The Turtles were my heroes growing up. I knew, watching the cartoon, that I wanted to be a trash-talking slacker who ate pizza at every opportunity and spent his free time fighting crime and playing video games. Eventually I abandoned the fighting crime aspect, but I like to think that I have been successful in the rest.
I distinctly remember staying up until 5:00 a.m. beating the one night because we had to return the cartridge to the rental store the next day. That's the kind of gaming pressure one simply cannot simulate as an adult, and with the internet and its access to everything interesting ever conceived.
Playing through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project again over the last few days totally recaptured some of the mondo times playing turtles games, collecting the action figures, or watching the cartoon religiously. I still have over a hundred TMNT action figures, but with no place to display them they just sit tucked away in my closet, a quiet metaphor for the lost magic of the 1980s.
Even though I own the cartridge, I decided to play through the game on an emulator so I could take screenshots (which you can see below, I've posted the best 19 of the 50-something shots I captured). Even on an emulator, the second I saw the epic sprite flicker and garbage columns on the left and the right, I knew I was home.
TMNT3 is your basic brawler, with a lot of polish and flair for the NES. Konami had been making killer beat 'em ups for years at this point, and the influence of other games (notably Konami's Crime Fighters and especially Capcom's Final Fight) has left a positive aura of perfection on this cart. The only downside to the gameplay is that, by Level 8 you'll start to feel the pressure of the repetitive enemies, some of which seem to hit you no matter what.
The bosses, likewise, can be tedious. Most of the bosses take--and I'm not exaggerating--over 100 jump-kicks to kill. Leonardo's special move proves to be a lifesaver in these situations, and can pretty much destroy any boss you come across.
Despite some minor flaws, TMNT3: TMP is totally worth your time. You haven't played the NES until you've played this game. I just beat the game this morning, but I had to use the secret code to restart Stage 8. After I hit post, it's time to ditch the emulator, turn off all the lights, and sit in front of my giant CRT and NES until Shredder & co. eat dirt.