I had four games to play in the early days of my NES ownership. I don’t remember if I got them all on the same fateful Christmas morning I got the system, or if I subtly asked my mom for more games later: “Hey mom, did you know there’s a Nintendo game based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I just thought you would maybe find that interesting. I find it interesting, for sure. That there’s a Nintendo game based on the turtles. Available now.”
Side note: Did anyone else have a horrible time finding the April O’Neil action figure? Shredder was a bit of a time, too, but man did we look everywhere for April. She was the one chick in the whole show! My little feminist heart was aching for some representation in my playtime. I didn’t end up finding one in a toy shop until I was twelve and all my other figures (plus the Turtle Van, I’m a professional) were shoved out of sight in a basement crawlspace. Damned if I didn’t buy it, though.
In any case, I was pretty excited to be combining video games with the heroes in a half shell, two things that were undeniably awesome. I enthusiastically opened the box, pulled out the cartridge, gave it a preemptive and unnecessary blow for luck, and loaded it into my Nintendo. What follows is a transcript of the the inner monologue of seven-year-old me.
Hey look a car thingy and oh god I’m a puddle of turtle mush.
Well, I suppose I’ll just go ahead and go down this manhole right here. Never mind that it’s the first thing I’ve seen since starting the game, I’m sure the game developers aren’t baiting me to play a time/health-wasting level, mostly because this is the third game I’ve ever played and there’s a picture of me next to the word “noob” in the dictionary! Or at least there would be if there was such a word as “noob” yet!
I can play as any of the four turtles?! *makes a tiny fist and pulls it downward at her side* YES! I want Mike because he’s totally radical!
Hmm. So Mike’s nunchucks are kind of weak. Aaaaaand I’m dead. Leonardo it is.
The exit from that level just puts you on the other side of that first stupid building? I could have just walked around? Why so cruel, Konami? Why so cruel?
I always found Bebop and Rocksteady sort of sad. Just some kids into the punk scene, looking for a family and ending up with Shredder and the Foot Clan. Seek out healthy support systems, kids!
Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. Bebop and Rocksteady are some guys who are important guys.
And I’ve just saved April! Wait. Aaah, good one game maker dudes! Way to “princess is in another castle” me!
And now for an excursion into this extremely low-ceilinged warehouse. What a crap ton of weird monsters that I’ve never seen in the show. Oh hey, that guy throws weapons that are impossible to block, and he goes into the fetal position like a jerk when you attack him. Fun!
Thank god there’s a pizza at the end, because I have been taking some damage; now I’ll just turn around and walk back. Great, all the enemies have respawned! Now I’m back at the entrance with less health than when I came in. Fun!
Meanwhile, in the next sewer…
WHY IS THAT MAN ON FIRE?
WHY IS HIS LEG FALLING OFF AND HOPPING AROUND AFTER ME?
WHAT’S COMING OUT OF HIS HEAD?
LEONARDO GOT CAUGHT. WHO FIGHTS NEXT?
Is this how we all beat this part or is this how we all beat this part?
So. Raphael is a walking, useless turd.
Donatello is legitimately great. Actually fun!
And we really rescue April this time—huzzah! On to Area 2.
Whoa, the map’s half the size of Area 1. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. This first building isn’t too bad at all: three floors, just a basic repeat of early enemies, tricky jump at the end, but nothing too serious.
Alright! Now we have to jump in the river. What a cake walk this water level will be, what with the playable characters being mutated aquatic reptiles!
Two minutes and twenty seconds to diffuse eight bombs, fair enough I guess.
Not so fast at the swimming, turns out.
Who’d have thought touching some squiggly seaweed would result in its noodly tendrils reaching ridiculously far out to entangle me in a watery death embrace? Certainly not this kid with a basic knowledge of biology.
And the pink plants are also electrified or something! Good thing there’s never too many at once!
I want to kill the world.
Difficult difficult lemon difficult.
Game over. Start from the beginning.
*throws controller, performs first ragequit*
WORSE THAN THOSE STUPID TRAMPOLINES IN SUPER MARIO BROS.!
Mario Katharsis Rating: Lightning bolt right before the finish line with another player hot on your tail.