Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES video game)

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This article is about the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game released for the NES. For the arcade game and its home conversions, see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (arcade game).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Box art of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The box art was taken from Michael Dooney's cover art for the second printing of the TMNT #4 comic book..[1]
Developer(s) Konami
Composer(s) Jun Funahashi
Series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Platform(s) NES, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX, ZX Spectrum, PlayChoice-10, Virtual Console
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Platform action game
Mode(s) Single-player

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (激亀忍者伝 Geki Kame Ninjaden?) is a side-scrolling platform game for the Nintendo Entertainment System released by Konami (under the Ultra Games imprint) in 1989. Loosely based on the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, being released after the show's second season, it is notably one of the first video games based on the property alongside the arcade game (also developed by Konami). which was also released in 1989.

The game received mixed reviews, most notably for its high difficulty level, and among fans and critics, it has been widely considered to be one of the most difficult NES games ever made. Despite this, it was a commercial success, selling over 4 million copies and becoming one of the best-selling titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System.


The Ninja Turtles (Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello) are on a mission to retrieve the Life Transformer Gun from Shredder, a device that could restore their sensei Splinter back to his human form. The Turtles' first objective is to rescue their reporter friend April O'Neil, who is being held captive by Bebop and Rocksteady somewhere in the city. After rescuing April, the turtles must swim underwater to disarm a series of bombs set to destroy a dam, rescue Splinter from the Mecha Turtle, destroy a giant Mouser, find the Technodrome and eventually defeat Shredder.


Leonardo surrounded by Mousers in the sewer

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a single-player action game where the player can control any of the four turtles. The player starts the game as Leonardo, but can switch to any of the other Turtles at any time by pressing the Start button to access the information screen. The info screen shows a summary of each Turtle's health and whatever special weapon he has obtained, a map grid of the current area (not available inside the final stage), and messages from either Splinter or April. When the player's current character runs out of health, falls into a fatal trap such as a fire pit, or is run over by a Roller Car, he will be captured by the enemy, forcing the player to select one of the other remaining Turtles. The player loses the game when all four Turtles have been captured. A captured Turtle can be rescued from Stage 3 and onward, though only one Turtle can be freed per stage. There are a total of six stages in the game.

The game begins with an overhead view used for navigating around the mission map, switching to a side view when the player enters a manhole or a building. Enemies can attack the player while exploring in the overhead view; Foot Soldiers, Roller Cars (effectively steam rollers), and in later missions, even aircraft can assault the player. However, the player can strike back with his weapon or, in Stage 3, either missiles or rocket launchers from the Party Wagon. Once inside a sewer or a building, the player encounters enemy characters such as Fire Freaks (beings of living fire), additional Foot Soldiers (who jump, kick, and throw shurikens), and Mousers. The player can also acquire weapons and special items, and collect pizza to restore health. The types of enemies encountered become stronger in later stages draining their life bar quicker.

The Stages[edit]

In Stage 1 the Turtles must navigate through a map and rescue April. She will appear tied up with Rocksteady guarding her while the Turtles battle Bebop. (Do not attempt to reach April at this point as hitting Rocksteady while Bebop is alive will drain your health bar). Bebop has only his fists as weapons and can jump. Once Bebop is defeated, Rocksteady will grab April and escape. The stage ends in a warehouse where you see April tied up again and this time the Turtles must battle Rocksteady. Rocksteady has a gun as a weapon and jumps around. Once he is defeated April is rescued.

In the second half of Stage 2, the Turtles dive into the Hudson River to find and disarm a total of eight time bombs that have been planted at a dam. In this level, the Turtles must navigate a number of traps, such as electrical currents and electrified seaweed, with a time limit of two minutes and twenty seconds to find and disarm all of them.

After the dam is secure, the Turtles return home only to find Splinter gone and Shredder telling them that they have kidnapped him.

In Stage 3, the map is large and Turtles can navigate with their Party Wagon which allows for faster navigation around the map. They can enter and exit the Party Wagon at any time (press the Select button to exit) but must exit before entering any buildings and sewers. The Wagon is armed with missiles that can inflict damage and destroy the Roller Cars and can run over any foot soldiers with ease. The individual Turtle's health bar determines the health bar of the Party Wagon (the Turtle will be captured from their Party Wagon if its health bar drains to zero). There are barricades placed around the map that hinder their progress. The Turtles must obtain Rocket Launchers either in the sewers or in the buildings and use them to destroy the barricades. Splinter is guarded by 2 bosses that battle the Turtles one after another. The first boss is a Turtle similar to Leonardo using Katana blades as weapons. The second boss is someone with a rocket suit and fires missiles. Splinter is rescued once both bosses are defeated.

In Stage 4 the Turtles are in a large Hangar area with buildings and sewers labelled 1-18. They must navigate the map and enter buildings/sewers in order to get to number 18. Enemy aircraft drop bombs if the Turtles get to close to them. The Turtles must defeat a large Mouser before gaining access to their Blimp that will take them closer to the Technodrome. The Mouser can fire lasers from its eyes and drops smaller mousers when it opens its mouth. The Turtles can only inflict damage to the large Mouser when it opens its mouth revealing a bulb shaped object within which drains its life bar if hit.

In Stage 5, the Turtles must find their way to the underground Technodrome. There are 2 buildings that have pizzas and 3 sewer options with one of them leading to the boss while the other two are dead ends. The turtles have to battle with more advanced enemies that inflict serious damage. When the right sewer is selected, the Turtles will have to battle with the Technodrome from the outside with the goal of disabling the Eye on top of the Technodrome. The defenses the Technodrome has is electricity on the outside, foot soldiers coming out of it and two guns. Each of its defenses can be defeated making it easier for the Turtles to damage the Eye although only strikes to the Eye count toward depleting its life bar. Defeating the Eye enables access to the Technodrome itself.

In Stage 6, the Turtles begin inside the Technodrome encountering enemies along the way. They will need to navigate without the aid of a map in order to reach Shredder for the Final Battle. Shredder has a ray gun that mutates the Turtles back to their original form. This means an automatic draining of the health bar down to zero and hence an automatic capture. If the Turtles touch Shredder without attacking him, they will lose at least 4 health bars. The player wins when Shredder is defeated.

In the end, Splinter changes back to his human form and the Turtles, April and Splinter all celebrate with pizza! (At Splinter's suggestion!)

Power ups[edit]

A number of items can be picked up during the quest, including single shurikens (throwing stars), triple shurikens (allows the launch of three stars simultaneously in a spreading pattern), boomerangs, and the "Kiai", a scroll that expands into a crescent-shaped beam and inflicts devastating damage on even boss characters. These items are occasionally dropped by enemies. Other items, which can only be found in certain buildings or sewers, include missiles for the Party Wagon in Stage 3 for destroying barricades and other enemy vehicles; ropes for crossing wide gaps between buildings; and an invincibility item shaped like a Turtle's face that supercharges the player for several seconds, making him impervious to attack and able to instantly kill any enemy with a single hit. There are also three kinds of pizza that can be retrieved: a single slice of pizza restores 25% health (two life boxes); a half pizza restores 50% health (four life boxes); and a whole pizza restores the Turtle's entire life gauge. The Turtles can attack either with their default weapons while jumping, walking, or crouching, or use one of the alternate weapons that he has picked up along the way by pressing the Select button to choose one. The aforementioned ropes are used automatically from buildings with the appropriate pipes for making the connection.

Regional differences[edit]

The game was released for the Family Computer (or Famicom) in Japan a few months earlier than the American NES version under the title of Geki Kame Ninja Den (激亀忍者伝?, which roughly translates to "Legend of the Radical Ninja Turtles"). This was the first T.M.N.T. product released in the country, predating the Japanese dub of both the first film and the animated series, resulting in the unusual name change. Subsequent T.M.N.T. video games released in Japan kept the franchise's original title. While graphics and gameplay are virtually identical to its NES counterpart, the plot underwent a slight change: April O'Neil, who was simply a friend of the Turtles in the American version, is established to be Splinter's daughter in the Famicom version.[2]

The game was released as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles in all European territories with the exception of Italy, where it kept the American title.


The game was ported to various home computer platforms in 1990, including the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Atari ST and Amiga. The Spectrum version of the game was number 1 in the UK sales chart from March[3] until August 1991.[4] The DOS version is infamous, as it contains a gap that is impossible to cross without cheating.[5]

It was also released in 2007 on the Wii's Virtual Console. It was released for the Wii in Europe and Australia for 500 points which was later raised to 600 Wii Points. In North America, it was released for Wii on April 2, 2007 for the price of 600 points—100 points more than the average NES game—due to a licensing issue.[6] This is the very first licensed game to appear on the North American and European Virtual Console. Due to licensing issues, it was later removed from the Wii Shop Channel in Japan on January 24, 2012 and in North America and Europe on January 26, 2012.


Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 3/5 stars[7]
Crash 80%[8]
GameSpot 2.7/10[9]
IGN 5.5/10[10]
Nintendo Life 3/10 stars[11]
Nintendo Power 8.25
Sinclair User 94%[12]
Your Sinclair 90%[13]
The Video Game Critic C-[14]

The original NES version was a major success, with over 4 million copies sold. It was one of the best-selling third party NES games. A series of computer ports were developed and rushed out in time for that year's Christmas season, but did not fare nearly as well, commercially or critically. Despite the fact that this game was a success, it got many mixed reviews. The game received criticism for its difficult gameplay, being noted by many fans and critics as one of the most frustrating NES games ever made. However, the computer versions were even harder due to sloppy programming and controls. The PC port notably has an impossible section where the player must jump over a low-hanging ceiling and cannot avoid colliding with it and falling into the sewer (the game however has cheat codes that allow this level to be skipped).

Despite the criticism, the game was received well by the official Nintendo magazine Nintendo Power. The game went on to win their 1989 Game of the Year award.


  1. ^ "Mirage Studios' TMNT Volume 1 #4!". Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  2. ^ "Geki Kame Ninja Den manual scans" (in Japanese). 
  3. ^ http://ysrnry.co.uk/ys63.htm
  4. ^ http://ysrnry.co.uk/ys68.htm
  5. ^ "Scary-Crayon reviews... Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I & II (MS-DOS PC versions)". Scary-crayon.com. Retrieved 2010-06-21. 
  6. ^ Dennis Lee, group manager for Konami. "Konami Talks Virtual Console". IGN. As you know, currently we do not hold the video game license for TMNT, so we had to create a new licensing deal for these titles 
  7. ^ Couper, Chris. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Review". Allgame. Retrieved December 9, 2012. 
  8. ^ http://www.worldofspectrum.org/showmag.cgi?mag=Crash/Issue84/Pages/Crash8400066.jpg
  9. ^ Provo, Frank. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review". Gamespot. Retrieved December 9, 2012. 
  10. ^ Birnbaum, Mark (April 17, 2007). "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review". IGN. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  11. ^ Calvert, Darren (March 16, 2007). "Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Virtual Console / NES)". Nintendo Life. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  12. ^ http://www.worldofspectrum.org/showmag.cgi?mag=SinclairUser/Issue106/Pages/SinclairUser10600015.jpg
  13. ^ http://ysrnry.co.uk/articles/teenagemutantheroturtles.htm
  14. ^ "The Video Game Critic's NES Reviews". videogamecritic.net. Retrieved 9 December 2012. 

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