Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is the latest attempt to capitalize on the ever-lasting love for the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game from 1987 and bring it to the modern-day. Shredder’s Revenge is a new game heavily inspired by the arcade game, but it appears to be successfully straddling the line between old classic and new title. Striking this balance has proven trickier than some may have guessed. An exact port of a 30-year-old game would ignore all the quality-of-life improvements video games have undergone over three decades. At the same time, a completely new game devoid of any inspiration from the original would disenfranchise the most likely demographic from taking an interest.
I got to play a build of Shredder’s Revenge at PAX East 2022 and I found it to be exactly as pitched. It undeniably evoked the classic arcade beat-em-up, but it didn’t have any of the old-game jank one might expect. I had the opportunity to speak to Frédéric Gémus, a game designer at Tribute Games — the developer for Shredder’s Revenge. He shared with me their vision for the game and why they think it’ll please longtime fans and new players.
Arthur Augustyn, Noisy Pixel: What’s the biggest addition to Shredder’s Revenge compared to what fans loved about the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game?
Frédéric Gémus, Game Designer at Tribute Games: The big new thing is new playable characters — April and Splinter. Both of them are for the first time playable in the arcade game. You can see in the demo each character plays very differently. Even though all the controls in the move list are similar, the way they perform the moves, and their outcome feels really different. They have their own specific strengths and animation sets.
AA: I saw the demo breaks out power, range, and speed — were those distinctions in the original game?
FG: They were not in the Super Nintendo version and I’m not certain if they were in the arcade version. If they were, the outcome was more subtle. We really wanted to make sure players could get a lot of replayability from the game. We want you to play it multiple times with different characters and have it feel different. That’s where we see the replay value. For those older games, there was a lot of reusing assets.
For example, games in that era would reuse animations for different characters and that was very common in those days. Today, we have some of the best pixel artists and animators in the world. We wanted to make sure the personality of each of the characters would be see through how they play. For example, April is super quick and she’s very good at combos whereas a classic character like Raphael is about pure brute force. He’s power-orientated which gives some really great benefits if that’s your play style.
AA: My experience with the demo shows a lot of recognizable elements from the original arcade game such as getting a preview of the boss you’re going to fight at the end of each stage. Was there an intentional design decision to evoke those past elements?
FG: We really wanted to present each level as an episode of the animated television series. This game is not only a love letter to the older arcade games, but at its very core it is inspired by the first television show that was on. I think the reason the games were so popular back in the day — and all the toys too — was because everything in the show was so well written and full of love for the franchise and a lot of fun in each episode. It was a very playful universe that lent itself well to video games. We really wanted to bring the humorous side of the show to the game. For example, you’ll see there is a foot solider working as the secretary at the start of this level. We have details like that to evoke the humor of the show. We want those elements everywhere in the game, not just the cut scenes.
AA: Can you walk me through the combat of the game? I have to admit when I play an arcade game, I usually tap random buttons but never really know what I’m doing.
FG: There’s a basic attack button you can press and hold to charge and do a more powerful attack. There is a dodge button and a jump button. You can combine inputs to do more complex moves. For example, you can grapple by holding your directional stick toward an enemy then pressing the basic attack button. You can also press attack and jump at the same time to start an air juggle of an enemy. We also have cooperative moves the players can pull off based on the context and placement of enemies and attacks. We didn’t want these moves to be so complicated you had to synchronize them at the same exact time. If you’re attacking the same enemy from each side, you’re going to get a cooperative attack like throwing an enemy at the screen or off to the side.
We also have a special button for a special attack. Back in the day, you would trade off your health points for a special attack. It made sense, but it put more pressure on the player for making that decision. We decided to go with a meter that builds up the more enemies you attack successfully. You fill up a bar that is displayed next to your character’s health. If you are attacked while building the special meter it gets depleted, but once it’s maxed out you have it until you use it by doing a special attack. There are three special attacks You can do one from the ground, one in the air, and one while dodging backwards.
Each character has their own unique special attack. Donatello has a vortex that pulls the enemies in and deals damage. April will have this built-in camera thing you can use to damage a lot of enemies at once.
AA: Does each stage start with a glimpse of a boss? Does every level have a boss?
FG: Yes. The demo for PAX has Bebop and Rocksteady, which are two of the classic bad guys and henchmen of Shredder. We have a large rogues gallery of over 20 different bosses. There are a lot of characters from the TV show, but they’re not all characters we’ve seen in a video game before. We tried to have fan favorites, but also some surprises. It’s a new game and we wanted to make sure it feels fresh.
AA: TMNT games don’t have the best reputation in recent memory, how do you approach that challenge working on a new game?
FG: The way we create games, we really focus on trying to bring modern experiences that feel like the old games we remember. When you go back and replay those older games sometimes the gameplay is not as good as we remember. There were more limitations back then. We tried really hard to capture what it felt like to play those games but still keep it modern. For example, there were some little annoyances like you would knock an enemy out and they would land outside of the camera’s frame. You would have to wait for them to walk back onto the screen.
We decided to prevent that by having the edges of the camera be solid, so enemies will bounce off of it and you can juggle enemies in the air. We also added some slight homing of attacks. Now if you’re not perfectly aligned to make an attack, the game doesn’t care. The attack will connect and slowly your character will adjust to the one you’re attacking — that’s something older games couldn’t do and you had to be super precise. All these little things add up. We’ve made quality of life improvements so players get the modern game they expect.
AA: How do you handle cooperative play? Is it couch co-op and online?
FG: Yes, we put a lot of focus on the multiplayer for this game. Everything is jump in and jump out. I can pick up a controller and the world would adjust for the number of players on the fly. This is true for online play as well. You can make an open online game or leave it to friends only, and people can jump in and out just like couch co-op.
AA: How does adding more players affect the difficulty — if at all?
FG: The amount of enemies will change depending on how many players there are. That’s true for the bosses as well. The bosses will be a bit tougher. There will be more enemies and they will be more aggressive. The thing about TMNT is it’s all about crowd control and dispatching enemies very quickly. It’s more fast-paced than something like Streets of Rage which is more focused on one-on-one combat.
AA: Did you make any changes to the difficulty in an effort to make it more accessible for new players?
FG: Like the original, each character has a set number of lives but they can also be revived by other players. The game is meant to be accessible so all players of different calibers can bleed together and have fun. Younger kids might button mash their way to the end, but for expert players, they can air juggle enemies and do other moves. This demo is on the standard difficulty but we also have an easy mode where the enemies attack slower and are less aggressive. There is also a harder difficulty where the enemies are more aggressive and do more damage.
AA: Do you have a release date?
FG: We’re saying Summer 2022. It will be for all platforms: PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch. It’ll also be on Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X. It will be available everywhere.
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