TMNT Shredder’s Revenge: All that you hoped for and more
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A shell of an achievement
No sense mincing words around this one – they did it, folks. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge not only lives up to the nostalgia it’s (at least partially) trading on, it’s a fantastic beat-’em-up in its own right and will deservedly stand beside the Konami classics in the years to come. Isn’t that a wild thing to read? I hope so, because it was wild to write. I had zero expectation whatsoever that Shredder’s Revenge would ever be this good. Not only was it up against the avowedly excellent belt scrollers of yore, it was going head-to-head with the most seemingly-insurmountable beast of them all – my personal nostalgia. And while it can’t quite occupy the space that Turtles in Time holds within my rapidly-balding head, I won’t pretend there weren’t a few times during my first playthrough of Shredder’s Revenge in which I said to myself – quietly, as if fearful – “This may be the better game.”
The quickest way to “review” Shredder’s Revenge in a way that will land with everyone reading is as follows: the game is as good as it looks. And it looks great, with its big, chunky, fun spritework that’s all beautifully animated without compromising the mechanical crunch that made Streets of Rage 4 so good. That’s not to say this is a reskin of such, just that the game captures that unmistakeable adrenaline rush of beating the living piss out of a bunch of guys with a combat engine that’s (clichéd game journo sentence time) simple to get to grips with, but with an enormous amount of depth for those who put in The Work.
There’s scope here for combos, juggles, melding moves in a way that feels organic. Like… if you think you can do it, the game will let you. I tried a dodge roll into a back kick to launch an enemy, holding the attack button on said kick and releasing to perform another powerful move at the end of that combo. That’s just a simple example, but it felt right. Everything here feels right and good.
So let’s talk the basics. You’ve got your six playable characters (he said knowing there’s a secret seventh) and all of them play and feel differently. That’s pretty remarkable to begin with, as the four playable Turtles all feel distinct and enjoyable to handle. April O’Neil is the fast, weak one. Splinter is the slow, powerful one. Splinter’s a machine, mate. Absolutely crushes the bosses if you’ve got the skill. Which you should, because there’s no dancing around it – on the normal difficulty, Shredder’s Revenge is not a difficult game.
And that’s fine, because the addition of six-player gameplay turns the proceedings into more of a party game atmosphere than the robust and mechanically empowering beat-’em-up that’s lurking under the surface. Sometimes it’s all surface, and that’s nothing to complain about. Homages, then. The nostalgia bubble that’s fit to burst. Shredder’s Revenge honours the past without wallowing in it. Yes, you’ll fight Bebop and Rocksteady. Yes, you’ll fight Baxter Stockman. But there are also new enemies; the dual boss fight with Groundchuck and Dirtbag is an early challenge, and a battle with Tempestra is memorable for reasons I won’t spoil. There are many, many more bosses – the game swells with 16 stages – but the only other one I want to highlight is the brilliant battle with Metalhead. Many of his poses and attacks are taken directly from Turtles in Time, only spruced up and interspersed with brand new moves. It’s actively brilliant, as is nearly everything in the game. Nearly.
There’s one thing I don’t like, and it’s sort of personal and finicky. Each level in the game has challenges to complete, and sometimes they’re along the lines of “don’t take damage”. Fair enough for a broad sort of challenge mode, I think, but what it effectively means is that in-game you’re going to take a hit from one of the Foot’s flying kicks, and a big red “CHALLENGE FAILED” will pop up. It’s just… a bummer, a downer. You got hit, yes, you lost health – that’s the punishment. Don’t tell me I failed, I already know that. Tell me if I succeed. Boost me, don’t demean me.
Anyway, Christ, what can I say? That small complaint aside – and a tiny bit of slowdown on Switch when things got really busy – Shredder’s Revenge is a total home run for Dotemu, easily the best Turtles game in thirty bastard sodding years.
Is it better than Turtles in Time? In my head, yes. In my heart, no. But the heart can’t be trusted. I love this game and you’ll love it too.