Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Chances are that if you were an adult, teenager or a kid between the 80s to early 2000s, you know who our heroes in a half shell are. Having written a love letter to both fans and to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themselves, Tribute Games and Dotemu’s Shredder’s Revenge is a brilliant retro designed beat ’em up as our heroes run through New York city to foil the latest plans of the Shredder and his Foot Clan.
Starting off with an attack on Channel 6 News where Bebop takes the air as a news anchor, this is everything that I’ve been wanting from this series for a long time. Keeping with the arcade design of the older NES titles of TMNT 2: Arcade Game, TMNT 3: The Manhattan Project and SNES TMNT: Turtles in Time, it was clear that the developers knew what they were doing, and had a lot of fun doing so. Foot Clan soldiers answering telephones, texting in the hallways, typing away at workstations or whisking bowls in the studio kitchen before you walk in and it’s time to brawl, the ridiculousness is enough to make you smile.
So it was moving into this first stage with my personal favorite nunchuk wielding orange bandana wearing Michaelangelo that I had but one hope. The hope that this fun and ridiculousness holds up throughout the adventure and that it doesn’t just fall off after the first couple stages. Being a love letter? My hopes were fulfilled and even in solo play my next three hours would be amazing as I completed the adventure for the first time before diving right back in.
Before even getting into the gameplay, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge looks and feels just like a classic TMNT side scrolling brawler should. Various palette swapped Foot Clan soldiers to know what weapons they are using? Check. Mousers constantly biting at your shins? Check. Classic boss enemies like Bebop, Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman, Krang and others from the original series of games and even movie appearances of Tokka and Rahzar? Check, check, and check. It’s all of these little details, the absurdity of the Foot Clan doing mundane tasks and the comedy of it all that raises the rest of the experience.
Starting off with the story mode, you’ll be picking from one of six playable characters.
- Leonardo, our fearless leader and dual katana wielder
- Raphael, our grumpy dual sai wielder
- Previously mentioned Michaelangelo, our goofball dual nunchaku wielder
- Donatello, our bo staff wielder, and
- New to the side scrolling beat ’em ups but also present, both Master Splinter and April O’Neil who can kick just as much Foot Clan butt as the rest of the Ninja Turtles
Each of these characters, whether tried and tested or new, have something to bring to the table essentially giving everyone an option that caters more to them. Split between three stats of Power, Speed and Range, each character has a strength and a weakness unless you use Leo who’s well rounded with two points of three points in each stat.
Once you, and up to five others, have selected a character, you’ll get to go through each stage one at a time, or even go back to complete previous stage challenges. These challenges range from not being hit, to not getting grabbed more than two or three times, not being hit by hazards such as rampaging dinosaurs or Foot Clan soldiers behind the wheel of a car as you move through a stage. The stages themselves contain a variety of elements where you’ll move through certain areas freely enough before being stopped to fight your way through a specific segment. Once you’ve gone all of the way through, you’ll fight a boss with some specific mechanic to watch out for.
The stages are short, sweet, and never over welcomed in their stay allowing for you to easily go back through as many times as needed, or as wanted, solo or with others. What’s special about the story mode though is that there are also some RPG-lite mechanics in which a chosen character can upgrade after accumulating a certain amount of points to have more health, more special attack bars or extra 1ups for the stage to prevent game overving. It’s neat and encourages the use of that character from start to finish instead of bouncing back and forth. Unless you want to test them all of course.
Whether you pick one character and stick with them or try them all out and wind up finding out that April O’Neil is MVP until credits, the combat system is an absolute pleasure. With everything unlocked for you from the beginning short of special attack variants that are unlocked on leveling up, it’s easy to get into the groove and the stage challenges will help you perfect the system. Forward attacks, dodging, combined dodging and lunging attacks, jumping, double jumping for a different attack, jumping and coming back down. All the beat ‘em up attacks that you would expect, and in some cases a bit more are there making it a true pleasure to play through as everything feels natural with only a few select buttons to do it which was impressive.
More impressively though, is that grapple attacks are done without buttons. Simply walking up and into an enemy will trigger an attack and from there, you can use left, right, up or down in order to perform a throwing move such as the classic Foot Clan soldier to the screen trick. Classic.
Finally in regards to story mode, another good reason to start here is that it allows you to take the adventure at your own pace, and once completed for the first time, you’ll unlock Casey Jones for a seventh playable character option. As a side to the Story Mode though is perhaps where some players will find themselves more challenged by taking on the Arcade Mode. Doing away with an overworld reminiscent of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles where you moved around nodes before moving into the action, Arcade Mode follows the classic “stage, complete, next” approach. Limited lives and no leveling up, it’ll be a challenge at times to make it all of the way through to the end of Stage 16 and the final boss fight.
More than just the mechanics though, and I know I’ve said it above, it’s the love that Tribute Games have shown on this project. Retro looking but smooth graphics for gameplay, the original TMNT voice actors from the late 80’s cartoon series that I grew up watching, and all of the tiny in stage elements and nods to the overarching series over the years including that wicked looking Super Shredder statue in a particular stage. Whether from the cartoon or the live action movies with an appearance from Tokka and Rahzar, there was so much TMNT nostalgia but wrapped in something new essentially creating a damned near perfect homage especially for fans of the series.
So some gushing at the experience aside, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is definitely a love letter to both fans of the series, fans of the classic NES / SNES titles, and the Ninja Turtles themselves. With multiple stages, modes, local or online coop with up to seven playable characters? There’s no reason NOT to dive into Tribute Games and Dotemu’s latest beat ‘em up.Score: 9 / 10