Franchise Player: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

We take a look back at the characters and events that have made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one of the longest running gaming franchises.

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There are few properties that are better suited for video games than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. After all, in what other universe can you find giant, wisecracking turtles (and their giant rat leader, no less) fighting an ancient clan of ninjas headed by an even more powerful ninja who is often assisted by a talking brain that sits inside of a robot? It's all pretty crazy, and since its birth in the realm of comic books, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has spawned all sorts of cartoons, movies, toys, and numerous video games--some great and some not so great. In the midst of that growth, it has become even crazier, introducing more mutants and more characters. We're going to break it all down and explain the TMNT universe by taking a look at some of the characters that will be appearing in the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up for the Wii (and marking the release of Turtles in Time Re-Shelled on XBLA). Then, we'll cap it off with a look back at some of the best TMNT games of years past, so jump down into the sewers and join us for a look at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Characters

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Leonardo

Favorite Color:
Blue
Weapon of choice:
Dual Katana
What He Does:
Leads

Often regarded as the leader of the turtles, Leonardo keeps a level head in most situations and has a knack for using swords without actually stabbing anyone--except maybe a foot soldier here and there. Without his or Master Splinter's direction, the turtles would probably turn into a bunch of no-good ruffians, eating pizza all day instead of patrolling the city to fight crime and thwart Shredder and his goons.

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Donatello

Favorite color:
Purple
Weapon of Choice:
Bo
What He Does:
Machines

Every group of mutants has its designated smarty-pants--Donatello is the resident genius of the turtles. In fact, Donatello is usually the one getting the turtle team out of a jam by using his massive turtle brainpower to overcome technological traps. But he wasn't always this way. In the original comic, Donatello hits one of Shredder's own grenades back at him with his bo and kills him, showing that Don can also fight with the best of them.

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Raphael

Favorite Color:
Red
Weapon of Choice:
Dual Sais
What He Does:
Be Rude, But Cool

Oh Raphael, why must you be so hotheaded? There's no doubt that Raphael is one of the strongest turtles when it comes to sheer fighting ability, but his lack of patience and constant need to prove himself gets him in plenty of trouble--and not just with enemies, but with the rest of the turtles as well.

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Michelangelo

Favorite Color:
Orange
Weapon of Choice:
Nunchaku
What He Does:
Party

It's impossible to hate Michelangelo. Go ahead, try it. Try hating him. See? It's impossible. Michelangelo is the fun-loving turtle who would rather spend his time eating, skating, and partying than fighting. And because of his general demeanor, Michelangelo is often targeted as one of the precursors to the whole extreme-sports, talking-animals-that-sound-like-surfers phenomenon in the early 1990s.

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Splinter

Weapon of Choice:
Cane
What He Does:
Gives Turtles Guidance
What's His Deal:
He Is a Radical Rat

Remember the scene in the original TMNT movie where Splinter was practicing ninjitsu in his cage before seeing his master get murdered? It looked pretty terrible (why couldn't they just use a real ninja rat?), but it is more in line with his origin story, which was later changed for the cartoon. In that universe, Splinter and his master, Hamato Yoshi, were the same character and he later transformed into a rat after finding the turtles in the sewer.

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April O'Neil

Weapon of Choice:
Words/Swords
What She Does:
Reports/Sells Antiques
What's Her Deal:
Good At Being Kidnapped

In the cartoons and movies, April is a news reporter and one of the first humans to find out about the turtles and befriend them. In the comics, she was originally the assistant to Baxter Stockman, a scientist who invents the robotic mousers. In either version, April is constantly getting into trouble, whether it involves being kidnapped or simply being attacked by Stockman who blames April for his problems.

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Casey Jones

Weapon of Choice:
Sports Equipment
What He Does:
Violence
What's His Deal:
His Parents Never Loved Him

It's no coincidence that the first time Casey (a former athlete) appears on the scene in the turtle universe, he is immersed in a confrontation with Raphael--both characters have problems with their tempers. But whereas Raphael is constantly working to improve his anger management issues, Casey has the tendency to let his get the best of him at the worst moments.

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Shredder

Weapon of Choice:
His Spiky Bits
What He Does:
Evil
What's His Deal:
Blames Turtles for Everything

Let's forget for a second that the turtles' worst enemy was, indeed, their worst enemy. Shredder--leader of The Foot Clan--was actually killed by the turtles in the comics, but by using some odd methods (worms that eat flesh, really), Shredder was cloned and ultimately resurrected. In the first cartoon series, Shredder's more of a Cobra Commander--always coming up with a grand plan that works for about 15 minutes until it fails horribly.

What are your favorite Turtle moments? Drop us a line!

Highlights: The Turtles' Best Games

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade, 1989)

The very first TMNT arcade game was popular due in large part to its four-player multiplayer support--a trademark of most of Konami's arcade games at the time. The fact that it looked similar to the immensely popular cartoon didn't hurt either. Unfortunately, many ports of this game (including the XBLA version) have some unwanted changes made to them, whether it's a truncated intro or different music.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES, 1992)

Perhaps the best of all the TMNT games, Turtles in Time on the SNES took the groundwork laid by the arcade version and improved upon it by tweaking the gameplay (adding new types of attacks). It also added fun, new levels, as well as additional bosses. Of course, it didn't support four players like its arcade counterpart, but it was superior in just about every other way.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Genesis, 1992)

Konami tried to create an entirely new game with Hyper Stone Heist, but it ended up using many of the same bosses from Turtles in Time. Hyper Stone Heist featured levels that were similar to those from the original arcade game, as well as Turtles in Time, but they were remixed a bit. It's not the best TMNT game, but it's still fun.

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TMNT (GBA, 2007)

If there's any sort of spiritual successor to the arcade games, this is it. TMNT follows the same basic formula as its predecessors, allowing you to select from one of the four turtles before venturing into the streets to beat up thugs. The game also features an experience system to level up your attacks, and while it doesn't have a multiplayer option, TMNT tries to replicate it with a helper option that lets you call in another turtle to briefly aid you in a fight.

Turtles Fun Facts

  • The Metal Gear Connection

    In the original cartoon, Leonardo is voiced by Cam Clarke, who would go on to provide the voice for Liquid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid series.

  • The Comic Book Connection

    The Foot Clan of faceless ninjas is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the comic-book ninja clan known as The Hand from Marvel's Daredevil comics.

  • The Sci-Fi Comic Book Connection

    When he's not being the co-creator of TMNT, comic artist Kevin Eastman owns and publishes Heavy Metal magazine.

  • Bandanas

    Originally, the turtles didn't wear different-colored bandanas. The colors were added later so that kids would be able to distinguish one turtle from another just by looking at them.

  • A New World's Record!

    In 2008, the students of Rutgers University in New Jersey set a new world's record for "largest gathering of people dressed as ninja turtles." 786 students, to be exact. Their parents must have been proud.

  • Creation

    Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird stumbled upon the idea for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The two were randomly drawing characters when Kevin asked, "What if Bruce Lee was a turtle?" Kevin then came up with an image of a single turtle standing in a kung-fu pose. After some discussion of what to call it, the two arrived at teenage mutant ninja turtle, and so the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or at least one of them) were born.

What are your favorite Turtle moments? Drop us a line!

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