Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Original Movie

It was in 1984 that we got our first look at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. A lot of fans, myself included, weren’t even born yet. But that dark, gritty, violent little comic book by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird was able to blow up into something bigger. It withstood the test of time and turned into multiple cartoon series, movie adaptations, badass toys, and video games. There have been brief periods of dormancy, but Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello always come back for more ninja awesomeness.

Just this week, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge launched to massive acclaim. As a Turtles fan, I’m glad the game has been well-received. And after playing through it with feverish excitement, I was absolutely elated that it was just so darn great. Seriously, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is a phenomenal game. Beyond that, it’s an utterly special game — special being the keyword here. But why is it so special? In order to determine that, we need to go back a bit and briefly revisit the franchise.

Brooding Beginnings

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comic Book

For a lot of fans, the Ninja Turtles have always been fun-loving, wise-cracking butt-kickers. Before their lighthearted personalities were established, though, the four turtle brothers were serious, no-nonsense ninjas bent on protecting the streets of New York from the Shredder and his Foot Clan — by any means necessary. Those early Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books were grisly and brooding, and their black-and-white pages were filled with blood and violence.

The Turtles were dishing out their brand of vigilante justice, and this often meant eliminating their biggest threats to a permanent end. Those stories were great, even if they’re not quite the family-friendly tales we see starring the Ninja Turtles nowadays.

Thankfully, while the TMNT series has become a whole lot cheerier and inviting, it still retains high levels of ninja action across the gritty streets of New York. This means there’s plenty there for fans both new and old of all ages. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles usually does an excellent job of blending adult themes and action with more easygoing dialogue and humor.

Light and Dark

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 Animated Series

In 1987, the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series saw a shift in tone for the franchise. All of the popular characters were there: Leo, Raph, Mikey, and Don, along with April O’Neil, Casey Jones, Splinter, and Shredder. But now, everything was brighter and more colorful, and the Turtles were cracking wise and had developed an unhealthy obsession with pizza. And yet… it sort of worked? Sure, the doom-and-gloom Ninja Turtles were no more, but this animated series was fun, and it made for some entertaining capers.

While this series led to countless toys, ice cream bars, and other products, fans were treated to a film in 1990. Interestingly, the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was pretty grim and violent. And while it was nowhere near as crazy as the original comics, it definitely had an edge to it. Of course, it found a perfect balance between lighthearted gags and serious themes.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1990 Film

A second film was inevitable. And while I consider Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze to be a somewhat flawed movie, it’s still pretty solid overall, awkward Vanilla Ice ninja rap notwithstanding. It was cool seeing the Turtles take on Shredder and the Foot Clan once more. In addition, we got to see some new villainous mutants: Tokka (a wolf) and Rahzar (a snapping turtle). That was kinda neat!

After defeating a mutated Super Shredder (played by Kevin Nash) in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, what was left for the Turtles to do? Well, they went back in time, that’s what! Okay, okay, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was kind of out there — especially because of a ridiculous romance storyline between Mikey and a human woman — but it had its charm. Plus, the feudal Japan setting was decent, and the set pieces were pretty rad.

While the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film trilogy was happening, the animated series was still going strong. Interestingly, it would get a bit of a facelift in its final three seasons. While there were still some gags and plenty of fun moments (usually involving Michelangelo), the storylines, dialogue, and villains were a lot darker. Visually, the Turtles received a minor makeover, boasting a look that was more in line with their counterparts in the first film. Even the show’s theme song changed, and the opening featured clips from that first live-action movie.

Shortly after the finale of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1996, a new series would emerge from the sewers of New York. Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation was a live-action series that lasted a total of 26 episodes. It was somewhat of a mixed bag, though 10-year-old me was a huge fan. The series introduced a fifth female turtle, Venus de Milo, and it led to a crossover with Power Rangers, which was Fox Kids fan service at its finest.

Dormancy and Return

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 Animated Series

When Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation ended, it would be five years before we saw our favorite turtle heroes on TV again. During this time, the comic books were still being made, but the franchise lost a bit of its powerhouse status as toys became harder to find and Turtles products were no longer stocking store shelves everywhere.

In 2003, a darker Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series dropped. It had somewhat of an anime look and feel to it, and though there were some lighter moments from time to time, the overall tone of the show was in line with what both the old-school comics and the last three seasons of the original cartoon were doing. In addition, the alien Utroms were a big focus of the series, giving it more of a sci-fi vibe compared to other iterations.

While it wasn’t the merchandising machine it had been in the past, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was proving to be this relevant little niche thing. In 2007, the CG film TMNT was released. It featured a compelling storyline where the Turtles had grown apart, only to be ultimately reunited in an effort to save New York. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a fun time nonetheless.

TMNT is something of a timeline curiosity, too. While series co-creator Peter Laird has stated that it exists independently of the other movies, director Kevin Munroe holds that it’s set following the events of the original trilogy.

In 2009, the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series came to an end in grand fashion. Turtles Forever is an animated film that aired in four parts on TV and acted as the series finale — though thanks to some sharp writing, it totally works as a standalone film, too. In Turtles Forever, the 2003 Turtles, 1987 Turtles, and original 1984 comic book Turtles join forces in an absolutely bonkers crossover event.

Hiatus and Revival

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Nickelodeon TV Series

In 2003, publisher Dreamwave Productions put out seven issues of a Teenager Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book based on the animated series of that era. It lasted until December of that year, and it would be the last time we’d see the Turtles in comic form.

In 2011, IDW Publishing acquired the rights to the Ninja Turtles comic series and launched a reboot. More than a decade later, this version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the longest-running comic book in the series’ history. And it’s pretty darn awesome, too!

While IDW was putting out dope Turtles comics, Nickelodeon began producing a new CG animated series. The 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ran for five seasons and was an absolute joy to watch. Fun stories, great characters, good laughs, and that signature ninja action made for a truly entertaining TV show.

This series would be followed up by Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which featured drastically different looks, personalities, and back stories for the Turtles. It was met with some degree of criticism and mixed reactions, but it seems to have its fan base, as well as folks who believe it’s worth a watch.

This revival of the iconic franchise wasn’t just filled with new comics and animated series. There were also two live-action films. Now, a lot of folks have very strong opinions about these movies, their casting, and the fact that they were produced by Michael Bay. It didn’t help that, originally, the Turtles were going to be aliens, which would’ve been really, really dumb.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows - Bebop and Rocksteady

But you know what? The 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film isn’t bad! Sure, the Turtles look really weird, but their personalities are on point with what the previous movies, comic books, and animated shows were giving us. Not to mention, the fights were entertaining, and the Shredder felt like a legitimate threat. Is it perfect? No. But it’s not a bad movie, either. In fact, for my money, I’d say this TMNT film is pretty damn solid. They even poke fun at the alien Turtle thing in the movie, which was a nice little tongue-in-cheek reference to what very well could’ve been a disaster.

While the 2014 Turtles movie is something of an underrated gem, though, its 2016 followup, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a great deal of fun and total fan service. There’s more Shredder. We get Casey Jones. There’s also Krang and the freakin’ Technodrome! I don’t care what anyone says — this movie stands tall as an absolutely wild ride, and it deserves a top spot in the legacy of the Ninja Turtles franchise.

Throughout All That, There Were Games, Too

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES Game

You know what’s cool about a media franchise getting popular? It usually leads to video games! Now, that’s not always a good thing, but with the proper care, good games can come from pre-existing licenses. This holds true with Teenage Mutant NInja Turtles, which is host to a number of games both good and bad.

Since the series’ beginnings, we’ve had terribly difficult and oddly designed titles like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES. There have been fighting games. There was even a trilogy of games based on the 2003 animated series.

When fans think about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in gaming, though, they often look back at the arcade beat-’em-up titles with the most fondness. The first of these was aptly titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, though the NES port was renamed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game to avoid confusion with the aforementioned terribly difficult and oddly designed game. This game was praised for its arcade action and set a new standard for what Turtles games could be.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time is considered by many to be the best Turtles game. Well, if the previous title set the bar for the series, Turtles in Time raised that bar, delivering some of the most fun coin-op action you could ever hope for from the Heroes in a Half Shell. The fast-paced beat-’em-up combat, the music, the graphics, and the level designs were pure bliss.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time

You’d think that by the third TMNT arcade game, developers would be running the risk of releasing a subpar follow-up. Well, that was not the case, much to the delight of fans. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (which was a Sega Genesis exclusive and heavily based on Turtles in Time) were both outstanding beat-’em-ups that delivered the goods to fans.

It’s worth mentioning that even the Game Boy was getting some good Turtles games. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue were well-reviewed and considered great handheld Turtles games on Nintendo’s original portable.

The best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games were always the ones that kept things simple yet engaging. That’s why the arcade beat-’em-up format worked so well: You could mix a nice combination of satisfying combat, decent challenge, and cool level designs to keep fans interested. And that’s exactly why…

Shredder’s Revenge Is Everything a TMNT Game Should Be

TMNT: Shredder's Revenge

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is one of the best games of 2022 thus far. It’s an awesome beat-’em-up. And it’s one of the best TMNT games ever made. In fact, it may be the best Ninja Turtles game of all time.

You know all that stuff I mentioned a few moments ago about enjoyable combat, good challenge, and fun levels? Shredder’s Revenge ticks all of those boxes. It’s a stellar game loaded with action-packed levels, great enemies, and an impressive cast of playable characters. Oh, and the boss battles are loads of fun, too!

The best part is that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is retro in the best ways, but doesn’t just rely on old tricks and classic game design and mechanics. Yes, the combos, grapple attacks, and co-op play are all there, as they should be, but developer Tribute Games made the whole thing feel so polished. Character animations and attacks are smooth and quick. Special abilities are fun to pull off. And everything is loaded with that signature Turtles personality.

On top of all that, the dev team even added some modern refinements to the game. As you play through Story mode, you’ll slowly level up and gain extra lives, new special attacks, and even a powered-up mode. Levels have a few collectibles tucked away, too, allowing you to complete NPC-based side missions. There are even a few special challenges in each level, such as getting to the end of a stage without performing certain attacks or getting hit by obstacles. Oh, and the pixelated world map is pretty adorable, too.

Admittedly, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge leans more heavily into the colorful look and feel established by the 1987 cartoon, but that’s not even an issue because that show was so charming. Not to mention, a lot of the older arcade games were based on that series anyway, so this feels like a proper sequel to those titles. More than a sequel, though, Shredder’s Revenge feels like a culmination of those games — and almost like a culmination of the series as a whole.

Shredder's Revenge Gameplay

There have been ups and downs. Darker moments and lighthearted shifts. There have been mixed reactions to movies, games, and shows. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is among the highest highs and the brightest moments. If you’re a fan of the old games, or you’re just a Turtles fan and want to see what this snazzy new game is about, there’s absolutely no reason why you should be disappointed.

If this was the last Ninja Turtles thing ever made, it would be like ending a TV show with the best series finale ever or creating the perfectly built climax for a movie. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a high point for the series, and in an age where so much media — be it games, television shows, etc. — disappoints its followers, it’s clear that this game absolutely loves its fan base. Shredder’s Revenge does everything right, and it’s one of the greatest pieces of Ninja Turtles history ever conceived.

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