Growing up as a kid in the early 90’s means that I was, of course, obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My brother and I owned far too many Turtle toys and watched the show religiously. TMNT: Hyperstone Heist for the SEGA Genesis was one of the only video games we ever played beginning to end with our dad. The franchise holds a special place in my heart for being such a presence in my early life. Unfortunately, the Turtles haven’t been treated too well in modern times, with the questionable Michael Bay movies and a handful of pretty bad video games.
Finally, however, a group of people came together to make a true successor to the TMNT beat-’em-up formula that was so beloved back in the day. Developed by Mercenary Kings developer Tribute Games and published by Streets of Rage 4 publisher Dotemu, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge brings back the quarter munching gameplay of the arcade classics and the Saturday morning aesthetics of the original TV series and updates it for modern tastes. It has all of the elements one could want from a nostalgic romp, but does the game cross the finish line?
TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is about as straightforward as a game can get: you and up to five other players (!) run through levels, beating up Foot Soldiers, pizza monsters, and Mousers to make your way to the boss at the end, using your various ninja skills and pizza powerups to beat your foes. If you’ve played Turtles in Time or the original arcade game, you know exactly what to expect here. Shredder’s revenge borrows heavily from those titles, and yet it is completely welcome. Most modern Turtle games miss what people love about the classic titles, and any attempt to replicate the success, especially the abysmal Turtles in Time Reshelled, fail to capture the feeling of the originals.
With Shredder’s Revenge, the geniuses at Tribute Games have absolutely found success analyzing what makes those old games so fun and what makes a fun beat-’em-up in general. The game is much more simple than modern entries like Streets of Rage 4 or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but it certainly has more going on than the old Turtles games. The game has a total of seven playable characters, including Splinter, April, and Casey Jones, and having these new characters is extremely welcome. Each character has a different speed, power, and reach rating, and though the movesets are the same, each one feels distinct, and it’s easy to find your favorite quickly (especially because Michaelangelo is the best Turtle, sorry folks).
Your arsenal includes your standard attack combos, jump kicks, and throws, but a few small additions add a decent amount of depth to this game. The biggest addition is the Ninja Power meter that lets you unleash a huge super attack with the X button when you fill it up. You gain a full meter when you successfully pull of a taunt, so it can be a bit easy to just taunt after every fight and start with full meter again, but I can’t say that wasn’t fun. This game also adds a dodge button, so you actually have a few defensive options in this game, and that alone gives the player a lot more room for skill and lets you play more aggressively when fighting bosses.
Straight up, the game just feels good to play. Smacking bad guys feels as satisfying as it always has, but it’s the little things that the developers really shined a light on. Your attacks move you forward just a little bit so that you are not completely stationary in a fight, giving the gameplay more kinetic energy than Turtles in Time. Enemies aren’t damage sponges like in Scott Pilgrim, because the devs know that it’s far more fun to fight a big group of enemies that you can blow up quickly in a beat-’em-up than a few tough guys. They put the “throw the enemies at the screen” attack on an easy button combination because it is never not the best. Enemies can be comboed for a short time after getting knocked to the ground because juggling enemies makes you feel powerful. If it makes the game more fun, the devs included it here. To say the gameplay is tight would do it a disservice. This is hands down the most fun TMNT game I’ve ever played.
When it comes to the stages, there are the regular walk-left-to-right levels, the occasional hoverboard excursion, and that’s it. If I had one complaint it would be that some more variety in stages would be nice, but what this game does it does with flying colors. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
The game features a “story mode” which mainly consists of playing through the levels after selecting one on a map screen, with single frame illustrations between each stage, but it’s not much more than a fancy arcade run. It would definitely would have been nice to have more story between stages, especially so we could see the characters interact more, but it’s hard to complain when the game is this much fun.
COMIN’ OUT OF THEIR SHELLS
If the gameplay is the pinnacle of Ninja Turtles arcade games, then the presentation is a glorious homage to all things Turtles, arcade games, and good taste. The graphics are spectacular. Each sprite is lovingly and painstakingly animated to give the characters so much life and personality. Each turtle runs differently and has a fun, unique taunt, and all of the enemies feel like much more than punching bags. Foot Soldiers are constantly doing funny things like answering phones, cooking with little chef hats, stealing car engines, or falling off of a park bench from being startled awake. The bosses are equally lovingly rendered, and range from the expected, like Bebop and Rocksteady, to more obscure picks like Groundchuck and Tempestra. Even Tokka and Rahzar from TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze show up!
The backgrounds and environment are shown just as much love. Most of the levels are different parts of New York City, which I love. It’s so much fun to see the turtles in their home environment, and there are so many details to search for. There’s a reference to the Konami Simpsons arcade game at one point! Truly incredible. The bright colors of the backgrounds and the characters makes it feel like a cartoon come to life, as cliche as that sounds.
The music is the pizza flavored cherry on top. This has to be one of the best video game soundtracks in quite some time. Tee Lopes, known for his music in Sonic Mania, absolutely hits it out of the park with his banging tunes in Shredder’s Revenge. From hot remixes, like the boss theme from Turtles in Time, to some fantastic new songs, the soundtrack never lets up. Even better are the lyrical songs, featuring artists like Mega Ran, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, that play during some of the most exciting stages in the game. The music is an absolute treat, and this already fantastic game is made even better because of it.
Also in the audio department is the voice acting, with all four of the original voice actors for the turtles reprising their roles. However, as I said before, there is barely any story to speak of, so they don’t get to do much more than say a handful of catchphrases. If they’re going to go out of their way to get the original voices, there really should be some actual cutscenes to let them shine.
Overall, though, Shredder’s Revenge is both a visual and musical treat, and anyone who loved the cartoon or old games will instantly fall in love with this game.
TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is the game I’ve wanted for decades. It’s not just a throwback to the games of my childhood, but a smart evolution of the formula. Every decision made in developing the game was a smart one, because this game feels incredible to play. Adding in the fact that you can play with six total players is nothing short of a miracle. If that wasn’t enough, this game’s art is a love letter to the original TMNT cartoon series, and the music is next level. If you think of yourself as a fan of the turtles, 90’s arcade games, or fun multiplayer experiences, you owe it to yourself to pick up this game. It may only take about two hours to play through, but you will find yourself going back again and again.Leave a Comment
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: June 16, 2022
Categories: Beat ’em up
Developer: Tribute Games