Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

As someone born in the 80’s, I’ll always have a place in my cold heart for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – my very first obsession as a kid. I sat in the living room in my Donatello pajamas(my favorite turtle), endlessly watching VHS tapes of both the cartoons and movies. There’s also the…sizable collection of TMNT toys that were my prized possessions(along with my Batman toys). Of course, there was no shortage of video games back then either; the TMNT game on the NES is among the first games I remember playing as a kid and like so many others at the time, I could never make it past the infamous dam/bomb defusal level which required pixel-perfect precision to avoid taking damage from the electrified seaweed. My absolute favorite turtles game growing up was TMNT IV: Turtles In Time, which I was all-too-excited to play whenever I found it at an arcade or play the superior SNES version(IMO) at our neighbor’s house. The game remains on my short list of favorite SNES games, right up there with Donkey Kong Country and Super Metroid.

Given my childhood turtlemania, it shouldn’t be the least bit surprising I was pretty stoked to find out a brand new, retro-inspired beat ’em up – Shredder’s Revenge, was to be released. I was also excited to hear Dotemu was publishing the game as Streets of Rage 4 was one of my favorite games of 2020. After patiently waiting for a release date to be announced, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge was released on June 16, 2022. I immediately downloaded the game this past Thursday and finally had the chance to play…which I did all weekend long. It was pretty wholesome seeing so many others on social media excited about the game as they posted pictures of their living room as they celebrated with video games and pizza(totally, dude!).

So…what do I think of the game? Was it worth the wait?

The controls immediately feel familiar and are nice and responsive. I was able to pull off multi-hit combos on waves of Foot Clan soldiers with relative ease. A new addition is the Ninja Meter, which allows you to perform a different special move when filled. There’s also a power level for each character; this acts as a rudimentary xp/progression system which increases attack power while unlocking additional special attacks and uses of the Ninja Meter.  

Shredder’s Revenge is a perfect game for multiplayer; featuring both online and couch co-op for up to six players. Each character in the game has different strengths in regards to speed, strength and reach. For example, Donatello has excellent reach(naturally) and respectable strength, but is much more limited in speed than Michelangelo who has greater speed and moderate strength, but limited reach with his nunchuks. Along with the fab four, Splinter, April O’Neil and Casey Jones are all playable characters posessing unique strengths and weaknesses. Playing through Shredder’s Revenge alongside five others on screen sounds both chaotic AND awesome…  

The sixteen levels are just you’d expect from a spiritual successor to Turtles In Time, or beat ‘em up in general – make your way across an area pulverizing groups of enemies while avoiding the occasional obstacle such as open manhole or electrified floor. There’s also several episodes which take place on skate/surfboards as a (relatively minor)change of pace – think ‘Sewer Surfin’ or ‘Neon Night Riders’. Every single boss battle concluding an episode is fun. I can’t say they’re the most difficult I’ve come across in a beat ‘em up game, but still give enough of a challenge to keep properly engaged throughout. The Krang-operated “Statue of Tyranny” may have been my favorite fight, along with taking on both Bebop and Rocksteady. Of course, there’s a battle with Super Shredder thrown in at the end, just like Turtles In Time.  

The pixelated graphics look as if taken straight from a Super Nintendo game in the 90’s…but even better; the animations are fluid and look amazing. In the dozen or so hours of playing, I’ve only come across one or two minor instances of slowdown when multiple enemies are onscreen.  

Shredder’s Revenge conjures a potent rush of nostalgia not only in regards to visuals or gameplay, but also on an audio level. That familiar crunch of 90’s beat ’em ups is still heard/felt as you pile up hit combos on waves of Foot soldiers. The game also features a fantastic soundtrack in which a number tunes from Turtles In Time are referenced throughout. The soundtrack is also freakin’ awesome and sounds as if it could have been recorded during the era of ripped acid wash jeans and hacky sack – I mean that in the very best of ways. Providing additional 90’s soundtrack vibes is Faith No More frontman Mike Patton covering the vocals for the classic TMNT intro song; there’s even a track by Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon and Ghostface Killah – ‘We Ain’t Came To Lose’ which is much less…Vanilla Ice than ‘Ninja Rap’. To top the game off with a nostalgic bow, the original TMNT voice actors – Cam Clarke, Rob Paulsen, Barry Gordon and Townsend Coleman have returned to reprise their respective roles as Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo.  

The dev team at Tribute Games went on the record in stating their passion for everything Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and wanting it to come across in Shredder’s Revenge – spoiler alert: it absolutely does. The game is celebration of everything kids like me loved about the cartoons and games in the late 80’s and onward. It retains the key elements that made games like Turtles In Time so memorable, all while adding a few modern flourishes to the mix. In short, I think the game is simply awesome and is cannot recommend it enough to turtle fans young and old.


Streets of Rage 4

Since childhood, I’ve always had a fondness for arcade-style brawlers like Double Dragon, Final Fight and Streets of Rage. Some of my most vivid childhood memories are playing Streets of Rage on my Genesis. I remember renting Streets of Rage 3 and nearly beating it, I reached the final boss fight playing as Dr. Zan but ran out of continues before having to return the game the next morning. Anyone who has played these type of games can tell you the experience is greater having a friend or sibling to play co-op with you. Streets of Rage 3 was released in 1994, the next several years would see a couple of attempts to create a sequel get canceled and fans wondered if they would ever see another Streets of Rage game. This past Thursday, the long-awaited Streets of Rage 4 was released after being officialy announced in August of 2018. Following up on last week’s post about another classic beat ’em up – Capcom’s Knights of the Round, I wanted to write up a brief summary of some of my thoughts about the game.

Streets of Rage 4 in-game storyline takes place ten years since the end of Streets of Rage 3(though released 26 years later in real-life). The villainous Mr. X has since been defeated, but his children, known as the Y Twins have taken over their father’s criminal empire in Wood Oak City. Blaze Fielding, one of the main protagonists in all three previous games as well as general badass, gets wind of the new crime syndicate operating in the city and places a call to former ally Axel Stone to once again begin cleaning up the streets. Axel and Blaze are also accompanied by Cherry Hunter, daughter to Adam Hunter – playable character in prior games as well as SoR4 and an assistant to Dr. Zan named Floyd, who represents the strong, but slow character in the game.

The game begins with four playable characters, along with Adam Hunter who joins the game as a playable character after a few levels. There’s also an additional twelve unlockable characters to use once you reach enough points; every playable character in the previous three games is available to use, each in their 16-bit, pixelated glory. The only exception to this is Roo, the boxing glove-wearing marsupial is not unlockable, though they do appear in the background of one of the levels…as a bartender. Ah, the 90’s…picking up turkeys found in garbage cans, and kangaroos with boxing gloves beating the crap out of people with names like Condor, Honey, and Y. Signal.

Back to basics

Fans of the genre will know exactly what to expect in Streets of Rage 4 – moving from the left side of the screen to the right while brawling with anyone who dares get in your way. The simple premise exemplifies what players love about beat ’em ups, they’re easy to pick up and play, but rarely ever considered EASY games. It was an accomplishment to see a game like Final Fight or Streets of Rage to the end without running out of continues(or quarters), even with a buddy fighting alongside you.

The developers at Dotemu knew they need not revolutionize the genre with a beloved series like Streets of Rage, but merely refine what players love about the games. The combat feels just as you would remember SoR2 on the Sega Genesis, perhaps with an even smoother feel and response this time around. Streets of Rage 4 perfectly encapsulates the tone and feel of a series that hasn’t seen a sequel in over 20 years.

Rather than simply trying to replicate the 16-bit graphics of the previous Streets of Rage games, all of the characters and animations in SoR4 are hand-drawn. This being the biggest difference to prior games as they all otherwise feature tight gameplay and a great soundtrack. Speaking of great soundtracks, the in-game music is phenomenal and features tracks from Olivier Deriviere with original composers Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima contributing as well. You know those soundtracks that you find yourself wanting to listen to when you’re not even playing the game? Streets of Rage 4 is definitely among those. The synth-heavy compositions feel like a modernized version of those heard in late 80’s/early 90’s movies and I love it.

Streets of Rage 4 features number of different game modes in addition to the main story. There’s a boss rush mode as well as a battle mode which sounds eerily reminiscent to the 1v1 game modes in Double Dragon. Those wishing to experience the game as closely as possible to playing it on a Sega Genesis can play Arcade Mode which challenges players to complete all 12 stages in one sitting with a set number of continues. You can even turn on the retro soundtrack from the very start of the game. There aren’t a great number of modern conveniences other than the game autosaving after each level and online co-op. I haven’t tried out the game in co-op yet, but the ability to play 4 player online co-op sounds intriguing.

For everything that there is to love about old-school beat ’em ups in Streets of Rage 4, the familiar annoyances also exist. Many times it feels as if enemies will simply dance around you as you are unable to move as quickly and the sometimes frustrating trademark of your attacks not connecting because you aren’t precisely on the same plane of background/foreground remains. I did become a bit frustrated at times when enemies are able to attack you diagonally when it’s near impossible for you to do the same. Once I remembered to start using the directional double-tap to actually move faster than a slow, plodding walk the game became slightly less frustrating. Also, in nearly every beat ’em up game you have the ability to perform a special attack which can deal damage to multiple enemies at once. This comes at a cost, as it takes a small portion of your health bar every time you use it, however, I really appreciated the fact that you are given a few moments to land a few basic attacks to regain any potential health lost from using a special attack.

No beat ’em up game is complete without an elevator level…

Streets of Rage 4 is an example of a sequel to a popular franchise knowing exactly what its player base desired from it and delivering. Everything that you loved about previous games is present, along with just about everything that frustrated you. SoR4 doesn’t revolutionize the genre, but is content to provide more of what works. Beat ’em ups tend to be dismissed as just a bunch of button mashing, which at worst, is true of many of them. Streets of Rage 4 is not a deep game by any means, but its beauty is in the simple, yet silky smooth gameplay, stylish animations and absolutely fantastic soundtrack. Longtime fans of the series will be more than satisfied with the simple fun provided by SoR4 and for those unsure about spending the $25, it was a Day 1 Xbox Game Pass release, which is pretty awesome. I know many others out there who would love to see other classic Sega games like Golden Axe get the same treatment…

Did you pick up Streets of Rage 4? What did you think about it? Let me know. Thanks for reading!