Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Mystery Woman

Konami’s original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game was a remarkable sight back in 1990. It’s competent as side-scrolling brawlers go, and the many animated effects and prickly voicework convinced children everywhere that they were playing the actual cartoon. When it hit the NES as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, it became something else: an apology for that lousy earlier Ninja Turtles NES outing that everyone bought.

The arcade game didn’t allow much personal creativity from the programmers. All of the enemies are straight from Turtle doctrine, and at most Konami was permitted to devise different types of Foot Soldiers. The NES version let the developers get a little more creative and throw in two extra levels with new bosses: a mutated arctic tiger-wolf named Tora and a robotic samurai named Shogun. Neither of them appeared anywhere else in the Ninja Turtles universe.

There’s another new character who shows up in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, and her presence is never really explained.



In the game’s second level, there's a break in the street brawls against Foot Soldiers. A woman, bedecked in the height of ’80s fashion, rides by on a skateboard. She doesn’t attack or even notice the player’s chosen turtle. If not interrupted, she’ll pass right through the whole fracas.



Yet the allegedly good turtles can attack this skateboarding woman of mystery, who then screams and cowers. In both the NES edition and the arcade original, the game rewards this assault by giving players an extra point, though the turtles' expressions differ. In the NES game, they stare out at you, bewildered and accusing. In the arcade, they just smile. They know what they've done.



It’s a curious little addition to a game that’s otherwise faithful to its popular license. The skateboarder resembles no one from the panoply of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons and comics, making it likely that she was crafted by the developers. If not a reference to anything, she’s perhaps a remnant of earlier designs. Konami might have wanted human spectators to appear throughout the game and cringe if the Turtles flailed their way. But a skateboarding woman is the only everyday citizen in the game.

What’s strange is that Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael can strike at her. The Ninja Turtles, popularly shown as misunderstood and heroic, take a swing at an innocent woman in a prominent video game. This somehow made it to every version of The Arcade Game without anyone complaining. Disney objected to Mickey Mouse losing “lives” and Uncle Scrooge eating hamburgers, but Mirage Studios didn’t care. Considering how bloodthirsty the old Ninja Turtles comics were, this random violence might've been their idea in the first place.

Many children went through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game without thinking about the skateboarder, but a few surely wondered just what she was doing there. During my first playthrough of the game, I almost expected the ending to change if the woman were accosted. I thought that I'd see the Ninja Turtles condemned as hideous thugs who terrorized an unarmed bystander. But there's nothing. They suffer no consequences for attacking her, and that taught us all a valuable lesson. Even in NES games, some crimes go unpunished.

Update: Tiny Cartridge picked up this entry, and a reader named Drexegar pointed out that the skateboarding woman shows up the second level of Contra Rebirth, Konami's rather excellent Contra update for the Wii.



And there she is, huddled in fear as she speeds through a crowd of fleeing businessmen and hotel maids. I'm torn between being impressed by this cameo and being disturbed by Konami's apparently decades-long effort to frighten this woman. Just let her ride her skateboard in peace, you fiends.