They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, like, for example, starting a piece of writing with that line hoping that one day it won’t be so cliche. I’m going to hedge my bets that today is not that day.
Yet, here I am, once again playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES, a game that holds the dubious honor of being the one video game that I’ve written about more often than any other in existence, one time even being the subject of a high school Psychology paper I did on negative reinforcement. I suppose it’s easy to see why. Just like the other games I’ve revisited this week, it was an important title from my formative years.
Notice I said “important” and not “good”. I feel the need to make the distinction because I fear there are still some people out there that view it as a classic of its era. I mean, it was featured in The Wizard aka the greatest film ever made, but it’s never been worthy of being spoken of in the same breath as the Castlevanias and Mega Mans of the world. Yeah, it’s hard, similar to many other NES games we remember fondly, but the difference is that those games had an appeal beyond the masochistic, they were actually well designed.
It’s easy to point to the completely out-of-context roster of enemies like chainsaw man and the Human Torch as a sort of microcosm of the bigger picture, but honestly, that never bothered me too much. Though I did find it odd that I was fighting rocket balloons instead of the Foot Clan, my issues with the game ran a bit deeper, like the fact that said enemies respawned every time I changed direction, or the impossible jumps that had a 1 in 16 chance of success despite only having, at most, 4 chances. The level design almost feels as if it were intended for a completely different game, your ability to navigate them often feeling like pure happenstance.
And that’s not even getting into the horribly unbalanced nature of the four turtles. While I always personally related the most with Donatello and considered him my favorite, the cartoon typically skewed towards focus on the other three, so it’s odd that he’s the most (and often only) effective character for most situations. I suppose that does create some level of strategy to the game, as choosing the more expendable turtles to start with presents you with less risk, but also a harder time through the level. Most of the time it didn’t matter since I’d be down to Donny and Leo before I even got to the dreaded water level.
It may be best to just stop there. If I start talking about the water level again, I’m going to need a refill on my meds.