With the success of the first TMNT console game earlier that year, Konami released a second game in 1989 specifically for arcade patrons. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles featured the four turtles racing across New York City to save April O’Neil and Master Splinter from the clutches of the Shredder and Krang. Supporting up to four players, the arcade game was one of the most beloved of all time.
The arcade cabinet featured four different joysticks (pioneering that type of multiplayer interaction), each corresponding to one of the turtles. Game play itself was based off of the miniseries that led into the 1987 animated series (and was complete with an instrumental of the TV show theme as the title song). Together, friends were able to take down bosses like Bebop, Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman, General Traag, Granitor, Krang, and Shredder to save the turtles’ allies. It was a simple matter of beating up as many Foot Soldiers as possible to advance through the levels, but the eight-way joystick and numerous special attacks made the game itself more involved and enjoyable (and caused many kids to spend entire allowances in a single afternoon).
Like its predecessor, the individual turtles had their strengths and weaknesses. Donatello once again had the best range, but he was also the slowest. Raphael was fast, but had no oomph with his sai. Michelangelo and Leonardo were balanced a bit better with mid-range attacks. With more button smashing came different combinations and moves, too. The turtles were able to throw Foot Soldiers overhead, and each had a special jump attack that could unleash a little more fury. Also unique was the fact that the environments themselves were interactive, meaning the turtles could destroy parking meters, orange cones, and other objects for added points.
The game itself was very solid. While not frustratingly challenging like the first game for NES, the arcade game did require some skill and continued practice to beat. Paying attention to surroundings was critical here, because it was easy to overlook open manhole covers that would cause serious damage (despite the fact that the turtles lived in the sewer). Also unlike its predecessor, it was possible to continue from where you last died, so long as you had another quarter to throw into the machine before time ran out.
Following the success of the arcade version, the game was ported to the NES in 1990 as a sequel to the original game, called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game. Game play was reduced to support only two players, but new bosses and levels were added, featuring the characters Tora (a polar bear mutant) and Shogun (a Japanese warrior). It became an even bigger hit on the console, and was to be released on the Wii Virtual Console (although that never happened). The NES version was also one of the first games to feature an in-game product tie-in, which of course was Pizza Hut pizza.
The game was also ported to other systems, including many computer systems and an unlockable version in with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Battle Nexus as released for Gamecube, Playstation II, Xbox, and Windows PC. An enhanced version of the game (complete with some online multiplayer capability) was released on Xbox LIVE Arcade in 2007, but like all other ports has since been removed.
Despite its place as the second game in the franchise, the arcade game is probably the most widely loved of all the TMNT games. It featured innovative playing, its graphics made it more recognizable as part of the TV show world, and it gave friends the ability to enjoy each others’ company while also kicking butt as their favorite turtle (or second favorite, if everyone wanted to have Donatello’s bo staff to do the most damage). The game was a great addition to any gamer’s collection, and the machine everyone wanted to be at in the arcade, giving the franchise as a whole another piece to drive its mega popularity.