It’s no secret that I was a huge Ninja Turtles aficionado as a kid. We’re talking shampoo, action figures, puzzles, a portable pinball machine (did ANYONE else have this? There's nothing on the internet about it existing), those sorta gross vanilla pies all just because they had the four green brothers attached. So it was no question to my parents that if there was a TMNT game out, the least they could do was make sure I had it. And sure enough, it showed up. As you can imagine, I was elated. I’ll be able to beat up foot soldiers, mousers, Shredder, Krang! Well as we all know, the first Ninja Turtles game to grace the NES had, let’s say a loose interpretation of their world.
Going into one of the sewers, you may get the purple mousers and flies with shirtless chainsaw guys. Fine, I can accept that, and hey, there’s even a foot soldier! But down the second or third sewer, you see one of two groups when you come down: blue/red moths and an immolated mummy or a skin-eye-UFO thing, ceiling legs with spikes, and a chi-channeling guy. Huh? It was years later that I found out that Konami simply didn’t have any material on the universe aside from the important stuff, so they pulled a Super Mario Land and just did whatever. Sure they had Bebop and Rocksteady, but the damage was done; this was a weird approximation to what should’ve been a supremely simple sell.
In addition to the weird bad guys and slightly unusual environments, the game proved incredibly difficult for what I would imagine to be its target audience. I mean, just try to go back to the dam level and defuse all the bombs, it’s still excruciatingly difficult. And the few times I did pass that, why couldn’t I go any farther you ask? I couldn’t figure out how to shoot those ropes across the buildings to progress!
Thankfully, this tarnished product didn’t make my love for the last vestiges of the word Cowabunga waver. And just a couple years later, that loyalty paid off with TMNT II: the Arcade Game. I’m pretty sure I never actually played this in arcades, but praise the people who decided to have it grace the NES. The simplicity of a left-to-right, jump and attack system made this game everything my seven year old self could get behind. Tons of foot soldiers, almost everything taken straight out of the cartoon (what the hell was that samurai ghost though?), it even had proper Pizza Hut advertisements! It was this game that washed all the horrid memories of the original game away, practically never to be touched again. And much like its successor (IV, not III), this is a game I've come back to every few years for the mindless enjoyment of returning to my childhood memories of yore via jump kicks and shell shock.
What did this all mean for me though? I soon realized that the shows and toys that I loved could all find themselves into the video game world. Granted, that didn’t guarantee it would be good (i.e. 1), but if done right (i.e. 2) became a necessary component of its fandom. Later on I would discover Chip n Dale, Batman, Mickey Mouse, even Where’s Waldo. Yes, this was nothing new to the video gaming world at large. But for me, to have my childhood favorites enjoyably playable made sure that I wouldn’t be able to simply pass the world by without giving it to Shredhead myself.