If you visited arcades in the late 80’s or early 90’s you surely remember the golden age of beat ’em up gaming. closets like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The simpsons, X-Men and more followed a pretty simple formula: take a popular franchise and have its characters slice through swathes of villains, throw in some environmental challenges to keep the levels from repeating themselves, and top it all off with a big boss fight at the end . But the real draw was the multiplayer – these games let four or even six friends (or strangers) play at the same time, a totally messy but exciting shared experience.
Given the popularity of the TMNT franchise, it’s no surprise that both the original arcade game and its sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time were both ported to the NES and SNES respectively. As teenagers, my best friend and I would spend countless hours playing these ports, as well as the arcade games on the rare occasions that we would pop into the mall.
I clearly have a lot of nostalgia for these games, and I’m not alone. Last year developer announced Tribute Games Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, a brand new beat ’em up title inspired by the arcade games of yesteryear. The game features retro pixel art, two different game modes, online and local multiplayer (up to six players online) and seven playable characters including the four turtles, Master Splinter, April O’Neil and Casey Jones. On the surface it seems to have everything one could want from a modern take on an arcade classic, and Tribute’s comments ahead of the game’s release showed a deep love for the source material.
Play after a week Shredder’s revenge On the Xbox Series S, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch, I can attest that Tribute has absolutely accomplished its mission of bringing the classic TMNT experience into the modern age. It all starts with the art style and music, both of which are spot on for this franchise; It feels like a natural progression from the original two arcade games, both of which were largely based on the 1987 animated film (rather than the comics, live-action films, or more recent animated series). The music sets the tone straight away – Tee Lopes’ score immediately evokes classic 16-bit melodies, Mike Patton plays the opening theme, and Raekwon and Ghostface Killah also contribute. While the music isn’t quite as compelling as the soundtrack of turtles in time (which ) is, it is reminiscent of the basic mood in which you played with your friends in an amusement arcade in the early 90s.
The gameplay basics of previous games are all intact here – each playable character has different strengths and weaknesses like range and speed, but they’re not so different that you feel thrown by the player swap. The core game is still primarily performed with two buttons: attack and jump.
But there’s a lot more movement than in previous games, including a variety of throws, slides, air attacks, and dodges. Dashing lets you perform various slide and charge attacks, you can grab enemies and throw them right at the TV screen (just like you did in turtles in time), there’s a dodge button to help you dance out of trouble, and there’s a variety of different air moves. And unlike older games Shredder’s revenge features unique animations for each movement that each character can perform in the game. While the gameplay doesn’t differ fundamentally between each character, the different graphics for all four turtles and their friends keep things looking fresh.
As with any good beat ’em up, each character has their own special move. Unlike old arcade games where using a special would typically drain some of your health, these moves are tied to a power bar that fills as you string together longer and longer hit combos. When it’s full you can perform a special move or save it for later use. It’s a nice way to allow players to avoid using special attacks all the time, and adds a bit of strategy to the otherwise chaotic melee combat.
Another way Tribute does Shredder’s revenge The story mode of the game feels more modern. You can level up your character over time, which unlocks more health, extra lives, and new special attacks. You’ll also eventually have the ability to stack multiple special moves – if you fill up your bar and bench a move, you can keep filling it up and keep two and eventually three in reserve – or you can explode all three at once in one wild super attack. Story mode also lets you re-enter levels to find hidden items or complete the achievement goals for each level (things like taking out 10 enemies with a special attack, or making it without taking damage). And you can switch your character between levels instead of staying tied to a turtle for the entire game.
Arcade mode, on the other hand, is for old-school fans looking for a tougher challenge. The gameplay is simple: choose a character and fight your way through all of the more than a dozen levels of the game before you run out of lives and have to move on. You have the benefit of expanding your health bar to its maximum capacity and unlocking all of your special moves – but given the number of stages in this game, it won’t be easy, especially on the intense “knocky” difficulty.
All of this makes for a fun single player experience, but – just like the arcade games of the ’90s – Shredder’s revenge really shines in multiplayer. You can have up to four players in local co-op, or a crazy six players online. It’s a glorious amount of chaos, but it’s surprisingly well managed. The difficulty of the game increases depending on how many people you play with. That usually just means more enemies and bosses that can take more damage.
Unfortunately, cross-play isn’t currently supported – Xbox and PC players can team up, but PlayStation and Switch players must be playing the same version as their friends if they want to work together. The good news is that getting a game started with strangers isn’t hard either. It’s not quite as fun as playing with people you know, but the game definitely feels more alive when you have at least one pair to take on Shredder and the Foot clan.
It all adds up to a game that’s a lot more fun than I expected. Nostalgia goes far, though Shredder’s revenge manages to act as a love letter to games of the past while still feeling fresh. It’s just incredibly satisfying to team up with a bunch of friends and mow down an endless swarm of enemies. That was true in the 90s and is still true today.
Of course, it helps if you have some affection for the TMNT franchise, but even if you don’t, the tight gameplay, addictive soundtrack, and great co-op features should be enough to make you enjoy it Shredder’s revenge. And if you grew up playing arcade games or their home console counterparts, this new adventure is a must. That’s especially true if you have friends to play it with, either on the web or online.
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