Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan
Genre: Action Platformer
Sometimes, we have fond memories of games from our past. I can tell you the first game I played on Playstation (Final Fantasy VII), Nintendo 64 (Wave Race 64) and plenty of other firsts, including the Game Boy.
To be fair, I can’t remember exactly which game I played first, but I remember the first three games I owned- Super Mario Land, Tetris, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan. It wasn’t the first game to star the Turtles, and it certainly wasn’t the last, but it held some fond memories for me. One bored night, I decided to sit down and play the game again to see if my memories would bring any warm nostalgic feelings up.
The journey did not go as expected.
The plot of the game is textbook Ninja Turtles fare, and if you grew up watching the cartoon, you can pretty much map out what happens. April O’Neil, everyone’s favorite reporter-in-constant-distress, has been kidnapped by the Shredder, Krang, and theirlegions of Foot Soldiers. Our acrobatic terrapin teens must cross the city and stop the usual rogue’s gallery from terrorizing their streets while rescuing their good friend.
At the game’s start, the player can set their control scheme and choose which level they would like to begin on of the five in the game. Choosing anything but the first level to start on means that the player will not get the ‘true’ ending of the game, but it’s a convenient feature. Once that is chosen, you are given a stark screen with text on it giving the player the choice of their turtle for the given stage. While some may remember the original NES game, where the turtles each had a different advantage or disadvantage with their weapons, there is no such differentiation here. Leonardo’s sword, Donatello’s staff, Raphael’s sai, and Michaelangelo’s nunchaku all act the same. Given the limitations in color on the Game Boy, the turtles become almost interchangeable so far as the game is concerned.
Controls are limited to jumping and attacking, one button for each. If you attack while you’re in the air, your turtle will kick forward. Should you crouch and attack, your turtle will throw a shuriken forward, hitting an enemy across the screen. Beyond that, you walk forward a lot while enemies, for the most part, jump out of nowhere, causing you to have to react and attack accordingly. Take too much damage, and your turtle will become ‘captured’ and unusable. All four turtles become captured? Game over. Luckily, throughout the levels, as your defeat enemies, the occasional pizza slice or pie will appear to heal up some of your health bar.
The levels primarily consist of walking down corridors, dodging or attacking various enemies and obstacles, and after one to three of these themed corridors, fighting a familiar villain from the show. The bosses are the only real challenge of the game, and if you are an experienced gamer, you probably won’t have any sublime issues with progression. The real issue comes from keeping track of your character’s health. Unfortunately, while your turtle will reel back from damage, indicating that they have been hit, it doesn’t happen with most of the hits, meaning you might take four hits but only notice one unless you’re keeping a close eye on your health bar. This was kind of frustrating, as in later stages, I found myself at much lower health than I thought I should have been at. In a nutshell, the game’s technical limits, given the platform, really work against it at this point.
Gameplay itself is obnoxiously repetitive, even by the second stage. The process, ad nauseum, is slowly walk forward, dispatch enemies/jump over obstacles, repeat until the end of the level. While there are some brief attempts to vary it up- only working on one or two short stretches- the levels feel much longer and more tedious than they really are. Given that the game clocked in at about a half an hour from start to finish, that is no small feat.
While I try really hard to find good things to add when the game itself falls short, it is hard to find much that goes beyond mediocrity with this game at this point in time. TMNT: FotFC is an indicative of its time. It was one of the earliest games on a system that came out over fifteen years ago. The game could act as a good introduction to platforming that is a step up from Super Mario Bros, but given how slow paced the game feels, even with its frenetic enemy spawning, it’s hard to believe it would keep anyone’s attention for long beyond an initial playthrough. There are bonus levels throughout the game that may or may not be interesting, and I vaguely remember them from childhood. I didn’t run into a single one on my playthrough, though, and I don’t have much desire to go back and find them.
The presentation is the only real light on the game at this point, as the music and graphics are pretty good. The animation quality on the images between levels are on par with the cartoon, and while the in-game graphics are bare bones, there’s nothing incrediblydaunting to look at. The music sounds like one would expect a Ninja Turtles game to sound like, tinny theme song and all. A couple of the sound effects can be a little jarring, but overall, the sound is distinctly average.
Sadly, this game just doesn’t hold up, and there are much better TMNT games from the era. While this was a testament to the beginnings of a beloved system, many other games that appear alongside this in the Game Boy library’s history hold up much better. I’ll still keep my copy for nostalgia’s sake, but I can’t see playing through this again anytime soon without outside provocation.