When it came to video games, there wasn’t a single available platform that didn’t try to benefit from the overwhelming popularity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. From the original Nintendo Entertainment System to the Sega Genesis, the turtles were everywhere, and fans couldn’t get enough. That’s why it was even better for everyone when the turtles could go anywhere a player wanted, right in the palm of their hands. After the release of Fall of the Foot Clan in 1990, Konami made a comeback the very next year with another handheld adventure in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers.
Like all other turtle games, this iteration allowed the player to emulate any one of the heroes in green, but could also switch between them before tackling each level. That meant that the player always had the option of picking exactly what turtle was right for each level. This was a marked differentiation from other games (most notably the original video game), where the player could only be one turtle at a time until that character “died” or was captured.
Attacks available for each turtle were representative of what they could do. Donatello’sbo staff offered long-range attacks, but is unfortunately slow. Raphael has the opposite problem – fast but not very powerful. Michelangelo and Leonardo have more balanced attacks, offering the player characters that can do damage, but also have some mobility. If any character is defeated, then he is captured, and can be rescued at the end of each stage.
Unlike some of its predecessors, this game featured more boss battles with many characters from the 1987 animated series. Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, Shredder, Baxter Stockman, General Traag, and the Super Shredder were just some of the villains that the player had to take down. However, like its predecessors saving April O’Neil was the number one (and only) priority. Dodging falling boulders underground, cruising on skateboards, and climbing air lifts created a 2D environment that went well beyond anything that had been done with the franchise before, giving this handheld a fairly open world for the turtles to play in. But at the end of it all there were still Foot soldiers to beat down and a friend to save.
Like the previous Game boy iteration, this game was nothing special. For the time and the technology, it was a marked improvement over its predecessor and offered much more game play. But it was still just a simple beat-em-up that allowed fans to have fun. In 1991, GamePro gave the game a 5 out of 5, showing that it was everything that could have been expected of the time, and then some. The game play was simple, and the character selection wasn’t what it could have been, but it was still a great way for fans to have some fun on the go with their favorite ninja turtles.
Back from the Sewers came at a time when the turtles were porting their popularity to every outlet known to fans. Comics, TV, and video games all had the faces of the brothers plastered on them, and it was a dream come true. While it may not have been the best game that was ever made (or even the best TMNT game of its era), this handheld adventure offered fans exactly what they needed to become their favorite hero. It was exciting, had a much needed extended game, and showed that the medium itself was heading in the right direction. Games that came later would add other benefits that weren’t present here, just as this one grew from what came before. But it was still an adventure worth playing, with plenty of butt worth kicking.