I was born in the early ’80s and spent way too much time doing two things: watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and playing the arcade game based on the show. Now, Arcade1Up wants to sell you a replica. I bought one and love playing it.
If you’ve never played the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT ) arcade game, I weep for you, but not because it changed the face of arcades or introduced new concepts. Technically, it’s incredibly basic and simple (as most games were at the time), even down to the storyline. Shredder kidnaps April O’Neil, and it’s up to the Turtles to rescue her.
When I was young, TMNT was a shared experience. It was about playing with friends and family, who also loved the Turtles. The arcade came out in 1989 when the original animated series was incredibly popular. For a while, you could find it everywhere (sometimes, I would see it in a game store all by itself).
The sequel, Turtles in Time, featured fun animations, like throwing enemies at the screen. Eventually, though, TMNT faded away.
The Arcade1Up version brings all of it back, and you get both the original TMNT game and Turtles in Time.
Some Assembly Required
Like most Arcade1Up classic-style arcades, you have to build the TMNT game when it arrives. The most difficult part of building your own arcade is cutting the pieces to the right size and shape, wiring the joysticks and buttons, and putting together a monitor, speakers, and computer system. Fortunately, Arcade1Up has done all of that for you!
All you have to do is align the parts correctly and screw them together—no wiring joysticks or mounting a monitor required! You just have to connect one ribbon cable from the control box to the monitor and computer unit.
If you can build IKEA furniture, you can build this. Here’s a quick video overview of what the assembly looks like.
A Mostly Accurate Replica
If you want, you can buy an original TMNT machine. Some still work, and others need some loving care. However, not only will you need to make a lot of room in your home (a full-size four-player arcade is huge), you’ll have to shell out (pun intended) around $3,500.
The Arcade1Up version is a fraction of that price, and you get an incredibly accurate, 3/4-scale replica. The company bought an original machine and went over every detail—and it shows!
The company faithfully reproduced the original artwork in all of its hilarious, ’80s glory. Again, the dimensions of the two machines aren’t identical, but Arcade1Up reformatted the artwork to fit without any noticeable cutoffs.
My favorite bit is the reproduction of a clear mistake. On the original machine, Michelangelo wore a yellow mask and bands, and his buttons and joystick were yellow, too. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the Turtles likely knows he wore orange, not yellow. Arcade1Up chose to keep the mistake, and it makes it feel even more like the original.
However, not all is perfect on this replica. The original machine had a very boxy control deck for the joysticks and buttons; on this one, they’ve cut off the corners at an angle. Because Nickelodeon now owns TMNT, you also see its logo in a few places.
The most controversial change, though, is the theme song. The original arcade featured the theme song from the original animated series, and that, of course, is the best version.
Unfortunately, it appears Arcade1Up couldn’t secure the rights to the song and has replaced it with a new version. It’s very close, but I can tell the difference. It’s not quite as good, but good enough. If you didn’t know about the change ahead of time, you probably wouldn’t even notice, but now you do (sorry!).
If you’re a purist, the change will probably bother you. I’d prefer to have the original, but this is good enough. The additional music and other effects sound pretty good, though, thanks to the three-inch stereo speakers embedded in the marquee.
Again, this is a 3/4-scale replica, so it’s pretty short. Without a riser, it’s the perfect size for my 7-year-old to play, but I have to either sit in a chair or get on my knees. Thankfully, it includes a riser if you want to lift it higher. It’s hard to explain what a difference this makes. Not only can I easily reach the controls while standing, but it changes the entire look. Without the riser, the TMNT arcade looks like a kid’s toy, but with it, it feels like a proper arcade for nostalgic adults.
The Games Play as They Should
Again, you get both the original TMNT and Turtles in Time games. If you played these on original machines, you know what to expect. Other than the theme song for TMNT, I haven’t found any noticeable differences. Turtles in Time also featured a “Shell-Shock” theme song, and that’s intact. The games feature slightly different storylines, but play is the same.
You get to pick your favorite turtle, and each one plays slightly different. Donatello has the longest reach and slowest attack, Raph and Mikey are fast with short attack ranges, and Leo is in the middle. Mostly, you walk around, mash the attack button, and use jump to avoid attacks—you can’t even block.
You work your way through side-scrolling levels, defeat members of the Foot Clan, (eventually) fight a boss, and then repeat.
Turtles in Time features some improved graphics and new fighting moves. You can’t control them, but occasionally, you throw enemies and instantly defeat them. It’s fun to watch, though—especially when you throw someone at the screen. This game doesn’t take quarters; you just hit the player button to add more lives.
Arcade1Up did add a nifty feature. If you hold a player button long enough, it works as a navigation control. Player 1 takes you to the game selection screen, Player 2 resets the current game, and Players 3 and 4 skip back to the beginning of a level or to the next one, respectively. It’s a good way to add navigation without extra buttons.
As far as four-player action goes, it’s doable but a little crowded. Arcade1Up expanded the control deck enough that four adults will fit, but the two people on the outer corners will likely need to turn to the side for comfort. Thankfully, the screen has great viewing angles, so you won’t feel jilted if you have to stand on one of the outer edges.
I do wish the buttons were more clicky, and, although they don’t feel like they’ll break, the joysticks are a little too loose. I’m probably going to mod my system, though; if you’re interested in doing the same, the scene is pretty vibrant.
Buy It for Nostalgia and Collection
At this writing, the TMNT arcade is under $400. You also get a custom riser (most Arcade1Up machines don’t include one), and four players, but that’s no small amount of change.
Yes, it would be cheaper to build your own arcade, but that takes time and effort—buying this arcade machine was easier. The screen is nice, the graphics are gorgeous, and I didn’t have to futz around with wiring everything together.
However, to keep it real, the TMNT games are simple and shallow. They’re from the bygone, quarter-driven era, but if you grew up playing these types of games, the nostalgia (or love for the Turtles) will probably win you over.
Beyond Turtle fans, this arcade is also great for collectors or anyone who wants an arcade machine in the rec room. If you’re comfortable with modding arcade machines, you should take a look, too—it’s rare to find a machine with spots for four joysticks. Even if you replace the controls, at least the holes are pre-drilled. You might decide you don’t have to, as Arcade1Up used better hardware on this than on its earlier machines.
In my case, this wasn’t a review unit Arcade1Up sent to me—I bought it because I wanted it, and I’m glad I did! I’ve had so much fun playing it with my family.
And if you aren’t an arcade collector or a turtle-loving fanatic, why are you even reading this review? Of course, even if you aren’t either of those things, you might still like this—just wait for a sale.
Here’s What We Like
- Accurate replica
- Good speakers
- Easy to build
And What We Don't
- Different theme song
- Loose joysticks
- Somewhat expensive