The year 2009 marks the 25th anniversary of the fab four green teens known as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (remember, they were the stars of indie comics for a while before being made into a cartoon and… well, everything). And for the vast duration of the Turtles’ mainstream fame, they have been accompanied by video games.

In fact, it was in the pages of Nintendo Power and their preview of the very first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for the Nintendo Entertainment System that I came to learn of Turtle Power, leading me to set out to find out more before the day arrived that the game would be in my hands. And through it all– the cartoon, the oft-overlooked gem that is the Adventures comic from Archie, the movies, The Next Mutation, and into the new millennium’s mix of new and old, I have been a fan.

Over the past few months, leading up to the recent releases of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled for Xbox LIVE Arcade and the PlayStation Network, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up for the Wii and PlayStation 2, and this November’s release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Arcade Attack for the Nintendo DS, 1UP’s Retro Gaming Blog has been taking a look back at the video game history of the four Renaissance-named ninja. And in the process, I’ve been happy to help contribute along the way.

We’re playing catch-up here, so what follows is a link to each part of the Retro Revival Retrospective, with some of my own thoughts interspersed throughout.

- Retro Revival Retrospective: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Part 1 – The Introduction, simple as that.

Retro Revival Retrospective: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Part 2Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. Despite what people say, I rather like this game, even with its shortcomings. Could it be better? Well, certainly, especially with innovations and other changes the industry has seen in the 20 years since its release. Even so, it still makes for a good oldschool-Konami challenge.

A word to the wise: stock up every Turtle with 99 Scrolls in Area 3, and don’t get too close to enemies when you blast them. Stick to that, and you should be okay.

Oh, and the seaweeds? Those are completely overrated.

Retro Revival Retrospective: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Part 3Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the arcades. Okay, don’t get me wrong: while I did enjoy the NES game (despite it taking many years for me to finally beat), when I first laid eyes on this arcade cabinet, I knew this is what it was all about. Four Ninja Turtles fighting together at once against hordes of Foot Soldiers and enemies, all of which looked like they popped right out of the cartoon show.

I also have fond memories of this one because, for the criminally-short time my dad ran an arcade, this was one of the games we had. So you bet I played quite a bit, and even managed to beat the game there as well, albeit only once with two or three other guys helping out.

The biggest shame is that it took the better part of 20 years for a straight-up home conversion to finally show up on Xbox LIVE Arcade. Pity the developers of that port had to gum up the screen with junk so that you can’t see anything during the intro and character bios.

Buy Somethin’, Will Ya!: Ad for Ninja Turtles II Bribes Kids With Pizza – An interlude between installments, taking a look back at the advertisement Capcom unleashed upon children across America in order to hype up their NES port/adaptation of the above arcade game, as well as entice them with the promise of free pizza.

And yes, uncharacteristic as it may seem for me, I did indeed clip my coupon and happily redeem it at Pizza Hut. I was admittedly torn between keeping my booklet intact and free pizza, but I didn’t want it to go to waste. And besides, using it was like showing support for the Turtles… right?

Retro Revival Retrospective: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Part 4Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game for the NES. I’ll admit, I was in some ways disappointed with this game. The graphics, while good for the NES, were inevitably not as good as the arcade game. Or the sound. There was a lack of voices. No four-player support, despite the NES Satellite and Four-Score. And the Turtles didn’t have the range of attacks and throws they sported in the arcade version.

If a publisher released a game like this today in contrast to what was seen in arcades, people would riot in the streets. But I played the shell out of this game anyway, and loved it despite not quite being what made me love the arcade game in the first place; it carried its own charm with its extra levels, Baxter the Fly boss, and just having something close to the arcades at home. Plus, it was easier to hear the music than in the arcades.

Still, there are two things I wonder about. One is why the Turtles were always fixated on you with this stare whenever you weren’t doing something. Even if they’re getting whacked in the face, their focus always returned to you, the player.

The other thing is that, for a game which promoted itself with free pizza and even featured one of the earliest instances of in-game advertising, why were all the life-restoring pizzas just laying on the ground, with no box, plate, or anything? Eww.

Buy Somethin’, Will Ya!: The Conflicted Ad for TMNT III: The Manhattan Project – At my behest, the ad for the third Turtles game is chronicled, as Konami’s special brand of mozzarella cheesiness of the day should not be soon forgotten.

Retro Revival Retrospective: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Part 5Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project for the NES. Building upon what came before it, I dare to say that The Manhattan Project was the better of the two arcade-styled NES games. It was practically built from the ground up, perhaps barring the engine it ran on. Even so, the Turtles had more moves, there were more enemies, new levels, new music, new (but still familiar) boss characters, and so much more going on. The graphics were improved as well, mainly where opening, character select, and cutscenes were concerned. There’s even a little voicework (“cowabunga!”).

Replaying it recently really gave me a new appreciation for it, and if I were to look back now and recommend one to someone, this would be it.

Retro Revival Retrospective: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Part 6Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time for the arcades. Do take note of the lack of a “IV” in the title, as it seems many are unaware that this game actually existed before the Super Nintendo Entertainment System had one to call its own.

Just as The Manhattan Project followed from and evolved the concepts introduced in TMNTII: The Arcade Game, so too did Turtles in Time follow from its predecessor, the original arcade quarter-muncher. The Turtles had even more moves, more enemies, more animation, more sound clips, and just so much more going on than either Turtles III or the first arcade title.

At this late hour, words fail me as to how to best describe the difference. So instead, I’ll just borrow from Konami and nearly every Turtles-branded piece of anything from their first run at the top, and draw a pizza comparison: if the original arcade game were a pepperoni pizza, then Turtles in Time was a Meat Lover’s pizza, with a side of breadsticks and chicken wings.

Crud. Now I’ve made myself hungry. Lucky thing that this is the last entry– so far, that is. More are on the way, and I’ll be sure to provide the links here as they come up (perhaps a new post and a corresponding update to this one as well).

–LBD “Nytetrayn”

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