My ten-year-old cousin came by my house a while ago, and I decided to impress him by busting out the NES and showing him some old-school games. He loved Duck Hunt (who doesn’t?), but after playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game for five minutes, he turned to me and said, “Michael, let’s play something else. This game is boring.”
CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?? He thought TMNTII was BORING! Just because a game gives your characters about four identical moves and forces you to fight hordes of identical enemies for hours on end doesn’t mean it’s boring. After all, Super Smash Bros. Brawl sold a lot of copies, right?
So to make up for my cousin’s dreadful sacrilege, I had to write this column explaining why TMNTII is, in fact, a great game. Read and learn.
Reasons Why I Like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II
1. The Plot
One of the great things about this game is the fact that it doesn’t even try to have a logical plot. See those pictures above? Those are the plot. Seriously, that’s as in-depth as the level introductions go. It leaves the gamer completely confused, wondering how New York got destroyed and what snow has to do with anything. Meanwhile, April, who was kidnapped back in Scene 1, is completely forgotten. “Sorry, April, we’d love to save you, but we have to melt some snow!”
The hopelessly pointless plot continues throughout the game. My favorite is Scene 5, which starts with the turtles hopping into their van, and taking out some skateboards. They then skate through level 5…in order to make it to their van! Even though they started the level in their van, so the level was really just a big waste of time! And then the van immediately crashes for some reason!! Then the turtles are off to Japan to defeat the enemy’s ninja magic!! Because…ninja magic is apparently bad!! Double exclamation points make things more exciting!!
2. Shredder Kidnaps April
Speaking of the plot, one particular plot point that stands out (besides the aforementioned Scene 5) is at the end of Scene 1. Scene 1 involves going through a burning building to find April, ’cause she’s a total idiot who doesn’t know that you should leave a building if it’s on fire. Or something like that.
April hides, cowering in her office while you defeat the boss who drilled his way through the floor, even though you’re on a multi-story building and that’s impossible. Once the boss is dead, Shredder pops out of the drill, grabs April, and jumps out the window. Why was he hiding in the drill? Why didn’t he kidnap April when the turtles were fighting the boss, so he could have made a quick getaway?
The funny thing is, as the picture shows, the turtle is way closer to the window than Shredder is. Shredder could have easily been stopped there. However, the game’s plot demands that April be kidnapped, because she’s a girl and videogames back then all demanded that the plot revolve around a kidnapped girl, just like in Super Mario Bros.
3. “Tonight I dine on Turtle Soup”
Ah, but I forgive Shredder for his stupid kidnapping scheme, because of this scene. Here, Shredder makes the world’s most perfect evil threat. Not only has he kidnapped the turtles’ best friend, but he is going to kill the turtles and feast on their dead bodies.
Shredder, you deserve a villain of the year award.
4. Blatant Sponsorship
Pizza Hut signs are everywhere in this game. And I mean everywhere. You can see three of them in the pictures for this article. Some people would say that’s selling out, but I say it makes sense, because the turtles always loved pizza on the TV show, so why shouldn’t they get a pizza-based sponsor? That’s just smart advertising.
Also, all the Pizza Hut stuff reminds me of another 1980s Pizza Hut ad: the one at the beginning of the Land Before Time VHS. Does anyone remember that? It was about a boy who had to go to a birthday party and be on his best behavior. He made himself a megastraw formed from eight other straws tied together so he didn’t have to lean forward to drink his soda. And then the girl who invited him to the party kissed him at the end, and he wiped it off. Good stuff.
5. Evil Snowmen
Obligatory They Might Be Giants reference: “I’m glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin.”
RAWR! EVIL SNOWMEN! Look out, Turtles! The snowmen have come! Your doom is nigh!
6. Interactive Backgrounds
Jake from Animorphs has a brief cameo in this game.
One of the awesome things about this game is that the background is more than a background: it affects the gameplay. Enemies will pop out of doorways or jump through windows, cars will start up and try to run you over, and tigers can jump off of posters and become real.
It’s a neat trick that you can only get away with in 2D. Amidst a slew of games with static backgrounds, this game will stand out as one of the few attempts to make a game’s background be more than just something to look at. Yay innovation!
In one of the levels, the turtles randomly hop on skateboards and ride throughout the level, and everyone who played the game said “Cowabunga, dude!” because this was back when skateboarding was cool, before skateboarders became big jerks who try to knock over innocent pedestrians for no reason.
What is with those jerky skateboarders? Quit trying to knock me over! I’m just trying to walk to class, and fifty skateboarders have to come and cut me off! I think the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles should come, beat those boarding losers to a pulp, and then teach them proper skateboard etiquette.
8. Weapon-loaded Enemies
Since this is an NES game, all the enemies are basically the same, except they’re different colors. Well, Konami wanted to break that tradition (somewhat) by giving the different-colored enemies different weapons. Because, as we all know, Shredder likes to color-code his ninja army for maximum efficiency.
I like this, because the game designers went completely overboard with the weapons. They’re armed with spears, sabers, shuriken, dynamite, sledgehammers, boomerangs, machine guns, missiles, and pictures of Bob Saget in a speedo. That’s overdoing things by a hilarious amount.
But hey, not all the bad guys are out to get you with their ridiculous weapons. Some of them don’t want to fight. Some of them just want to do tricks on their motorcycles. Good for them! They’re living the dream.
Reasons Why I Dislike Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II
10. No Turtle Selection
Aw man, do I really have to come up with a reason to dislike the game? Well, I guess I have to. Hm…okay. You know what’s kind of lame about this game? You only get to choose a turtle once, and you’re stuck with that turtle for the rest of the game. I would have preferred it if you could pick a new turtle at the start of every level.
Well, that’s it for this month! Hopefully, I’ve made up for my cousin’s dreadful sacrilege. I had a few more reasons to talk about (mousers, falling in manholes, three of the last four boss fights), but they wouldn’t fit onto my list of ten reasons. Shoot.