Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES video game)

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989 video game).jpg
The box art was taken from Michael Dooney's cover art for the second printing of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4[2]
Composer(s)Jun Funahashi (NES)
Kris Hatlelid (MS-DOS)
Tony Williams (AST/C64)
SeriesTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Platform(s)Nintendo Entertainment System, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, MSX, ZX Spectrum, PlayChoice-10
  • JP: May 12, 1989
  • NA: June 25, 1989[1]
  • PAL: August 17, 1990

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, known as Geki Kame Ninja Den[a] in Japan and Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles in Europe, is a 1989 side-scrolling action-platform game for the Nintendo Entertainment System released by Konami.[3] In North America it was published under Konami's Ultra Games imprint in the US and the equivalent PALCOM brand in Europe and Australia.

Alongside the arcade game (also developed by Konami), it was one of the first video games based on the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, being released after the show's second season. The game sold more than 4 million cartridges worldwide.


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. 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 information screen shows each Turtle's health, whatever special weapon he has obtained, a map grid of the current area, and messages from either Splinter or April. Each turtle's unique primary weapon has different speed, power and reach. When the player's current character runs out of health, falls into a fatal trap, or is run over by a Roller Car, he is captured by the enemy, forcing the player to change to one of the remaining Turtles. The player loses the game when all four Turtles have been captured. There is an opportunity to rescue a captured Turtle once in each stage beginning in Stage 3. There are a total of six stages in the game.

The player navigates the mission map in an overhead view as they travel to doors, manholes or other entrances to the side-scrolling interior levels, which represent the primary gameplay. In the overhead view, the player can move in the four cardinal directions and use their primary weapon in a single type of attack. As the game progresses, more and more obstacles and enemies appear in the overhead maps.

In the side-scrolling levels, the Turtles can jump or crouch and attack either with their primary weapons (while jumping, walking, or crouching), or use one of the alternate weapons that they have picked up along the way. These special weapons include single shurikens (throwing stars), triple shurikens (launches 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. The special weapons are obtained in limited quantities, although the boomerangs can be reused if the player catches them on the return. The primary weapon can be "aimed" upwards or downwards.

In some levels, there is a specific objective (obtaining an item, defeating a boss, etc.). However, in most levels the goal is to reach the exit and return to the overhead map in a previously inaccessible location. The player encounters enemy characters, acquires weapons and special items, and collects pizza to restore health.

In the second half of Stage 2, the Turtles dive into the Hudson River (using an underwater version of the side-scrolling gameplay). In this level, the Turtles must navigate a number of traps, with a time limit of two minutes and twenty seconds to find and disarm eight time bombs.


Regional differences[edit]

The game was released for the Family Computer (Famicom) in Japan a few months earlier than the American NES version under the title Geki Kame Ninja Den (Japanese: 激亀忍者伝, which loosely translates to "Legend of the Radical Ninja Turtles").[3] This was the first TMNT product released in the country, predating the Japanese dub of both the first film and the animated series. Subsequent TMNT video games released in Japan kept the franchise's original title. While graphics and gameplay are virtually identical to its NES counterpart, the Japanese localization changed the plot a bit by turning April O'Neil from an acquaintance of the Turtles into Splinter's daughter.[4]

The game was released as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles in all European territories. The Australian version was released with the series' original title (Australia always used the "ninja" title), with the same cover art, but instead on a grey background.


The game was ported to various home computer platforms in 1990, including the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Atari ST and Amiga. The game was the UK's number 1 selling Spectrum game for 6 months between March[5] and August 1991.[6] The DOS and Amiga versions are infamous, as they contain a gap that is impossible to cross without cheating or a glitch.[7]

It was 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.[8] It was the 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.

The NES version of the game will be rereleased as part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC in 2022.[9]


The game was a commercial success. By May 1990, it had sold over 1 million cartridges in the United States.[17] By the end of 1990, the game had sold more than 4 million cartridges worldwide, earning $125 million ($273 million adjusted for inflation) for Konami.[18]

However, it received a mixed critical reception upon its original NES release. Nintendo Power scored it 4 out of 5 and praised its "superb play control" and "super-sharp graphics",[19] whereas Electronic Gaming Monthly's panel of four reviewers scored it 6, 7, 6 and 4 out of 10, the latter describing it as a "disappointment."[11]

The ZX Spectrum port was reviewed more positively. Your Sinclair gave the game a 90% rating, praising the game's colorful, cartoonish graphics and move sets while also criticizing the game's swimming level.[16]

When the NES game was re-released on Virtual Console in 2007, it attracted largely negative reviews. GameSpot's Frank Provo gave Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.7 out of 10, citing the game's very hard difficulty and the game's unpolished and unfun nature as reasons for the rating.[12] Provo also stated that, while the game's music is upbeat, the music and the game in general lacks the more recognizable traits of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.[12] Mark Birnbaum of IGN gave Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a 5.5 out of 10 pointing out that the game is dated and only for nostalgic and hardcore fans. Birnbaum stated that the controls were poor, the enemies bland and the level design and characters were negatives in the game.[13] Both reviewers also cited its poor quality in comparison to Konami's later Turtles NES games, which were not re-released.


The game has three sequels: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game in 1990, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project in 1991, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time in 1992.


  1. ^ Japanese: 激亀忍者伝, lit. "Legend of the Radical Ninja Turtles"


  1. ^ "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [1989]". IGN.
  2. ^ "Mirage Studios' TMNT Volume 1 #4!". Archived from the original on 2008-08-18. Retrieved 2009-02-04.
  3. ^ a b "激亀忍者伝 [ファミコン] / ファミ通.com". www.famitsu.com. Retrieved 2018-07-24.
  4. ^ "Geki Kame Ninja Den manual scans" (in Japanese).
  5. ^ "The YS Rock'n'Roll Years - Issue 63". Archived from the original on 2014-06-17. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
  6. ^ "The YS Rock'n'Roll Years - Issue 68". August 1991. Archived from the original on June 15, 2014.
  7. ^ "Scary-Crayon reviews... Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I & II (MS-DOS PC versions)". Scary-crayon.com. Retrieved 2010-06-21.
  8. ^ Dennis Lee, group manager for Konami. "Konami Talks Virtual Console". IGN. Archived from the original on May 28, 2007. 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
  9. ^ "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection". www.konami.com. Retrieved 2022-03-16.
  10. ^ http://live.worldofspectrum.org/infoseek/magazines/crash/84#66
  11. ^ a b "Electronic Gaming Review Crew: TMNT". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 4. November 1989. p. 10.
  12. ^ a b c Provo, Frank. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review". GameSpot. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
  13. ^ a b Birnbaum, Mark (April 17, 2007). "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review". IGN. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  14. ^ Calvert, Darren (March 16, 2007). "Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Virtual Console / NES)". Nintendo Life. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  15. ^ http://live.worldofspectrum.org/infoseek/magazines/sinclair-user/106#14
  16. ^ a b "Archived copy". ysrnry.co.uk. Archived from the original on 10 April 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "News Feature: Cowabunga! Game production continues on TMNT powerhouse". RePlay. Vol. 15, no. 8. RePlay Publishing. May 1990. pp. 146–9.[dead link]
  18. ^ Sheff, David (1994) [1993]. "Game Masters" (PDF). Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World. Vintage Books. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-307-80074-9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2021-01-02. Retrieved 2021-09-20.
  19. ^ http://www.defunctgames.com/reviewcrew/20/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-what-did-critics-think-in-1990

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