STAFF REVIEW of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge (Xbox One)

Saturday, July 2, 2022.
by Chad Goodmurphy

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge Box art Although they’re not all that plentiful these days, there was a time when two-dimensional beat ‘em-ups were incredibly common and very popular. Of course, things change and the time we’re referencing was in the late 80's and early to mid-nineties, before first-person shooters became all the rage. That was a simpler time, where Internet wasn’t an almost necessity, patches were nonexistent and games could be played right out of the box, or with the insertion of a silver coin into a standing machine. In many ways, those were better times, but as mentioned above, things do change.

Growing up in the late 80's and 90's meant lots of trips to Blockbuster (and a myriad of other, mostly independent, video stores), many dollars spent at any arcade I could get to, and an incredible amount of time spent watching TV shows like Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, of which I was a huge fan. Hell, one of my first memories involves playing the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for the Nintendo Entertainment System while visiting my cousins, and others involve watching the cartoon, playing with my many TMNT action figures and, of course, watching the cheesy 90's movies. You could say that I was obsessed.

In fact, some of my best gaming involved memories pertain to playing titles like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time on my Super Nintendo, as well as playing the Arcade Game as much as I could. It was impossible to get enough of either one. Thus, when Tribute Games and Dotemu revealed that they were working on a late 80's/early 90's inspired Turtles beat ‘em-up, I was in. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on what ended up being called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge and, now that I’ve had a chance to beat it on both PlayStation and Xbox, I’m here to say that you shouldn’t wait to do so either. This game is a masterpiece, filled with enough pizza, action and nostalgia to please any longtime gamer or fan of the Heroes in a Half-Shell.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge feels like it came out of that time period, and if you stripped it of its online multiplayer component it would’ve fit in perfectly. This is retro gaming for both the sake of it and the nostalgia that surrounds the 16-bit era for many of us old timers. Thankfully, however, the fan service isn’t artificial, nor does it come as a hindrance to what could’ve been a better game had it not been forced into retro-chic. No, this project was built with love and nostalgia from the ground up, and it’s an almost perfect return to my childhood.

Things pick up as Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, Michaelangelo and their friends Splinter and April sit down to eat some pizza and watch the news. Things are quiet, relaxed and status quo, and everyone is starving for some New York pizza pie. However, that quiet reverie doesn’t last long, because Beebop and Rocksteady hijack the news with some help. Then, they go on to threaten the Statue of Liberty and the City of New York itself. Of course, that can’t stand in the Turtleverse, and our heroes ditch their supper in order to rush back out and save the world.

What follows is a relatively traditional arcade action brawler featuring 16-bit graphics and complementary animations. However, there are some differences between Shredder’s Revenge and Turtles in Time. For one, there’s its inclusion of experience points, challenges, collectibles and character-locked perks and upgrades. Then, there’s the six player online multiplayer, which certainly wasn’t a thing in the early 90's. The rest of the experience is so authentic, though, that it makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. It’s a welcoming feeling to say the least.

Like its peers, Shredder’s Revenge is light on story and heavy on action. Its story is primarily told through kicks, jumps, weapon attacks, rolls and special power-up pizzas. It also all plays out over the course of sixteen different stages, most of which are set in New York City, though some aren’t. When I played through on the Normal difficulty, I didn’t have too much of a problem with them outside of stage 13, which gave me my only game over.

Of course, the first thing you’ll do is pick your character from a list that contains all four Ninja Turtles, their friend April and Master Splinter. You’ll want to do so thoughtfully, because picking your favourite Turtle might not be good enough. Each character has his or her own stats, which tell you how powerful their attacks are, how fast they are and that kind of thing. This is why I went with Leonardo for my first play through, as he’s the most well rounded of the bunch and I’m always afraid of getting stuck. After all, it’d been a while since I’d last played a retro game, let alone a beat ‘em-up, and those can get intense.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t mention hockey stick carrying Casey Jones in the last paragraph, it’s because he’s not an option from the onset. He doesn’t become a playable character until you’ve played through Shredder’s Revenge once.

If you’ve played Turtles in Time, you’ll know what you’re signing up for with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. It’s very true to the 1991 classic, and even includes introductory animations and voice overs for each stage, complete with characters introducing them by name. However, there are some changes to the core gameplay loop. For instance, there are now three special pizzas to collect. One does as expected and replenishes your health, another instigates a special timed spin attack that can cause a lot of damage in short order, and the other gives you more Turtle Power. The latter – which is displayed as a meter with numbers beside it, to show how many meters you’ve banked – allows you to pull off special attacks and generally one hit kill enemies. If you bank a few, it can allow you to engage a special ability, which adds a pulsing shadow to your character and seems to increase their base skills.

The majority of the gameplay, however, consists of using light and heavy attacks to batter enemies with deadly combos. It is possible to hold and charge your attack, but it’s not as easy as it sounds given that enemies can break it with one hit. Unless you’re playing on a high difficulty setting, you shouldn’t have to worry about doing so too much anyways. Do make sure to use the environments to your advantage, though, because hitting fire hydrants and pylons can still cause helpful damage to enemies, and collectibles (like VHS tapes, diary pages, crystals and more) can be found inside breakable objects or moving doors. These are requested by NPCs who you’ll either save or meet along the way, but they don’t change the gameplay up much at all. Just think of them as optional content, along with each stage’s challenges, which generally task you with doing things like not using special attacks or avoiding being hit.

Speaking of environments, it’s important to note that there’s a lot of variety to be found in Shredder’s Revenge. As you progress through a Super Mario Bros. style overworld map of NYC, you’ll venture to numerous different locations. Things begin at the Channel 6 news headquarters, then move on to places like the zoo, a mall, the sewers, Coney Island, Broadway and even the skies above the city. Yes, there’s even a level in which you beat up Foot Clan bozos while riding a rocket powered surfboard-type-thing above New York City, all while a pretty badass hair metal song plays in the background. That aerial stage isn’t the only one to feature ‘vehicles,’ either. You’ll also move around specific levels on a rideable platform, and I believe there’s one more level in which they appear.

As mentioned above, the game isn’t easy but it’s also not punishingly difficult or unfair. There are times where it sends a lot of Foot Soldiers, robots, creatures and/or laser-shooting-turrets at you, but chokepoints aren’t a common thing. You’ll also be able to identify the enemies’ attack styles and movesets by the colour of their clothing or the shape of their robotic bodies. As before, each Foot Soldier type is delineated by the colour of its suit.

Truth be told, the only thing that I didn’t like or downright love about the campaign was the character-specific experience points and level increases. While it was certainly nice to earn more lives, more HP points and added abilities as I played through the story mode, I’ve never liked it when games like this lock those upgrades to the character you chose. I’d like to replay the campaign with those perks unlocked, and try to earn more, but I’d prefer to try out all of the available characters instead of having to stick with just one. I mean, I may have unlocked Casey Jones when I completed the campaign, but I’ll be starting fresh with him.

Then again, the above is perhaps just a personal gripe about something that bothers me more than most others. It is fun to play through and level up, after all, and it’s not like Shredder’s Revenge is some twenty hour grind. Instead, it’s a two to two-and-a-half hour-long beat ‘em-up.

Those who have masochistic tendencies, and like to test their mettle against games by making things as difficult as possible, will be happy to hear about the included Arcade Mode. Secondary to the main campaign, it features the same stages but imposes limitations on lives and doesn’t allow you to return to previous stages, collect any hidden collectibles or level-up your character since they’re already at max. The goal is to complete the game without dying, in a way that’s reminiscent to the arcade cabinets of yesteryear, whereas Story Mode provides unlimited continues.

On the presentation side of things, there’s lots to love about what Dotemu has done with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. Not only is it beautifully retro, but its animations all look great. The sixteen bit visuals shine, the presentation is just what one would hope for, and it truly feels like going back in time to a simpler (and better) era. The classic chiptunes are even joined by some original and redone songs by Raekwon/Ghost Face Killa, Mike Patton, Tee Lopes and Johnny Atma. They’re good, too!

During my time spent playing through this game on both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S, I never had an issue with bugs or crashes, or anything of the like. Everything ran perfectly, and it was a smoothly beautiful experience filled with tons and tons of nostalgia.

If you’re looking for a great game to spend your summer with, look no further than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. Dotemu and Tribute Game have knocked one out of the park with this return to the days of 80's and 90's beat ‘em-ups, and have done so in spectacular fashion. Thus, this title will surely be in the running for Game of the Year.

**Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series S**

Overall: 9.2 / 10
Gameplay: 9.4 / 10
Visuals: 9.2 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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