by Chris M. P.

There’s no doubt that if you’ve stepped into a few arcades at some point in your life, you may have spotted Konami’s classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade cabinet. A glorious sight, colorful and chaotic…blasting it’s chiptune render of the classic theme…adorned with artwork featuring a much too skinny Shredder and banana-suited-big-wigged April. And it’s absolutely bonkers to think you’re able to own a replica for a decent price through your local Walmart. A thought that would’ve had 10-year-old-me believing we’re quite possibly The Jetsons

But, if you’re like me, and don’t want to make such a financial commitment to something that will eventually be used as a theatrical laundry rack…then I have the next best thing that’ll break a twenty dollar bill. 

But here’s the catch: It’s under four inches tall and it’s not the next best thing

First…The Source

Developed and published by Konami, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was released in 1989 quickly becoming a staple of arcades worldwide and personally responsible for eating hundreds of my quarters over the years. It featured the ability to play as one (or four) of your favorite Turtles to stop the evil Shredder after he kidnapped yo’ girl April and yo’ boy Splinter. With colorful graphics, pizza power ups, digitized voices, and the gnarly theme song, TMNT successfully captured the vibes of the classic cartoon during the height of Turtlemania. And as the decades pass, it still proves to be a fun four player beat ‘em up. Even by today’s standards, many judge an arcades’ authenticity by the mere presence of a TMNT cabinet. 

Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was ported to the NES in 1990 as well as various computer ports in 1991. And, as previously mentioned, Arcade1Up released a TMNT replica arcade cabinet almost identical to the original. Of course, it’s smaller, but not as small as this one…  

Now…The Tiny Arcade 

I saw this in the electronics department of my local Target for $19.99 and did a double take. These “tiny arcades” have been around for a couple years with the likes of Pac-man, Galaga, Q-Bert, Tetris and more. But Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? The epic four-player-beat ‘em-up classic? Visually, it was all there. The tiny pocket sized cabinet had the original artwork complete with a light up marquee! The box claims “Original Gameplay!”. I press the Try Me!” button and get a glimpse of Donatello mowing down Foot Soldiers from the first stage of the Konami classic. Sure, the frame rate is poor but it is ported onto a tic tac box. Incredible! 

The company that makes this is called Super Impulse. Very fitting. And it seems they have an undying fetish with making everything tiny. They even made a miniature 1991 Data East TMNT Pinball machine which turned out to actually be pretty dope. So my expectations for this weren’t necessarily tiny. Ha. 

Much like the previously mentioned mini TMNT Pinball, Visually this little arcade cabinet kills it. Measuring merely 3.75 x 1.75 x 1.75 with a 1.5 inch LCD screen, there’s not much room to work with. But we’re given Konami’s original artwork adorning the tiny cabinet complete with a light-up marquee that I did not expect and very much enjoyed that “bonus”. It’s obviously not four players…and there’s virtually no room for art on the button/joystick area. Yet there’s even a neat little coin op design where your quarters would go.  It takes three AAA batteries and features and on/off switch in the back. Yet switching it on might just get your hopes up. The LCD screen is alluring as you’re met with a simplified splash screen followed by the actual but not-quite intro to the first scene. Alas, my brothers and sisters, there is no TMNT classic theme song

And, unfortunately, as far as the gameplay goes…everything goes down the sewer. You’ll start the game as Donatello and think to yourself, “Wait, did I select Donnie? Did I even get an option?”. You Don’t. You can only play as Donatello. Why? I assume it’s due to memory. My personal explanation? Donatello is strapped for cash during these unprecedented times and was the only Turtle brother willing to license his likeness to this game. The small cabinet blares out some grating generic music. Fortunately you have the option to lower it…but the sound effects are what really burns your pizza. Fighting Foot Soldiers sounds more like several squirrels tap dancing on frying pans. It’s an endless array of noise that would make The Grinch rethink Whoville’s caroling. So I recommend turning the volume levels way down before actually playing the game. 

As for the gameplay itself? I mean, you can play it. It’s not necessarily fun…but it’s something you can do. Like scrubbing the tub or doing the dishes. The frame rate is slow. There are four buttons to jump and attack to the left or right making the joystick sort of redundant. You get three lives and a health bar that could last 2-3 seconds if an overwhelming amount of Foot Soldiers get the drop on you. And, pretty early on, there’s a comical amount on the screen. The correct soundbites are there. From “Cowabunga!” to a “Say your prayers, Toitles!” to Shredder’s diabolical laugh at the “Game Over” screen.  

The online description reads the game consists of “3 stages based on the original Konami arcade game.” Key phrase being “based on”. Oops.  When the package reads “Original Gameplay” I’d assume it means that of the Konami arcade game. Yet, in retrospect, I also see the “Turtle Fighter” title across the box. So, as it turns out, it’s “original gameplay” of whatever the hell “Turtle Fighter” is. I can only describe it as playing a version of 1989’s TMNT arcade ported for a 2003 Nokia Flip Phone. So if you’re into that, hey, get on it I guess. 

The Radical 

  • Authentic Artwork and Displays Great 
  • Light-up Marquee feature is rad
  • Has some of the original soundbites
  • Decent Price
  • Game Intro is the best part 

The Lame 

  • It’s a bizarre laggy stripped short version of the original  
  • You only play as Donatello (Great for Donatello fans) 
  • Weapon SFX/Music can get irritating 
  • No TMNT Theme 🙁 
  • Awkward controls coupled with it being so dang tiny make it uncomfortable to play
  • Slow framerate makes you feel like you’re underwater (Turtle based gameplay?)

In Conclusion…

I didn’t expect the actual full 1989 Konami TMNT arcade game to be packed into this tiny novelty for $20. Yet I was still a little disappointed gameplay wise. It should just be called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle: Donatello’s Big Night with some different artwork. But, as I previously stated, it’s a novelty..and nostalgia opens wallets afterall. You can’t seriously play it…and it’s not really the original arcade game. The original artwork slapped all over it made this purchase a tease. I believe this is something to simply be displayed and/or used as an action figure accessory for a fun photoshoot. The idea is solid but the execution leaves something to be desired. I’d actually like it more if it was the full NES port with just two buttons and a joystick. 

Personally, if you’re aching to purchase a small retro TMNT game for whatever reason, I’d go with the mini pinball machine to fulfill that dopamine rush. Much more fun to play. 

Oh, also…as a keychain? Pretty cumbersome. It fails in that regard. Yeah.

COWABUNGA DUDES AND DUDETTES (also be wise with your money; companies are after our nostalgia) RADICAL! 

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