Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and arcade scrolling beat ’em ups go together like pepperoni and cheese. Konami sure stamped that flagpole into the ground after several memorable licensed titles featuring Laird and Eastman’s iconic creation during the ’90s.
Attempts have been made over recent years to maintain that tradition of tying the timeless heroes-in-a-half-shell to an admittedly tired genre. However, nobody has done so quite to the high standards as developer Tribute Games has achieved with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a thick slice of classic Konami wrapped with the crust of ’90s Capcom. While Tribute Games has rightfully lifted such heavy inspirations from the past, they have certainly garnished their own experience of the genre more than enough to present it as their own.
The wonderful opening cutscene that pays homage to the classic cartoon had me smacking my lips in anticipation alone. Soon to follow is some of the most thought-out sprite animation and gorgeous level design to grace the franchise’s history.
There are two gameplay modes to choose from. The standard Arcade mode caps the player with a limited number of lives and continues, and a Story mode that separates each stage across a top-down overworld cityscape to stomp around on.
Within the stages, a handful of cameos are hidden away. Once found, such familiar faces then pop up around the overworld to task the player to find trinkets within stages in exchange for score points. The points then contribute to a light levelling-up system that earns our fearsome fighting team with a few added moves and abilities.
While many of the game’s secrets can easily be found within the first playthrough, it would have been nice to have seen more reasons to want to gain rewards during the campaign to unlock extra content. Even a touch of unlockable developer artwork or a BGM library would have been more than sufficient enough to please. Instead, the overworld seems little more than a simple stop-gap between levels, to where the venture of it all ultimately comes across as mostly empty and irrelevant.
The Foot Clan are oozing with personality which really brings the levels to life. The way they get interrupted from their casual daily routines of working at fast food joints and office jobs, only to then throw their tie over their shoulder ready for a scrap is a joy to behold. There is so much detail animated within the stages themselves that the game easily requires several playthroughs just to catch every ounce of it.
The combat is as pick-up-and-play simple as expected from the genre with spammy one-button attacks and tackles to ping pong enemies around all four corners of the screen. However, there is some flexibility sewn into the mix here too. Every character can evade attacks by flipping across the gloriously polished landscapes, to then apply that heavy momentum towards a beefy lateral attack.
Each character has some form of launch or anti-air attack with Raphael in particular closely resembling Ryu’s Dragon Punch. In fact, most of the characters have some form of callback to Capcom’s Street Fighter series. Splinter whirls out a hurricane kick, and April O’Neil chops out a Chun Li’s Alpha-style Tensho Kyaku. Mix all that in with a few meter-burning special attacks and the freedom to effortlessly lace it all together ensure a fun ride with friends and family alike.
Which is the way Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge or any scrolling beat ’em up should be experienced really. Whether it be couch co-op, or online with friends or strangers, teaming up with a posse truly brings out the best of the game. While the character sprites are relatively small, the design choice makes sense during the absolute chaos of a six-player team beatdown to the point where the heroes become the hooligans.
A rivalry between friends to gain kudos by scrambling to tally up the body count at the end of each stage puts Legolas and Gimli to shame. What’s more, playing along with up to five other players spliced locally and online provided a surprisingly consistent network connection. If there is any game that is screaming out for cross-platform play, it is without a shadow of a doubt, this one.
Easily the biggest stand-out point of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge has to be the music. Composer Tee Lopez of Sonic Mania fame knocks it out of the park by echoing nostalgic notes of a ’90s coin-op era, fused with the spirit of the original cartoon series. With added contributions from the likes of Wu Tang’s Ghost Face Killah and Raekwon make the music for this game far better than it has any right to be.
The first three-quarters of the game feels a mixture of new, familiar, and interesting with every swing of the nunchuck. Although, things do start to become a bit too visually predictable in level design towards the end of a sixteen-stage journey. Keeping in mind the repetitive nature of the genre, it did feel like Tribute Games needed to push the envelope of pace and surprise towards the endgame just a teeny bit further to maintain the driving power it started off with.
With that said, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge successfully does exactly what it sets out to achieve. By bringing the joyful taste of a familiar flavour while bringing people together for some simple and stylish wack-a-ninja fun. With so many little nods and callbacks to the history of the franchise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a testament to the sheer amount of care and attention that’s resulted in a new arcade classic in the making. With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection just around the corner, this is the missing volume of a fond series we all never knew we needed.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Dotemu