Back in 1984 Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird struck gold when their comic about four turtles saving the world became a minor hit, and then a major one. Three years later Mirage Studios would have a cartoon based upon the book out and Playmates would have an action figure line that coincided with it. As the end of the decade approached Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would become a major franchise that seeped into all facets of pop culture. Video games would be inevitable. Konami would get the video game rights, and proceeded to create some of the best licensed games ever made. Based upon the 1987 cartoon show, these would start out with an adventure game on computer platforms and the NES. But most memorably would be the several beat ’em up titles that spanned across the Arcades, NES, Super NES, Sega Genesis, and Game Boy. Flash forward to today, and it’s an entirely new landscape. But now Tribute has entered the fray with a new TMNT brawler. But does it hold a candle to those old Konami games?
PROS: Terrific pixel art, animation, gameplay, music, and more. 6-player co-op!
CONS: Some minor but annoying bugs. Technical hitches in some versions.
TURTLE POWER: There’s an obvious amount of love for the glory days here.
In a word; yes. Shredder’s Revenge is fantastic. However, I’d be remiss if I told you to expect a carbon copy of the vintage Konami experience. Because while there are plenty of callbacks to the old games, it doesn’t play identically. If you’re coming into this game expecting another Turtles In Time, you’re not going to get that. That’s because Tribute has implemented its own entirely new set of mechanics. Yes, you’ll be mashing the attack and jump buttons. But not in the exact same way you did in the arcade or on your Super Nintendo.
You’ll have an attack button, a jump button, a button for supers (More on that in a bit), and a button for dodges. There is also a button for helping up a friend when they get knocked out when you’re playing multiplayer. You can also do taunts. Beyond that, there is a whole set of underlying mechanics. The biggest of these is a robust combo system that could fit well in a fighting game. You have your typical attacks, but you’ll get auto combos, juggles, air juggles, and more. Beyond that you can get some light tech elements too, allowing you to get up quickly upon falling down.
The combo system is important too. Because throughout the game you’ll need to use super moves to get waves of enemies off of you when they surround you. They’re also very useful in boss fights as they make quick work of many of their health bars. Combos can also have a challenging element in trying to keep your hit counter as high as possible. Every time you get hit by an enemy the counter will reset. If your counter gets reset before your super meter gets filled, you’ll also drain your meter before you can use it, and you’ll have to fill it again before you can use it again. You can also use taunts to try to fill the meter, though if your taunt is interrupted it will be for naught. That said, on lower difficulties you can essentially cheese your way to supers by taunting in between waves of baddies.
There are two main ways to play Shredder’s Revenge. The primary mode is the story mode. This mode plays each of the game’s 16 stages across a map made in the vein of the overworld section in the initial TMNT game on the NES. Playing through each of the stages unlocks a path to the next one, and within each of the stages, classic secondary characters from the original cartoon series can be found. Finding these characters will then place them on their own specific points on the map. Going to these has the characters telling you to find a certain number of items across the campaign. For example one of the characters may want you to find diary entries or another may want VHS tapes. These items then get hidden within the stages so over the course of a few play-throughs you’ll be breaking every conceivable crate, or other destructible pieces of scenery to find them all. If you do, you then drive back to deliver the items to the corresponding character. Find every item and there are little surprises waiting for you at the end of the game.
The story mode also takes a page from the NES version of Double Dragon, where you’ll unlock some moves over time. You can also level up your super meter to three bars, allowing you to have a little bit of an easier time with some of the later levels. Because some of the later stages throw a lot more enemies at you at once. Having the ability to do three supers helps immensely near the end game too.
The other way is the arcade mode. This eschews the map and its character-driven fetch quests. In turn, leaving you with a cut-and-dry experience. You’ll start at stage 1 and power through to stage 16. Playing this way also does away with the story mode’s leveling-up system. So you’ll have to be more selective when deciding when to use a super. The arcade mode also limits the number of continues you can use. To supplement these continues, you can earn 1-Ups throughout the game by earning enough points. At roughly 200 points or so, you’ll earn one. The thing is, each enemy only nets you one or two points. While playing solo this isn’t a big hindrance. But if you’re playing this mode with a group, you’re going to want to divide the workload evenly if you don’t want one player walking away with the lion’s share of lives. Fortunately, the game’s aforementioned help-up function is going to mitigate that.
Over the course of the game, you’ll see it’s very clear the team at Tribute really love the classic cartoon, Playmates action figure line, and vintage Konami brawlers. The pixel art is absolutely fantastic. The characters are very detailed, with expressive facial animations and a slew of frames for each of the many moves. Enemies have that same amount of time and care packed into each and every frame. There are many nods to all of that classic TMNT pop culture too. Many of the vehicles and figures from the classic toyline are represented here. A lot of the 1987 cartoon series is constantly referenced with even minor characters showing up. The Neutrinos, Punk Frogs, Erma, and other part-time players are here alongside your major protagonists and antagonists. Each of the characters controls very well, and the collision detection is mostly very good. There are even a lot of nods to the Konami games of old. For example, when you do the grapple moves, they’re similar animations to the ones you saw in Turtles In Time.
The audio follows that same trend. The chiptunes on display are clearly inspired by Konami’s old classics but it doesn’t end there. There’s a lot of variety with Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop, and Metal tracks. There’s even a track by Mega Ran in the game. Beyond that, they somehow managed to get the budget to bring in some of the original actors from the classic cartoon including Rob Paulsen and Cam Clarke. As such, the cutscenes can get a lot closer to the old arcade experience between stages as you’ll get to hear the fab four (The turtles, not the Beatles) sound off with the supervillains of Dimension X. Beyond that you’ll get to hear some classic voice quips during the combat. The punches, kicks, clangs, and explosions all sound top-notch too.
Again, Tribute has absolutely crushed it when it comes to presentation. Coupled with the excellent gameplay, there’s not too much to complain about here. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a number of things that can stand to be improved upon. The game’s online gameplay is one of the major areas. Depending on which version of the game you’re playing your mileage may vary. I bought the game on both PC (via Steam) as well as the Nintendo Switch (via the Nintendo e-shop). While I didn’t run into any major issues, I did notice the Switch version suffered some slowdown when certain sections of the game got particularly busy. It was also on the Switch I once found myself stuck against a backdrop item when in the middle of a jump kick for a couple of seconds.
And while I didn’t run into any bugs when playing online, my good buddy and fellow Twitch streamer 1UpJohn ran into several major issues when playing the Xbox Series version on Livestream. Players would be invisible. Other times an enemy or boss would be stuck in a grounded frame of animation which in turn would essentially soft-lock the group from being able to progress. These bugs strangely enough only happened to him when playing online multiplayer. Not frequently enough to ruin the game by any means. But they did occur often enough that he had to replay a couple of stages a number of times.
These are some issues to be aware of at the time of this writing. And while in my circle of friends the Microsoft Xbox family had the highest number of occurrences, it doesn’t mean that these problems will never show up on Switch, Playstation, or computer versions. Beyond that, there is also the fact that the aforementioned taunt function abuse can cheese the game. To the point where those who play online with random players, may feel frustrated if they’re not looking to blow through the game with an exploit. Supers in the game do a lot of damage to bosses in particular. Fortunately, playing the game on the hardest setting can mitigate this somewhat.
Hopefully, Tribute will be given the resources to patch out some of these bugs, and possibly rebalance the game so those looking for a little bit more of a challenge can get one. Overall, though this is a fantastic beat ’em up. If you’ve been starved for more belt scrollers this is a solid buy. If you’re a child of the 80s or 90s who grew up with the vintage cartoons and action figures there’s a very good chance you’re going to love this. The amount of care and detail displayed throughout the game shows that the developers had a lot of reverence for that era of the TMNT IP. Nickelodeon could have easily slapped the Turtles on any fly-by-night project for another nostalgic cash grab. Thankfully, that was not the case here. If you’re a TMNT mega-fan there’s a lot to love here. And if you were looking for a 1:1 recreation of the Konami model, you’re not going to find that. This is still very much its own thing. But you should still check it out. There’s enough love of those old games here blended in with everything else you’d be hard-pressed to come away unsated. The gameplay isn’t better or worse than what those old games had on offer, it’s just a bit different.
Sadly, the problems hold it back from being as great as it could be. But it’s still a very enjoyable experience. Perhaps if this game does well enough for Tribute and DotEmu they’ll be able to make equivalent brawlers for some of our other favorite Saturday morning cartoons of a bygone era. Perhaps He-Man and The Masters Of The Universe?
Final Score: 8 out of 10