Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is, against all odds, an eternal franchise. Each generation will have its batch of mutated warriors taking on ninjas throughout New York City that reflects their unique likes and dislikes. It all started with a Saturday morning cartoon that has aged like a bunch of bananas left to rot on a Florida sidewalk. It's delightful to see how cheesy cartoons could be back in the day, but it's nigh-on impossible to watch the old cartoon with genuine enjoyment as an adult, and kids today would tear it apart. Thankfully, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge is now the best way for those who didn't grow up with the original '80s incarnation to experience all the joys of screaming "Cowabunga!" at the top of their lungs.
Developed by Tribute Games and published by DotEmu, Shredder's Revenge is an arcade beat 'em up with an evident pedigree for retro goodness. It follows in the footsteps of Streets of Rage 4 by capturing everything people loved about Konami's old TMNT games and then enhancing everything to modern standards. More impressively, it is a crystallized example of the best of the original TMNT universe. You'd expect a game like this to have Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady alongside Shredder and the Foot Clan, but Tribute also includes a host of characters that only occasionally made it to those old games. If you have a favorite character that appeared more than a couple of times in the old cartoon, they're probably hidden somewhere inside Shredder's Revenge.
The large cast of characters is partially a result of the game's surprising length. Even though it's still short compared to most other genres, Shredder's Revenge will provide TMNT fans with several hours of entertainment on a first run-through, and the game is just as replayable as Turtles in Time. The story mode offers limited collectibles and a way to level up each turtle as you play through levels, but these extra features don't provide that much depth. Still, it's the best mode for a first run-through. The arcade mode and its limited lives is a necessary addition, but it also feels like a challenge mode for veterans more than anything. There's only one unlockable of substance, with Casey Jones joining the roster once you hit the credits. After that, it's all about the gameplay.
Thankfully, despite the genre's inherent limitations, Shredder's Revenge is an expertly crafted example of beat 'em up spectacle. The turtles have varied attacks and supers, but there's a general move set to learn that lets players master the basics and enjoy each character's subtle differences. You can button mash through most levels, but the difficulty ramps up at just the right time towards the end. If you haven't been mastering air attacks and striking sai out of the air, you'll find a difficulty spike that may take some effort to get over.
Shredder's Revenge boasts an arcade-perfect presentation from the alternate universe where teenagers still pump quarters into cabinets in the mall. The pixel art perfectly recreates the characters from the show like no game before, and the music is just the right mix of retro beats and modern reinterpretations. Songs from Mega Ran and Ghostface Killah push the background music over the top, providing tracks that are sure to be a part of any fan's regular rotation long after they finish the campaign.
Shredder's Revenge does have one fatal flaw. Suppose you're not already a Turtles fan and just looking for another great beat 'em up. The latest from Tribute Games won't wow you as much as Streets of Rage 4 or some wonderful hidden gem from the indie scene. Shredder's Revenge is a total throwback to a specific series, both in theme and gameplay, so those who won't get excited by the appearance of pizza aliens or Baxter Stockman may find the whole experience wanting. Thankfully, TMNT has a strong gaming legacy, so this hypothetical genre fan should be in the minority.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge Review | Final Thoughts
For the rest of us, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge is everything we could have hoped for. The game has a reverence for the '80s cartoon that's unmatched and a slick gameplay system that has players effortlessly fighting through hordes of ninjas with friends. While several recent beat 'em ups have had a more robust feature set, none have so thoroughly captured the nostalgia of the genre like this. It's a must-play for anyone who's ever rallied behind Leo, Raph, Donnie, and Mikey, even if your turtles looked a bit different than these.
TechRaptor reviewed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge on Steam Deck with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
- Masterful beat 'em up gameplay
- Loving recreation of TMNT's radical past
- Hours of highly replayable content
- Great soundtrack with memorable tunes
- Big difficulty spike towards the final missions
- Fan service prioritized above all else