TMNT III: The Manhattan Project – NES
Release Date (NA): February 1992
Genre: Beat ’em up
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
8- and 16-bit beat ’em ups haven’t aged well against today’s games, but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying some brainless brawling from time to time. TMNT II might just be the best NES beat ’em up of all time, and its sequel The Manhattan Project doesn’t fall too far behind. This third installment in the series doesn’t aim to add much new to the overall gameplay and instead keeps pace with a formula that works – punch, jump, repeat.
The story goes that while vacationing in Florida, the Turtles must again contend with April’s kidnapping by Shredder. On top of the usual damsel in distress, the entire borough of Manhattan has been turned into a floating island as part of one of Krang’s nefarious schemes. And so the Turtles prepare to cut a path through the Foot Clan once again.
The player advances through various street level stages before finally ending up in the sewers and subsequently the Technodrome with the single goal of beating up bad guys. Like TMNT II, the majority of foes are Foot Soldiers, coming in all sorts of colors and varieties. Tougher enemies show up at times (robots (Fugitoid, I think) and rock soldiers) but the real challenges are the bosses and subbosses scattered about. Familiar faces like Bebop and Rocksteady, Tokka and Rahzar, and Slash join some lesser known adversaries like Dirtbag and Groundchuck. It’s nice to see some recognizable baddies after all the unknowns thrown into TMNT II.
The best way to enjoy these games is with a friend in co-op mode, and The Manhattan Project offers up an interesting option in this regard. One can play in modes “A” or “B,” the difference being whether or not “friendly fire” is active. It’s a small but thoughtful addition; most players won’t want to worry about hitting each other and causing actual damage but it is great for those looking for a more challenging playthrough. Players can also enter in the famed Konami Code to access a basic cheat menu for stage selection and modifying the number of available continues. The Manhattan Project isn’t too very hard, but moving through all 8 levels on just a few lives can be tough. As usual, the great thing about a game like this is that if you die, you’re able to respawn in exactly the same spot. Co-op players can even exchange lives, which one can reacquire slowly via racking up points.
Controls are simple but effective – A jumps, B attacks, and attacking while jumping produces a jump kick. The jump kicks are nearly impossible to effectively aim (as it was in the previous game) but Konami decided to add in a few extra moves as well. The Turtles can perform a throwing move while pressing Down plus B and also execute a sort of special move by pressing A and B simultaneously. It’s another small change, and all 4 Turtles still play exactly the same, but these baby steps can make an effective difference in these simpler games.
I wish The Manhattan Project had advanced the gameplay a little more from where it was in TMNT II; as it is, it feels a little more like a continuation than a full-fledged sequel. However, the levels and the hordes of enemies are paced more evenly, probably because there was no arcade counterpart to The Manhattan Project designed to eat up quarters. Graphics and sound are pretty much on par with its predecessor, though it would appear that at times the artists have (smartly) eschewed some of the low-res detail in order to give us a clearer picture of what’s going on. For instance the boss characters are simpler and cleaner looking in TMNT III even if they appear slightly more cartoonish.
The other reason I can’t quite bring myself to score TMNT III as highly as TMNT II is because of the general decline in background interactivity. TMNT III retains the basics, but TMNT II had all kinds of doors swinging and sliding open, balls rolling down stairs, cars backing up, and several other little touches that added to its simplistic appeal. It’s possible that The Manhattan Project skipped over some of these details in favor of brevity and a faster paced experience, though it does have the effect of eroding some of the initial novelty.
Nitpicks aside, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project still stands as a strong beat ’em up from an era when the genre was at its peak. It’s brainless yet well-balanced fun for oldschool multiplayer action and perfectly captures what any kid could’ve wanted from a Turtles game. Only one question remains: why is there a Triceraton on the cover!?
Reviewed by The Cubist
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