I remember when this game first appearing in arcades way back in 1988. Although I did have some of the toys I was never into them as much as other kids; I was already getting too old for toys and crap by the time they starting getting big. But then this game came and blew me and my friends away.
The humble NES actually does a very good job of capturing the look and feel of the arcade. The game is played in side scrolling semi-isometric beat'em up style, with horizontal and vertical segments. Later on there are levels where you fly on hover boards and such although these play just the same and the normal side scrolling levels. Bad guy foot clan ninjas come at you three at a time. Most of them take three or four hits to go down. As usual these little peasley enemies are designed to surround and overpower you. You're also attacked by the little robot munchers and other enemy ninjas flying in helicopters and such.
You get to choose any of the four main turtles although there doesn't seem to be any difference between them besides their color and weapons. It would have been nice to get some variation here. Each turtle has a three hit combo, a jump kick attack, and a hard attack accomplished by pressing both buttons together. For the most part all of the attacks are effective but your limited arsenal gets boring pretty quick.
The game is very faithful to the arcade, all the levels are represented, even the elevator and surfboard levels. There are even two new levels thrown in just for this game (although they are pretty sparse.) There was an attempt to keep all of the little nuances that gave the arcade game it's charm, like the animated televisions in the shop windows on the first level, the falling-into-the-manhole animations, the breakable signs and fire hydrants, etc. on some levels there are also environmental dangers, like large iron balls that roll out of stairwells on the first level. All of the bosses made it as well (although their sprites are slightly smaller) and they are as tough as ever.
This is one of those games where the scrolling stops until you clear the screen of enemies, that coupled with the game's long length can get pretty grueling. That's always been the problem with beat'em-ups, just how many times can you fight the same guys with the same basic moves over and over and over again? Still this game is one of the best examples of the genre for the NES and a must for Turtles fans.
Graphics: Noticeably downgraded from their arcade counterpart, but for an NES game they are fantastic. Good animation on the main characters. Some levels even have a semblance of parallax scrolling. There is a hell of a lot of flicker going on in this game though. The characters look a little bland in the color department.
Sound: Good soundtrack, with heavy bass in the fast paced music. Other sounds effects not so good, lots of boings and pings where more meaty effects would be better.
Gameplay: Fast paced beat'em up action that can get a bit repetitive towards the end.