Last week, to the delight of many, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, produced in partnership between Dotemu and Tribute games, was announced. A game that no one saw coming at all, Shredder’s Revenge is a love letter to the beloved TMNT titles produced by Konami – and the 2007 TMNT game for the Game Boy Advance. On the day its debut trailer dropped, excitement was shared on social media from the likes of Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann and Geoff Keighley. In but a few days, the trailer was viewed over a million times.
WB Games, the stewards of the DC Comics license in video games, and Marvel Games have primarily shifted their focus to two fronts: prestige, AAA offerings and the lucrative, if not slightly shady in some regards, mobile space. If the fervor that was generated after the unveiling of Shredder’s Revenge is any indication, the people in charge of these multi-billion dollar properties need to start funding similar titles with their own stable of characters starting right now.
Everyone is excited for the likes of whatever the true sequel to Marvel’s Spider-Man is and Gotham Knights, but it’s not hard to picture smaller projects that are both cheaper to produce and quicker to turn around existing alongside them. It’s quite easy to see a Shredder’s Revenge analog that uses Konami’s X-Men as a springboard, or something along the lines of Batman: The Video Game on the NES likened to popular games like Cyber Shadow and Shovel Knight – both coincidentally from Yacht Club Games – stealing many a headline.
Finding the people to build these retro throwbacks isn’t as obvious as looking at the previous work of a company, though Yacht Club admittedly would be a great fit for one, as matching the passion for the franchise is just as important. One of the reasons why Shredder’s Revenge is worthy of the attention that it’s getting is because of the desire by its developers to make it. Simply put, if a studio takes it upon themselves to craft a game going off the strength of a license and little else, it’s no better than the many average at best movie games that filled store shelves once upon a time.
As stated in the Game Informer piece written by Marcus Stewart upon the reveal of Shredder’s Revenge, Tribute were trying to get a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game off of the ground since 2010. This was born out of a love for the classic arcade games. Said Tribute Games co-founder Jean-Francois Major, “We wanted to bring back a game for the fans of the ‘87 animated series and also the old arcade games of the ‘90s,” adding “Because we felt that people missed it. And including us, because, personally, I played those games a lot as a kid and I missed them a lot. So that was the idea that started it.”
In the meantime, there are still plenty of classic super hero games that are ripe to be collected while projects similar to Shredder’s Revenge get off the ground. Players have given up hope of Konami ever returning to meaningful game development, but the once prominent publisher has found success through partnering with developer M2 on collections for Castlevania and Contra. Why not a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles style compilation in the same vein as those complete with NES, SNES, Game Boy and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive releases? Toy manufacturer NECA saw a market that was big enough to release an action figure inspired by Batman: The Video Game on the NES, so why not get a studio like Digital Eclipse on a Tim Burton Batman style offering bringing together the many diverse titles spawned by that film?
The big hurdle that has to be overcome, as always, are complicated licensing right, but such things appear, from the outside at least, not as insurmountable as they once were. Take Arcade1up, for example, who has already done a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cabinet and is now turning their attention to another classic Konami arcade game for an upcoming release: X-Men. Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was a game developed by Raven Software and published by Activision. It’s now currently being sold on modern consoles and PC by Aspyr who next month are bringing back Star Wars: Republic Commando for the first time in over sixteen years in April.
Focusing at least some attention on smaller releases is also somewhat risk averse than trying to compete in the AAA space. Riding high off of the success of Marvel’s Spider-Man, and backed by a marketing campaign that included among other things companion novels, tie-in comics, action figures, and Funko Pop Vinyl’s, Marvel’s Avengers was perhaps expected to be the next big thing from Marvel Games. Since its September release, however, it has more or less gotten nothing but negative headlines, from a dwindling player base after launch, to causing publisher Square-Enix to lose money on it and now making it harder to gain experience in but a few days. In game development, there’s always a chance to lose focus despite starting with the best of intentions, but with smaller projects and compilations, the risk isn’t nearly as big.
Right now, no one has any idea exactly how Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge will turn out. Based on its trailer though, it’s clear that it’s being made not only with a love for the property, but also the franchise’s interactive history. With just a minute-and-a-half teaser trailer, it’s already become a hotly anticipated title by many. Whatever form they take, whether they’re retro inspired or a return of the classics themselves, it’s evident that the owners of big franchises need to look at this as a sign that there’s reason to invest time and capital in this direction as there’s indeed a hungry market just waiting to be fed.