Arcade Classic Reviews: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles Coin Op

Manufacturer: Konami
Year: 1989
Genre: Scrolling Fighter

First a little background on Konami, a name and logo I’m sure a lot of people still recognise (although I didn’t realise that changed it recently). Gaming wise they can be associated with the Silent Hill series, Metal Gear Solid, as well as titles from back in the day such as Frogger and more famously Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Konami was founded on March 21st 1969 by Kagemasa Kozuki (current chairman of the board and Chief Executive Officer) and originally began as a jukebox rental/repair business in Osaka. Konami’s first actual game machine was not created until 1978. They began to achieve success with hit arcade games such as 1981’s Frogger, Scramble, and Super Cobra, many of which were licensed to other companies for stateside release, including Stern Electronics and Gremlin Industries.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (although for us more ‘sensitive’ Europeans – Hero Turtles) was a side-scrolling beat-’em-up released by Konami as a coin-operated video game in 1989. It is based on the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series which began airing in the fall of 1987. The original coin-op game was distributed to the arcades in two variants: a standard 2-player version that allowed either player to choose their character and a deluxe 4-player version with each player controlling a different character. The player chooses from one of the four Ninja Turtles: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael (my personal favourite) and follows the usual story for our four green heroes. Shredder kidnaps annoying channel 6 reporter April O’Neil as well as their sensei Splinter.

The gameplay is such the Turtles battle their way through each level defeating an inordinate amount of the Shredder’s foot soldiers to reach a boss at the end of each stage. Each character has his own distinct style and weapon; Donatello has slower attacks but a longer range with his bo-staff, Michelangelo and Raphael have fast attacks but a short range, and Leonardo is a well-rounded Turtle with average range and speed. Each stage results in a fight, up against some of the Turtles recurring bad guy characters, Bebop and Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman, Krang, and Shredder.

Too many hours playing this (although I never completed it) and way too much pocket money spent, the original Arcade coin op is a classic, and, if one day I win the lottery or something, I would buy the original machine and invite everyone over to play it. Turtles provided hours of great gameplay and graphics and even better with a second player. I’ve wanted to go back and play it ever since… which brings me to my fascination with the Amiga conversion of this game below! Read on!

Amiga Coversion:

Genre: Arcade – Beat em’ up

Year: 1991

Developer: Probe Software, Image Works

The Amiga conversion is the only one out of the many out there I’ve played, so I’m not sure how others live up to the original coin op. Depending on how you look at this game, either comparing it to its Arcade counterpart, or as a standalone game, it doesn’t really appeal on any level, apart from the fact it was Turtles!

I always go back to this expecting it to be as good as it was in the arcade, loading it up in anticipation of the same great gameplay, special moves and upbeat intro sequence. I’m usually pretty disappointed after 5 minutes of play (and yet I still go back for more) mainly because it’s the only way I can get to play this game at home, sadly it’s as close as I’m going to get at this point in time to the original arcade version.

The graphics are pretty poor and there really isn’t anything good to say about the gameplay, animation in the intro sequence and music. You can distinguish between the Turtles mainly by the weapon they’re carrying and not much else. The lack of music means your ears are abused by the poor sound effects which have an awful echo (kinda sounds like dropping empty 2ltr coke bottles on a tiled floor) and doesn’t really improve beyond that.

The controls are painfully slow and the glitchy graphics make it difficult to see what you’re hitting or doing when there are multiple enemies on the screen.

Poor graphics, no music and terrible sound effects, awful gameplay the lack of special moves makes this conversion one of the poorest I’ve seen; home computers/consoles at this time promised to bring the arcade into your home, this one really didn’t (doesn’t want to use ‘cut the mustard’), um, do it for me. Even without the comparison I wouldn’t rank this game very highly. So why review it? Mainly because  I’m annoyed I can’t play this in the arcade anymore; I’m also annoyed I have to play the Amiga version to try and recapture some of that experience. Plus I loved the Turtles cartoon so who wouldn’t want to play a Turtles game?

53% from Amiga Action 29 (Feb 1992)

30% from AUI Vol 5 No 3 (Mar 1991)

Coin Op Screen shots and cabinet picture from the awesome International Arcade Museum! Please visit their site here!

Also released on Arcade, NES, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, ZX Spectrum, Xbox 360 (XBLA)

Please also visit the Konami website!


5 thoughts on “Arcade Classic Reviews: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

  1. I remember shovelling far too many 10p’s into this machine down the local chippy. If it wasn’t this it was Golden Axe… Now there’s a game!!!

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