I know what some of you are already saying: Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles? Don’t you mean Ninja? And what is all this about rescuing the NES? Since when did the console that saved the entire video game industry need rescuing? Well, it didn’t need rescuing in North America or Japan, but it wasn’t quite as popular in the UK, where our beloved TMNT were known as the TMHT due to a ban on the word “ninja.” Yes, the Nintendo Entertainment System actually took a little while to get off the ground in the United Kingdom. After distribution through Mattel proved to be unsuccessful, San Serif came in and took over, making a rather interesting move that greatly increased the popularity of the system in that country. Mike Hayes, former CEO of SEGA, worked at San Serif during this momentous time, and he had the following to say about the subject:
“Nintendo at the time was a failing brand, treated as a toy by Mattel and never really securing the phenomenal success that it had enjoyed in Japan and North America. Dusty boxes of the NES Deluxe Edition would languish on the shelves of the only major stockist, Boots the chemist – which is quite hard to believe in hindsight. What I learned from an early stage however was that while a good product would sell regardless, a good product marketed excellently would sell brilliantly. Lady Fortune was around at the time in the shape of the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (the word Ninja was banned in the UK). Against Nintendo of America’s wishes we bundled the Nintendo Entertainment System with Konami’s TMHT and created the Mutant Machine. Sales soared 2000% in the Christmas of 1990 and Nintendo was established successfully in the UK market. We overtook the Master System as the number one console, then launched Game Boy (on a budget of no more than £200,000) and dominated the handheld sector, seeing off the Atari Lynx and Sega’s Game Gear.”
For readers in the UK, this might not come as that much of a shock. However, for readers in North America and Japan, the very idea that the NES was struggling somewhere is a foreign concept. It’s crazy to think that the console that changed everything was failing somewhere, but fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles probably won’t find it too surprising that this game was pretty popular. In hindsight, many reviewers have given this game flak for its difficulty and poor controls, but if you were a kid at the time, chances are you didn’t care about that as long as you were playing a video game with your favorite turtles. Perhaps we should take a moment to reflect on the importance of this first ever TMNT game for a home console, and what better way than with the introduction from the game itself. Now you’re playing with power – Turtle Power!