The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade games are seen by many as not only the best in the franchise but some of the greatest in the beat ’em up genre. Any child of the 90s probably spent a fair number of quarters on those cabinets.
Attempting to recapture that experience is a tall order, but one that publisher Dotemu and developer Tribute Games fully embrace. The result is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, a faithful reinterpretation of the old-school beat ’em ups, but with more complexity and options than the games, it’s inspired by.
The narrative is short and sweet, with a Channel 6 news story being hijacked, showing the Statue of Liberty getting a makeover from Shredder and his goons. It’s up to the turtles, Splinter, and April to make their way through the 15 levels and reclaim the beacon of America.
Off the bat, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge gives you a tutorial on twenty-one different moves. Many require scenario-specific circumstances in order to execute them. While it is somewhat intimidating and overwhelming to process at first it’s also what helps Shredder’s Revenge stand out from previous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle beat ’em ups.
Most notable of these moves is the dash button, which you can use to evade some attacks. This, aside from the attack button, was probably my most frequently used action. During more intense moments, your player will have to dart around the screen to order to evade various attacks. It makes gameplay feel fast-paced and rewards you for proper timing. This also creates real opportunities for defense and relies less on cheap damage like many classic arcade beat ’em ups.
Other moves like the various grapple options and different kinds of aerial attacks are all a blast to play with, but they also are necessary if you want to exploit certain enemy weaknesses. Encounters with air-based adversaries quickly highlight this, as you can miss them several times if you aren’t using the right move at the right time.
Each playable character in Shredder’s Revenge has a special attack. This fills the more damage you do, maxing at a third level. These were super satisfying to pull off, as they create a sort of magnetic pull to surrounding enemies, dragging them into your flurry of blows. Because of this, it can be fairly generous with its range, however, it’s definitely not a screen-filling move as they should still be used a bit more strategically.
Enemies like the Foot Clan, Baxter’s mousers, and creatures from Dimension X fill the roster of villains you will encounter. While on the surface, some are just color swaps, but there’s more variety to these adversaries than I was expecting. The color is an indication of enemy weapons and which strategy you should implement to dispatch them. Many are introduced while doing stage and scene-appropriate activities before engaging with you. It’s silly and ridiculous but fits the tone of the late 80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon well.
Boss fights in Shredder’s Revenge are really enjoyable as well. While some moves bosses perform may be tough to avoid, few, if any, are completely unavoidable. Bosses feature many fan favorites and a few obscure ones. The use of deeper cut characters makes a lot of sense gameplay-wise, as they create some interesting battle dynamics. The only complaint really is Bebop and Rocksteady are re-used, but the inclusion of a later mid-level boss almost makes up for it.
Beat ’em ups are almost always enhanced by their multiplayer gameplay, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is no exception. 6 players can partake locally or online, creating some insanely fun and frenetic multiplayer experiences. In this mode, if a team member is knocked out, another player can offer them a pizza to help revive them at the risk of taking more damage from onscreen enemies. There are also moves like high-fiving a partner, which can give you special boosts.
Shredder’s Revenge offers two modes: arcade and story. Arcade mode is a more traditional experience with a set amount of lives. Story mode features an overworld map and hidden secrets along your journey with the chance to retry levels if you run out of lives. In story mode, you can also upgrade your characters to unlock new attacks and increase your hit points.
NPCs you come across will also give you points if you fulfill their requests. It’s my preferred mode and it adds a lot of Turtles Easter eggs to the gameplay experience. The downside is, at this point, there aren’t multiple save files for story mode. This would have been a nice option, as I could see many wanting to experience story mode again without sacrificing their older progress.
A playthrough will probably take about two and a half hours, but there is quite a bit of replay value here. Each level has various achievements and challenges that you can take on. Some are ridiculously challenging like “don’t take damage,” while others are far more obtainable. There are also achievement badges you can acquire and observe in the dojo. It’s really just for bragging rights, but it’s a nice addition regardless.
Shredder’s Revenge‘s presentation is simply amazing. Each level is created with beautiful pixel art and has a surprising amount of detail. Characters are designed with vibrant and lively animations and are further brought to life by many of the original voice actors from the late 80s cartoon. Little visual references to various Turtles media are sprinkled throughout the game, showing a real love for the source material.
The soundtrack is also stellar, featuring the talents of Ghostface Killah, Mike Patton, and Raekwon, with the main composition by Tee Lopes. Along with the art design, the soundtrack fits the early 90s vibes perfectly.
Given my nostalgia and experience with past TMNT beat ’em ups I had high expectations for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, and fortunately, it did not disappoint. The gameplay is smooth and super entertaining, whether you’re by yourself or with some friends.
The presentation feels like a Saturday morning cartoon, and you can tell it was made with great care and affection. For those looking to recapture the feeling of those 90s arcade cabinets, or who are simply looking for a fantastic beat ’em up, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge provides a radically fun time.
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