‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge’ Review: A Modern Arcade Classic
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Featured Image Credit: Dotemu
That Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge has been developed by a studio called Tribute Games is kind of perfect, as this is truly a love letter to a classic era of arcade gaming when belt-scrolling beat ‘em ups crunched pocket change like nobody’s business. And amongst those coin-op cabs pulling in big numbers, Konami’s own 1989 tie-in for the hugely popular Turtles franchise remains an iconic machine, especially in its four-player model that allowed every one of those heroes in half-shells to be controlled simultaneously. Shredder’s Revenge is more than mere nostalgia dressed up in some 21st century pixel art, though - it quite brilliantly modernises the formula laid down by studios like Konami, Capcom, SEGA et al, incorporating online functionality and quality-of-life features that make this a package not to be missed whether you’re a veteran of such brawlers or an absolute beginner.
Off the bat, Shredder’s Revenge is gorgeous, each level finely detailed and bursting with character, personality, and life. While every stage is (largely) a case of progressing from left to right and bomping bad guys on their brainboxes, there’s depth, scale, a clear sense of a world beyond these immediate surroundings. And the enemies are a delight too, with even basic Foot Clan soldiers - the nefarious ninja faction ruled by the number one Turtles big bad, Shredder - appearing in all manner of fun ways, from stirring up a cake mix in a mall’s kitchen department to playing on what look like old-school Game Boys (until you tap them on the shoulder and bosh them over the noggin, of course). Throughout, there’s clearly a high level of care and attention that’s gone into making every level a sensory thrill, as the visuals are superbly complemented by spot-on music (shout out to Raekwon and Ghostface Killah’s Wu-Tang-goes-Turtles raps and Mike Patton’s theme song vocal, both in tune with the wider late-’80s/early-’90s vibes from composer Tee Lopes) and, naturally, cheeringly crunchy combat and responsive movement.
Check out a trailer for Shredder’s Revenge below (though it does rather reveal one unlockable ‘secret’)
Because it’s one thing to make a new Turtles game look and sound the part, and quite another to have it play in a way that goes far beyond the traditional basic button-bashing experience of those Konami titles. Shredder’s Revenge sees every playable character - six at the start of proceedings, covering Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo, plus their mentor Splinter and friend April O’Neil, each with differing speed, strength and range stats - begin with a pretty standard combo, a heavy attack achieved by charging and a special move that can be activated once a ninja power bar is full (the other face buttons handle jumping and rolling), but the more you play the stronger each protagonist becomes, earning extra health, special move power bars, additional moves and more. You’re unlikely to max out a single character on a single playthrough, and that’s one of a few factors here that encourage further go-arounds.
Foremost amongst those replay-encouraging elements is the pure fact that Shredder’s Revenge is a heap of fun. Powering up each character and unlocking new moves makes revisiting levels a thrill, as whereas before you took a little pounding yourself, now you’ve found a rhythm and have some fresher, sharper tools to play with. Going back in with friends - up to six players can play locally at once, and the same is true when finding allies to take down New York’s worst online (note: we were unable to test this, but locally it’s a spectacular, screen-filled riot of cartoon chaos that guarantees laughs) - also lends a new dimension to playthroughs; and there are enough hidden collectibles, achievements and friendly NPCs to reveal in each stage (uh, those darn frogs) to scratch the itch of any completionist. Levels in the game’s Story Mode are accessed via a very cute Super Mario Bros. 3-recalling overworld, a lil pixelated New York with recognisable landmarks (at least one of which plays a significant role in the admittedly wafer-thin story of Shredder’s, um, revenge, on the Turtles). Head to Arcade Mode and it’s a more conventional case of stages following each other with no dipping in and out of previously played locations to find what you missed before.
Arcade Mode delivers that coin-op experience: a set number of lives, and once they’re gone, so are you, plus there’s a high-score leaderboard to conquer. Story Mode is more generous, as you begin each level with three lives, regardless of how many you may have lost on the prior stage. It’s an idea to ease yourself into the action in this gentler mode, but there are also three difficulty settings to play around with on each. Whatever mode or difficulty you go in with, the enemies come thick and fast, the aim of the game less about standing your ground and selectively picking off the weaker foes and more about carving the quickest path through them using combo strings and environmental traps: because speed means prizes (well, points). It’s so relentless that the overworld section is a welcome breather at times, as you just about get a boss down with a slip of health remaining (yes, health-boosting pick-ups are pizzas, obviously); and a brisk playthrough time of just over two hours might seem slight, but nary a second of it is wasted with downtime at a distinct premium.
Whether enjoyed with same-sofa pals or solo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a supremely satisfying side-scroller that both rolls back the years and stays mindful of the needs and wants of today’s players. Each blow lands with substance, and every one of its 16 stages bristles with imagination and a palpable admiration of and respect for the source material. (Not that you need to be a fan of the Turtles to appreciate the work that’s gone in.) The presentation is of a special quality, visually and sonically, and gameplay wise few beat ‘em ups then or now are as intuitive yet as rewarding as what’s on offer here. File Shredder’s Revenge alongside the likes of Streets of Rage 4 and River City Girls as a contemporary masterpiece of its kind, an exemplary demonstration of how to spruce up a stylistic road well walked already after so many go-straight experiences, and somehow make the journey so much more special than the destination.
Pros: scintillating action, excellent presentation, bucketloads of replayability, as demanding as you set it up to be, plenty of unlockables hidden away, you can chuck Foot Clan ninjas into the screen
Cons: relatively short if you’re one of these pounds-per-hour sort of players, some of the Turtles’ in-game lines get a little repetitive… I guess?
For fans of: Streets of Rage 4, River City Girls, Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game, the Turtles obvs
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is released on June 16 2022 for Nintendo Switch (version tested), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Review code provided by the publisher, Dotemu. Find a guide to GAMINGbible’s review scores here. Please note the score above relates to solo and local multiplayer play only as we couldn't test the online functionality.