TMNT III will always have a special place in my heart. You see, the February 1992 issue of Gamepro is the very first gaming magazine I ever bought and this game adorned the cover, starting my magazine collecting habit that persists to this day. And the game itself? A pretty well done exclusive that refines the gameplay and serves to provide another round of beat em up action for those that enjoyed the original arcade game and its home port.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: the Manhattan Project was released for the NES in early 1992. All work and no play can make even a ninja turtle a dull boy so our heroes take a vacation to Florida. But evil never sleeps and Shredder uses this exact time to turn Manhattan into a floating island, giving the Turtles incentive to journey back to New York and save the day.
As much as I like the game I do question why Konami decided to create one last NES adventure so close to the release of Turtles in Time for the SNES. To a certain extent TMNT III was lost in the shuffle as the SNES stole the spotlight in 1992. Even today when most look back on the entire series it tends to get glossed over in favor of the popular port of the arcade game. Regardless of the circumstances of its creation the Manhattan Project manages to add some new moves to alleviate the repetition inherit in the genre. While it isn’t ground breaking it is enjoyable and recommended for anyone who has lost a small fortune to any of its arcade parents.
Across 8 levels of 1-2 player coop action you battle the forces of the Foot Clan, now with new moves in your arsenal. You can use your weapon to toss nearly any enemy for an instant kill, with their dead bodies damaging anyone in their path. The tradeoff for this comes in the form of fewer points. Prioritizing when to take down the Foot one by one to maximize points or to chuck them around to avoid being overrun is key to survival.
Each Turtle has an individual special move that uses life and is optimal in different situations and with this more effort was made to individualize each Turtle. Leonardo is the most well rounded with decent range and speed. In a prescient move Leonardo’s special attack is similar to his Endless Screw in the SNES Tournament Fighters. Raphael has the fastest attack speed but shortest range making him the most difficult to use. His power drill would also be reused in that game. Michaelangelo is slightly better but has a worse special attack. Donatello has the longest range but is the slowest. His special attack is a rolling somersault that is devastating against bosses. Whenever you die you can switch characters, a nice touch. There was nothing particularly wrong with TMNT II but you have to admit it became repetitive after awhile; these additions help ease that pain.
To counter this the game is just as hard as its predecessor. Limited continues and no passwords mean you’ll have to stay on your toes at all times. The enemies waste no time flanking you and swarming in groups; I guarantee you’ll be using that special moves regardless of the consequences. Pizza is few and far between which is where maximizing your score for extra lives becomes crucial. The bosses are just as punishing, and although there patterns are easy to recognize it’s the execution that will kick your ass.
The graphics are a noticeable step above TMNT II the arcade game with far better animation and more detail in the backgrounds. While those elements are better some of the levels do feel a bit too reminiscent of past games; the highway, sewers and Technodrome in particular do feel like rehashes despite completely new layouts. The music is excellent with numerous toe tapping jams It was 1992; Konami had the NES performing like a trained monkey by this point.
It’s too bad this was released the same year as Turtles in Time; no matter how well the game turned out it was always going to be overshadowed. For anyone that took the time and gave it a chance it was an excellent continuation of the arcade games and provided the same thrills. It can be bought very cheaply so there is no reason not to give it a try.
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