For anyone born in the late ’80s or early ’90s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise was one of the biggest properties for children. Alongside hit TV shows and tons of toys was the 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game, a title that not only was highly successful long ago, but has withstood the test of time. Since its release, there have been plenty of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed brawlers that have tried to capture the same level of excitement, but none have succeeded. Developer Tribute Games and DotEmu are trying to fix that with the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, which not only manages to capture the nostalgia of the famous arcade brawler, but also delivers an incredibly fun and modern title in the process.
The first thing fans of the original arcade games will notice is that Shredder’s Revenge looks pretty familiar. That’s because the team behind the game wanted to focus more on the 1980s turtles, which have become more or less the de facto look most people associate with the group. It fits right in with the appearance and feel of the classic arcade titles. For those who played the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World game members of Tribute also worked on, expect similar level designs but with a grungy, New York twist, like a television studio, back alley, and street next to a parking garage, complete with cars whizzing back and forth as you battle against various foot soldiers.
Just like other brawlers, much of the environment in Shredder’s Revenge is destructible, and can be used during battles. Kicking Foot Soldiers into mailboxes, waiting for cars to come and plow into them, or simply dropping things like cameras and other items on them are all part of everyone’s arsenal. Not only does this make the combat a bit more extensive thanks to its combos and other tricks, but it does allow players to break away from what would other be a monotonous task of simply pressing the same buttons for the same combos over and over again. They also allow for more nontraditional and wacky attacks, which also evokes the zany nature of the TMNT series.
However, unlike the original arcade games, the cast isn’t full of four reskinned characters with the same abilities. Shredder’s Revenge takes cues from more modern-day brawlers, giving each fighter — Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo, April O’Neil, and Master Splinter — their own specific stats. One might have more power and range but lack speed, while another might be boosted in speed and range yet have weaker attacks. It creates a bit of a difficulty curve and opens the door for more choice, especially when comparing Shredder’s Revenge to the original arcade titles where all the characters were essentially palette swaps.
The controls at the center of the gameplay are where it truly comes into its own. Shredder’s Revenge operates essentially the same as any other brawler, with select buttons dealing out light, heavy, and other attacks. Everything felt incredibly smooth while taking down foot soldiers, thanks to the responsive controls, and looked smooth as well because of the impeccably detailed animation.
Fluid controls mean the game is fun to play regardless, but the cooperative play (which is online and offline) is where Shredder’s Revenge really shines, as playing with friends has always been a staple of arcade brawlers; nothing about that is different here. What is different, though, is being able to play with a bit more strategy than simply punching and kicking through to the next screen. Shredder’s Revenge utilizes a combo system of sorts, allowing players to power up moves before unleashing a special move that does a ton of damage (Donatello’s, for example, unleashes a tornado flurry of kicks and punches onto his enemies). If two players are in sync, they can juggle foes in mid-air, each powering up their own moves before unleashing them at just the right time and clearing out the stage. Cooperative play didn’t need extra mechanics like this since the game is fundamentally improved with more people, but their inclusion just adds even more depth to the combat.
Even though the Shredder’s Revenge‘s demo was one fairly short level (that culminated in a great boss fight against the iconic villain Rocksteady), it was hard not to want to play more. Arcadey experiences like this can sometimes falter when played as one at-home experience away from an arcade or demo station, so it’s possible that this new one does the same when it releases sometime this summer. However, this game’s systems and presentation were promising enough and showcase how satisfying a proper, great retro beat-em-up could be and seems as though it is strong enough to appeal to fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, the original arcade games, and arcade brawlers in general.