The classic arcade brawler hasn’t really aged well in this new millenium. These once ubiquitous games where one to six players picked their fighter and took to the streets to pound the living hell out of mostly faceless bad guys were huge in their day.
FInal Fight, Double Dragon, Bad Dudes, Ninja Warriors, X-Men and countless more ate our quarters like candy. Yet, for so many arcade dwellers of the late 80s and early 90s, Konami’s 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles still holds a special place in our blipping, pixelated hearts.
The bright, garish colors and cartoon-style graphics mesh perfectly with its zany characters and over-the-top action to create one of the best examples of four-player arcade action ever. Of course, nostalgia is a tricky thing and so many revamps, modern sequels, and reboots of those 80s games tend to fall flat in this strange modern timeline.
When Dotemu announced they were making a direct sequel to the original TMNT arcade game, we (as in, some of us older gamer types) got excited anyway.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge Review – A New Blast from the Past
There were a lot of reasons to trust Dotemu with our childhood memories. The publisher has a strong history of porting retro PC, console, and arcade games to modern platforms. Working with developer Tribute Games, this dynamic duo already proved they could handle the great weight of childhood expectations with their superb Streets of Rage 4 (seriously, it’s a fantastic classically-themed brawler. Go and get it).
TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge works so perfectly because it’s clear the developers not only love the source material, but understand intrinsically how to recreate that beloved sense of nostalgia in a way that feels both authentic and evolved. This really does come across as a game that could have actually existed in a 1990-era arcade.
Presentation-wise, TMNT is retro joy. The 2D pixelated graphics are pitch perfect to the past, while still looking great. The 16 levels take players all over Manhattan (along with in, under, above, and beyond) and mesh perfectly with the old cartoon. The characters are animated well enough to sport excellent personality and expressions. Controls are simple enough for anyone to just start bashing away, yet the more you play, the more depth you’ll find.
The soundtrack deserves special mention as well. While all the voice work and sound effects are spot on, the 80s-rock score, complete with custom vocal tracks for various levels, is almost enough to make you spontaneously grow big hair and starch your collars. In short, Shredder’s Revenge is a heaping pile of retro love.
TMNT initially lets you choose from six characters: the four turtles, Splinter the rat, and April O’Neil. Beating the game unlocks sports-equipment lover, Casey Jones. The turtles use their signature weapons, Splinter his staff, and April comes equipped with heavy-duty reporter gear (like a mic and camera for bashing heads). Each character has their own unique feel and slightly different basic stats, though are overall equally powered.
Controls are kept simple. Using four buttons, our heroes jump, dodge, basic attack, and super attack. Super attacks are powered by a combo energy bar and help clear packs of enemies, but the bar is reset if you’re hit. The basic attack button mixes things up based on directional and other movement inputs. So, there are an impressive number of potential moves and combos. Aerial bashes, slide attacks, rear strikes, and a variety of throws and fancy weapon play keep the action flowing and entertaining.
The game features a story and arcade mode, which basically use the same levels and plot. The arcade mode is focused entirely on old-school restraints. Limited lives, no ability to switch characters, and no saves make it as close to a classic coin-op experience as you’ll get. The story mode branches things out thanks to an overall world map, hidden secrets to find, minor item collection quests, and a modicum of character progression.
In story mode, your fighter will go up in level, earning more hit points and new moves. Progression is saved and this mode has a more cohesive and lasting appeal compared to the arcade mode. Neither mode is particularly lengthy or full of replay depth, but that was never the goal for this kind of thing. Both modes support drop-in multiplayer for up to six players, although specifics vary depending on platform.
For the PC, Switch, and Xbox versions, local play supports up to six, while PlayStation can handle four players on one console. All versions can handle six players online or some combination of local and online play (although here, the PS4/5 will only allow up to four). The game automatically scales the number of enemies with the number of players to keep the action constant.
TMNT sports three difficulty levels in both game modes as well, so those that want a challenge on par with the original can go harder while casual players can pick easy. We would have liked the walking maps to not be completely scroll locked, as there were times we wanted to backtrack and explore more.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge Review – The Bottom Line
- Up to six players can battle the forces of Shredder across a crazy array of landscapes.
- Controls are simply designed, responsive, and offer surprising depth.
- For fans of TMNT and classic 80s action, this sequel is nostalgic gold.
- We wish we could move around the large maps more freely to explore more.
- Like most arcade-style games, even with the secrets and extras, there’s a limited amount of play here.
If you have a soft spot for classic arcade brawlers of the 80s and 90s, Shredder’s Revenge is a damn near perfect homage and sequel to one of the best of the era. It doesn’t get much better than this.
[Note: Dotemu provided the copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge used for this review.]