning of 1990 I think. The difficulty was never an issue for me, I was a dedicated 11 year old with lightning reflexes and I recall completing it before the Christmas holidays ended so about a fortnight. I used to play the whole game through with Donatello and hoarded the scrolls weapon just for Leonardo to kill Shredder with at the end of the game. Raphael and Michaelangelo were shit so I only used them for the underwater section just in case I was killed, which I never was, I could complete the game start to finish with one life :messenger_smirking:

I played it a bit a year or two back via emulation and lost all four lives before the Bebop mini-boss battle. I was so bad at it but I'll give it a go again some time. You never forget how to ride a bike and all that...

Despite that, and not really making my all time favourite list it easily holds some of my most cherished gaming and childhood memories.

*that gap in the pic in the op, you just hold diagonal-up on the d-pad to skip over it.

** the narrow double level coridoor section before Shredder full of white flying laser guys, you just throw and throw and throw boomerangs whilst holding forward without stopping. You can kill all them without taking a single hit. If I recall the game really slowed down during this section.
 
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TLZ

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This game holds such special memories for me. It was the first 'real' videogame I ever owned having upgraded from an Atari 2600 and amateurish garbage ike Wing War and Desert Falcon to an exotic looking NES console and a big name tie-in with amazing graphics, music and proper game mechanics. I got it Christmas morning of 1990 I think. The difficulty was never an issue for me, I was a dedicated 11 year old with lightning reflexes and I recall completing it before the Christmas holidays ended so about a fortnight. I used to play the whole game through with Donatello and hoarded the scrolls weapon just for Leonardo to kill Shredder with at the end of the game. Raphael and Michaelangelo were shit so I only used them for the underwater section just in case I was killed, which I never was, I could complete the game start to finish with one life :messenger_smirking:

I played it a bit a year or two back via emulation and lost all four lives before the Bebop mini-boss battle. I was so bad at it but I'll give it a go again some time. You never forget how to ride a bike and all that...

Despite that, and not really making my all time favourite list it easily holds some of my most cherished gaming and childhood memories.

*that gap in the pic in the op, you just hold diagonal-up on the d-pad to skip over it.

** the narrow double level coridoor section before Shredder full of white flying laser guys, you just throw and throw and throw boomerangs whilst holding forward without stopping. You can kill all them without taking a single hit. If I recall the game really slowed down during this section.
Whoa. I had exactly the same experience you had. Bought it at the same time too, except I was 10 instead. Dad bought it for me after I had promised him I'd do great in school (which I did, was first in class). Went straight from shit Atari 2600 games to Famicom. Imagine the awe going from those crappy looking disfigured shapes to almost very defined cartoon-like sprites. You can see their muscles, faces, headbands, perfect colors etc. Huge jump! To the extent it kinda killed going to arcades for me. Enjoyed every bit of this game, because it's a Ninja Turtles game. I didn't think of flaws or anything back then. I just wanted to play as them and be them. Oh and that music is still stuck in my head to this day.

Then of course the 2nd game came out and we stuck to that instead :D
 
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#Phonepunk#

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Amazing game, so incredible. Hard as fuck but still a lot of fun. The infamous dam level I never found very tough, once you know the route, it’s easy.

But I didn’t have an NES as a kid, I had a PC, so we got it for that. Can’t believe they made that game unbeatable, I died so many times trying to make that jump in the sewer. This was the days before patches so yeah that game is forever broken
 
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Chittagong

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It was the Dark Souls of Turtles games and Donatello was Halberd +10.

I remember it coming to Europe in 1990. My friends got it and we played it tons at theirs. It was always a thrill to get through the diving stage. Eventually we got the game as well, and it got a lot of play time. The ridiculous difficulty was pretty normal, the other game I got around the same time was Solomon’s Key.

I do fondly remember the joyful ease of TMHT2 and Turtles in Time however. After the brutal first game, they felt leisurely.
 
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Belmonte

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As chase said, it is more interesting than a fun game.

The game is not good enough to justify the challenge, at least for me. Ninja Gaiden 1, Castlevania 1 and 3 are hard games but they are rewarding from start to finish.

I don't want to badmouth too much the game in its anniversary. It was a good experiment at least.
 

Helios

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Never beat it even though I knew the code to skip to whatever level I wanted. I liked the beat-em up TMNT better, but this one has a special place in my heart. Also Donatello is obviously best turtle and the game made a good job acknowledging that fact. I'm not biased.
 

Romulus

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The game is not good enough to justify the challenge, at least for me. Ninja Gaiden 1, Castlevania 1 and 3 are hard games but they are rewarding from start to finish.
Same for me. I remember getting it as a kid, and despite being a massive TMNT fan, it just didn't hold my interest like the classics. I recall thinking the game wasn't made well at 10 years old lol
 
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Dev1lXYZ

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I got this game for my birthday and loved it. Nintendo Power did a huge blowout on it with level maps and strategies that helped a lot. Mike and Ralph were always the expendable turtles, with Donnie being the top tier because of his bo staff with the long reach. The ending of the game was mind blowing.
 

moniker

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Last stage was brutally difficult. Also short before Shredder, there was a runway full with flying robots shooting laser beams. You had to be equipped with the Kiai weapon. There were only 2 available in the entire game. The robots required 2 shots each to die. You could not approach them. If you ducked, the lasers would not touch you. But sometimes AI would play games on you and they'd shoot a little lower, depleting your energy. If this happened, there was no chance to finish the game. Had to reset the game.
I hated this section so, so much. I don't know how many times I played this game only to die here, just a few screen before Shredder.
 

DeepEnigma

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Wish I knew better back then. Always gave away my games and consoles.
Did this countless times as well. Only reason I still have my NES stuff was that it stayed at my grandparents when I moved on to other consoles, etc..
 
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wondermega

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Apologies, I left this window opened in my browser for a few days.. anyway the game was a curiosity to be sure. I was pretty excited for it - first seeing those amazing screens a bit previous to release in Nintendo Power, the same time they started offering first looks at things like Mega Man 2 and the Power Glove.. ohh man such a time.. anyway I rushed out as soon as I heard they had it in at Kay-bee and paid their shitty inflated price for it because I needed that shit immediately, straight into my veins..

Seeing the gorgeous classic Mike Dooney Turtles cover gracing a NES cart was a surreal thing indeed, and I remember being surprised at the time that they didn't bother to recolor the Turtle's bandanas to match the cartoon - in fact it felt like a tip of the hat to those of us who were fans since the "gritty indie pre-cartoon days" so I had some respect.

And the game itself? Well, at the time it wasn't obvious that Ultra was a sublabel of Konami, so there wasn't quite the expectation there (I think TMNT might have been the first release under the label, actually). Anyway the game looked pretty good, it sounded pretty good - and overall the gameplay was varied and interesting - but there were definitely problems with it that were evident from the get-go. Some of the graphics were a little junky. Some of the controls were a bit loose and frustrating. That seaweed stage was irritating (though eventually you could ace it pretty regularly). The game did have some pretty sharp progression and once you made it to the later stages it did start to feel pretty rewarding for sticking with it. I will never forget the first time I laid my eyes on that Technodrome boss; It was sluggish and slowdowny and flickery as hell, but DAMN I had never seen a boss in a Nintendo game before anywhere NEAR that big and articulated. It was very exciting and challenging and obvious that they were trying to do something special with this game, at the time.

I made it to those higher levels a few times, I actually got all the way to Shredder just once - hands completely drenched in sweat, heart racing. He handed me my ass and I never finished the game, but damn it "close enough!" I gave up completely after a few other close occasions in the following months, before hanging up my nunchucks for good. The game was too punishing and sloppy to want to revisit unlike some of the smoother efforts of the day (Batman, Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man, etc - games you played and beats and played again and beat again and so on and so forth, just because the whole ride through those games were pretty slick and satisfying affairs). And ultimately that was my biggest beef with this Turtles game. Too lopsided for sure. But damn if it was not one of the more memorable "early heyday" NES titles and one of those games you never really forget.

The arcade game followed soon after, I suppose, and THAT was a feast for the eyes - and the SNES game as well - at the time they felt like "the real Turtles games," but in hindsight for all their polish etc, those side-scrolling beat-em-ups were pretty one-note and forgettable compared to the weirdness and interesting moments that I got from the NES game. So that one will forever be the one I regard the most. Good times!
 

NiiloPielinen

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TMNT on NES was the first Turtles game I ever played and I liked it a lot. I actually remember feeling a bit disappointed when I got TMNT 2, even though I ended liking it.

The first one had so much stuff that I liked, ninja weapons, turtle van , being able to walk in the city and explore.