Released: 16 June 2022
Developer: Tribute Games
Also Available For: Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S
Like many kids back in the eighties or nineties, I was super into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT, known as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles here in the United Kingdom), which dominated playgrounds years before Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (1993 to 1996) and Pokémon (1997 to present) with the popular cartoon, toys, and, of course, videogames. Although a toned down version of the original Mirage Comics characters, the TMNT were unbelievably popular at the time and this was reflected in their videogames; Konami’s original arcade title was one of the defining titles of the beat-‘em-up genre (despite being a bit limited in terms of its content and combat), the first TMNT title on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was one of the quintessential games that defined what it meant to be “NES Hard”, and the Heroes in a Half-Shell have seen quite a bit of success in a variety of genres, though beat-‘em-ups like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (Konami, 1991) were regarded as some of the team’s best. Considering their track record with beat-‘em-up, it’s fitting that Tribute Games and Dotemu were behind this loving throwback to the TMNT’s heyday; inspired by these titles and the popular cartoon, the game saw the return of many of the original voice cast to the franchise, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge was met with universal critical acclaim upon launch as reviews gushed over the visual presentation, the references to the TMNT’s rich history, and the arcade-style beat-‘em-up gameplay.
With Bebop and Rocksteady assaulting Channel 6 and stealing pieces of Krang’s robotic body as part of Oroku Saki/The Shredder’s latest twisted plan, the TMNT and their allies must take on some of their most memorable enemies in a journey that will take them from the streets of Manhattan to the dank sewers and all the way to Dimension X!
Like the classic TMNT videogames from the arcade era, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a 2D, sidescrolling beat-‘em-up in which you and up to five other plays take control of one of the four titular mutant turtles or one of their allies and battle through wave upon wave of Foot Soldiers and other enemies across sixteen stages. If you’ve ever played the original arcade release of Turtles in Time (or even more modern releases, like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (Ubisoft Montreal, 2010) and Streets of Rage 4 (Dotemu, Lizardcube, and Guard Crush Games, 2020)) then you’ll be more than familiar with the criteria and the controls: simply move from the left side of the screen to the right, tapping the control stick or directional pad to run and using A to jump and X to attack, repeatedly tapping the button to string together simple combos. The controls are fully customisable so you can set them to whatever works best for you, but I found the default settings to be more than adequate, and the game includes an optional ‘How to Play’ mode that runs you through what the characters are capable of. I mentioned Scott Pilgrim just now and that’s an appropriate comparison as the characters in Shredder’s Revenge will level up to a maximum level of ten the more you fight and play, increasing their gauges and unlocking additional moves to use.
Streets of Rage 4 is also an appropriate comparison considering Dotemu developed both that and Shredder’s Revenge, and there are some similar mechanics here: B allows you to perform a backflip (or a hop with some characters) to avoid attacks or launch into a reverse attack with X, you’ll grab enemies automatically when standing close to them and can toss them, fling them at the screen, or slam them, pressing A when running performs a sliding attack, and you can press A or B to do a quick wakeup roll or get up faster when knocking down. You can also hold X to charge up a heavy attack and smack enemies upwards for a juggle and, as you pummel enemies, you’ll build up your “Ninja Power” gauge; when full, you can press Y to pull off a special attack that drains this meter rather than your health and sees your character explode in a whirlwind of sais, swords, or nunchakus to take out groups of enemies. When you level-up, this gauge will increase up to three levels, allowing you to perform subsequent special attacks and, eventually, enter “Radical Mode” with the Right Bumper to temporarily increase your speed and attack power at the cost of being able to perform a special attack. Eventually, you’ll be able to press Y in mid-air or out of a backflip to perform different special attacks, and you can also press RB to perform a taunt that leaves you vulnerable but will instantly fill your Ninja Power gauge. When playing with friends, you can perform team attacks simply by attacking the same enemies at the same time; the Left Bumper allows you to high five them to grant them two hit points from your own health meter, and you’ll have ten seconds to revive them when they’re defeated by holding LB (and a slice of pizza) before their downed form.
While all the controls and even the special moves aren’t that different between characters, they do have different attributes; you’ll need to consider their range, speed, and power when selecting a character as guys like Raphael have a short reach, Casey Jones is quite slow and lumbering, and April O’Neil is fast but not particularly powerful. You’ll also want to consider the game’s difficulty settings, with “Chill” offering a very casual experience but “Gnarly” increasing the number and aggression of your enemies, and the additional challenge offered by the “Arcade” mode, which limits your lives and continues and features no save progression for a more authentic arcade experience. The main story mode sees you travelling to and from stages (referred to as “Episodes”) using a world map, which is easy to navigate and allows you to replay previous missions to level-up further or find any collectibles you missed. In stages, you’ll find plenty of things to smash to uncover power-ups and collectibles, but these can also help fend off enemies, such as fire hydrants to blast them back, explosive barrels, and smacking cameras, shopping trolleys, or traffic cones. Enemies can also toss things at you, though, and will often burst up from manholes or behind billboards and such, which then act as pits for you to fall down and other stage hazards, like electrical wires, spikes, freeze blasts, and subway trains are also present. The enjoyable mindless beat-‘em-up action is somewhat broken up by a handful of Episodes that see you rocketing along the streets or through the skies on a skate/hoverboard, taking out similarly-equipped and flying enemies with the full range of your attacks still available to you. Jump-kicking flying enemies can be a little tricky to judge, however, even with their shadows being on screen and, in the event that you do exhaust all your lives, you’ll need to restart the Episode from the very beginning.
Graphics and Sound:
Shredder’s Revenge opts for absolutely gorgeous sprite work for its in-game graphics to make it seem like a modern version or update of the classic TMNT arcade titles. All of the sprites are big, colourful, and packed full of character; all of the playable characters have different idle and movement animations, so Splinter hobbles along on his cane, Michelangelo flails about when running, and characters swing about their weapons and comment when left standing still. Many of the voices from the original cartoon return to voice their respective characters, though this is limited to in-game outbursts and comments rather than full-on voice acting. Even the enemies have a great deal of personality; you’ll see Foot Soldiers chilling out, blending in in the background, playing Game Boys, eating ice cream, and many other amusing sight gags that encourage multiple playthroughs and all the moves, combos, and controls are so slick thanks to how well done the sprite work and animation is. There’s loads of Easter Eggs packed into Shredder’s Revenge, from enemies using some of the toy vehicles to graffiti or recognisable elements dotted all over the place, and references to the original arcade release, Turtles in Time, the live-action movies, and, of course, the original cartoon frequently cropping up so you’ll probably spot something new each time you play.
If you’ve played the original arcade game or Turtles in Time, many of Shredder’s Revenge’s locations will be immediately familiar; you’ve got the streets of New York, the rat-infested sewers and subway tunnels, the Channel 6 building (including the kitchen, a cooking show, and the office where you’ll find the likes of Irma, Burne Thompson, and Vernon Fenwick), the dingy alleys and high-speed skies of the city (where you’ll see the TMNT blimp in the background and the Foot attacking the Statue of Liberty), and eventually the jungles, wilds, and technological nightmares of Dimension X. There are also more colourful locations, like the fairground and attractions of Coney Island (where you’ll briefly battle across a beach and find the Punk Frogs), the cages and animals of the Central Park Zoo (where monkeys toss bananas at you and rhinos and warthogs stampede across the stage), and the creature comforts of the Crystal Palace Mall (where you’ll smash through barriers, ride escalators, and destroy arcade machines). There are, of course, a couple of instances where you’re trapped on an elevator and must fend off waves of goons and, while there’s not much focus on vertical traversal, stages often have multiple areas to help keep things visually interesting. The music is pretty much standard TMNT fare but there’s some fun inclusions from the likes of Lee Topes and (surprisingly) Raekwon and Ghostface Killah; even Mike Patton of Faith No More does a rocking cover version of the classic TMNT theme song. Speaking of which, this iconic intro is lovingly recreated and expanded upon through a slick animated sequence, while the remainder of the game’s cutscenes are rendered using either the in-game graphics or larger sprite work with text boxes just like in the old games.
Enemies and Bosses:
As is pretty much always the case for a TMNT videogame, you’ll primarily be battling through the seemingly endless hordes of the robotic Foot Clan; these multi-coloured ninjas come in a variety of forms, from the standard purple variant to blue, yellow, pink, and black, with each one wielding a different weapon. Some fire arrows or plungers, others can tangle you up in their whips, while others have katanas, axes, lances, or shields and can block your attacks. Some will be able to disappear in a puff of ninja smoke and toss daggers at you, while others drive motorcycles or the Foot Cruiser or pilot a spider-like mech that can only be damaged when the pilot is dizzy from missing a big axe handle smash. You’ll also encounter smaller robotic enemies, such as Roadkill Rodneys they grab you with their tentacles or spit out bombs, and Mousers, which can clamp onto you and be spawned by their larger variants. Hulking Triceratons and Stone Warriors can take quite a beating, charge at you, and even protect themselves with forcefields to take pot shots at you. Easily one of the most annoying enemies in the game, however, are the mud-like beasts that resemble the Pizza Monsters; these bastards leap up from the ground, clamping themselves to your face, and can be difficult to get a hit on since they pop up so quickly.
Naturally, you’ll also have to contend with some bigger, tougher bosses; many of these will appear mid-way through the Episode to take hostages, cause havoc, or head off with a piece of Krang’s robotic body, forcing you to pursue them across the stage. Two bosses you’ll encounter on numerous occasions are series staples Bebop and Rocksteady; both are fought alone in the first two episodes, with Bebop blasting laser bolts from his pistol and stunning himself when you avoid his shoulder barge and Rocksteady stomping around while hurling grenades at you. You’ll chase the two down through tunnels and across a bridge in Episode 3, where they attack from the Turtle Tenderiser, a large armoured jeep that erratically veers across the stage while they shoot and toss grenades at you. Later on, after clearing the rooftop stage, you’ll battle both on the ground and at the same time. This is definitely much tougher than the previous fights as their projectiles and physical attacks become much more erratic and aggressive, but it’s not too difficult to isolate one of them or even pummel them both when they’re on the same side of the screen. I was happy to see a number of familiar faces return as bosses throughout the game as well; the Rat King awaits in the sewers, charming a stampede of rats from atop a wrecked Footski with this flute and tossing you about with a whirling-like throw, and Leatherhead is fought at the end of the Coney Island episode, where he randomly hops out from grates to snap at you with his powerful jaws while the Punk Frogs toss barrels and pizzas to help you.
Baxter Stockman attacks (in his human fly form) at the end of the Secret Laboratory episode, hovering just out of reach and blasting at you, firing a gooey fist from his gun, and retreating to the background to blast massive laser cannons across the arena. Recognisable enemies like Tokka and Rahzar also make an appearance courtesy of Tempestra, a villain I’m not actually familiar with but who spawns them in to burp debilitating gas and roll around in a spiked shell and to distract you from attacking her when she’s not protecting herself with a burst of electricity. Shredder reprograms Metalhead to fight you in an electronics shop in the Silicon Alley episode, where he attacks with extendable arms and is accompanied by a bunch of Mousers, General Traag awaits in Balamphon after a descending elevator sequence, shielding himself with a piece of wall panel and blasting at you with a huge bazooka, and one of my favourite TMNT enemies, Slash, stalks you from the jungles of Dimension X and attacks you outside the ruins of the Technodrome, flying in a bladed whirlwind, causing boulders to rain down (and even throwing one at you), and spinning about in a shell attack. There are also a few other somewhat more obscure (at least they were to me) bosses to battle: Groundchuck and Dirtbag attack together, shooting spiked projectiles and digging under the ground to attack with a shovel, respectively; Wingnut battles you in the skies above New York, dashing about at high speeds and firing missiles at you while Foot Soldiers come hovering in (though you can just focus on him for a relatively easy win); Captain Zorax of the Triceratons fights you in the Natural History Museum, blasting at you and ordering a herd of Triceratons to try and flatten you like a pancake; and Chrome Dome confronts you in Balamphon, proving completely invulnerable to conventional attacks and requiring you to fling Foot Soldiers at him when the screen shifts to his first-person perspective in a call-back to the final battle against the Shredder from the original arcade game.
Speaking of the Shredder, he crops up here and there in cutscenes and to sic enemies and bosses after you but won’t actually be fought until the final Episodes of the game. Each time, you must get through Krang first, who also appears (in pieces, in his little walker, or as a floating brain) throughout the story mode as Shredder’s henchmen try and reassemble his disparate parts. After fighting through pretty much every single previous enemy in the Outworld Hideout episode, you’ll fight against Krang in his robotic body. This isn’t too bad as long as you avoid his kick when up close and it’s pretty easy to dodge his mace-like punch from across the screen, but it gets a bit tricky when Krang splits into two parts; his feet stomping and kicking and his torso hovering around and firing lasers. You’ll have to face the Shredder immediately afterwards as well, with the armoured ninja slashing at you up close, flinging you away with a burst of electricity, and duplicating himself for three times the danger and with only one of his doubles being the right one. Once they’re defeated, Krang takes control of the Statue of Liberty and you face his gargantuan form atop a ruined rooftop, not unlike similar massive battles from other beat-‘em-ups and fighting games; your attack range is limited here as Krang smashes his fists and sends you flying with a shockwave, fires a devastating mouth laser, and turns Lady Liberty’s head into a cannon that targets you with an explosive bolt. Foot Soldiers will also swarm into the small platform you’re on, but it’s not massively difficult to pummel Krang up close and avoid his shots to take him out once and for all. Back on the city streets, the Shredder will once again transform into his ultimate form, the hulking Super Shredder, for the final battle of the game; Super Shredder is completely invulnerable and dashes about leaving a trail of flames in his wake. He can also teleport, grab and slam you, and send out waves of flames that you can somewhat easily avoid by staying in the corner furthest from him. He then unleashes an electrical sphere attack that also shields him as his shadowy doubles fire projectiles from the four corners of the screen, but he will eventually succumb to the mutagen’s debilitating effects and be rendered vulnerable for a very short period of time, allowing you to land a quick combo (but be sure to backflip away before he slashes you with a shadowy duplicate).
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Each character comes equipped with their own signature weapons, from Leonardo’s double katana to Casey’s array of sporting paraphernalia, all of which can be utilised with your combos and other attacks, though this does mean that there are no opportunities to pick up and throw weapons so you’ll have to settle for attacking parts of the environment to help you out in a pinch. Onscreen hazards like spikes, electrical bolts, falling lights, and laser turrets can often damage enemies as well, so it’s worth manoeuvring them to be damaged by these, but there are a couple of pick-ups you can find throughout the game, too. Pizza will replenish your health (and you won’t pick it up if you’re at full health, meaning it’s harder to screw over your friends) so be sure to grab that but there are two other pizzas you can get, too; one will grant you an endless Ninja Power gauge for about ten seconds and another sends you into a frenzy, devastating all onscreen enemies with a super special attack. It’s worth playing through as each character as well as they’ll level-up and gain better meters and additional moves, increasing your chances of success on other modes and difficulties.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge has thirty Achievements on offer, with six awarded simply for playing through the story mode. You’ll get Achievements for playing with friends, too, including reviving and high fiving them, and for performing a number of combo attacks. Achievements can also be earned for clearing the “Arcade” mode on higher difficulties and without continues, for defeating the Rat King as Splinter, and for clearing the game as every character, as well as powering each character up to the max and flinging enemies at the screen. Each Episode also comes with three challenges for players to aim for; these range from finishing the stage without taking damage, performing certain moves, or not doing certain things and will add to the points you earn upon completion to aid with your levelling-up. Once complete, you don’t need to worry about redoing these challenges on each playthrough, but it would’ve been nice to see new challenges loaded in each time to help level-up other characters on subsequent playthroughs. Once you clear the game’s story mode, you’ll unlock Casey Jones as a playable character, and you can replay your completed file at any time. Most of the game’s Episodes are also hiding a recognisable TMNT side character, such as the four Punk Frogs or the Neutinos, who’ll then appear on the world map and task you with finding certain items in each Episode (newspapers, bugs, VHS tapes, and crystals); finding all of these will award you extra points to level-up and some Achievements, though they’re pretty easy to find on a casual playthrough. The game allows for local and online co-operative play and is at its most challenging on “Arcade” mode, but sadly doesn’t have too much in the way of unlockables; there are no extra skins or colour palettes (which is a shame as I would’ve liked to see a black and white mode akin to the Mirage Comics or Slash included as a playable character), no versus mode, no boss rush, no gallery or concept art, and the only way you can currently get a physical copy of the game is to get one of the extremely limited and expensive copies offered by Limited Run.
I’ve always been a massive fan of sidescrolling beat-‘em-ups and have long lamented how so many of the classic titles are denied to us on modern consoles due to being discontinued or licensing right and such, and this is true of a great many of the TMNT videogames (at least, for now…) so to see the Heroes in a Half-Shell make such a spectacular, unexpected, and welcome return to form is truly a delight to see and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge was a no-brainer purchase for me. Everything about the game is a love letter not just to the beat-‘em-up titles of the past but to the cartoon and the franchise as a whole; there are enemies, vehicles, bosses, and references to the movies, the comics, and the vast toy line all over the game, but the decision to bring back the cartoon’s voice cast and stick closely to the aesthetic and lore of the popular animated show just adds to the charm and nostalgia of this title. Even better, the added combat options and variety offered by the characters and stages really helps to keep things from getting repetitive; the sheer personality, allure, and cartoony humour etched into Shredder’s Revenge helps to keep the game fast-paced and action-packed from start to finish. The added extras like finding items for some of the TMNT’s supporting characters and offering an extra level of challenge in the “Arcade” mode are welcome additions to help keep you coming back for more, though it’s a shame that more of the additional modes and features from Streets of Rage 4 weren’t included (though I wouldn’t rule out some downloadable content in the future). Ultimately, Shredder’s Revenge proved to be a wonderfully enjoyable throwback to the bygone era of beat-‘em-up TMNT videogames; the presentation, combat, and gameplay was all top notch, offering a fun-filled, action-packed experience that lovingly pays homage to one of the greatest cartoon and toy franchises of the eighties.
Did you enjoy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge? Which of the playable characters was your go-to and what did you think to the original voice cast returning? Did you enjoy the many references and homages to the cartoons and videogames? Which of the stages or bosses was your favourite? Would you like to see more characters and modes added to the game in the future? What are some beat-‘em-ups you’d like to see make a comeback? Whatever your thoughts on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, feel free to sign up to leave them below or drop a comment on my social media.