This was a bit of an odd duck. I can see what Konami were going for and as a last hurrah for the NES it works. But the NES simply lacks the horsepower necessary to do a fighting game justice, leaving this 8-bit version in a weird place. It’s decent for what it is but anyone who was serious about fighting games had long since moved on to the more advanced platforms. I was still stuck with an NES at the time and even I wanted nothing to do with this version of the game. Remember the versus mode in games like Flying Warriors and Karate Champ? That stuff soured me on 8-bit fighting games forever.
The Shredder is back in town so the Turtles decide to hold a contest to see who is worthy to face him in battle. I just made it seem way more honorable than it really is. Along for the ride are Casey Jones and Hothead, yet another Archie Comic’s creation. They really liked dipping in that well it seems. Konami made an admirable attempt at shoehorning typical fighting game conventions into an 8-bit box and they somewhat succeed. However the various shortcuts necessary drag down the experience.
With a patry 7 characters the roster isn’t large so Konami wisely decided to only include the most popular choices. Shredder, Casey Jones, and Hothead rub shoulders with the brothers and sort of function as boss characters since they are so damn overpowered. Personally I would have included Splinter over Hothead but the bosses do bring some much needed variety. You’ll appreciate their presence because the 4 Turtles are near identical.
Disappointingly all four Turtles are nearly the same leaving their signature weapons as their only distinguishing characteristic. To have a large “volume” of moves in the game the 4 Turtles have identical move sets with only 1 unique to each of them. Casey and Hothead do not suffer from this thankfully and are so bad ass that you’ll prefer them. Blasphemy I know. The button prompts are kept simple and are easy to pull off. The fighting engine however is nonexistent; don’t bother trying to string together combos or any other advanced techniques. This feels more like a beat em up and is heavy on the button mashing. Like I said before, I’m amazed they were able to squeeze this much onto the humble confines of an NES cart.
And that also applies to the graphics. With just 2 combatants on screen the fighters are larger than prior games and animate extremely well. The special moves are about as flashy as possible on the NES all things considered. The backgrounds also feature at least one layer of parallax scrolling as well which shows just how far Konami were able to push the NES. However technical limitations do rear their ugly head whenever the more exotic special moves are performed in the form of flicker and slowdown. As a whole though it is quite impressive.
When viewed through an 8-bit lens this is quite an achievement. Unfortunately by the end of 1993 few still bothered with the NES, and with the likes of Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat and nearly every Neo Geo fighting game ported to the 16-bit platforms the writing was on the wall if you needed a fighting game fix. This was a valiant effort but ultimately a waste of time.