Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge Review

June 20, 2022

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is tight. Both “tight” in the way Michelangelo would describe a new skateboard and “tight” in the way Leonardo leaves little room for anything other than his focus.

It’s Tight 🤙

It’s awesome! Righteous! Bossa nova… er… Chevy Nova? Excellent! In the words of the ’90s youth, it’s tight!

Many reviews have already pointed out how awesome Shredder’s Revenge is. It absolutely rules. It’s a must-play arcade throwback. It’s way more than retro-cool. It’s the best nostalgia trip you’ll ever have. It’s heckin’ dope.

The game overwhelming succeeds at recreating the ’80s/’90s TMNT arcade beat-em-up experiences. If you spent any time with the original TMNT arcade game (arcade/NES), Turtles in Time (arcade/SNES) or Hyperstone Heist (Sega Genesis), you’ll find the familiar variety of foot soldiers, patterns of obstacles to dodge while riding cheapskates and hoverboards, mutant (and robot) baddies from across the franchise, pizza boxes, and quotes likes, “Turtle Power!” and, “Ugh… shellshocked”.

In addition to the familiar, the level designs feature lovingly handcrafted pixel art by Juanito Medina that feels like it was ripped right out of the cartoon — colors pop, tiny details strewn about — with those aforementioned foot soldiers taking part in the scenes as office workers or checkout clerks. You’ll uncover cameos from the first two seasons of the original 1987 cartoon. The turtles themselves — voiced by the actors from the original cartoon series — feature their own unique stats and animations. And not only can you play as the four titular heroes, but you can also play as Splinter, April O’Neil, and Casey Jones. There are even clever nods to the legacy of TMNT video games: The overworld map resembles the overworld map from the original NES game, and — follow me here — a video game-based villain from the original cartoon summons other villains from an old TMNT video game who originally appeared in one of the films. (Spoiler: Tokka and Rahzar from the TMNT 2: The Secret of the Ooze film are villains in the arcarde/SNES game Turtles in Time. In Shredder’s Revenge, Tempestra — a villain who escapes a video game in the original cartoon — can summon the arcade versions of Tokka and Rahzar, seemingly from an in-game version of Turtles in Time. Radical!) It even plays homage to other classic fighting games:

Of course, just like a classic beat-em-up, Shredder’s Revenge is designed for co-op play. Unlike the TMNT beat-em-ups of yore, Shredder’s Revenge allows up to 6-player co-op. As of this review, I’ve only gone as far as to play 4-player co-op which was utter chaos (in the best possible sense). I cannot imagine what mayhem 6-player co-op brings.

Perhaps the best part of the Shredder’s Revenge experience is the ability to jump in to a random party’s game. During stage select, you can pull up a menu of other parties currently playing that level, which characters they’re playing as, and how far along they are in the level. At the press of a button, you can jump right into their game and fight alongside their party. The experience mimics the feeling of seeing an empty seat at an original 4-player TMNT arcade cabinet, dropping in a quarter, and joining the other three strangers players in their quest to best the Technodrome.

Some of the voice acting feels like a miss, and the final bosses aren’t particularly challengeing. But overall, the game rips!

It’s Tight 🪢

TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is billed as a throwback/sequel to the original TMNT beat-em-up games. And that’s exactly what it is. Full stop. Even with all that’s new, the game is extremely focused. While it’s jam-packed full of character(s), there isn’t an ounce of fat on the game. It sets out to recreate the experience shared by many a ’90s mall rat and sticks the landing. 10/10. A perfect video game ass video game. Playing it at age 36 sent me back to playing Hyperstone Heist on my family’s 13-channel TV on loop. Scrolling through Twitter, I’ve come across well over a dozen tweets about parents playing through with their children, sharing an arcade experience from a bygone era.

A Little Too Tight?

Immediately after my first playthrough (as Donatello, of course), I was left wanting, and I felt extremely conflicted by this. I’d gotten what I wanted of the game, but I didn’t feel wholly satisfied. I didn’t want my time as Donatello to be over. It felt like the game was missing something. Side quests. Time trials. More Easter eggs to uncover. But that’s not the point of this game.

It’s probably not a shock to anyone reading this that video games are packed with optional tasks and mini-games. I’d be quick to point to the recently released Kirby and the Forgotten Land as an example of a game that tactfully blends the critical path with side-missions/time-trials, town restoration, power ups, and collectables, but this isn’t a new concept. Super Mario Bros. 3 was full of little mini-games, alternative paths, and secrets. Perhaps it’s the overworld map in Shredder’s Revenge that led my imagination to wonder if there was more to this game than its 16 levels. The routes off of the critical path tease, only leading to fetch-quest status screens from the extra characters discovered during the game’s story. There’s a list of achievements to complete, but I had tackled 70% of those after my first story run and one online level. Essentially, once you’ve completed the story, all that’s left to do is to play the game again.

It’s completely unfair to ask of more from this masterpiece, but nonetheless, here I am wanting. This feeling must be akin to seeing Star Wars (A New Hope) in theaters in 1977. Audiences had just experienced something special, but what next? Surely there’s more magic in that galaxy, but the the only way to feel it was to watch the film again.

Turtle Power

Amongst friends and family, I’m considered “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Guy”. Whenever someone is watching one of the movies, stumbles upon an old toy, or catches the annual float during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I’m notified… and I love it! I own the original set of action figures in their boxes, have the entire 1987 cartoon series, rewatch the original movie annually, own movie and video game soundtracks on vinyl, and used to run a TMNT blog.

But truthfully, my fandom only runs as deep as the ink of my (bad) TMNT tattoo. I hadn’t rewatched any of the original cartoons since elementary school, rarely if ever dabbled in any new video game releases, and ceased following the franchise once I started investing more time in Zero Counts (and, you know, my career). Yet, I still appreciate every text message and memento sent my way. And I actually do see the turtles as a part of my identity; personas I often reflect upon. But I’d begun to feel detached from the franchise. A lapsed “fan for life”.

When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge was announced, I felt an excitement for the franchise I hadn’t felt in a decade. The game looked like everything I’d remembered of those classic games with additional fidelity that brought the art direction to closer parody with the original cartoon. When I learned that the original voice cast of the turtles would be reprising their roles and Splinter, April O’Neil, and Casey Jones would be playable characters, my excitement went through the roof. The mention that there would be plenty of nods to the franchise and Easter eggs from the original cartoon prompted me to begin rewatching the show while feeding my newborn daughter during the middle-of-the-night. (We’re through the first two seasons and it holds up!) All this is to say that this game has rekindled my affection for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Not only is it true to the arcade games my nostalgia so deperately yearns to relive, but I can feel the care, craft, and love that went into the game. All at once, I felt like I was back in the arcade, watching Saturday morning cartoons, and having an overnight pizza party with my best friends. It’s one of the most wonderful nostalgia trips I’ve experienced and it only makes me want more.

Tight 🤙