Following the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game in arcades and on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Konami sought to capitalize on the home gaming system market once again. So, in 1992, the next NES chapter of the turtles’ adventures was released in America, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project hit homes everywhere. Fans once again had the opportunity to use their favorite heroes in a half shell to kick Krang and Shredder butt.
This time, the turtles were on vacation in Florida when Shredder kidnapped April O’Neil right off of her nightly newscast. In addition, he managed to turn New York City into an entirely floating island (Manhattan Island) and challenged the boys to come to his Technodrome if they dared. The game then involved battling through eight different levels, ranging from Ft. Lauderdale Beach to the Technodrome to Krang’s spaceship. Along the way were 13 different bosses and minibosses, including characters from the 1987 cartoon like Bebop, Rocksteady, Groundchuck, and Dirtbag, as well as Tohka and Rahzar from theTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze film. Eventually, the turtles would face down and beat Super Shredder to save their friend.
Gameplay for this game was very similar to its predecessor. Having been adapted from the arcade version, the controls for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II were easily adaptable to the new game. Players could choose between any of the four turtles, and two players could work in tandem to complete missions. Working differently, however, were the types of attacks that were available to the turtles. In addition to their basic hack and slash, the turtles could now perform a throw attack, as well as a special attack to deliver serious damage. The special attack came with a drawback, though, as each use caused the player to lose energy (unless it was on the last energy bar). Also different was a secondary two-player mode that allowed the players to fight each other.
Besides the unique bosses, enemies were fairly uniform. Three different types of Foot Soldier would attack, including common purple, yellow Sand Soldiers (that flung sand and tried to blind/distract), and red Ninja Star Soldiers (that threw shuriken). Both yellow and red were rare encounters, but problems nonetheless. Also present were mousers and giant mousers (leading up to two boss battles with a blue Mother Mouser and red Father Mouser), and Krang’s stone warriors from Dimension X (although neither General Traag nor Granitor was present as a boss). Interestingly, though, a Triceraton was featured on the box art for the game, but none of the aliens actually appeared in the game.
The game itself was released in Japan before arriving in America, where it was named Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Manhattan Project. Since the arcade game was not part of the NES series overseas, the game was numbered one behind when released in Japan. As a follow-up act to the arcade game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was very well received. Electronic Gaming Monthly voted it the best NES game of 1992, while critics gave it a high B rating, citing its additional attacks for the turtles as significantly rounding out gameplay.
While it didn’t hit as big (or is as remembered as much) as its two NES/arcade predecessors, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was still a great success. Its game play was familiar, the characters could do more, and the story involved a much larger landscape than ever before. As the last game on the NES, it was also the final time the turtles’ adventures would be limited by technology, and the console games would only get bigger, better, and more beautiful as time went on. Unfortunately for those looking to engage in a bit of nostalgia, the NES games may be lost to history (save for some ports floating around the Internet). If anyone is lucky enough to still have a copy, play it often, and remember what the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could do when they finally hit game consoles everywhere.