It's so strange that I never really played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project back in the day. I mean, I remember it existing - vaguely. I remember my friend Ted had a copy of it. And I know I played it at his house because the opening beach level is kinda burned into my brain. But I can only remember playing it there - briefly. I never owned a copy. And there's really no nostalgia attached. All I can think is that because of the time it was released, it went mostly unnoticed by me.
The Manhattan Project is an interesting game. It was released on NES at a time when the 16-bit consoles were in full swing. It was also released AFTER Turtles In Time had hit arcades. Even more interesting, it was mostly developed by younger members of Konami, making it a sort of curiosity in the TMNT franchise.
Thanks to the Cowabunga Collection on Xbox I've finally gotten around to playing this one. And y'know what? It's really good. Like, impressively good. Like, this is one of those late NES games that everybody overlooked but they shouldn't have because it's proof that when developers actually know the hardware inside and out they can do some seriously amazing stuff.
I've talked a lot about my love for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game - specifically the NES version. Obviously there's a whole bunch of nostalgia here. But I have to be honest, The Manhattan Project is probably the better game. It's amazing to me that I'm only just finding this out all these years later.
The most noticeable change from II to the III is that in this one the stages are long. They're also very diverse. There's lots of environmental threats here. There's lots of verticality. You'll see all kinds of stuff throughout your playthrough and really it keeps things fresh, even if the game does feel slightly long for a beat-em-up of its time.
But the overall theme of The Manhattan Project is more. More stages; more bosses; more variety. The levels play out like a tour de force of nods to the cartoon, live action movie, and even Turtles In Time which had been released in the arcades earlier in the year. As such, the levels are a barrage of cool references and surprises to keep you on your toes.
All in all, I must say that while I have really no nostalgia for The Manhattan Project, it turns out that it is definitely a bit of a hidden gem of the NES library. Or maybe it's not even hidden. Maybe everyone already knows this. But I'm not so sure. I think it's one of those really late NES releases that was overlooked in its day. So with that in mind, I'm definitely thrilled that it finally has a widespread release via the Cowabunga Collection so everyone can finally see how awesome it is - myself included.