REVIEW: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: SHREDDER’S REVENGE

DEVELOPER: Tribute Games

PUBLISHER: Dotemu

REVIEWED ON: Xbox Series X via GamePass/Nintendo Switch from a copy purchased by the author.

Chances are if you were born in the mid-80s, you had a toy box full of ninja turtles, strange anthropomorphic mutants, robotic foot ninjas, and green ooze that your parents assuredly loved getting out of the carpet. Starting life as a humble indie comic, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a phenomenon that gripped a nation thanks in parts to its Saturday morning cartoon – complete with the catchy earworm of a theme song – merchandise, live-action movies, and of course, video games.

The original series of TMNT video games from Konami are beloved, even today, due to their incredible music, beautiful pixel art, and easy pick-up-and-play controls. Despite respectable efforts from the likes of WayForward and Ubisoft though, the Turtles digital escapades have never been able to recapture the spirit nor the same level of success as Konami’s quarter munchers and their home conversions.

All eyes immediately turned then to developer Tribute Games and publisher Dotemu last year when they dropped the debut trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. From but a few minutes of footage, it was apparent that this was a game crafted with a deep love of not only Konami’s outings, but to the TMNT franchise as a whole. Now that it’s in the hands of players, Shredder’s Revenge manages to deliver on its promise and then some. Not only does it stand toe-to-toe with the retro TMNT games of yesterday, it also manages to surpass them thanks to emulating everything that made them great and adding modern flourishes. About the worst thing you can say about it is that you’ll simply wish there was more.

This is a Channel 6 breaking news report:

The present meant to celebrate the career of the esteemed, not to mention brave, reporter Vernon Fenwick turned out to be the missing head to the evil Krang’s robotic body. Not only that, Bebop has taken the station hostage and the Foot Clan has stolen the statue of liberty. If there’s any heroic turtles watching, now would be the time to put down your pizza, get off the sofa and hop into action.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge has just as much story as it needs. It opens with its simple premise, and then provides ample context as to why the Turtles and their friends are moving from Channel 6, the streets of New York, rooftops, and eventually Dimension X. To bog down a beat ‘em up such as this with lengthy cut-scenes would be counter intuitive to the arcade era that this game is celebrating and Tribute Games is well aware of this. What story that’s present is told with beautiful still art and some quick lines of text.

That’s not to say that Shredder’s Revenge’s presentation is not without merit, however. Upon booting up the game, the player’s treated with a rendition of the iconic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles them from the classic show, complete with new animation that gets you pumped to started before you even get to the main menu. The voices of the original four Turtles, including Rob Paulsen and Cam Clarke, the latter of which pulls double duty as Rocksteady, are also here and while they only have a few lines each, it’s nevertheless great to hear them voice these characters.

Broken up into 16 chapters, Shredder’s Revenge will be immediately comfortable to anyone who grew up with games like Turtles in Time, and really everyone who simply enjoys classic arcade brawlers. As either of the four Turtles, plus Splinter, April O’Neil and eventually Casey Jones, you’ll hack and slash waves of multi-colored Foot Soldiers, rock soldiers from Dimension X and mechanical Mousers. At the end of each stage, you’ll square off with a boss, ranging from familiar foes like Bebop and Rocksteady, Leatherhead, and Wingnut among others.

Like in any good arcade action game, it feels great to wail on the cannon fodder that’s thrown at you, and no singular enemy ever feels like they’re a damage sponge. On the medium difficulty, Shredder’s Revenge provides an ample challenge where it’s not too easy, nor are you beating your head against a wall because of the difficulty. Provided you’re mindful of your surroundings and study the patterns of the bosses, you’ll do just fine, and in the Story mode, the only punishment for expending all your lives is having to start over a stage from the beginning. As much only take a few minutes to get through, it’s not exactly a set back either.

If Shredder’s Revenge was just a mindless brawler, it wouldn’t be as special as it is. Before you jump into the action, you’re given a safe place to study your move set which includes your basic attacks, defensive dodges, aerial maneuvers and each character’s various super moves that can be activated when you fill up a meter. Success in Shredder’s Revenge comes from wisely controlling enemy crowds, and you’re given actions with just the right amount of complexity to be fun without ever feeling overwhelmed or confused.

To further acclimate yourself with Shredder’s Revenge’s roster of actions, each chapter presents itself with a series of challenges that serve to break you out of your comfort zone and reward you with helpful experience. While some require you to avoid obstacles and complete whole levels without taking a hit, most task you with using a specific attack like jump attacks and throws or herding enemies into traps. It’s beneficial to engage with these as much as possible, as they really teach you how to best play the game without forcing you to sit through tutorials. You don’t have to worry about overly complex skill trees either, as the leveling system caps off at 10, and the rewards are merely more health, spare lives, and extra meters to store excess super attacks.

Completing Story mode once brings the final roster of characters to 7, and while each control the same, exploring their strengths and weaknesses adds an additional layer of depth to Shredder’s Revenge. April has a great multi-hit aerial kick that would make Chun-Li from Street Fighter Alpha blush for example, and Leonardo follows up a double-jump with a devastating spinning attack from his katanas. It’s also a joy to see each frame of animation packed in by the developers at Tribute like Casey Jones spontaneously donning a baseball helmet when he goes in for a sliding attack. There’s just so much personality crammed into every character and environment that you’ll wonder how your device of choice can handle it.

From the animations to the backgrounds, Shredder’s Revenge is to put it simply a treat to the eyes. From the use of colors to the amount of detail packed into the backgrounds, you’ll want to just stop and take it all in while the game wants you to keep moving as the giant word “GO” flashes on the screen. Similarly, the music, composed by Tee Lopes, who also worked on Sonic Mania, fits the action perfectly. It feels appropriate to the area, mixing in classic themes from older TMNT games with modern melodies that will make you want to keep the volume up, even as your Switch tells you to keep the volume down to avoid hurting your ears. Traditional video game music is also broken up with fully vocalized tracks like “Mutants over Broadway” featuring Anton Corazza that will tip you over the edge to buy the soundtrack if you haven’t already by that point.

Shredder’s Revenge can be played two different ways: Story and Arcade mode. In story, you play out each level which is spread over an overworld likened to a mixture of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES. Various bonuses are peppered about here once you rescue the likes of Veronon, Irma, the Punk Frogs and the Neutrinos hidden in levels. Each will task you with collecting things like bugs, tapes, and crystals which can be turned in for experience points. These are exactly well hidden, nor should they be, really, but they also give you something else to do besides dash to the next skirmish.

Arcade, on the other hand, is exactly as it sounds. You must play through each level in sequence with a limited number of lives and credits and you gain additional lives in lieu of experience. Progression made here doesn’t save unlike story mode, and the spaces where characters and extras are hidden are replaced by items that bump up your points counter.

Once you complete the story and unlock Casey Jones, you’ve essentially seen all that Shredder’s Revenge has to offer. You can challenge yourself with playing on higher difficulties, but outside of a few achievements and trophies, you don’t get anything extra. There are additional endings to see by finishing the game with each character, but as they’re only a single screen with a splash of text, it’s not exactly a compelling a reward as learning a new character. Whether Shredder’s Revenge gets additional DLC remains to be seen, and while it’s well worth its meager asking price, it leaves you hungry for just a bit more because you just don’t want to put it down.

THE DIFFERENCES IN THE VERSIONS

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is available on all platforms and is complementary to those who are subscribed to GamePass. For this review, is was completed on both Nintendo Switch and Xbox Series X, and while there’s surely some performance discrepancy between the two, it wasn’t enough to not recommend picking it up on the Switch, especially when you can play it on the go. There was some minor lag experienced from the game not going into the pause menu on Switch, and on Xbox Series X, there was a few instances of freezing that eventually corrected itself.

Shredder’s Revenge can be enjoyed by up to 6 players, but it was played in solo mode for this piece on both platforms. In their analysis, Digital Foundry noticed a slight dip in frame rate on Switch when played with the maximum amount of players. They also uncovered that while you can play locally with 6 players on Xbox, PC and Switch, the same cannot be said of the PlayStation 4 version as it only allows 4 players on a single console.

via Digital Foundry YouTube

No matter how many players you can round up or what platform you play it on, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a must play title. This rings true on whether you’re a lapsed TMNT lover, a die-hard fan of the franchise, or simply enjoy solidly crafted arcade throwbacks. From its controls to the animation, level design and music, Shredder’s Revenge was obviously crafted by extremely talented people who have a deep admiration for the source material. It’s hard to nitpick about a lack of content when what you get in this package can easily be considered a game of the year contender.

via Nintendo YouTube

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is available now on the PlayStation and Xbox family of consoles, Nintendo Switch and PC.

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