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Review: TMNT 1989 Arcade

With the film about a week away, the official Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game based on the film was expected. To our surprise, an Arcade release was also leaked and then officially announced, bringing back the glory days of the arcade game. With updates such as some Live play and leaderboards, things were getting exciting. As the game released just yesterday, would it bring back the memories experienced in ‘89, or would another retro title fail to impress once more and suffer at the hands of technology moving on?

Naturally, you can play as any of the four turtles, whether you prefer Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael or Michelangelo it doesn’t matter, since in the single player game you can decide who you want to be whenever you die. If you don’t want to play as Donatello anymore, simply press one of the four face buttons to choose a different character. You won’t know which button corresponds to which turtle, but you’ll have fun finding out and seeing how each character performs.

The game has remained very true to the original. Unlike other retro Arcade releases, TMNT has no option for Enhanced Graphics; you have to either like the old and dated graphics, or lump them. Even the cutscenes and little storyboards remain the same, as do the incredibly corny lines that the turtles speak mid-game. If you remember pouring your pennies or quarters into the arcade machines in ‘89, you will feel very much at home here.

The game is incredibly simple to pick up and play, as you would expect. With the left stick moving your character, there are only two other buttons designated to do anything by default, with A jumping and X attacking. If that control setup isn’t to your liking, head into the settings and you will discover that any button can do either of the moves, therefore you could have the Left Trigger making the turtles jump, with the Right Trigger making the turtle attack. The simplicity set by the controls is also true of the game. You simply have to attack everything that comes your way as you progress through each of the five Scenes in the game, in typical side-scrolling fashion. There are little changes in what you do; pressing X multiple times usually suffices, as it flings the weapon your turtle has in the way of the approaching enemy. Occasionally, if the enemy gets close, your turtle will throw the enemy. Quite a nice touch and it deals more damage.

The enemies themselves aren’t exactly intelligent, but they provide enough of a challenge to force a few credits from you. They occasionally will grab your turtle if you get close enough, forcing a button mashing frenzy to ensue to break free. As the game progresses, the enemies carry bigger and deadlier weapons, such as giant bombs, or very long sticks, or even guns that they continually fire and zap a lot of your health. To counter this, a jump and attack move will be required from your turtle, and you’ll have to hope the AI doesn’t respond by shooting upwards instead.

At the end of every level you play, there will be a boss. Oversized and overpowered, bosses can be a frustrating experience. They deal considerably more damage than the other regular enemies, and naturally take more hits. More often than not you will just keep dying and respawning, especially when you meet Shredder at the end, who just never seems to die. It’s a wonder anyone ever completed the game back in 1989, since it would have cost a serious amount of money to get anywhere. However, the game loses any point it might have had to exist with the lack of a credit system. Knowing that you can restart without any form of punishment is not an incentive to play the game. You will eventually beat the game, whether on your own or are involved in some local co-op play, since everyone just restarts willy-nilly. Nothing will be too tough except attaining the stupidly hard achievements, which, if you don’t go online, you won’t bother with as the single player is just repetitive and boring.

Thankfully the Xbox Live co-op play brings some meaning back into TMNT’s existence. Up to four players can play, each taking control of one turtle and having to stick with their choice, unlike the single player. When the game starts, each player has twenty credits, which must see them through to the end of the game. At last there becomes a strategy. No longer can someone just stand next to a boss and hammer X until the button breaks. Instead you have to work as a team and come up with some sort of plan, drawing the boss out and attacking when the time is right. You will still lose one or two credits per boss, but not nearly as many as you would in the single player when you just don’t care. With the chat option available too, everything should be a smooth operation.

Unfortunately, you will do well to find a game with four people that has no lag. Even when you start the game up, the opening cutscene lags (the one where the turtles jump off the building). It all slows right down, and as soon as a single enemy appears, the game is almost unplayable. Couple that with the fact that the more players there are the more enemies there are, and you’ll soon be pressing the Start button and scrolling down to Quit. Once again a retro game suffers from inexcusable lag. The game is playable with three most of the time, but you can tell it isn’t free-flowing thanks to the music not being as fast as it usually is. Two players is fine, but with twenty credits it is difficult to reach the end of the game.

In the end, the experience is frustrating. Reliving childhood memories just doesn’t seem to work on the Arcade with retro titles, and this game is no different. The graphics look dated as you would expect, and the not-so-exciting HD background doesn’t offer any help. Gameplay wise it remains exactly the same, but it is far too obvious that this game was designed to rape children out of their money. With unlimited credits in the single player, you’ll wonder why you are playing a game that offers absolutely no challenge, since the removal of the credit system allows you to hammer X all day long without worrying about your credits running out. The Achievements won’t keep you playing, since the majority require a fair bit of work to get. The multiplayer, which could have saved the game, fails to. Lag rears it’s ugly head unceremoniously with four players, and still remains with three, though admittedly more bearable. In the end you’ll be left with a game that will seldom be played, and you’ll find yourself wondering why retro titles are continually dug up, because once again this fails to bring back happy memories, and technology has moved on too much for this to be enjoyable anymore.

Final Score: 4 out of 10 - Poor (How do we rate games?) TMNT 1989 Arcade newsvine:Review: TMNT 1989 Arcade furl:Review: TMNT 1989 Arcade reddit:Review: TMNT 1989 Arcade fark:Review: TMNT 1989 Arcade Y!:Review: TMNT 1989 Arcade gamegrep:Review: TMNT 1989 Arcade

47 comments on 'Review: TMNT 1989 Arcade'

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Comment by xYouGot0wnedx on 2007-03-15 23:21:59 | Reply

I liked this game…Me and my sis. Played through the whole thing yesterday.

Comment by Chuck K. on 2007-03-16 03:24:14 | Reply

this game is the bomb, it doesnt get boring. i played it like 6 hours straight and didnt get bored. the achievements are hard and worth coming back to get them. I also had beaten Shredder in 4 player Co-Op, how many of u have done that huh lol? I rocked with Donatello, lets just say every other person in game lived with 0 lives left, and I had 4. Pretty sweet huh!

The bo staff reaches for what, the entire screen? Try playing with Mike or Raph now ;)

Comment by Chuck K. on 2007-03-18 22:48:31 | Reply

is there a glitch in the game for the achievement Turtle soup, ive tried a couple times and i didnt get hit and still didnt get it, whats up!

Just that. It’s glitched. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.

Comment by Tucky on 2007-03-15 23:26:10 | Reply

well done you

Comment by Farstarbuck on 2007-03-15 23:33:19 | Reply

Oh Konami botch up another arcade release? theres a surprise.

Comment by mass9 on 2007-03-15 23:36:16 | Reply

a 4/10? WTF?!?!?!
were we playing the same game?
Granted, the lag is unexcusable in a 18 year old game, but its still a shit load of fun to play with 4 over XBL.

Comment by el panel0n on 2007-03-15 23:37:38 | Reply

Uhm.. you also only have 20 credits on the single player game. And its hard as hell. You have to be really, really good to reach shredder, let alone defeat him. So your whole point about not offering any challenge, which was an extensive part of your review, is now moot.

The achievements ARE pretty hard, so it DOES keep me coming back.

I played a 4 player game with minimal lag.

So you hate the game huh?

Comment by Studley on 2007-03-16 00:10:17 | Reply

“you only have 20 credits on the single player game”

No you don’t, it’s infinite. Take it from someone who died WAY more than 20 times in beating the game yesterday. On multiplayer, yes there is a 20-credit limit.

However I’ve certainly not had any lag in multiplayer yet, so agree with you on that one.

Comment by panel0n on 2007-03-16 08:23:11 | Reply

Well, ok, I’m not sure if its *20* credits, but I reached a point on single player where I couldn’t continue. Maybe its 30 or 40. Thats how much I sucked.

Comment by on 2007-03-15 23:44:57 | Reply

game is fun

i love the ‘this game is old’ criticism for every retro release. ha


it deserves 4 out of 10. Like, what are you rating here. The game as if it were a completely new unique release, or are you rating the quality of the port?

If we’re rating the port, i give it a 9/10.

not sure where the 4/10 is justified in the review i just read.

What we are rating is how a game survives by today’s standards. Is it worth the effort of picking up or not? That it’s old is not a factor, all retro games are. But some games are still worth picking up for some fun, and others are not.

Comment by Derka on 2007-03-15 23:51:05 | Reply

Whoever reviewed this is an idiot. Online granted is a bit shaky, but the game is great. I think you basing it off of modern games and not looking at it from a 1989 arcade players standpoint.

Comment by J1980 on 2007-03-16 00:27:00 | Reply

Im glad someone reviewed this game….otherwise I might have bought it….

This review is about as creditable as Sony’s extensive price tag for the PS3.

Comment by another concerned citizen on 2007-03-16 04:18:33 | Reply


i love reviews of the review


Comment by Jasonic on 2007-03-16 00:10:22 | Reply

Ross, I respect your opinion but, That review is just wrong in so many ways. It seem you went in hating it. No?
And “The graphics look dated”?
Did you really say that?

And I’ll have to agree with the above post about it “Not having enough challenge”, Is indeed, Moot. (just the way I see it)

Comment by J1980 on 2007-03-16 00:28:34 | Reply

The ROSSBOT rules…the game is useless, pointless, waste of money I was tempted to buy it, but I’ve been waiting for this review and other feedback.


Come on guys, a review is someones opinion and that’s what the comments are for, expressing yours.

Calling him and idiot for his opinion is a bit extreme.

Comment by quintessential on 2007-03-16 04:19:30 | Reply

you’re an idiot.

Comment by paulwillocks on 2007-03-16 09:58:26 | Reply

We have a comedian in the building. Twat.

Comment by Pedle Zelnip on 2007-03-16 01:06:28 | Reply

Well, I’ll be the first to echo the reviewer’s sentitments. I remember playing this one fondly at the old comic store by my place back in the day, but now this game is just frustrating. I didn’t try multiplayer, so I suppose that would make a difference, but as a single-player game, not fun. And the achievements are brutal.

Comment by Lotus 111s on 2007-03-16 01:43:11 | Reply

4/10 is generous i think, there are older titles than this with better graphics and far more gameplay.

UTTER SHIT and thats a understatement. I dont want to put to many swear words on the homepage.

Comment by J1980 on 2007-03-16 03:08:10 | Reply

lol - thats what I thought too…

Comment by D'aurora on 2007-03-16 04:57:41 | Reply


If you didn’t like TMNT before, what makes you think it’ll change this time around? It’s the exact copy of the original hit. No more, no less.

That’s like if the original Tetris came out and you hated it because there weren’t enough guns in it. No shit there’s no guns in it, IT’S TETRIS!

Comment by Lotus 111s on 2007-03-16 13:02:22 | Reply

No you see Tetris HAS gameplay in it, TMNT has none what so ever. The fact this is a exact copy of the original, goes to show how bad it was way back when. With this game they took one look at Double Dragon’s huge success and thought ‘oohhh’ lets make an identical game but use the Turtle licence, Slap-bang-bosh 5minutes later game was released.


Comment by cartman on 2007-03-16 03:18:07 | Reply

What a bunch of fags

Comment by Studley on 2007-03-16 08:57:33 | Reply


This review takes into account an important factor…

The game costs $5 worth of MS points. That’s equal to 20 lives at a quarter each (10 lives if you grew up in $0.50 arcades).

I used to play this all the time in arcades as a kid, but rarely had enough money (or skill…) to even get past April’s apartment. I feel like I’ve gone some way to making my money back now ;)

Comment by Karma on 2007-03-16 09:57:02 | Reply

Great review.
This game was poor back then. Set in the context of today’s gaming its flaws really come to the fore.
A good game for the nostalgia crew, a waste of time for anybody else.

Comment by SNIPERWOLF 79 on 2007-03-16 10:54:33 | Reply

Ross Hayword, i’m sorry but I really have to disagree with your review, your really missing the point of the game, it not updated with fancy new graphics and extended play features becuase its an arcade perfect title from 1989, you know what your getting before you buy it. To compair it to modern games by saying its outdated it utter nonsense because no comparison can or should be made, so why suggest it?. This is a good pick up and play with your mates for 30 minutes type of game, nothing more, but its not trying to be anything else.

Wednesday was one the most fun night on xbox iv had since i got gears. Started off with GRAW2 which I really enjoyed then downloaded TMNT along with SNIPERWOLF 79. The game rocks. It was great to play this game with your mates. And I dont believe this review does not do it any justice.

Comment by StGermain on 2007-03-16 11:31:43 | Reply

I agree with the reviewer. Never having played the arcade version although I am by far old enough to have done that I went into the demo with an open mind. I don’t care that the graphics look dated, it’s the gameplay that fails over after all these years. Having just two action buttons - jump and attack - just doesn’t cut it anymore for me. All the better for those who like it, go ahead and enjoy the game but imho it was terribly boring and after two minutes I was actually relieved to reach the end of the demo.

I usually hate all the retro releases, but this one I love, probably because I ‘wasted’ so much money demonstrating how lame I was back in the day.

What I think we need (and I’ve said it before) is 2 arcade releases a week - perhaps a retro Monday and a new IP Friday.

I know the cert team are having a hell of a job keeping up with one release a week, but we’re also being told that there’s a backlog of completed games ready and just waiting for a date.

I say throw more staff at the certification process and keep everyone happy.

As an aside (and I know there is a difference): Nintendo seem to be doing OK releasing at least 3 virtual console games a week for the Wii…

Comment by brian on 2007-03-16 14:50:33 | Reply

terrible review it’s a good game, i’m dissapointed in you guys

I find it funny that half the people agree with the conclusion, and the other half don’t.

What I find less funny is that a properly written and researched review has to be treated like a personal attack by those who liked the game better (for some godforsaken reason). Why is a review terrible if it doesn’t come to the exact same conclusion as you?

And even worse, I predict most of the complainers here will never touch the game again after a day of fun. Which makes the final conclusion that it’s a “poor” game all the more on the mark.

In total agreement with Curry here. Well, except for the never again after a day thing, because I’m still playing. But nevermind.

Rossbot and I never, ever, agree on games. Ever. Games he’s given low marks here (and he’s pretty much taken over the arcade review job from yours truly) I’ve loved, and I’m sure a lot of games I don’t care much for he loves. For instance: he gave Assault Heroes an 6, Average, and while he didn’t review Heavy Weapon, he really liked it (if I recall correctly, feel free to correct me Ross.) I felt the opposite: Assault Heroes was the great game and Heavy Weapon was the average one. There’s more examples but I’ll quit here.

But he’s a great reviewer and if he doesn’t like mashing X and A repeatedly, hey, that’s his call. My own opinion of this game may go down as I play more locally and play more online, because even though my two online games have been pretty great, I have trouble getting into games and later games can be lagfests. I believe Rossbot’s played more so I’ll consider him the expert.

My opinion: it’s a fun trek through childhood memories of Chuck E. Cheese, and it’s only five dollars. Ross doesn’t agree with me per usual, fine. It’s a well-written review and he shouldn’t be flamed for having a different take.

Comment by Thryon on 2007-03-16 19:48:36 | Reply

I played this game over and over again. I love it. Played several games online and had no problems except at one point, it kind of started stuttering a bit, then it cleared up, and all was well again.

Comment by on 2007-03-16 22:45:40 | Reply


Comment by Roujin Z on 2007-03-17 03:20:54 | Reply

Each to their own. I bought Turtles and other than the inability for two or more people to play on the system together with online friends, I’m happy. It’s a perfect conversion of Turtles Arcade! What the hell more do you want? I’d prefer more arcade classic conversions like this instead of the smattering of “original IPs” that I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about. There are plenty of new, full-fledged 360 games that I am already paying $60 CAD or more to play…I just want to play my old arcade favorites while I’m waiting for my friends to come online or when I’m just feeling nostalgic. The game’s only $5, and it’s playable ONLINE. How many of the Wii’s Virtual Console games allow you to play online? Umm…how about NONE?

Comment by darkrom on 2007-03-17 05:16:03 | Reply

I dont care what anyone says this game kicks ass. Please don’t let this article fool you…it is just as much fun as you remember it being back then. I would still pay up to $25 for this game….yes I’m dead serious.

Comment by Farstarbuck on 2007-03-18 18:08:51 | Reply

Flammed again, ouch. Its always good to know that you have the same opinion as the majority of the gamers out there.

Comment by vader10892 on 2007-03-23 05:08:04 | Reply

ross, very BAD review…everybody agrees, this KICKS some COWABUNGA a$$.

Comment by armik on 2007-08-12 14:03:36 | Reply

hello.excuseme may you give this game to me,i searched this game but i can not find it please send for me this game please

Comment by armik on 2007-08-12 14:04:23 | Reply

my email is

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