Review written by Paul Monopoli

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Released 1989

System: JAMMA (Arcade)
By Konami


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I’m going to say something that a lot of people are going to disagree with. The NES version of TMNT2: The Arcade game was CRAP. The extra levels they added were pointless, Raphael didn’t have his alternative special attack & the NES was just generally a bad platform choice for the arcade port. Do I think they could have done better? No, not really. When the game was ported to the various systems of the day we were at the start of the SNES era & I have always said that it should have been a launch title. I’ll stop dwelling on that though, as this review is about the arcade version.

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A bit of background if I may: I purchased this board at an Amusementworx auction. Imagine my disappointment when I saw a harness was soldered onto the board making it unplayable on my standard JAMMA cabinet (Sorry to go all techy there, people who are familiar with arcade machines will know what I’m talking about). Amusementworx desoldered it for me though, nice guys that they are. THEN I discovered I had a 4 player board but I don’t have a 4 player cabinet, so I’m restricted to Leonardo & Michaelangelo (players 1 & 2) for this review. There was a 2 player board of TMNT released later on in the game’s life, but it’s a bit more expensive than the original 4 player.

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Plug the board into the JAMMA harness, turn on the machine & after the RAM/ROM check you’re greeted with the TMNT cartoon intro theme with a nice little into. I remember as a kid hearing that theme music, seeing that intro & thinking “this game is going to be something really special”. How right I was.

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I was always a Raphael fan growing up, so I’d be down the far right of the machine while other people came to play the other 3 turtles. As a kid I remember being told that videogames were an antisocial activity, but when it came to TMNT friendships were formed in the quest to defeat Shredder & Krang. It wasn’t just 4 people playing individually, you would help each other out. You would introduce yourself to the other players when you joined in. If someone was low on health & didn’t have any more money to continue playing you’d help them get through as much of the game as possible before they hit that final shellshock. If a difficult bit was coming up you would allocate who was taking the footsoldiers, who was taking the mousers etc etc…

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That’s enough memories out the way, how does it play? Well I tried to look at the game openly & objectively, which was hard as the memories flood back when you play it. You have a jump button & an attack button. Both buttons together make your turtle jump & swing their weapon, which while powerful does leave them open if they miss. Being that Raphael has such a short weapon he gets a rolling kick instead of the jump attack.

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Controlling the turtle feels like it should, & the only problem I can find with it is that SOMETIMES the hits don’t feel like they’re making contact. Believe me, I tried hard to find something negative to say about the controls & this was the best I could come up with. The turtles move where you want, quickly & you never feel like the game is taking a cheap shot at you. If you screw up you know it’s your fault & no one elses.

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Ultimately it’s a side scrolling beat em up & as such it can get a bit monotonous, but for the average arcade player this isn’t an issue as they wouldn’t be playing it for very long. Having said that, it’s one of the JAMMA boards that finds its way into my cabinets quite often. However I am a big side scrolling beat em up fan as well as a TMNT fan.

Special mention must go to the music. Variations of the TMNT theme are played & other music from the score feels like it could have come from the original cartoon. The only problem I ever had was that the voices in the game weren’t done by the original voice actors from the show. Would it really have been that hard to get them in a recording studio & get them to read a bit of dialogue? I suppose this was back in the day when the videogame wasn’t given as much attention as it is today.

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The graphics are really cartoony as you can see, & back in the early 90s this was as close as you were going to get to playing the cartoon. Today there is a real charm to the game & it’s well worth a revisit today.

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But there HAS to be something else bad about the game right? Well I reluctantly say yes there is. It has to be said that the start of the game is amazing, the cut scenes, the speech & the attention to detail.

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Sadly this all goes out the window later on in the game. Cut scenes such as when Shredder, Bebop & Rocksteady tell you to come & get April, when April kisses the turtle who saved her or when you save Splinter have no backgrounds. General Traag & his stone warrior both say “crash the turtles” & they even die in the exact same way. It seems the last half of the game didn’t receive as much attention as the first. Special mention must go to “Scene 5: We Gotta Find the Technodrome” which takes plan IN the Technodrome… yeah, I think we’ve already found it guys…

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As for the ending, it’s well… disappointing to say the least.

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Yep, that’s all you get for passing. No cut scene like in the beginning with the Turtles jumping to the Channel 6 building & Mikey falling on his butt (I always loved that bit).

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Those are minor points however, as the gang is all here from Bebop to Rocksteady, to Shredder & Krang. If you were a fan in the 80s/90s then you’ll feel right at home here.

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So it was never released on the SNES… sad… yes the SNES did get Turtles in Time, which is a brilliant game in itself. Even the Megadrive got the Hyperstone Heist. However I remember having conversations with my friends about the first game & how we wished we could play an authentic replica it, or even own the arcade machine. Sadly it would be another 15 or so years before that would ever happen for me.

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My suggestion is to get 3 friends together, play a bit of TMNT arcade & soak up the nostalgia. Just don’t touch the horrible NES version, or any of the other ports for that matter. If you MUST play a port, the Amstrad CPC was the best one I’ve played (& that’s saying something). If you can’t get ahold of the JAMMA board or have no way of playing one anyway, the game was available on Xbox live & is a hidden extra in TMNT2: Battle Nexus on the Gamecube, Playstation 2 & Xbox. Be warned however that the Battle Nexus version has altered music & a lot of the voice acting removed.

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