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.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time

Going back as far as I can remember, there were three things I loved as a kid more than anything else – Batman, video games, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Dark Knight had been popular ever since his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939 and through Adam West’s run as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the 60’s tv show, before another surge of popularity in the late 80’s with the release of Tim Burton’s film iteration of Batman. Video games had been steadily rising in popularity as a pastime once again thanks to the Nintendo Entertainment System after the industry had been considered dead thanks to market oversaturation by the likes of Atari and Mattel. Those whose childhood years were spent in the late-80’s/early-90’s will most likely know exactly what you’re talking about should you utter the catch phrases “Cowabunga!” or “Turtle Power!” and surely remember how significant the ninja turtle craze of the era was. Just a few examples:

  • cartoons – I had probably a dozen or so VHS tapes I watched religiously(along with the movies)
  • action figures – yup, owned just about every single one. Never got the Turtle Blimp though, sadly…
  • breakfast cereals – the TMNT cereal was my absolute favorite(complete with turtle-shaped bowl)
  • all manner of clothing – lots of pajamas and t-shirts

Of course, there’s been a number of TMNT video games, beginning with the very first games for the NES. I spent a lot of time playing the first game on the family NES, but don’t remember ever getting past the infamous “dam level” where you had to swim through a hazardous underwater maze defusing bombs before the time runs out. One game, that I enjoyed more than any other was TMNT IV: Turtles In Time; I absolutely loved this game as a kid, and, to be honest, anything TMNT was enough to ensure I wanted to play it back then. The game felt taken straight from the animated series, like I was playing something I had on VHS and would pop into the VCR on some random afternoon.

Turtles In Time is an arcade-style beat ’em up game in which you pummel waves of enemies as you make your way through the different levels of the game, with each level progressively adding a greater variety of enemy types, and in greater numbers. Anyone who has ever played a Final Fight or Streets of Rage game will be familiar with the genre already – I considered Turtles In Time to be the Streets of Rage to Battletoads’ Final Fight at the time. The game was developed by Konami, the same as the previous NES games, and initially released as an arcade game in 1991 before finding its way to the Super Nintendo the following year. The SNES version of the game saw the addition of the a couple stages and bosses, as well as a few minor changes to the in-game audio/soundtrack. One of the biggest differences between the arcade and SNES versions is the fact the arcade version features four player co-op, where standard two person co-op is the only option available on the Super Nintendo.

Turtles In Time begins with Krang stealing the Statue of Liberty from Liberty Island as Shredder takes over the tv airwaves, sending a message to our half-shell heroes daring them to try and stop him as they make their way across the streets(and sewers) of New York City shortly afterward, before battling Shredder in the Technodrome. After his defeat, Shredder leaps through a time vortex, traveling backwards in time. The turtles follow Shredder through the past and into the future as they work to foil Krang & Shredder’s diabolical plans once again.

The game features 10 different levels, with the first few stages of the game taking place in NYC and the Technodrome before following Shredder through various historical stages, each one featuring a different boss fight at the end of it. When starting the game, you select one of the four turtles – Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michaelangelo as the gameplay is as straightforward as most other beat ’em ups – see enemy, clobber enemy. Turtles In Time sticks to the traditional formula of: fight a bunch of enemies(with a wider variety of enemies thrown into the mix as the game progresses), face off against boss at the end of level, and repeat. The SNES version of Turtles In Time deviates slightly from the arcade version; in the levels Sewer Surfin’ and Neon Night Riders play like a short bonus level where you navigate surf the sewers of New York City.

The first level on the other side of Shredder’s time machine takes you to the Prehistoric Age where you battle Foot Soldiers and Krang’s Dimension X Rock Soldiers while avoiding falling stalactites in caverns and being trampled by stampeding dinosaurs. The next level finds you battling a swashbuckling Bebop and Rocksteady aboard a pirate ship set in the 1500’s before traveling by train through the 1800’s Old West, culminating with a fight against the Cajun gator, Leatherhead. The game then jumps into the future as you ride your hoverboard through the streets of an unnamed city(ironically set in the year 2020…) on your way to fight Krang in his android body and then to a Space Station, where you will battle Krang for a second time. The final level of the game takes place back in the Technodrome where you square off against Super Shredder as the stolen Statue of Liberty can be seen in the background. I remember thinking it was pretty cool that the SNES version of Turtles In Time had references to the movie, TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze – Tokka, Rahzar, Super Shredder, who were level bosses in the game, despite the movie was only released a year prior.

The game gets a bit difficult towards the end, as most of the Foot Soldiers you face have weapons of their own, the Foot Soldiers sporting projectile weapons are pretty easily the most annoying ones you have to fight. While it may very well be my favorite(?) example of the genre, it still shares many of the same criticisms I have with most beat ’em ups. For as well as the controls themselves typically work, pummeling the numerous enemies on screen isn’t always as easy to accomplish as one would assume due to constantly having to line up your character in the same background/foreground plane as the enemies on screen. Anyone who’s spent any amount of time playing Streets of Rage or Final Fight will undoubtedly know the frustration of rearing back to land a punch on an enemy in front of you, only to swing and miss before quickly finding yourself on the receiving end of a retaliatory attack. This also means it is critical to keeping the on-screen enemies on the same side of your character, as most of the time an enemy won’t immediately attack you, but slowly attempt to wander behind your character and surround you. Again, this is nothing unique to Turtles In Time, but rather something to be expected in beat ’em up games. Fortunately, there’s no enemies in Turtles In Time like the knife-wielding thugs in the Streets of Rage games that will usually take a diagonal path across the screen towards you, making them very difficult to hit…

An enhanced 3D remake of the game titled, Turtles In Time Re-Shelled was released for the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network back in 2009 but was pulled from the store in 2011. This was considered an enhanced 3D remake of the game, which was modeled after the original arcade version of the game and not the SNES version. Not wanting to venture into “rant about Konami” territory, I will add that it’s a shame the once-revered studio doesn’t show greater interest in more(any?) of its many game series; I often bring up how awesome a slightly updated version of some of their older arcade/console games like Turtles In Time or Sunset Riders would be right at home among the many ports and remasters of retro(as well as indie) games on the Nintendo Switch.

Does Turtles In Time still hold up? There’s still a multitude of gamers out there who still hold the game up as one of the best beat ’em ups of the era, if not ever, and I’d be inclined to side with that opinion. The game still plays about as good as it ever did and doesn’t feel as ravaged by the effects of time(travel) like many games released much later than 1992. Turtles In Time manages to capture the essence of what so many loved about the popular animated series, along with a great soundtrack that will end up stuck in your head for hours afterwards. I have so many fond memories of playing the game; it’s still incredibly fun and a must-play for beat ’em up and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans alike.

Thanks for reading and…cowabunga!!