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06/16/22 DotEmu
06/16/22 DotEmu
06/16/22 DotEmu

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge (NS)

By Evan Norris 15th Jun 2022 | 3,974 views 

Green is good.

Tribute Games, developer of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge, has a lot to live up to. If TMNT isn't quite a sacred intellectual property, it's absolutely a beloved one, with legions of fans who know the material by heart and understand exactly what they want. Tribute has to contend not only with high fan expectations, but also with the legacy of the TMNT media juggernaut: a massively-popular animated TV series; live-action movies; action figures and merchandise galore; and, most importantly, a series of fondly-remembered beat-'em-up action games, the most famous of which is Turtles in Time, which is still considered one of the greats of the genre. Against this mountain of multimedia, how does Shredder's Revenge stack up? 

The story in Shredder's Revenge is your typical Turtles fare. Things kick off at broadcast station Channel 6, where henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady steal tech to support villains Krang and Shredder. The heroic turtles — Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael — plus their wise master Splinter and clever ally April O'Neil spring into action, fighting their way across Manhattan and places beyond. They'll fight Foot Soldiers on Coney Island, mousers in New York City sewers, and even Triceraton Warriors in Dimension X.

The plot devices and scenarios in Shredder's Revenge aren't anything new, but they don't have to be. They exist mostly as an excuse to bounce all around New York and throw our heroes into lots of sticky situations. They also provide an opportunity for Tribute Games to hit players with wave after wave of nostalgia. The developer has loyally assembled many of the franchise's most famous faces, from heroes to villains and everyone and everything in between. "The real deep turtle fans will get something out of this," said Tribute Games' Eric Lafontaine last month. And he's right.

Fans of beat-'em-up gameplay will get something out of Shredder's Revenge as well. Thanks to its compelling action, seven playable characters, multiple modes, six-player co-op, and deep replay value, it's safe to call it one of the better games in the genre from the last few years. It's also arguably the best Turtles game ever, which is saying something.

Anyone familiar with earlier Turtles titles like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (arcade) or Turtles in Time will eat up Shredder's Revenge like Michelangelo would a peanut butter and clam pizza. This is the same addictive brawling from those earlier beat-'em-ups, with a few new bells and whistles. Each player moves through over a dozen scrolling levels, performing dodges, jumps, four-hit combos, charged attacks, and other special moves.

Some of the more interesting maneuvers use "ninja power", gained from beating enemies in succession and/or taunting. Consume one ninja power bar to deploy one of three super attacks: a standing attack, a mid-air diver attack, and a super flying attack during a backflip or roundoff. In addition, the game supports team-based moves, including the ability to "cheer up" an ally to grant them two of your health points, revive a fallen ally, and sandwich enemies between cooperative attacks. The combat framework isn't as nuanced as something like Streets of Rage 4, but it's certainly evolved beyond the Turtles games from the early to mid 90s.

The same can be said for the player roster in Shredder's Revenge. There are six starting characters, all with unique takes on the moves above (and unique stats), and a seventh character who unlocks once you beat the game. That includes the classic turtle characters, plus April O'Neil and Casey Jones, never before playable in a TMNT beat-'em-up. Jones is an especially interesting character, since several of his moves borrow from individual sporting events. He swings his golf club as a charged attack, for example, and slam dunks a basketball over enemies as his mid-air diver attack. 

Every character is playable in each of the game's two modes, Story and Arcade, which involve the same 16 levels and narrative but operate by different rules. Story mode features a basic overworld map, from which you can play and replay each stage. It also has a very light progression system, in which points earned from defeating enemies and completing quests unlock extra lives, additional health, and new abilities. Furthermore, stages in Story mode includes unique challenges, hidden collectibles, and in some cases secret NPCs from the Turtles universe who then support side-quests.

Arcade mode, conversely, is much closer in spirit to the old-school TMNT games: limited lives and continues, and no saved progression. You have to finish the game in a single sitting. Together, Story and Arcade boast the best of both worlds. Story mode is a deeper, more open-ended experience oriented around character growth and optional challenges, and Arcade Mode is the classic, no-frills experience.

The one major downside to Shredder's Revenge, as it is for the majority of beat-'em-ups, is length. With 16 levels at about 8 minutes apiece, it should take approximately two hours to finish the game. Now, Tribute Games has installed several options to extend the game's replay value: seven playable characters, each with unique stats and animations; optional challenges and collectibles in Story mode; online leaderboards in Arcade mode; and achievements. So, even if you do beat the game in an afternoon, there are many reasons to keep coming back.

If there's another downside, both to the game and its genre, it's that Shredder's Revenge is simply less fun solo. It's still eminently playable on your own, but it lacks the energy and improvisation of multiplayer mayhem. Luckily, the title supports local and online multiplayer for up to six(!) players at once. Dropping in and out of local multiplayer is a breeze and, interestingly, the game will automatically adapt the volume of enemies encountered based on the number of players in a session. [Note: due to the scarcity of online players pre-launch, I was unable to test the connection strength and technical performance of online multiplayer on Switch.]

Shredder's Revenge is a Dotemu-published game, so there are high expectations when it comes to graphics. While it isn't nearly as visually-sumptuous as Streets of Rage 4 or Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap, it still looks great. The pixelated cartoon graphics are perfect for the old-school feel of the title, and the animations are slick. A few still images in the mid-stage interludes appear slightly off-model, but this is a very minor complaint.

Music and sound design are strong also. The majority of the soundtrack comes courtesy of Tee Lopes (Sonic Mania), and it's solid all around. There aren't many standout tracks, but the bouncy, high-energy music certainly elevates the mood of each level. Perhaps the most interesting individual song is "We Ain't Came to Lose" a hip-hop tune performed by Raekwon The Chef and Ghostface Killah of Wu-Tang Clan. Finally, the voice acting, boosted by several original voice actors from the 1987 cartoon, hits all the right nostalgic notes.

With Shredder's Revenge, Tribute Games has a lot to live up to: an adored cartoon, highly-acclaimed video games, and untold childhood memories. Fortunately, the studio lived up to and surpassed expectations. The game is both a love letter to the TMNT universe and a worthy successor to Turtles in Time, which is generally considered one of the industry's finest beat-'em-ups. Indeed, thanks to its many playable characters, multiple modes, addictive action, fetching graphics, and support for up to six players both online and offline, it's arguably the best brawler in the expansive Turtles canon. Tribute Games: moving forward, we should start paying tribute to you.

VGChartz Verdict


This review is based on a digital copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge for the NS, provided by the publisher.

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