The year of 2019 marks the 35th anniversary of when Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello first hit the printed page, courtesy of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. As such, it would be remiss of me to not show a little love and cry out “Turtle Power!” at least once this year.
Our favorite fab four had a bit of a rocky start when they first hit the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989; according to a recent Let’s Play from Digital Foundry of that title (or rather, the Japanese version, titled Geki Kame Ninja Den, or roughly “Legend of the Radical Ninja Turtles” — check out the full ep for more little tidbits about how Japan sees the TMNT), it would seem that production was somewhat rushed at an early point in the Turtle Mania that would soon overtake many parts of the world. The result was a perfectly playable (I can beat it more easily than 2/3 of the Castlevania titles on the same platform) platforming adventure that had as many rough edges as it did interesting ideas.
The NES game squeezed in a few familiar sights from the hit cartoon show, such as Bebop and Rocksteady, the Turtle Van (or “Party Wagon,” if you must) and Turtle Blimp, and the Technodrome. Pretty much everything else came from the already-established comics (Shredder, Splinter, April, Mousers, Foot Soldiers — oh, and the Turtles, of course), or was wholly original for the game. Even the familiar concepts looked different, as the lack of internet for easy communication meant that keeping the Japanese development team up to date on how the property was shaping up in the west was likely difficult.
This wasn’t the case with subsequent releases, however, at least as far as recognizable concepts go. An arcade game which much more closely mirrored the five-part first season/pilot proved to be a smash hit, dictating the direction the Turtles would go in arcades and on consoles for the next few years.
But on Game Boy? That was another story. While replicating the arcade beat ’em up experience on Game Boy might have been possible on some level (as even the NES version was pushed just trying to approximate it), Konami’s developers took another approach and, in a sense, managed to marry the two concepts. The result was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan, a sidescrolling action game which — as best as the Game Boy was able — reflected the cartoon’s aesthetic much more closely than the original NES title, even to the point of adapting screenshots from that first season into a pixelated format in cutscenes. It may not have been the arcade game, but its DNA is clearly there.
While people will argue whether the game was good (much less great), the important thing is that it was good enough. It was a fun (if a bit easy) romp with the four cartoon-styled Turtles, taking on easily-recognizable Foot Soldiers, Mousers, Bebop, Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman, Shredder, and — in a unique twist — Krang as the final boss. All this, and it was portable, too!
It may not hold up under intense scrutiny today, but there are no doubt many Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans who also had a Game Boy back in the day remember this one fondly. But, as with so many other great video game offerings to come in the early portion of the quartet’s 35-year run, chances of a re-release seem incredibly slim. Basically, it all comes down to whether Konami and intellectual property holders Viacom can come to some sort of arrangement — and perhaps whether whoever might have the video game license now is willing to play as nicely as Ubisoft did several years ago.
But with the Turtles celebrating their 35th anniversary the same year as Konami is celebrating their 50th with the recent release of their Anniversary Collections, the opportunity sure seems ripe for the taking, doesn’t it? And if they were to offer such a collection, going by their Contra and Castlevania offerings, the inclusion of fall of the Foot Clan doesn’t seem too unlikely.