Awful Moments in Multiplayer Gaming: TMNT II – The Arcade Game (NES)

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. For kids in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, the NES release of Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game was a revolution. This was a title long out of reach of most kids, only available in the arcades as a massive quarter eater. Konami, hardly about to see the potential profits seep away from a home version, released the NES port (and a version on multiple computers of the era as well). Not a single child was disappointed.

Here were the Turtles, radically changed from the previous NES game that saw them fighting oddball creatures in a strict platform environment. This was, to a child’s mind, the arcade game at home. Colorful, vibrant, and sporting huge boss sprites, life was good. Sure, the naming was a bit confusing, and kids enjoyed seeing the Pizza Hut logo plastered on the game screen as opposed to balking at the blatant marketing. It was 1991. It was awe-inspiring to have this at home.

In retrospect, the game was terrible.

Everything boils down a layer of game mechanics that are, simply put, broken. Beat-em-ups, even those by Konami on the NES (Batman Returns for example), need tightly wound combos and precision collision detection. Turtles II had neither.

When a foot soldier was hit, they bounced back, and the player could not land a second hit until after the foe landed, and had a chance to fight back. Watching Donatello’s bo staff completely whiff even though it clearly made contact with the opposing sprite is quite funny.

That left the player with two simple options, either smash both buttons at the same time to deliver a swift one-hit kill, or jump kick… a lot. While the jumping swipe delivered from a dual-button hit is rather effective (and fairly satisfying), it is wildly inconsistent. The jump kick is easily countered, especially by the bosses.

Konami tried hiding behind their additions, including two new stages, one in a frozen Central Park leading to a fight with a mutant wolf named Tora. He would never be seen again in any section of the Turtles of the franchise.

Technically proficient given the hardware, Ninja Turtles II existed on hype, bested by a late NES sequel titled the Manhattan Project. The latter is an example of what The Arcade Game could have been, filled with the same visual flair, but solid mechanics, special moves to differentiate the Turtles, and level variances The Arcade Game was incapable of producing given its status as a port.

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