Developer: Tribute Games
Platforms: NS, PS4, XBO, PC
Version Played: PC
Back in 1989, before Street Fighter II took over the world of video games, Turtle mania was running wild and arcades were full of beat 'em ups. So naturally, Konami made a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beat 'em up, and it was a huge hit. It stood out because it was fun, it looked like the most popular cartoon at the time, and it had a huge 4 player cabinet. You couldn't miss it. It was so popular that Konami kept making BEUs throughout the fighting game craze, including a sequel to TMNT, Turtles in Time. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge isn't actually a sequel to Konami's games, but it's totally a sequel to Konami's games in spirit. The art style is a little different, but it's also based on the first cartoon series, it plays like those games, it sounds like them, and Tribute Games has put in even more love and attention to detail than Konami did back in the day. This game truly is a labor of love, dude.
If you want to hold your own against modern BEUs, like Fight’n Rage and River City Girls, you need a great combat system, and Shredder’s Revenge has one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. This game might play like a sequel to Konami's games, but it doesn’t play like a game made in 1992. This game has pretty much everything short of quarter circle motions. It has juggles, running, specials, anti-airs, rolls, dive kicks, you name it. They’re not simply adding juggles to 1991 gameplay, they’re fleshing out the movesets and giving you more precise control over everything with more buttons and lots of different ways to build combos.
This game has that sort of Devil May Cry-like flow to the combat. There’s never a dull moment. All the moves flow perfectly into each other. I can do a special coming out of a dodge, in the air, or on the ground. I can combo regular melee attacks into running or jumping attacks, and so on. I never feel like I’m helpless against an enemy, don't have options for attacking, or can't quickly get across the screen.
This game is also a lot of fun to watch. I love seeing how it takes attacks and animations from the old games and makes unique fighting styles for the Turtles out of them. I see a lot of Turtles in Time here, and even some stuff from Tournament Fighters and Manhattan Project. A lot of the taunts and win poses look like they’re straight out of the cartoon, too. Splinter, Casey Jones, and April O’Neil weren’t in the old games, so you can’t use old versions as reference, but they did a really good job of equipping them with moves that fit the characters. You’ll probably recognize where they got the inspiration for a lot of them because they’re straight out of Street Fighter, KOF, or even Pro Wrestling.
There are 2 modes of play; Adventure and Arcade. Adventure is a more modern way to play a beat 'em up. You go from level to level on a Super Mario World-like map, which looks a lot like the overworld from the 1st TMNT on NES, you're free to replay any level you've beaten, and your progress is saved after you close the game. You only get 1 credit for each level, but you get all your health and lives back after each one, and there are no game overs in this mode. Adventure mode is also the only place you’ll see cameos from a bunch of the Turtle’s friends. They have side missions in which you collect stuff for experience points.
There's also some character progression in Adventure mode. You can level every character up to 10 and get extra lives, more health, more super meter levels, and unlock more super moves, including a level 3 super not available in the arcade mode, which is basically a Street Fighter Alpha 2 Custom Combo. This really feels like the main mode of the game. It's very well done. The only bummer here is that you only get one save file. You can restart the game on another difficulty and carry over your character progression, but you have to beat every level again, even if you've beaten them in that difficulty before. I'd love to be able to have a cleared save on normal for multiplayer and start a new one to play on hard by myself.
Arcade is basically what you'd get on the console versions of the old Turtles games. You play through the levels in order, with limited lives and continues, and no saves. This mode doesn't have an overworld map, or any sort or character progression either. That means you only get one level of super meter, fewer lives, and less health than a level 10 character in Adventure mode. You get all the super moves at the start; though, minus the level 3 Custom Combo. This mode is great for speedrunners, people doing 1 credit clears, or just those looking for an old-school experience, but it's not something I'm going to spend much time with. The game is just too long for me to be trying to beat it all in one go. Especially on PC, where I have to keep the game running. There's 16 levels in the game, and they each take around 5 to 8 minutes to complete. It would be nice to have some kind of quick save for this.
One of the coolest things about this game is the online. It's by far the best implementation of online I've ever seen in a beat 'em up. You can play with friends or randoms, make a party in the middle of a level, and group up for whatever level you want in Adventure mode. Want a little help with a specific level? Just make a group for it. You don't have to join others at the beginning or on whatever level they're on. It's different on Arcade mode, though. You can join others at any point in their game, and you can open your game up at any point, but you can't look for a group on a specific level.
You can play with up to 6 players online, but honestly, it gets way too hectic for me. 4 is fine, though. Playing online also introduces a lot of bugs, like disappearing players and items that can't be picked up. I did notice other players skipping around as the game corrected itself for lag, but the gameplay never slowed down on my end, like in some other games.
This might be the best looking of the recent beat 'em ups. I think it looks even better than River City Girls and Streets of Rage 4. There's just so much going on. All the player characters have a ton of animations, of course, and so do the enemies. You can see Foot Soldiers doing all sorts of goofy stuff, like stealing a tire off the Party Wagon, playing Game Boy, and carrying pieces of Krang's suit around. There's a ton of detail and variety in the backgrounds, too. I also love the cutscenes in between each level. They don't have much animation, but they use huge beautiful sprites, just like back in the day.
The soundtrack is also really good. It has a few remixes of old tunes from the arcade games, lots of very 80s pop rock, a new version of the cartoon theme song sung by Mike Patton from Faith No More, and a new track from Tee-Lopes with vocals from Ghostface Killah and Raekwon from the Wu-Tang Clan. Yeah, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon rapping about pizza and the Ninja Turtles. It's crazy. A lot of the voice actors from the cartoon also came back for this game, and they earned their payday. There's tons of quips and Cowabungas all throughout the game.
TMNT Shredder's Revenge isn't just a nostalgic romp, it's legitimately one of the best beat 'em ups in recent years. It has amazing combat, great online with rollback netcode, beautiful graphics, a totally tubular soundtrack, and awesome VOs. There's something for everyone here, whether you're a Turtles fan, or just a fan of beat 'em ups in general.