When you’re a kid you have some video games and then you have THE GAME. It’s a special video game that encompases your life for awhile. That was me and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for the original 8 bit Nintendo.
Why was I so enthralled with it? There’s a variety of reasons, but the first and most obvious is the box art. I didn’t grow up with the comic book version. I only knew about the cartoon version, so it was pretty mind blowing to see the loveable Ninja Turtles look like complete bad asses on the box. Why were they so serious? Why weren’t the scarfing pizza, skateboarding, and trying to bang April O’Neil? I didn’t know, but perhaps unintentionally they were so serious because the game was so fricking hard. More on that in a minute.
Most licensed games suck. It is true now and it was especially true back in 1989. Maybe 1 out of 10 licensed NES games was okay. So it was surprising that the TMNT NES game captured several of my qualifications for a good licensed game: You could control the characters decently, the characters looked like the characters they were based on, the game felt like it was made by people who had some clue as to what the game was based on despite there being tons of weird ass enemies you never saw on the cartoon.
The areas that surpassed my expectations: You could select each of the turtles and they each used their own weapons! Seriously, that was not to be taken for granted back then. The music was pretty cool. And you could drive the van at a certain point! It wasn’t the amazing Arcade game, but it was the best I could ever expect for my Nintendo.
All of this should have made me extremely happy, but the game’s fatal flaw is that it is incredibly difficult. Controller throwing difficult. Lose your will to live difficult. Most people remember the dam level as the difficult part… but that’s for chumps who give up too soon. I worked and worked on being an awesome ninja turtle swimmer on that game and beat it. This was one of my biggest gaming achievements. Granted, I kind of sucked at video games. It was an intense personal victory.
Little did I know that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had much, muct more in store for me. So many hours of my life were spent in a desperate struggle to beat it, to no avail. I could go on at length about it, but I’ll spare you. The Angry Video Game Nerd perfectly captures just how insane the game is and I stress that you have to watch his review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES.
I still have some fond memories of the game, despite it’s high levels of rage inducing frustration. Perhaps though the difficulty helped raise the game to fondly remembered Nintendo game of my youth to something much more epic.