TMNT 2 (1)

Genre: Beat ’em up
Year: 1990
Developed by: Konami
Published by: Ultra Games
Platforms: Arcade, NES
Feeling Like: Pizza Hut

If you’ve been keeping up with the 500, you’ll know by now that I have a latent obsession with the Ninja Turtles. They were my first foray into comic books, the first cartoon my parents had to discuss if I was old enough to watch on my own and the first time I remember asking for something specific for Christmas. It might have been the weapons, it might have been the underground lair they hung out it, it might have just been the zany wisecracks they would spout off in the middle of a brawl. Whatever it was, they had me.

I suppose that they were also fighting for the innocent and defeating the ultimate evil while relying solely on a diet of pizza didn’t hurt. Being able to possess a set of nunchucks was about as likely as finding a talking anthropomorphic turtle for a 7 year old, but pizza for dinner was quite a realistic option. I always pretended to be chowing down in their den next to them, going over the evening’s secret activities to thwart the Foot Clan and feeling as cozy and safe as I would in my own room.

Why the hell anybody would want to sleep on a dirty couch in a sewer is beyond me, but I’ve stopped trying to understand kids. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game, a console port of the insanely successful arcade cabinet, finally nailed down what the truly successful formula would be with this franchise; simultaneous multiplayer, and simple beat ’em up controls.

TMNT 2 (2)
A great opening level doesn’t hurt either!

You’d think making a great Beat ‘Em Up would be easy to do, even on the NES, but many had failed in the past. They were either too hard, or the controls were too difficult. Not all allowed a friend to join you. Few were as good as TMNT 2: The Arcade Game. From the opening level of April O’Neil’s apartment building on fire, to a snowy Central Park, to the Technodrome, the game breezes you through locations that don’t overstay their welcome.

TMNT 2 (3)
The Turtles were never above selling out

This was also the first game I can recall communicating with my friends that a boss was “flashing”. In case you’re unaware, the more damage you’d do to a boss, the more they’d begin to flash color palettes, indicating that damage had been done and that you were *almost* at the end. Seeing this visual cue immediately increased your heat rate, and usually resulted in throwing caution to the wind for an all out attack.

There’s not a ton of strategy, and the fighting mechanics would be vastly improved in future games. Other than your jump attack, you had your regular attack and a special attack and that was about it. Boss fights were less about timing and learning their moves, and more a war of attrition. Any successful blow landed upon them usually resulted in an immediate counter attack that was impossible to dodge. The meta generally involves taking little to no damage on the regular enemies and trying to out damage the boss while not losing too many lives.

It was just so easy to pick up and play. Regardless of a friend’s of family’s skill, they could pick up the second controller and easily understand the basics. Move, attack. We’re in this together.

I will say the stages do look very similar in parts, and it’s easy to see how rudimentary the whole thing is at a glance. It can be beaten in an hour, and the end credits contain a few hilarious bits of dialogue, like asking if the Shredder and Krang were vaporized to milkshake ?? It’s all forgiven; you can hardly blame the influx of Turtle games that would released prior to, and after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game. The mania surrounding the Turtles was at a fever pitch, and still refuses to die – even in 2018. What’s old is new again, and I’d love any excuse to order pizza and play a good Beat ’em Up with a friend any day.

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