After an auspicious start, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise was finally done right in this sequel.

User Rating: 9 | Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game NES
Despite an auspicious start with the first game in the franchise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles eventually spawned a successful gaming franchise in its own right, with a total of three games on the NES and a highly anticipated success on the SNES. The second game in the series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, is as the title implies based off the equally successful arcade adaptation of the franchise in turn adapted for the NES. Preserving the necessary elements during the translation, the Turtles really got into their gaming stride with The Arcade Game and has set the tone and style of all subsequent games up to the SNES.

As with the first game, The Arcade Game naturally follows the general storyline of the cartoon series which was in its halcyon days in 1991: Shredder and his Foot Clan minions have set fire to the apartment complex news reporter and Turtles friend April O'Neill resides in and she is kidnapped, and its up to the Turtles to rescue her. After defeating Rocksteady, Bebop, and Baxter Stockman through various levels, the Turtles rescue April and their attention is turned towards destroying the Foot Clan's robotic factory, rescuing Master Splinter after things go awry and finally to the Technodrome itself. Unlike the first game, all of the enemies encountered in The Arcade Game are fully recognizable from the cartoon series or at least believably fit into the Turtles mythos. Aside from the previously mentioned level bosses, players will encounter the all too familiar Foot Soldier, Baxter Stockman's army of robotic mousers, and various mechanical machinations unleashed upon the Turtles by Shredder. And of course, at the very end the player is tasked with defeating not only the evil interdimensional warlord Krang, but Shredder himself in two challenging but entertaining back-to-back battles.

Gameplay is smooth and nicely replicates the arcade version as the action platformer style of the first one is abandoned, with the arcade-like beat 'em up gameplay being carried through the rest of the series up to the SNES release. Players can choose any of the four Turtles although the selection is purely cosmetic and doesn't have any actual effect on gameplay or story outcome. Players can attack using their Turtle's weapon or perform a jump-kick attack which is also additionally useful for avoiding obstacles, traps, projectiles and escaping from enemy gang attacks. The game's AI isn't too great so defeating the throngs of Foot Soldiers is not too challenging; many specialized Foot Soldier types are present, however, and each type is equipped with a different weapon requiring some strategy above the usual style of running up and attacking. Other enemies, particularly level bosses, require at least a level of strategy and skill above that to defeat as well. While the gameplay style is certainly simple, the game throws in enough hordes of enemies and clever obstacles to keep gameplay interesting and far from boring.

While the game's graphical presentation is not exactly perfect, it does a decent enough job of replicating the arcade experience on the NES and sprites, backgrounds and foregrounds are well rendered. Sound presentation is top-notch, featuring various variations of the familiar theme song from the cartoon as well as other background music matching nicely with the tone of the various levels. Sound effects are also nicely done with hit and explosion effects, as well as effects for deflecting projectiles and other events.

With the second NES game featuring arcade-like gameplay, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise had hit its stride and set the tone for all future NES and SNES games and is now fondly remembered for living up to the full potential of the parent franchise. With the recent revival in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mania in the form of a renewed comic and cartoon series, it's only natural that the series shall return to game consoles once again; however, the recent crop of Turtles games have been less than inspiring. Whether or not the Turtles as a gaming franchise will reclaim their former glory has yet to be seen, but at the very least fans of old school gaming will always have this set of great games to turn to.