For the longest time I thought this game was crap and much preferred TMNT: The Arcade for the NES instead. Looking back I think part of the reason was the difficulty. The turtles were sort of hard to control, their attacks seemed kind of bizarre, they took hits like Glass Joe, and the enemies respawned like there was no tomorrow. TMNT: The Arcade was much easier. I guess I just figured Ultra had laid an egg and it took an additional game until they had a lock on how to handle the Turtles.
I think I was a bit hasty in my estimation. TMNT actually presents a very solid game with a bit of a learning curve and a heavy dose of challenge. As a kid, I never made it past level 2, but that was because I never invested the time to get past that learning curve. Once you understand how to use the different Turtles (and that you can switch between them, a fact I only learned after two hours into this project...) you start to make much more significant progress in the game.
That's not to say TMNT isn't hard. I would wager to say that the Technodrome and the caves leading to it are bone crushingly hard. The 'Drome itself is a one way ticket to madness and frustration, until you find the scroll weapon. The final run toward the heart of the 'Drome is next to impossible without that scroll. However, once you have it in hand, you can mow down your enemies and head for glory. The other levels leading up to the final two are challenging, but no more really than you might find in any other NES game. They take some time to learn and you'll probably die a lot until you figure out how to clear them, but ultimately they are not impossible.
Having played this game for all of a half an hour as a kid and 5 hours for this project, I got to the final battle twice and could get to the 'Drome reliably every time. I could probably finish it off with a couple more hours of play time and look forward to doing so some day. What I am most surprised about is how much I ended up liking this game that had always been an outcast in the collection. TMNT feels like one of those early NES games where we just make some kind of game and see how it goes. The game's difficulty is a mix of the learning curve with the controls and game play and the cruel final level designs, but at the end of the day I think it is very beatable and a good game.
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