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The Ninja Turtles were an international phenomenon, originally a comic book released by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The product went on to have major success as a cartoon, motion picture, and eventually, in 1989, a video game. This was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System and seems to have been cleverly marketed. If we look on the front cover, the four brothers are sporting the red bandanas as they did in the original comics. The comics were aimed at an adult audience, so this grabs the attention of those same people. Yet in the game itself, the characters reside to their unique colour bandanas from the cartoon, which is there to please the children audience. Clever touches like that can guarantee a product is profitable and this game spawned numerous sequels.
Heroes in a Half Shell...
The story is derived mainly from the children's cartoon show; the turtles must retrieve the 'Life Transformer Gun.'
The gun could change their Master Splinter back to his original human form. Their human friend, April O'Neal, has also been kidnapped by the Shredder's mutant henchmen, Bebop and Rocksteady. The Turtles must navigate various side scrolling levels filled with enemies to rescue their friend. Those levels really are challenging; I've got to be honest when I say that I have not sworn as much as I have playing this game. The levels are separated by an over head map which has you navigate to various sewers, warehouses and hideouts. When you enter a level, the game goes into a 2D side scrolling mode where you control your selected turtle. There's a very open-world feel to the game, which is cool for a retro title, although this game may only be enjoyable to the Ninja Turtle fans out there.
The turtle can be changed at any time on the pause menu and each one has specific advantages. For example, Donatello's bow staff has a long reach to attack enemies but is can be pretty weak and require multiple hits. The enemies are pretty ugly looking and I'm presuming are from Krang's workshop because they're nothing I have seen before in the cartoon series. One particular one which annoyed me is some type of flame throwing alien; once you destroy its body, its head flies off in an attacking bat-like motion which catches you by surprise. The footsoldiers are a welcome addition, throwing various martial arts techniques into the visual. The enemies respawn in all directions which is annoying, so your energy bar is constantly depleting as you try and navigate through the level. I found myself just jumping to avoid enemies at times as it was the easier option than engaging them in combat. Ducking helps from time to time but the enemies move in such an awkward motion evasion can be difficult. Add to this the enemies being so numerous on screen that sometimes it seems impossible to navigate through the level without taking damage. Personally, I can't tell if this is a broken game; when I first played it as a kid it seemed much easier. If one of the ninjas loses all their health, they are subsequently captured, and you must select one of the remaining brothers. You're given the opportunity to save your comrades later in the game, which is necessary for such a challenge as this.
You can see why the game was so popular at the time; the Turtles behave like Ninjas with their acrobatics and various attacks. It looks bright and attractive on screen as well, which worked well for the product as a whole. You can identify the characters on the screen easily as they look like their animated counterparts. Aside from the turtles' signature weapons, they make use of various additional throwing weapons in the form of boomerangs and shurikens. These are particularly useful when your health is low (which is often) and need to be more reserved in your attack.
Choke me in the shallow water...
The gameplay is pretty varied, although challenging; the overhead map is similar to the classic Zelda games for the NES. At one point, you'll even get to command the famous van from the cartoons complete with weapons. Another point in the game, you'll be underwater trying to stop numerous bombs from blowing up a dam. This would all be fantastic if the game wasn't so bloody hard; even after hours spent on it, I still struggle with it now.
The boss battles are pretty tough too, with very few options to manoeuvre out the way of a charging enemy. I am yet to find a better tactic than just hacking away hoping that the artificial intelligence will glitch like it does on occasion.
Illustration to Animation...
I've got to say, there's not much redeeming this title other than that it looks colourful and that it's a Ninja Turtles game. I'm a huge fan of the comics, cartoons and films, so did get some enjoyment out of this, yet I don't think casual gamers will enjoy this game if you're not a fan as it's frustratingly hard. Regrettably, I'm going to have to give it a 2 out of 5; just so challenging you're probably going to lose interest after a few attempts.
Overall 2 out of 5.