If you were a kid like me in the early '90s, you probably hold a special place in your heart for Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade games. More than 30 years later, those games remain some of the finest beat 'em ups ever produced, and I cherish my memories of playing them on Super Nintendo and in arcades like Major Magic's. The sheer quality of those games made the characters video game icons in those days, and developer Tribute Games has attempted to recapture that magic with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge.
When the game opens, Bebop and Rocksteady have taken over the Channel 6 newsroom as part of Shredder's plot to rebuild Super Krang and gain revenge on the Ninja Turtles. From the start, players can control the four brothers: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and my personal favorite, Donatello. In a major change from past TMNT games, the heroes in a half-shell are accompanied by Master Splinter and April O'Neil, and all six are available from the start of Shredder's Revenge. Once players have completed the game's story, Casey Jones becomes available as a seventh playable character. The characters also play and feel distinct from one another, with different attributes and different super attacks. As a result, players have more of an incentive to try out each one to find the best fit.
Players will notice that Tribute Games and Dotemu clearly have a lot of love for the Ninja Turtles brand. In almost every conceivable way, Shredder's Revenge feels like a direct follow-up to Turtles in Time. If you've ever played either of the TMNT arcade games, you'll know all the basic mechanics and intricacies and have no trouble diving right into Shredder's Revenge. There are tons of Easter eggs, too (check out the clock in the background during the final boss fight). However, the game goes beyond references to Konami's classics, pulling out obscure characters and action figures that have barely been seen in decades. The passion for the IP radiates throughout every stage.
That passion extends to the game's presentation. The graphics are crisp and vibrant, and the character animations are excellent. The game has a great sense of humor, too; I couldn't help but laugh every time I saw a Foot Soldier working at a taco stand, or playing a Game Boy. The audio is equally strong. The voice acting is great, and the music is perfection. Some of the tracks are so good they made me go back and play the levels again just to hear them a second time.
The same adventure takes place regardless of whether you choose the game's Story Mode or its Arcade Mode. Both modes seem similar, but they offer a number of key differences. Story mode automatically saves the player's progress and features a map that allows travel back to previously played levels. Players can also level up to unlock new abilities, and alternate between the heroes. Arcade mode features the exact same levels, but it's much closer to the classic arcade experience; there are a limited number of lives, no map, no saves, and players must stick to the hero they chose at the start. It's nice to have both of these options available, but I really wish the Story Mode had included the ability to create multiple save files.
One of the bigger concerns I had going into Shredder's Revenge is that it would offer too difficult an experience. A lot of modern beat 'em ups like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game have really upped the difficulty factor, and that wouldn't be true to the original TMNT titles. Thankfully, Tribute Games struck the right balance as far as difficulty is concerned. I completed story mode on the medium difficulty level, and while there were challenges, it never felt frustrating. The game's 16 levels are pretty brisk, lasting about six to eight minutes in length. As a result, Shredder's Revenge is pretty short, but that's to be expected considering its arcade roots. Multiplayer sessions and leaderboards should extend the experience for most, but buyers should keep the short length in mind before they commit.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge distills all the components that made me fall in love with Konami's games as a kid while adding just a handful of modern features and extras to make the experience feel modern. In a way, it's a lot like Sonic Mania, another lovingly crafted title created by fans of the older games. At its core, Shredder's Revenge feels incredibly similar to titles like Turtles in Time and The Hyperstone Heist. This isn't a revolutionary reimagining, but that's probably not what any TMNT fan wanted to see, myself included – it's been more than 30 years since those games released, and it was long past time to play the hits. Shredder's Revenge is over too quickly, but TMNT fans will be grinning from ear to ear right until the credits roll.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge is set to release June 16th on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch OLED.