Five Things We Learned From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Games

By Aaron Matteson in Five Things, Humor, Lists!
Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- a child's violent, nonsensical dream
It's a pretty ludicrous idea to make dozens of comics, a TV series, a line of movies and a video game franchise based on the idea that several badass turtles, their DNA altered forever by their exposure to a hyper-radioactive "ooze" (which looks pretty much like plutonium snot), fall under the tutelage of a wise rat-man and fight the good fight from the sewers of New York.

But it's perfectly reasonable if you view it through the right lens -- the lens of marketing.

In the late 80s / early 90s, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or, if you were in a ninja-fearing European country at the time, the slightly less specific Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles) had everything that a kid could ever want -- funny, cute animals; funny, cute casual violence; enthusiasm over pizza; catchphrases; radiation poisoning.  Though it might have sounded bizarre, this idea included every necessary component to make it a mega-hit.  And thus it was.

There were a lot of consequences of the mega-success of Turtles (perhaps most notable among them being the emergence of Battletoads).  One of the biggest effects was that children all over the world learned valuable lessons -- many of them from the video games featuring the Turtles.

Read on to learn what radical, bodacious truths the Turtles imparted to you over the years.
1.) Do great things, make great enemies.

What are these things? And why do they hate turtles?

One of the main features of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games was the constant array of fearsome foes that our four heroes have acquired over the course of their adventures.  The player is usually faced with a combination of Foot Soldiers, Shredder, Mousers, and / or Krang -- you know, the major baddies of the animated series.  Sometimes the Foot Soldiers will be different colors, sometimes Shredder will hop into a vehicle, sometimes one of them will have kidnapped April O'Neil, but usually it's a similar deal.

But the first Turtles video game for the NES featured other enemies -- enemies you had no idea about.  They range from chainsaw-wielding serial killers to suicidal jellyfish to men who appear to have immolated themselves.  And they, for some reason, really want to slice open / die near / incinerate our radical heroes.  Just goes to show that remarkable people (or reptiles) often gather remarkable opposition.

2.) Names can be misleading.

The tricerotops man with the laser is, we are told, not featured in-game.

After the aforementioned initial Turtles NES game, there was a direct port of the excellent arcade TMNT game, and then there came the third entry in the series, titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project.

As a particularly intelligent child, perhaps you imagined Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo going back in time to 1943 and working with Oppenheimer and his team of scientists to effectively weaponize the atom, nature's most elemental building block, until Michelangelo has a pepperoni-fueled attack of guilt.  What have you created?  Is it "radical?"  Or is the creation of the most destructive power man has ever seen sort of a "bummer?"

Sadly, these questions were not to be answered, as this game was not about time travel but instead about the much more plausible scenario of Shredder abducting the entire island of Manhattan, leaving only the boroughs (and the Turtles will be god damned if they have to live in the sewers of the Bronx or something).  Time travel -- how ridiculous!  That's not until the next Turtles game.

3.) Some things are constant throughout time.

Just throwing the Turtles into a time portal isn't going to stop them from destroying everything that stands in their way.

In their adventures through different eras of history in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, the Turtles find that while fashions and technology may change drastically over the ages, some things stay the same.  Things like beating the absolute shit out of everyone you see.

4.) Symbols are important.


Turtles IV also taught us a vital lesson: symbols are important.  In the opening, literally about five words into a report April O'Neil is delivering, the Statue of Liberty is taken by Shredder's minions.  Now, the statue is not actually a huge woman, and give or take a few tourists on Liberty Island it's not such a huge loss if you think about it, right?

Wrong.  Lady Liberty is a valuable symbol of our highest aspirations as a nation -- ideals the Turtles know and respect.  Right after "give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses longing to be free" I'm pretty sure there's something about "give us your reptiles yearning for horrific but totally radical mutation."  The Turtles know that symbols matter, and they are willing to fight upon that point.

5.) A little comfort food never hurt anyone.

Though Michelangelo's mutated turtle heart may be about one slice away from massive, multiple-ventricle failure, he's happy when he's having a slice.  And doesn't that, in some small way, increase his "health?"

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