Console: NES 

Company: Konami

Release Date: February 1992 

Genre: Action 

Number of Players: 1 or 2 

Save Feature? No

As enjoyable as the first two TMNT games were, I still feel that the third Turtles game was the best of the NES series. With its outstanding play control and improved gameplay mechanics, The Manhattan Project was simply a gourmet feast for fans of the already solid series. In this case, the third time was the charm indeed.

Overview: If you've already read my review of the Arcade Game, you have a good idea of what to expect because The Manhattan Project plays a lot like TMNT 2. The only real difference is that TMNT 3 was not based on an arcade game like the aforementioned TMNT 2. This actually resulted in TMNT 3 having a more polished feel than its predecessor in terms of gameplay. This could have resulted from TMNT 3 being created exclusively for the NES. Then again, Konami might have just made the necessary adjustments to put an already red-hot NES series over the top.

Whatever the case, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project was certainly one of the most sought after NES games on the market during the winter of 1992. Although Mega Man 4 and Dragon Warrior IV was getting their share of the glory (and rightfully so), you have to recall that the Turtles were still more hip than a New York Style pizza during this time. With TMNT 1 & 2 still fresh on everyone's minds, a hearty portion of the gaming community probably bought TMNT 3 out of sheer curiousity. It was simply tantalizing to see a new Turtles game grace the shelves of your local Kay-Bee or Toys R' Us.

As you can see from my intro excerpt, the game didn't disappoint either. What made the third Turtles game so special was that it took everything that made The Arcade Game so enjoyable and added a few new features here and there to improve the overall gaming experience. I'm not just talking about some of the more cosmetic details such as graphics and music either. The actual gameplay contained more variety and was just more engrossing in my opinion. The fact that each of the Turtles had a different range of attack (e.g. Donatello's Bo had a farther reach than Raphael's Sai) and a unique special move gave the game a lot more diversity than The Arcade Game where each Turtle was virtually identical. The addition of the "fling" move (you could pick up an enemy with your weapon and fling him over your head) was a nice touch as well. You now had four distinct moves at your disposal which may not sound like much, but was still a vast improvement over TMNT 2 (where you only really needed the jump kick and special attack...the slash attack was basically deemed worthless by your special move). That coupled by the fact that you would lose one bar of life for each use of your special ability gave TMNT 3 a strategic element that was lacking in TMNT 2 for the most part. Of course, it was kind of cool when you would only have one bar of life left (the only time your special move could be used without losing life).

Even the scoring system was executed very well in TMNT 3. I really liked how the points you received would depend on the nature of the final blow. For a sweet 600 points, you would have to slash an enemy outright (not recommended for the many gun-toting enemies in the game). For 400, a simple jump kick or "fling" maneuver would do. Unfortunately, only 200 points were rewarded for using your special move which was probably fair considering that they were by far the most powerful attacks.

Lastly, I felt that the level design was exceptional. Each stage has a completely unique feel and the ways that foot soldiers, rock soldiers, mousers, etc... would attack (I especially liked the "stone statues" coming to life in Stage 4.) were inventive and fun. Variety is the key word here. You just couldn't tell what was coming during your first playthrough. It is also worth mentioning that, like in TMNT 2, some of the environments/objects are interactive. Remember the fire hydrants and manhole-tossing foot soldiers in The Arcade Game? There's more of the same in TMNT 3 which was a great thing!


Graphics: This game contains some pretty outstanding graphics! As impressive as The Arcade Game was in this area, TMNT 3 features improvements in just about every area visually. Everything is just very crisp and the attention to detail was vastly improved over TMNT 2. I honestly don't know for sure if Konami utilized the MMC3 chip (allowed for graphical improvements...Mega Man 3 and Super Mario Bros. 3 used it) but by all appearances, it sure looks like they did. I just can't emphasize enough how crisp everything looks!

I love how well the game's graphics brought the various locales to life. The intro stage set the tone nicely with palm trees, golden sand, and the waves gently rolling in. After all, the Turtles were trying to relax before Shreddar and Krang unleashed total chaos on Manhattan! The second level was simply a blast as well as it involved you surfing the ocean with some exceptional parallax-scrolling in the background. Pretty Battletoads-esque if you ask me! I also thought that the third level where you had to walk across a bridge with huge chasms carried a neat atmosphere. That coupled with Bebop's attacks in a huge truck of all things was pretty cool! That seventh level that scrolled upwards also featured some great parallax-scrolling effects and a cool "nighttime" feel. The other levels all contains nice visuals as well. The amount of parallax-scrolling/special effects was quite impressive for an 8-bit pak.

The animation as a whole was very smooth and inventive as well. The various ways that foot/rock soldiers, mini-bosses, etc. would appear and attack were orchestrated nicely. There just seemed to be more personality in this game than in TMNT 2. As you can see, I have nothing but adoration for this game's graphics. Granted, the nostalgia factor is through the roof (my friends and I played this game incessantly during the summer of 1992) but still, from an objective standpoint, TMNT 3 rocks big time in the graphics department!

Music: If there's anything that has been consistent about the TMNT series, it has been the music. Seriously, every game in the NES series had a great soundtrack! The Manhattan Project was no exception either. Granted, there aren't a whole lot of tracks that jump out of you and scream "greatness" but as a collective whole, this soundtrack is as solid as they come. All of the tunes are just very pleasant in general and help to create the special atmosphere that was also present in the previous Turtles games.

Of course, there are still a few tunes that stand out to me personally. I always liked the Stage 1 (Beach) track. It wasn't too upbeat yet had just enough "umph" to start the game out right. Some of the sound effects near the end of the track helped to create a neat atmosphere as well (you'd have to hear the track to understand). The Stage 2 (Ocean) tune was more upbeat and complemented the Stage 1 music nicely with the Stage 3 (Bridge of Danger) track being low-key and somewhat mysterious. I really enjoyed that third level as a whole come to think of it. And then there's the Stage 7 track (dubbed "Turtle Power!"). Heroic and hopeful, this piece was perfect for the level following what we all thought was the game's final battle. Speaking of battles, I thought that the boss music in this game was surprisingly good. Also notable were the game's two ending themes. I thought that both of them were exceptional!

Even the sound effects were an improvement in TMNT 3. The various clashes and clangs of swinging weapons, using special moves, and hitting enemies were all much-improved over earlier Turtles games. Some of the voices such as "Cowabunga" and "Hey!" were quite clear for an NES game as well.

Play Control: This was the game where Konami really head the nail on the head in terms of play control. Although the controls in TMNT 2 were pretty solid overall, a few things were tweaked just a tad for TMNT 3. For one thing, you now had additional moves like the "Fling" manuever (push Down + B to execute) as well as different special attacks (the A + B combo you used in TMNT 2) for each Turtle. Raphael's Drill Attack is perfect for taking out enemies in front of you while Leonardo's Sword Cyclone skill takes out all surrounding enemies (perfect for getting out of a bind). As I mentioned before, that extra variety in the gameplay gave TMNT 3 just enough pizzazz to keep it from feeling like a TMNT 2 repeat.

Not only were these new moves fun to implement but I found the jump kick and slashing moves to also be slightly better control-wise. You could now execute a jump kick anytime after jumping (in TMNT 2, you had to reach a certain point in your jump to be able to jump kick) and simply slashing just felt more "clean." Enemies didn't have that strange invincibility after getting hit like in The Arcade Game. You could fling an enemy and slash back-to-back without missing. Little things like this put TMNT 3 over the top in this category.

Challenge: The Manhattan Project is very similar to The Arcade Game in terms of the game's challenge level. Since every use of a special move (the A + B combo I just mentioned) takes away one unit of life, you can make the game much more challenging with overuse. And while some stages involve long stretches without any opportunities to replenish your health with a juicy pepperoni pizza (Stages 2, 4, and 7 come to mind), others allow you to recover more often than you might expect. Also worth noting is the fact that in the two-player mode, two pizzas are available instead of the usual one. This definitely makes things easier if you're playing with a friend.

Personally, I felt that the challenge level was just right. While this game can really stretch you and force you to use every bar of energy wisely, it never reaches the point of frustration. It's just one of those great old-school games that tests you just enough to give you that awesome sense of accomplishment after defeating one of the more difficult bosses like Leatherhead or Rahzar (with one bar of life left no doubt). And speaking of bosses, TMNT 3 serves up a handful of toughies! Try defeating the ones I just mentioned along with Tokka, Krang, and Super Shreddar without losing a life for an extra challenge!

Storyline: Okay, every game has a weakness and, unfortunately for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that weakness seems to be pretty much the same one across the board: a rather average-bordering-on-insane background story. Of the three Turtles games for the NES, The Manhattan Project has to have the most bizarre background story.

At least the story in TMNT 3 maintains a sense of continuity as it takes place right after the events that transpired in The Arcade Game. Being the fun-loving dudes that they are, our favorite Turtles in a Half Shell have decided to enjoy a peaceful, relaxing vacation to the local beach. After all, they just knocked off Shreddar and Krang for the umpteenth time right? Well, everything is all hip and groovy until they check out April O' Neil's telecast and discover that Shreddar and Krang are up to no good once again (You didn't really think that the Turtles would be able to enjoy a vacation did you?) This time, the entire island of Manhattan is at serious risk of being destroyed as an ultra-powerful device of Krang's has literally lifted the entire island up into the sky! Kind of gives a whole new meaning to "air sickness" eh? Puns aside, TMNT 3 involves the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles working their way to Manhattan Island and locating the infamous Technodrome which lies somewhere beneath the sewers. One there, they hope to defeat Krang and Shreddar once again all while saving Manhattan Island from a cataclysmic demise.

Like I said, I don't know who thinks these things up. All I do is critique games. :) Whatever the case, I have to admit that I really liked the feel of this game. Some of the new locales (e.g. The Bridge of Danger, Stage 7) were quite impressive and while the story doesn't really shock you, there is an interesting fake ending of sorts following Stage 6. And lastly, the ending was easily the best of the TMNT NES trilogy.

Funfactor: Thanks to improvements in the game mechanics in addition to polished up graphics and a great challenge, TMNT 3 is easily my favorite Turtles game for the NES. As much as I enjoy playing the first two Turtles games, The Manhattan Project improved on them in virtually every category and represents the pinnacle of the series in my mind. Like The Arcade Game, TMNT 3 is a sensational game for two players as well. If you're itching for a game to play with a friend or just want to get into some old-school action, you simply can't go wrong with TMNT 3. It absolutely deserved the Bronze Nester for Best Overall NES Game of 1992 (Mega Man 4 and Dragon Warrior IV won first and second, respectively).

Negatives: Despite the new moves and new locales, TMNT 3 plays and feels a lot like The Arcade Game. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; just don't expect a completely new gaming experience.

And while slowdown isn't much of an issue if you're playing solo, it can get pretty hairy with two players (the ocean level comes to mind). Lastly, the background story was once again pretty iffy. It certainly gets high marks for innovation but then again, so did Sqoon.


Ratings: Graphics: 4.5 Music: 4.6 Play Control: 4.5 Challenge: 4.7 Storyline: 3.4 Funfactor: 4.8 Overall Score: 26.5 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Silver Stud!


Last Updated: February 7, 2006
WebMaster: Matt Hull tigmo55@yahoo.com
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