#649 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game


                                                                               The Turtles show no respect for masonry.



                                                               It was a cold, evil snowmen-with-rockets kind of evening.


PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Ultra Games


GENRE: Beat-em-up

RELEASE DATE: December 1990


TMNT II: The Arcade Game, otherwise known as, “What kids wanted all along.” While the original TMNT for the NES sold like gangbusters, one wondered why Konami didn’t just port the arcade game and call it a sweet money explosion of a day. All wrongs were righted by Christmas 1990, however, when TMNT II came to the NES, complete with two-player co-op, extended levels, and a seemingly endless supply of pith and vinegar.


TMNT II is your standard repetitive NES brawler, albeit coated in a half-shell of Turtle power. Defeat three Foot Soldiers of varying colors, walk forward a few steps, fight three more Foot Soldiers, repeat until you reach a boss or mini-boss. The Turtles have a weapon attack, a jump attack, and a special attack that takes off a piece of their life bar. Avoid the special attack because you’ll need all the life you can get. TMNT II is one of the hardest brawlers on the NES. Getting punched isn’t happenstance, it’s inevitable. Unless you repeatedly jump kick an enemy, you will not be able to give a hit without getting hit yourself. How can a Foot Soldier’s punch successfully power through a pair of katanas, nunchucks, sais or bo staffs? Only Konami knows. Three lives and three continues is a pathetic pittance, even with an additional player. And what’s with the point system? 200 points nets you an extra life, but doing so takes far too long. If you beat a Foot Soldier, you gain a point, which is fair. But if you beat Rocksteady, Baxter, or any of the bosses, you also get a point. The bosses should give you at least ten points or more.



Shredder and his half-formed doppelganger can kill you with one hit. It’s completely and totally fair. Remember: when that Game Over screen comes up, it’s your fault. Always.


Perhaps the definitive question for any co-op brawler: is TMNT II worth playing without a friend? That answer depends on if you enjoy defeating similar-looking enemies repeatedly ad nauseam. There are no power-ups (save for the all-too-rare pizza slice) and few interactive elements, other than the occasional exploding barrel or detachable sign post. With the exception of the snow level (newly added for the port), the environments feel indistinguishable from one another; if I never fight on a boring Manhattan street again, it will be too soon. The lone Turtle has his limits.


TMNT II placated fans’ desires, but twenty-some years later, the game isn’t as memorable as other co-op brawlers like Double Dragon II or River City Ransom. Its repetitious nature is lessened with a comrade fighting alongside you, but the game’s excruciating difficulty will test even the most patient of players. Indeed it’s the Turtles’ presence and their world that makes the game worth playing. Without Leo, Mike, Raph, and Don’s involvement (and really, what choice did they have?), TMNT II would have likely been forgotten.


One-player: C+


Two-player: B


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  • kurdt13

    The game may have been repetitive and hard as college trig class, but hey, free pizza! (I wonder if Pizza Hut would still honor those coupons?)

  • I was as into Ninja Turtles back in the day as anyone, but man…I had a friend who got this for Christmas and was really, really super-excited about it, but playing it with him, I just found it so…so…boring. Not that I was ever a big brawler fan in general, but this was just soporific to me. I don't know that I can justify that in any quantifiable way, but there you go.

  • This was a fun one with a friend. I didn't think it was particularly hard – we beat it repeatedly back then. Far less difficult than the original platforming Turtles game

  • Esoteric

    The thing that bothered me the most about this game was the cheap one-hit kills that Shredder could dish out. Back in the day I my brother and could get to Shredder repeatedly but only beat him once.

  • Krang

    I'm invincible!

  • Arindam

    I remember the special moves were really tough to execute in this game; by the time I got it done, one of the purple foot soldiers would have landed a massive punch. And speaking of punches, those mofo's could counter jumping attacks most of the times and send the turtle flying. So basically the player was left with only one attack for most of the gameplay

    • DylanCornelius

      That's exactly how I felt. I remember having an easier time with it as a kid.

  • Jeffery McDaniel

    I remember getting this for Christmas in 1990 and being so excited. My brother and I woke up really early, snuck the present into our room, and played the game until our parents woke up. It was hard to contain our excitement though so we surely must have woken the folks several times.

    I've played the XBox Live port here recently and I can agree with you that the game feels boring. If you have multiple players it can be slightly better, but still repetitive.

  • I was as into Ninja Turtles returning in the day as anyone, but man…I had a buddy who got this for Xmas and was really, really super-excited about it, but enjoying it with him, I just discovered it so…so…boring. Not that I was ever a big brawler fan in common, but this was just soporific to me. I don't know that I can rationalize that in any measurable way, but there you go.

  • SamH

    With the extra lives code, this is the perfect fidget toy for retrogamers. You can put on a podcast, or a Ted talk, and just zone out while you learn. It won’t ask you to pay attention to the plot, or plan meta strategy. There’s just evil fan pandering on the loose, and the heroic fan pandering must defeat it.