This is a story I wrote about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game for the NES. The story will be included in “The Nintendo Entertainment System Compendium” by Jeffrey Wittenhagen.
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“Turtles 2: An NES Story”
By Pete Paquette
I was standing in my kitchen on the corded-telephone, anxiously waiting for a simple answer of yes or no. The phone book was sprawled out on the table in front of me. This was easily the sixth or seventh place I had called looking for this game and I was expecting another denial. The phone on the other end of the line tumbled and clicked as the sales clerk picked it up off of the counter. I perked up with my expectations running high.
It was December 26th, 1990 – yes, the day after Christmas. Why would a 13 year old boy be scouring the phone book to call local stores in search for a new video game the day after Christmas? Just the day before, my brother and I were given Astynax, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Dragon Spirit, NARC and Wrath Of The Black Manta. Surely there was plenty of game play to be had, so why was I looking so feverishly for a new title? I blame my friend Rob.
On Christmas Day, after all the presents were exchanged, it had become tradition for my best friend Rob and I to call each other and compare our gaming gifts. I boasted about my newly acquired games and heard silence on the other end of the line. With a chuckle, he simply said “ I got Turtles 2.” Sonofabitch.
“WHAT?!” I yelled into the phone. I had heard rumblings of a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game coming to the NES that was supposed to play just like the 1989 arcade game. The problem was that before the days of the internet, there was no real way of knowing when a game was supposed to be released. In hindsight, the game was released sometime in December of 1990 – well after my mother had received and fulfilled our Christmas lists.
I told my seven year old brother and he replied “Goddamnit, I thought you said it wasn’t coming out yet. We should’ve asked for that instead of stupid Astynax.” He had a point. Astynax was by far the worst game in the lot, but to be fair, it was not nearly as terrible as Deadly Towers or Super Pitfall – other gaming mishaps in our collection – that’s another story.
“Yes we have it.” the clerk said on the other line. I was in shock. Imagine a 13 year old boy, on the day after Christmas, asking his parents to drive him to the Ann & Hope to purchase yet another video game (in North Dartmouth, MA – RIP my go-to NES store). Luckily, between the two of us, my brother and I had enough Christmas money to cover the price, so there wasn’t much of an argument outside of “Didn’t we give you a good enough Christmas?!” from our parents.
I can remember my anticipation as we drove to the Ann & Hope three towns over. Having recently been through the “Great NES Chip Shortage of 1988”, I can remember competing with droves of other young gamers trying to acquire Super Mario Bros. 2, so I was expecting the worst. The store was jam-packed with people returning items after the holiday but in our mind’s eye, everybody was there to purchase the last copy of Turtles 2 (I keep referring to the game as Turtles 2 because that was the common vernacular of the time). There were plenty of copies left and we spent the entire ride home scouring the instruction manual and inspecting the box art.
When we got home, I immediately put the game in the NES. It was considered sacrilege to push start before the intro had played all the way through, so we sat and waited to be blown away by what we were about to see. Silence… Complete silence and nothing but a title screen. Confused and a little disappointed, we waited a while longer. After a short while, a demo of the game started with with no music – just sound effects. To our young minds, it looked and felt EXACTLY like the first level of the arcade game!! I didn’t want to spoil the level for ourselves, so I made a concession and pressed start to return to the title screen. My brother’s go-to turtle was Donatello because he identified with Don’s nerdiness. I liked Raphael’s attitude, so he was my turtle of choice. Upon choosing our turtles, the intro scene of April O’Neil’s apartment fire began. Leonardo yelled (or rather speech-bubbled) “Fire!”. Then the turtles lept off, landing on the roof of April’s burning apartment and entered the building. “Arcade-at-home” was truly happening for us and we couldn’t believe what we were witnessing!! Thus began what would become our first two player, co-op experience that we both truly enjoyed.
That New Year’s Eve, we were showing off Turtles 2 to our family and friends. We did so by playing the game in front of them. All night. Leaving no room for anyone else to jump in or use the television. Our older sister’s boyfriend would poke fun at us for spouting out cheesy one-liners from the movie such as “Ooo leftovers!!” and “God I love being a turtle!!”.
I look back on Turtles 2 more fondly than most of my other NES games not only because it was a beautiful port of the original arcade game, but also because of how it bonded my brother and I. I got Double Dragon 2 previously that year and although it’s an amazing co-op game, my brother didn’t want much to do with it. My brother, on the other hand, got Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers just the day before and while I consider it to be a fantastic game, it wasn’t exactly in my wheelhouse at the time. The Ninja Turtles, however, were a staple in our household. My brother loved the cartoons, I loved the comics and we both loved the 1990 movie, so it was a win-win situation. Our consensus for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game is that “It was a shell of a good hit!!”