Genre: Beat ’em Up
Year: 1992
Developed by: Konami
Published by: Konami
Platforms: NES
Feeling Like: A shell of a good time

Not the turtles, again!

I promise, this will be the second to last entry to feature our ninjutsu-yielding, reptilian, trash talking chums. I’m sorry! It’s impossible to avoid going back to these kinds of games. The genre was at the forefront of the gaming zeitgeist early on, as the formula was easy to replicate and they almost always had multiplayer. Licensed games, and there were a ton of them, could do worse than outright copy existing, successful Beat ’em Ups and swap in their brand and themes instead.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project is a ridiculously long name for such a short game, but it’s one of my favorite games on the original Nintendo and I believe is a sorely under appreciated title. I think the cause of that is that it was released very late in the system’s lifecycle. By 1992, the Super Nintendo had been out for over a year and most of the world had moved on from the original in terms of interest.

Not me.

I don’t remember when I finally got my own Super Nintendo, but it wasn’t in 1992. That left me with the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and my tiny 13 inch CRT television. Since I was eight years old, income was limited and purchasing options were out of the question. Begging my parents for money to rent something on the weekends was a possibility. My good behavior during the week and the availability of a new video game Friday night were most certainly positively correlated. There was never a better feeling than swarming into the store, avoiding the dozens of other kids there for a similar reason, and seeing that there was indeed a box behind the game box, indicating it was available for play. Likewise, the sight of no double box dropped my stomach like a stone.

So, it was a bike ride to Sunset/Spotlight video in order to rent a game I’d played and beaten so many times, it probably would’ve been smarter to just ask for it for my birthday and saved my parents some money in the long run. Economics was not my strong suit back then. Reminiscing, I thought the trek to the video store took hours and I’d often try to swing a ride if my parents were going out on an errand. Google Maps says it’s a 12 minute bike ride from Oliver St., so clearly young Henry was much more averse to using his own legs to get him anywhere. You’d think the acrobatic athletics of the Turtles would’ve inspired me?

My strategy was to one-hit-kill every enemy I could find by hitting Down + Attack which flipped foot soldiers over your head, causing a tiny explosion. Little did I know, that move scored you less points than killing enemies normally. This blew my mind, particularly since I only found out this tidbit of information seventeen minutes ago. Since my other strategy was to get as many points as early as possible so I would have enough lives to make it through the gauntlet of the final few bosses…maybe I would’ve taken out the baddies in a normal, button-mashy fashion if I’d known.

My favorite part was the special moves. I feel like this was very common back in the day, and I don’t know if it’s because developers didn’t know how to balance ultra powerful attacks, but using them takes 1 life point off. It sucks. Each hero in a half shell has their own unique move and, unsurprisingly, Raphael’s is the best. I’m biased as hell since he’s my favorite turtle, but the way you can air drill yourself back and forth against bosses is the best way to take them down. Prove me wrong. (Don’t, I don’t care that much). The key was to really start spamming the move when you only have a few hit points left, especially if you’re down to your last health bar since you can’t kill yourself using it. It heighted the tension, with the manic music pulsing and the boss starting to flash and you’re zipping around the screen trying to get a few hits in without getting counter-attacked (nearly impossible). My palms are getting sweaty just thinking about it.

I think I beat the game, but I really can’t be sure. I know I didn’t do it solo – I have a very vivid memory of walking to a friend’s house after giving up on the Tokka boss fight. The big jerk kept punching me into the electric billboard and blocking my kicks with his dumb little shield. Without moral support, and a partner in ass kicking, I waved the white flag. Having friends over, regardless of video game ability, usually meant I could coerce them into playing with me. It wasn’t a hard sell – the game isn’t long, everybody knew how to play Beat ’em Ups, everybody knew the Ninja Turtles and the urgency of “we have to return it to the video store tonight” usually motivated an immediate start.

It’s impossible to fully convey how special some of the original Nintendo games are. It was my first console, and I regret selling it back in the day; I still have my Super Nintendo somewhere lurking in my closet gathering dust. The graphics haven’t aged well, but it’s also easy to understand what everything is on the screen. The music gets you going. All the infamous Turtle enemies are here, and some of them have neat little introductions to the fight. There’s co-operative multiplayer. The stages range from sewers (naturally), to the beach, to the Technodrome to Manhattan in the sky. Even the Cover Art is fantastic.

There are only a handful of NES games I’d give a go today, and you’re looking at one of them.

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