With April O'Neil held hostage by The Shredder's thugs, Bebop and Rocksteady, once again, it's up to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to come to her rescue! Play as all four of the turtle heroes, rescue April, and then rescue your sensei Splinter from Mecha-Turtles clutches than go after The Shredder deep in the bowels of The Technodrome itself.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an action game based on the late eighties/early nineties cartoon series of the same name. Play as Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello and Raphael (one turtle only, but the ability to swap between turtles at any time) as you save your friends and battle The Shredder and his cronies. There are no 'lives', as such - when you lose a turtle, he becomes 'captured', and you cannot use him again until you rescue him from a place hidden in the overworld.
Gameplay takes place in two perspectives: a top-down view, which lets you run around and explore buildings, sewers and other places. When entering places from the top-down view, the perspective shifts to a side-scrolling view, where most of the battling takes place. In addition to each turtle's main weapon, sub-weapons (such as shuriken) can be acquired, to use at foes - these have a limited use.
It was only a matter of time before the famous comic heroes would finally show up in a video game. The cartoon series gained worldwide fame in the late 1980's, leading to the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game by Konami, released for NES consoles. The game was unique and it soon spawned a series, as Konami quickly began to produce more games for arcade machines and the NES that featured the green karate-chopping mutants. They also hastily ported those games to many home computers, creating conversions that were usually worse than the originals.
The DOS conversion of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is no exception. Although most of the elements from the original NES version are here, including the unique gameplay, a combination of several oversights ruins the final result. It's a shame, really, since it surely took a lot of effort to create a conversion like this, considering the PC limitations at the time.
The game would be best described as a scrolling action-platformer. It is an interesting mixture of exploration, platform jumping, and fighting, with the fighting part being the most dominant, and exploration adding variety and depth to the gameplay. The most important feature is switching turtles. You can only control one turtle at a time, but you can switch to another one at any time on the map screen, and when you do this, the new turtle will appear exactly where the last one was. Since every turtle has unique weapons and different ways of swinging them, you may prefer switching turtles in various situations, the most common of which is when the current turtle has low health.
After presenting each of the turtles' abilities, you will see that the arch-enemy of our heroes, Shredder, has kidnapped April O'Neil. You embark immediately on a rescue mission, in a heroic attempt to save your friend and defeat the evil Shredder and his Foot Clan. Along the way, you will face many strange and interesting enemies (each exclusively designed for the game), as well as known enemies from the cartoon series. Eventually you will find your way to the Technodrome and battle with Shredder himself.
The game has two perspectives: The top-down view used when the turtles are outdoors, and the side-view for everything else. It is quite similar to another great NES game, Rygar, which also had multiple viewpoints. You can walk or drive through the city, the base, and other places, as well as enter sewers, houses, underground tunnels, etc. The general point is to find the right path, but this may mean passing through specific routes or exploring places to find certain items. On the first level there isn't much to explore, with only one sewer being a dead-end. The second level takes place at the dam, where you have to climb the inner side to the top of the dam, in order to jump into the water on the other side and neutralize the explosives. In the third level (which has a larger area to explore) you get to drive the Turtle Van, but you have to find rockets to destroy barricades. After playing the game for awhile, you will eventually memorize the proper way to finish each level, but the freedom to move and explore different areas makes it much more interesting than linear fighting sequences. These adventurous elements were naturally more common in console games than in arcade games.
Your current turtle's health level is shown as a line of red squares on the panel below the main playing screen. When you encounter an enemy boss, his line of health bars will appear below yours. Along the way you may pick up special items, secondary weapons (very rare), and pizzas to restore lost health. An interesting thing is that if one of the turtles loses all his health, he doesn't die, but is instead captured by the enemies, and you may find him somewhere on the same level and rescue him. After the rescue, his health bars are replenished. The enemies appear in pre-order as the screen scrolls. If you move backwards and go forward again, the same enemies will re-appear as the screen scrolls. This doesn't apply to pizzas you have taken. However, if you exit an area, and then enter it again, both the enemies and pizzas will reappear. This technique can be very useful for easily regaining health. The primary weapons differ in length, swinging power, and speed of usage, with Don's Bo stick being twice as powerful as any other weapon, but also the slowest. Turtles can perform attacks in three different directions: forward, upward, and downward, with upward and downward hits being the result of a combination of the attack key and the UP or DOWN arrow keys. Use the arrow or numpad keys for moving and ducking, SPACE to attack, ENTER to jump, TAB to use a vehicle, and ESC to show the map screen.
Unfortunately, the game is not as good as the NES version, mostly because it is more difficult due to badly implemented game mechanics: the game controls are a bit rough, attacks of the turtles are slower, and enemies can cause much more damage. Also, thanks to bugs, some enemies have the ability to walk through walls, run you over, and they can even appear out of nowhere if the game had an error generating their sprite on that screen. All these things may not seem so bad individually, but put together, they increase the difficulty of the game alot, and small mistakes can end up costing you more than half of your health. Instead of slowly increasing the toughness of the enemies throughout the levels, the game starts a bit hard, and now you have to be slow, learn when and where the enemies will appear, and calculate when to strike if there are more enemies coming. It should be fun to destroy numerous enemies, but here it may easily get very frustrating.
As already mentioned, your best chance is to go slowly, sometimes even bit by bit so that only one or two new enemies will appear at a time, and also so that you can take advantage of the minor bugs and oversights that DO work in your favor. For example, use the long range of the weapons to your advantage, because for some reason it is longer than the weapons themselves. Also, bullets may pass through you while you are performing an attack. There is one slot for saving your progress. The problem is choosing the right place for saving the game, since restoring it will put you back to where you made the save, but with all the enemies alive as if they hadn't been killed. This means that you may clear the area and save, but when you restore it, you will find yourself surrounded by moving enemies that will devastate you immediately. Your only option in this case is to attempt to escape from them while losing as little health as possible. If you were not able to escape without taking alot of damage, the save you made was useless. They should have made the save option properly, although not having it in the first place would make the game impossible to complete. Pizzas also reappear though, so you can save and restore at certain points to recover energy. That's the only good thing that can be said about the bad saving system! Use CTRL+S to save.
The best thing is that all of the great original tunes from the NES are kept in this version, and they sound very good too. EGA graphics are mostly up to the challenge, but there are some things that could look much better. All the cutscenes between levels are here too. All the levels are here, and are mostly the same as in the NES version, although there are differences in some parts. Not all of the enemies are present, but most of them are, and they are very imaginatively designed. There are only a few mid-bosses, though. There are locations where normal enemies would appear in the same way as bosses do, so you cannot proceed before you take care of them first. Of course, this was the case only with enemies that can take more than one hit and that just started to appear in the game, so it's like their small presentation and it's a really nice idea. In the NES version, many types of enemies appeared as mid-bosses. Perhaps fewer enemies are a good thing in an already hard game, but mid-bosses fight alone and are not hard to defeat, so more of them would surely have been entertaining.
We can only regret that the DOS conversion wasn't very good. Although the NES version had a few bad spots, it was fun and had interesting gameplay, which makes this version worth a try. You will most likely need alot of patience and good usage of the game's flaws to beat this one. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can't receive the lowest mark, due to it having an interesting and original concept, but it surely cannot receive an average mark either. Worth a try if you like action-platformers, or if you are fan of mutant turtles!
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