Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an action game based that was developed by Konami and published in North America under their Ultra Games label in 1989. Based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license and taking cues from the 1987 animated series, it is a single-player game in which the player can switch freely between the four turtles at will.
The box art to the game is taken from a reprint of Eastman & Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4 Vol. 1, which depicts all four turtles wearing red headbands. The original comics were in black and white so there was little reason to give each turtle differing colors. The full cover has Donatello swinging his Bo at an alien named the Utrom, which was used as the basis for Krang in the classic cartoon. The image was cropped so consumers who were more familiar with the cartoon would not get confused from it.
The game's story begins with Shredder, Bebop, and Rocksteady having kidnapped April O'Neil. The initial motivation for the turtles is to come to her rescue, but as the game proceeds, the turtles must foil further plans including the attempting destruction of a dam and the abduction of their master, Splinter. At the game's conclusion, once Shredder is defeated and the Technodrome is destroyed, Splinter inexplicably returns to his human form without explanation, and the turtles celebrate with a pizza party.
The game is divided into two primary modes of gameplay. When in exterior locations, the action is seen from a high top-down overhead view. The area can be freely explored to locate entrances to buildings and sewers while fighting off or avoiding enemies. The player will eventually be able also drive the Turtle Van and use its weaponry to clear some obstacles.
When inside buildings or underground, the action switches to a side-scrolling perspective with platforms and obstacles that need to be jumped on or over. The player is able to jump, duck, or attack using either the selected turtle's primary weapon or a subweapon found during exploration. Boss fights are also encountered in this perspective. Once the player has completed he primary objective of a stage, the game moves on to the next.
The player can freely switch between control of any of the four turtles at any time. Each has his own health gauge, and upon running out of health is captured. Players can restore the active turtle's health by collecting pizza in the environment. If a turtle runs out of health, he is captured and must be rescued by finding him in the environment, though captured turtles are not able to be rescued until stage three. If all four turtles are captured, a game over occurs.
Each turtle can attack in four directions using their signature weapons, including up and down. Donatello's attack range with his bo staff is longest, and he also swings around to hit in the opposite direction. Leonardo uses his katanas, which provide the second-largest attack range, followed by Michelangelo's nunchuks and Raphael's sais.
The game is divided into five stages:
- Rescuing April from Rocksteady and Bebop.
- Disarming bombs placed at the dam.
- Using the Turtle Van to reach the center of a city.
- Infiltrating a Foot Clan base to acquire the Turtle Blimp.
- Locating and infiltrating the Technodrome.
Of the game's non-boss enemies, only the mouser and the Foot Clan soldier appeared in previous TMNT media. The rest of the game's standard enemies were created for the game.