James Rolfe’s review of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon definitely brought back some memories.
I actually stopped watching it around the same time he did, when pretty much every episode was about Shredder and Krang trying to get the Technodrome out of Dimension X/the Earth’s core/the North Pole/the bottom of the ocean/the Black Hole of Calcutta/Tulsa, Oklahoma. I really knew absolutely nothing about the later seasons, and it’s weird that they actually tried bringing in a new main villain. It’s cool that they eventually show Krang’s original body, though. Mind you, it contradicts some flashbacks where Krang is shown in talking brain form before being banished from Dimension X, but maybe his species has removable brains. Anyway, my brother was more of the TMNT fan in my family, but since we shared a room, I couldn’t help getting into the show as well. And while I know it was originally a comic, I haven’t read any of it, and I still tend to think of the cartoon as the “real” Turtles universe, even though the fact that it was children’s programming meant they had to tone some things down. Like the Foot Soldiers being ninja robots instead of actual people, for one thing. I would suspect that robots would cost a lot more than dumb-ass teenagers who think joining a ninja gang is cool, but I remember one episode where Shredder had a machine that could automatically replicate Baxter Stockman’s Mousers, so maybe it worked on the mechanical Foot Soldiers as well. I believe the explanation from the movies about Splinter being Hamato Yoshi’s pet rat was the original, with the cartoon making Yoshi and Splinter the same so it could avoid the bit about Oroku Saki killing Yoshi. The cartoon back story, while tamer, kind of makes more sense because it doesn’t require Splinter to have learned martial arts while still a non-mutated rat.
And I was so used to Casey Jones as Don Quixote with sports equipment that seeing him hit on April in the first movie seemed a bit off. He was still funny in both incarnations, though. What I really have to wonder is why a vigilante with a hockey stick was named after a train engineer.
Anyway, since I haven’t made a video game post yet this week, I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to examine the TMNT games of my youth, which would basically be the early Nintendo ones. The first TMNT game for the Nintendo Entertainment System was kind of weird, most of it involving walking around on streets and then going into sewers and buildings, in which the view would change from overhead to side-scrolling. It obviously had significant inspiration from the cartoon, as it included Bebop, Rocksteady, the Turtle Van/Party Wagon, and the Technodrome. On the other hand, I’ve heard that Krang was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he was hiding in an undisclosed location. I have to give jeers to the developers for making the level that involves trying to defuse bombs in the Hudson River the second one, as it’s really difficult.
Perhaps the best part of this game is the overworld music, especially because of how, when it loops every fifteen seconds or so, it totally sounds like there’s a wrong note in there.
The second NES game was actually an adaptation of the TMNT arcade game, creatively titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game. It was a pretty standard beat-’em-up game, like many of the arcade games of the time that tied into popular phenomena. I remember the Simpsons and X-Men games that operated pretty much the same way. This one was even more directly influenced by the cartoon, and it included Baxter Stockman, General Traag, and Krang as bosses. Actually, I understand Baxter was in the comic, but he was a cyborg instead of a cross between a man and a fly.
The NES port included two new bosses who never appeared in any other Turtle-related media, a wolf-creature named Tora and a robotic Shogun. I also remember the manual trying to tie into the first movie (the only movie at the time, I suppose) as well, by mentioning Shredder escaping from the dump after Splinter knocked him into a garbage truck.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project was never in the arcades, but the gameplay was pretty much exactly the same as The Arcade Game, although they did add in a special attack for each Turtle. The plot involved Shredder raising Manhattan into the sky, which is totally something that would have happened in the cartoon, but at least there he and Krang probably would have had some convoluted explanation for WHY they were doing that. New bosses included Groundchuck, Dirtbag, Slash, and Leatherhead from the cartoon; as well as Tokka and Rahzar from the second movie. I’ve heard that they eventually made an appearance in the cartoon as well, but that wasn’t until some time after this game. Beth told me that the action figures for Tokka and Slash were basically identical, even though Slash isn’t supposed to be a snapping turtle.
The last one I can remember fairly well is Turtles in Time, another arcade game that was ported to the Super Nintendo as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. Again, the gameplay was pretty similar, and it also had a really weird plot device, this time involving Krang stealing the Statue of Liberty.
Why? I have no idea. Maybe he was trying to use the power of patriotism to get the Technodrome out of its current location. Anyway, he sends the Turtles back in time to get them off his trail, and the stages take place in different historical and futuristic settings, which makes an interesting change of scenery from New York. And, really, that’s about it as far as TMNT games go. There were others, but the only one I can remember either playing or seeing played was the Tournament Fighters one, and I don’t remember it very well.