What an age to be living in, one where beat ‘em ups are back and they’re not absolute crap. In fact, they’re better than ever, and if there’s one group of people that are absolutely nailing them non-stop are Dotemu. Streets of Rage 4 was one heck of a surprise a couple of years ago, and now it’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ turn with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, a love letter to late 1980s and early 1990s arcade and console games developed by the equally talented folks over at Tribute Games and published by Dotemu.
If you’re somehow unaware or too young to remember, the Turtles were already a thing 30+ years back, when the first iteration of their cartoon was playing on TVs across the world and their toys were on the top of every kids’ Christmas present list. Laird and Eastman’s lowly indie comic franchise burst in popularity once it hit mainstream media, and since then, it hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Among the media produced alongside the show were games developed by Konami that went on to become classics in the genre, 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time on the Super Nintendo especially.
And for good reason. Those games were ridiculously fun to play and brought in waves of people to take down the forces of evil in jolly cooperation through multiplayer, each controlling one of the four turtles named after famed Renaissance artists. Regardless of which one was your favorite, they all packed plenty punch in whichever title you happened to be playing. It was a fun time to be playing games, and one that’s extremely nostalgic for someone like me, who would run back home from school so I could play these games with my brother or friends as a kid.
Shredder’s Revenge instantly revived all of those memories as it’s hands down one of the most lovingly put together games I’ve ever played. Every inch of this game is full of references to the source material, and they went the extra mile of bringing back most of the original cast from the cartoon to voice the characters, who now sound crisp thanks to HD sounds. That’s not to mention the kick ass soundtrack that’s been composed by a number of star creators like Ghostface Killah and Kaekwon, who have managed to capture the hip hop spirit of the group perfectly.
That’s not even touching on just how beautiful it looks. Sprite work in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is perhaps Tribute Games’ best, and that’s saying a lot taking into account their extremely diverse catalog. Each character in the game lives and breathes in pixel form, giving even more personality to them. Case and point our lovely green protagonists, that alongside their incredible animation each is built to play somewhat differently by way of a much more in-depth combat system that offers both newly-implemented defensive and offensive moves.
While this would otherwise be a fun surprise to discover on your own, it’s been plastered over every single bit of preview material over the course of the last couple of years, so here it is: you can also play as April and master Splinter! And they’re awesome! You wouldn’t think April, TMNT’s oft maiden in distress would be much of a fighter, but let me tell you, she’s probably spent the last 30 years training because she’s really good at wacking enemies now. Splinter’s on a class of his own, with some of the funniest animation out of the entire roster – at one point in the combo he even takes a bite out of the competition, literally.
Last reveal that came a week or so before release was Casey Jones, who’s been part of the fans demands as an addition to the group, and he’s only unlocked after finishing the 16-level-long campaign in story mode. He’s also really cool and a lot of fun to play, mixing in well with others when in multiplayer due to his ridiculous attack range that launches fools far and wide, allowing for group attacks that pack a lot of punch.
In fact, playing with other people is Shredder’s Revenge’s greatest appeal. You can join forces with up to five other fighters and take it to the streets as practically the entire roster simultaneously. On the Switch, the system I reviewed the game on, I was able to get into matches extremely quickly, with very little lag. I played through the entire story with random online folks and had a blast doing so. There were only a couple of instances where I suffered some crashes to the dashboard when connecting, and bear in mind that at the time of this review, Tribute Games is working on a patch to squash the slowdown that pops up when there’s too much going on on screen when playing with other people.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a gorgeous tribute to TMNT that succeedes at providing a fun time to just about anyone who plops down to play it. There’s surprisingly a decent amount of content to enjoy through the numerous difficulty options and in-level challenges that make it very replayable. Leveling up characters is also another incentive to keep going as the further you get into each of them, more moves become available, as well as boosts to their stats and special meter. Along with those are collectibles that you uncover that are part of side missions that characters from the show that you rescue during story mode.
Due to how easy it is to drop in and out of matches, even if you’re new to beat ‘em ups and are finding this too tough, or are playing with young kids – they’re bound to eat this up due to how colorful and quick to learn it is, really! – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is hard not to have a good time getting through. Old fans of the show are bound to get a kick out of the number of references tucked away in every inch of the game, with some that even someone like me who’s probably watched every episode of the cartoon didn’t even know existed. I mean, there was a friendly rivalry between the turtles and a group of frogs that weren’t the Battletoads? Yep, and they’re in there to find!
Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with how Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge turned out. Tribute Games hit it out of the park with this one, a game that is reverent to its source material in a way that will surely please die-hard fans of TMNT and is sure to garner an entirely new audience not just to that property, but to the beat ‘em up genre as a whole. It’s games like this, developed these days by those who enjoyed them in the past and know what they are doing that will keep brawlers alive in the future, and I simply cannot wait to see what’s in store. So if you have yet to give this a go, what are you waiting for? Calling dibs on Donatello!