Somewhere after Thundercats and before Power Rangers there were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While they may have originated in the comic books, most of us know them for their cartoon show from the late 80s, others from their three live action movies. With their wild popularity it was only a matter of time that they took over a new medium that was just as wildly popular with kids and that is of course video games. Since the Ninja Turtles were at the height of their popularity, it was only fitting that they had a game developer at the height of its popularity make the games. Konami, who had such other hits as Castlevania, Contra and Metal Gear was the right partner. In this case, it wasn’t exactly Konami, but their subsidiary Ultra Games, that allowed Konami to release more than ten games per year under Nintendo’s strict policy.
In 1990, Konami took a simple formula and made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan. It was easy, make a 2D side scrolling action game. Almost a 2D runner, but you had full control of your turtle’s movement and that was to say you’ll always be moving to the right. The only reason to turn left is to bash or slash an enemy behind you. Its a game based on reflexes and timing.
You start the game by selecting one of the four turtles, Michaellangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael. They all look identical and they all control the same. The only difference is their weapon range and speed, but I’m not even sure there is a difference, just a visual difference with the weapon. There’s some favorable hit detection with the game. You can hit an enemy slightly after it collides with you and the enemy will be destroyed, but you won’t take damage.
At first the enemies only come at you from the left and right. Even flying enemies will lower themselves to fly at you on your own height. As the levels go by, the enemies start to come from weird angles. Foot soldiers jump in at you, needle nose flying drones dive from diagonal angles. Mousers appear from the ground and jump. Its all to test your reflexes and how nimble you are.
There are traps that you’ll have to stop to wait for, other obstacles will bowl at you or race toward you and you’ll need to jump over them. You’re a ninja after all, you need to be quick or your health will drain with every hit you take. You can’t just leap over standard enemies, because they’ll still be underneath you when you land and you’ll take damage. That’s why you need to kill them before they hurt you.
You’ll find pizza along the way to replenish health. A slice gives you two blocks of health while a full pizza completely restores your energy. There are even secret mini games that will restore your health if you win. These mini games are pretty rare and you’ll need to find the invisible triggers for them. For every turtle that loses all of his energy, he is “captured” and you can’t use him again. This is the game’s life system, so you’ve got four lives to get through the game. Beating a boss also refills your health.
The controls are simple, left and right to walk, A to jump extremely high and B to attack. Down and B throws a star to attack long range enemies, but they’re so quick that they’ll be in your face in a second. In the air you’ve got a powerful jump kick that does more damage. Since its tougher to land a kick, it seems like a fair trade off for the accuracy. Although, I only use the jump kick on a rare occasion. Its helpful for bosses though because of their health meters.
Fall of the Foot Clan has five of the biggest villains from TMNT history. They’re all big, beautiful sprites that are good to look at. You’ve got Rockstead, Bebop, Baxter Stockman, Shredder and Krang in his body suit.
The story is so simple that its forgettable. April O’Neil has been kidnapped… again and that’s okay. I see it only as a reason for four brothers to get together so we can have some fun and play as the Ninja Turtles. Fall of the Foot Clan does a great job with the cartoon show license and there are several images of the turtles between levels, when a turtle gets captured and at the beginning of the game. It makes the game feel closer to that universe. Even the mini games are hosted by Master Splinter and have Krang and a turtle.
The mini games are pretty simple, but they’re still a nice diversion in what feels like a long first level. You’ve got a clay pigeon shooting game with the directional pad to aim a cursor. Its pretty simple and easy. Get six hits and you’ll get pizza for health! Then there’s a selection game against Krang. The object is to leave only one ninja star in a row of three ninja stars. There is even a higher or lower guessing game against Splinter where you have around 10 tries to guess the number 1 – 100 that he’s thinking of.
As for the stages, there are five of them, and lucky for you the game has a built in stage select front and center before you play the game. The first level is by far the longest with four segments, going from the streets of New York City, to the sewers, to the streets again in order to jump over Foot Clan motorcycles and back down into the sewers again. This level feels healthy, while the rest feel quick and cheap. The second stage introduces fire pits, a new fire pit hopping enemy and platforms that raise and lower. These platforms are almost the only platforms you’ll see in the game. Fall of the Foot Clan is a very open game. Like giant gaping hallways sort of open. Its not a platformer, although there are a few platforms in the sewers, but that’s about it.
In the third level, its a chase scene across trucks and vehicles. The only real change in enemies is a foot soldier that pops up to throw a Tetris four square at you. While I really like the look of this level, it feels rushed in terms of length, but I guess how long can you make a string of moving traffic? The first three levels really feel the same in terms of enemies and what you’ll do. The only real difference is a change of backgrounds.
These backgrounds look great, they’re pretty detailed and they have to be when there’s no sort of ceiling to any of these levels. Even when there is a ceiling, there’s no hit detection when you jump. That’s not a complaint mind you, that’s just an observation.
The fourth level is some sort of swamp or bay. I would say its a river since they’re in New York City, but I’ve never seen logs in New York. This level finally feels different, the turtles dive under water, but really they just play the same, its just another background. After that, you’ll walk through a long tunnel until you face Shredder where its then onto the next state. The fifth stage is in the Technodrome and offers a few new enemies and a lot of challenge. You’ll be avoiding all sorts of things. Bounders, soldiers, whips, lasers from the ceiling, spikes on wheels and it gets crazy by the end. Prove you’re a ninja and make it all the way to Krang who comes busting through a portal from Dimension X and you’ve got to put him back in there. All with just four turtles. Can you do it? Are you nimble enough to slash through hundreds of foes, dodge traps and jump kick a man’s brain in his stomach?
Well now let me come down off that rant by talking about the music. Its some good music and it features the real theme from the show in a few of the levels. The theme alone is well worth playing the game. Its great that companies like Konami could net theme songs for games like this. Again, it all goes into immersing you in the cartoon show.
When its all said and done, Fall of the Foot Clan can be completed in under an hour. Is that a bad thing? No. It stays fun, because it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Keep it short and sweet, because the game play is pretty one dimensional. Maybe if they wanted to diversify the game play with more than just mini games, they could have made it a longer game, but 30 – 60 minutes is the right time for the Game Boy.