Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge Review
As a lifelong ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ fan, few things have made me happier in recent memory than launching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge for the first time. I could feel the grin on my face widen as the intro video began to play; a fresh yet era-appropriate reimagining of the iconic Ninja Turtles theme (courtesy of Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton) acting as a tone piece — a signal to fans that Dotemu and Tribute Games’ respect for the source material they’re tasked with faithfully updating is high. And no, I’m never skipping that intro video.
As a 90s-inspired beat ‘em up, Turtles fans of a certain vintage will quickly feel at home with Shredder’s Revenge and it doesn’t require Donatello’s bo staff to immediately reach for a Turtles in Time comparison. Much like in the arcade classic, the four Turtles (joined also by Master Splinter, April O’Neil, and Casey Jones) must thwart armies of enemies on the way to facing a boss at the end of each stage. However, this classic formula has been tweaked just enough to make Shredder’s Revenge more than a simple spiritual successor.
There are plenty of winks and nods to the four brothers’ previous arcade outings throughout Shredder’s Revenge. From the barely animated (but beautifully rendered) interstitial scenes in ‘Story Mode’ to the silhouetted bosses at the beginning of each stage; not to mention the way enemies can be launched at the screen in combat — as if they could leave that out! ‘Story Mode’ opens with Shredder’s mutated henchmen Beebop and Rocksteady wreaking havoc at Channel 6 News and, if it wasn’t already, the brief becomes immediately clear: create a contemporary TMNT brawler that captures the beloved style of the 1987 cartoon series. Each character is rendered in perfectly crisp pixel art and to have the original voice actors for all four Turtles make their return is an excellent touch. I just wish there was a little more incidental dialogue from them.
The Heroes in a Half-Shell need to stop Shredder and Krang from taking over New York City all whilst seeing off whichever mystery villain stands in their way. All in a day's work for Leo, Don, Raph, and Mikey who slash, throw, and nunchaku their way through enemies at a ridiculous pace. There’s no time for a pizza break as the threats come thick and fast. Attacks are easy to pull off and chaining combos is incredibly satisfying. This is, in part, because animations are super slick and movement is fluid. Impressively, each character manages to feel distinct despite only being armed with a few simple combos and one unique Super Move. Earned by building a combo, a character’s Super Move lasts for a few seconds taking out anything in your character’s way and is a good way of fending off enemy swarms. They can also be earned using the ‘taunt’ button, although this will leave you very vulnerable to attack. I was pleased to find that the game is pretty forgiving on its standard difficulty and that even a button-masher like me can pull off cool-looking strings of moves with ease. Crank the game up to hard and you’re likely getting close to the traditional arcade challenge.
‘Story Mode’ really is the star of the show. Tapping into a deep vein of glorious fan service, each of the game’s sixteen stages is packed with little details and feels very much a part of the bright and colourful version of New York City that the Turtles inhabit. Playing as Donatello on my first run — you can switch characters throughout but it isn’t as quick or easy as it should be — my ranged blows were key. Those who prefer speed might choose Michaelangelo whilst up close and personal attacks are best handled by Raphael. As the leader, Leonardo is a natural all-rounder. Whilst multiplayer isn’t essential to the experience, it certainly adds to the fun with players able to team up to take down foes. Glorious chaos ensues as the enemy count scales depending on how many people are playing. As such, I did find it easy to get lost when playing with others but it’s really not a huge problem. Performance-wise the game holds up really well and I never noticed any significant drop even when the screen was full of players and enemies. (Note: due to PlayStation-specific requirements local multiplayer is restricted to 4 players and, at the time of writing, I am yet to experience a full 6-player game — something which can be achieved online).
Hopping between city rooftops, battling my way through the Technodrome, or even testing my reflexes with some Sewer Surfin’ each level pops with cartoonish colour, and I found myself scouring every nook and cranny for every, point, collectible, minor character, and easter egg. Most levels can be beaten in under ten minutes on the standard difficulty, and a single ‘Story Mode’ run clocks in at about two hours. As the game progresses, you’ll move from fighting standard purple Foot Soldiers onto a variety of the Foot Clan’s weapon-wielding goons and even some slightly more obscure Turtle-hating henchmen. The faithful cartoon designs make each enemy stand out, even against busy backdrops or with multiple players and enemies on screen. Leaning into the ridiculous cartoon nature of the Turtles, you’ll often see a Foot Soldier eating ice cream or reading the newspaper trying desperately to blend into the background before leaping into action — a brilliant running gag.
Outside of a few wonky hitboxes or me not quite knowing which plane I was stood on, lesser enemies were easily dispatched once I’d figured them out. I’m not the kind of player that goes for perfect runs, but there could be a few frustrating obstacles to face if you are, particularly when it comes to the bosses with some of them feeling a little cheap. Each stage ends with a final boss, who all have their own power or gimmick to overcome. Most bosses are unique to a single stage although there are a few repeats and bosses that double up. I’ll avoid spoilers, but Dotemu and Tribute Games went to great lengths to showcase their love for the Turtles, digging deep into the TMNT archives for inspiration. We’re talking deep-cut characters that maybe only hardcore Turtles fans would care about. It’s brilliant. I’m replaying a lot of levels right now, and I’m still pleasantly surprised to see them when they pop up.
Shredder’s Revenge remaining mostly faithful to the beat ‘em up template may sound a little structurally uninspired, but the slick animations, on-screen chaos, and excellent presentation stopped the game from ever feeling too repetitive. This is great because a single playthrough of ‘Story Mode’ simply won’t be enough for seasoned shell heads. Whilst some may prefer to drop the new bells and whistles for the more traditional ‘Arcade Mode’ (unlocked after beating the story), the added extras found in ‘Story Mode’ are what kept me coming back. There’s a shallow progression system to unlock more health and new moves, but it’s the way the game incorporates ancillary characters like Burne (April O’Neil’s boss) and The Punk Frogs as NPCs are the kinds of things that make a TMNT nerd like me happy. What can I say? I’m easily pleased. Accessing these characters, along with individual stages, is done via a delightful overworld map that incorporates the Turtles’ famous Turtle Van and Turtle Blimp to drive or fly our heroes across New York. Yet another example of the subtle touches I just couldn’t get enough of.
The music on this overworld screen is just one of many 90s-inspired earworms. With takes on some of the original musical stings from the 1987 cartoon sitting alongside standout tracks featuring the likes of Mega Ran and, New York hip-hop pioneers, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah of Wu-Tang Clan. ‘We Ain’t Came To Lose’ is the TMNT-themed hip-hop track I didn’t know I needed until now.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is an incredible package. Whilst it may rely heavily on nostalgia to get players in the door, the game itself is a wonderful homage to classic arcade brawlers. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, nor does it demand a lot from the player, but it doesn’t have to.
Shredder’s Revenge is an authentic and faithful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for the modern era: A nostalgic throwback that moves with ninja agility and oozes the charm of its source material. However, its most impressive feature might be how Dotemu and Tribute Games captured the world, the characters, and the feel of the classic Ninja Turtles cartoon in a way that no game has ever managed to achieve. If you love the classic cartoon as much as I do then you have to play this game.
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