TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge had a mighty shell to fill- let’s just get that out of the way first. The property behind this game is synonymous with 80’s popular culture, and if that weren’t enough, it also had to live up to the standards set by Konami’s line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games dating back to 1989. There couldn’t have been a better publisher/dev duo than DotEmu and Tribute to take something like this on, and after a year-long delay, what some critics are proclaiming to be the best beat ’em up of all time is finally in our hands.
If you’ve played any of the arcade games (or the Super Nintendo port of Turtles in Time…or Hyperstone Heist on the Genesis), you already know what to expect for the most part. Shredder and his army cannot leave the Statue of Liberty alone long enough for the turtles and co to enjoy a pizza break. It’s up to you to smash through wave after wave of foot clan soldiers (and fight a few other familiar faces along the way) to thwart him.
While Shredder’s Revenge looks, sounds, and feels like the classic quarter crunchers, Tribute has fine-tuned some of the mechanics and overall flow of the action. As a result, this game is considerably faster and more frenetic than in past installments. The majority who will instinctively start with Donatello may be in for a rude awakening when they realize his long-ranged attacks won’t be enough for an easy victory this time.
That said, the control scheme has remained mostly the same. You still have your basic three-hit combos, air kicks, and the ability to chuck enemies into the screen, but special attacks have been changed up a bit. In the classic Turtles games (and honestly, a lot of beat ’em ups from the era), it was possible to pull off distinct specials in exchange for a bit of health upon contact by pushing jump and attack simultaneously. Shredder’s Revenge takes a modernized approach to this mechanic by requiring you to build up a combo via consecutive hits or taunting before performing a special. (You also won’t lose any health for doing this)
I believe this is a change for the better as it requires you to be a bit more methodical in how you approach enemies and situations- especially with the new taunting mechanic. Taunting will completely fill up your special meter, but the animation behind each character’s taunt is relatively lengthy. You can’t just spam it in the middle of a hairy situation to save yourself- you’ll have to watch for openings to pull it off successfully. It’s not the deepest mechanic, but it’s a satisfying wrinkle that helps the experience feel a little less redundant. (Something a lot of beat ’em ups struggle with by nature)
Another aspect where Shredder’s Revenge improves upon the classics is in its boss fights. There are a decent amount of throwbacks, including a two-on-one with Bebop and Rocksteady (and just like the classic games…the two buffons can be duped into hurting each other), but the new encounters are truly stand-outs. For example, Tempesta requires you to beat down the monsters she spawns before she’s vulnerable, and the fight with Chrome Dome is a direct callback to the first encounter with Shredder in Turtles in Time in the way you fight him.
The only genuine issue with the game is perhaps the length. Shredder’s Revenge is considerably lengthier than its contemporaries at 16 stages. While the inclusion of a story mode is excellent and allows for breaks, an arcade mode run (which is what games like these are built for) clocks in at around two hours- it might be a lot for one person to take on in a single sitting. As much as I enjoyed my first playthrough and even subsequent playthroughs on the latter mode…I’d be lying if I didn’t have that familiar feeling of fatigue this genre can give off by the time I reached the final few stages.
Still, that’s a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things. In all other aspects, this is one of those rare instances in which a retro revival the material was working with was successfully outclassed. The reboot pacing is better, the bosses are more varied and exciting, the presentation is as vibrant as ever…and to top it all off, there’s a mountain of fan service here. April, Casey Jones, and Master Splinter finally get their time to shine as playable characters and add some needed variety to the roster. The boss lineup includes a few seldom-seen characters from the series’ history, and there’s even a subtle homage to the notorious NES game in one of the backdrops.
Whether your love of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stems from their legacy in the arcade, the big screen, or your Saturday morning lineup…Shredder’s Revenge is a guaranteed blast. It’s also worth noting that the game is currently on Xbox’s Game Pass Service, should you still be on the fence at its $25 asking price.