Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a four player arcade game released by Konami in 1989. It allowed you to take control of four Ninja Turtles (Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michaelangelo), on a mission to rescue April O'Neil and Splinter, and take on Shredder, Krang, and the rest of the Foot Clan.

This was one of the most successful arcade games of the late 1980s, and it was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Playchoice 10 system. There were several sequels to this title, both in the arcade and on home consoles. There was even a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pinball machine.

The series as a whole was rather confusing, mainly due to there being two separate numbering schemes for the games. But here is how the 5 arcade versions came out.

The Game

Select your favorite turtle and get ready to embark on one of the best arcade beat 'em ups around. I always use Leonardo, but that is only because I have a four player gameboard installed in my 2-player cabinet, and Leonardo is hardwired to player 1. On the 2-player version you get to select your turtle, but the 4-player version has each turtle hardwired to a particular joystick.

The graphics in this game were just awesome. The late 80's was just about the point in time where most arcade games were beginning to look really good, and the developers had enough ROM space to put in lots of different animations. So you get a lot of different enemies, and lots of colorful backgrounds. The game doesn't quite look as good as some of the newest stuff around, but it has aged very well.

The sound in this title is just as good as you will find in most new titles. You got real voices, and all kinds of different background music, including the famous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song. My favorite sound effect is when you fall down into a sewer and the turtle says "Duh! Who put the lights out?".

This is a beat 'em up game at heart, and if you like that kind of game, then you will love this one. The boss characters are especially difficult, and I truthfully can rarely defeat most of them without continuing my game (shh, don't tell anyone).

Hardware Information

There were several distinct versions of this game available in the arcade, but the four player dedicated cabinet was the most common by far. There were also two player versions, but they are much harder to come by. You can convert a 4-player board to the 2-player version by burning new EPROMs, but the conversion doesn't work the other way around because the 2-player board doesn't have the connectors to accomodate the extra two controllers.

The TMNT dedicated cabinet was fairly large and had an oversized control panel (to accomodate four players). The sides were decorated with full sideart showing April O'Neal and several of the turtles in a city scene. Machines in the UK will be labeled as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, because that was the name of the turtle franchise over there. The marquee shows a city scene with all the turtles and a live action version of April O'Neal. Frankly they just should have drawn her instead of using a photograph, her hair is just awful. The control panel has a city scene similar to the one on the marquee and has four joysticks (one for each player), each of which is a different color. These machines all came equipped with 25 inch open frame monitors, although you will sometimes run into one with a different size screen, these are almost always conversions of other titles.

Moving on to the interior of the machine, the game itself runs on a JAMMA compatible circuit board. The board itself will plug into a JAMMA wiring harness, but it has a second harness to accomodate the controls for players three and four. The games The Simpsons, Sunset Riders, and Bucky O'Hare are fully compatible with this extended harness, and will plug directly into a TMNT cabinet without modification. One thing that you may notice is that the jump and attack buttons seem backwards of what they would logically be, but you get used to it quickly.

The game's code itself runs on a pair of processors, an 8 Mhz 68000 and a 3.58 Mhz Z80. Konami's other 4-player games from the era run on similar hardware, but they always changed something so people couldn't just swap EPROMs to change games. For example, The Simpsons had the same basic mainboard, but used a 3 Mhz encrypted 68000 in place of the 8 Mhz unencrypted one that TMNT uses. Each one of the dozen or so Konami 4-player games has at least one component difference from all the others. I learned this when I was poking around to see if my TMNT mainboard could run any other games. Trivia

Setting the difficulty on the game at the maximum, and then starting a four player game will result in a screen so clogged with enemies that it is difficult to move (as the game changes the amount of enemies based on the difficulty and the number of players). This is really only fun to do if you want to see if you can make the game lag, as the game is already hard enough on factory settings.

Where to play

You can play ports of this title on most older console systems, or you can play the original arcade version using the MAME emulator. The original machines have mostly been pulled from the arcades, but you can still find them from time to time..

You might want this game for your arcade game collection. I suggest simply trying to find a TMNT JAMMA board, and then doing your own conversion. The reason I suggest that is because dedicated 4-player TMNT machines have recently started selling in that same $600-$1200 bracket that used to be dominated by Gauntlet (at least when it came to four player games). So I would only buy a dedicated version if this is your favorite game, as you have many other four player choices in that same price range, including all four versions of Gauntlet.

I personally own three of the JAMMA boards for this game. You have got to love the "Buy it Now" feature on eBay.