TMNT III: The Manhattan Project
July 1992. Amidst the smell of pizza, birthday cake, and freshly cut grass, four legendary heroes stood upon the ledge of the pool with Super Soakers in hand. There was Chris, the leader of the gang who was Gloucester City’s little league baseball MVP. There was Eddie, the kid who was so funny and laid back that I often wondered if he ever had an awkward moment in his entire life. There was Kenny, the kid who would rather play with a Rubik’s cube for 12 hours than talk to a girl for 12 seconds. And then there was me, the kid who would love to be the leader, the funny guy, or the genius—a kid who always tried to blend blue, orange, and purple only to find a pallet of puke green that left much to be desired!
After a front flip, back flip, screwdriver jump, and a cannonball, we heroes plunged into the pool with a certain grace that only second graders possessed. Then, much to our chagrin, we heard Eddie’s mother shout from the back yard, “Eddie, it’s time to open your presents!” We waited for Chris to give us his approval, leapt out of the pool, and ran for the porch.
Eddie eagerly opened his presents: Batman socks, an American Gladiators lunchbox and thermos, Ghostbusters play sets, and the Hungry Hungry Hippos board game—which I wanted to con Eddie into setting up as soon as we were away from the parental units. Then, as Eddie began tearing the wrapping off a small rectangular box, Chris, Kenny, and I froze in our tracks. There, before our very eyes, was the game we’d all been drooling over for literally months on end—Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I looked at my buddy Kenny with starry eyes and managed to scratch out a very faint “Cowabunga…”
Now, 20 years later, I can’t help but smile when I think about those days in Eddie’s attic kicking back in our beanbag chairs, chugging Slimer Hi-Cs, and saving Manhattan Island from the evil Shredder’s clutches. However, I need to clarify one point before I continue. While this game is synonymous with my childhood, I didn’t choose to review it for the simple sake of nostalgia. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project for the Nintendo Entertainment System is, without a doubt, the most underrated game in the Ninja Turtles series. To put it another way, it’s totally bodacious, dudes!
The Radical Run-Down:
Publisher: Konami of America, Inc.
Developer: Konami Corporation
Released: February, 1992
The Story in a Half-Shell:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project begins with the turtles catching up on their green tans on a beach in Key West, Florida—with Leo rocking the shades like only Leo can—when suddenly, the four heroes get breaking news: Shredder has taken Manhattan Island hostage by suspending it hundreds of feet above the Hudson, Harlem, and East River! Oh, and Channel 6 news reporter April O’Neil has been kidnapped by the Shred-Head as well. …Someone needs to keep an eye on that woman! Now, it is the turtles’ daunting task to defeat Shredder and his infamous Foot Clan, rescue April O’Neil, and save the citizens of Manhattan Island before sundown. . . Hey, it’s all in a day’s work, right?
The Gnarly Gameplay:
The gameplay is where Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III truly shines. Some critics argue that TMNT III is too much like its classic predecessor TMNT II: The Arcade Game, which was released two years earlier, but it’s the subtle improvements in the third installment that make it a gem for the NES. For instance, now the turtles can flip enemies over their heads, which typically makes short work of the Foot Ninjas! Another improvement is the signature move that each turtle possesses. By pressing both the A and B buttons simultaneously, the turtle of your choosing will perform a special attack that will inflict significant damage on enemies. The catch, however, is that these special attacks deduct health points, so be sure to use the attacks wisely. TMNT III’s graphics have also received a facelift! Vibrant shades of oceanic blue collide perfectly with the a golden grains of sand, multi-colored Foot Ninjas seem to pop out of the TV screen, and, of course, the dark red shades of Manhattan provide an eerie backdrop as the turtles make their way to Shredder’s Technodrome. Yet another notable improvement lies within the level designs. From the beach of Key West to the floating Island of Manhattan, each of the eight levels seem fresh and innovative—aside from the generic “Beach” signs from stage one, but I digress! Avid turtle fans won’t be disappointed with the inclusion of memorable villains too! Fans can expect to see the following cartoon and toy line villains in 8-bit goodness: Dirtbag, Groundchuck, Slash, Leatherhead, Bebop, Rocksteady, Tokka, Rahzar, Krang, Shredder, and, yes, Super Shredder—Oh, how I loved Secret of the Ooze!
It’s incredibly challenging not to mention the absolute BEST part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III—the music! During the late 80s and early 90s, Konami/Ultra was prolific at composing some of the most memorable game soundtracks of all time, and TMNT III is no exception! With famous Konami composers like Yuichi Sakakura (Top Gun: The Second Mission), Tomoya Tomita (Gradius, Contra Force and Castlevania: Dracula X), and Kozo Nakamura (Zen: Intergalactic Ninja and Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness), it’s no wonder that this game’s music stands head and shoulders above its predecessors on the NES! This game’s soundtrack is the epitome of party-surfer music blended with splashes of tension at just the right times! Okay, folks. Confession time. To this very day, every time I see a beach, I can’t help but whistle TMNT III’s Stage One music. …Is that sad?
The Retro Junkie’s Famous Last Words:
In 1992, the Nintendo Entertainment System’s life cycle was dwindling down—and, alas, the Turtle craze was fading too. With the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo hitting their apex of popularity, gamers often forgot that the NES was still cranking out great games. It seems that TMNT III was lost in the shuffle between the popular 1989 TMNT Arcade Game and TMNT IV which was released in late 1992. Nonetheless, from the innovative gameplay, graphics, and level design, to the unbelievably memorable music, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project for the NES was and still is the complete beat-‘em-up package wrapped in a green bow! Something needs to be said for a game that keeps me coming back for more 20 years and counting.
Overall, I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project for the NES
9 Cowabungas out of 10!
Rob “The Retro Junkie” Luther
Box image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TMTN3_CoverArt.jpg
Sunbathing turtles screen shot courtesy of http://www.freakinawesomenetwork.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/TMNT302.jpg
Shredder screen shot courtesy of http://img.gamefaqs.net/screens/d/7/3/gfs_29048_2_5.jpg