'Shredder’s Revenge': Turtle brawlers remain timeless
There are strange things that you can collect in the story mode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. VHS tapes, newspapers, maybe even the concept of diaries have since faded in a world where information is stored and shared nearly instantaneously in a digital format. However, it appears the mean reptiles in green have remained a constant when it comes to providing good 2D brawlers. 3D ventures, maybe not so much.
It’s been thirty years since the release of one of my childhood favorites, The Manhattan Project, for the original NES. In those three decades, many things have changed, but the fact that the TMNT franchise lends itself so well to the brawler genre remains consistent.
A major reason that this formula works so well is that both the enemies and heroes in the series ooze, pun intended actually, with personality. Even in the older games the four turtles had some flavoring differences from one another. They moved mostly the same, but differences in hit boxes and special attacks made their play-styles distinctive enough to add replayability.
Shredder’s Revenge takes this strength and evolves it. While the main move set is the same so that you can switch between turtles without having to relearn how to play, they have different stats, special attacks, character invoking animations that include victory poses, and catch phrases that bring out their personality. A major bonus for this title is that, in addition to the four turtles, you can also play as April O’Neil and Master Splinter from the start. There is also one unlockable character when you complete story mode.
Each level ends with a boss that is teased at the start of the level screen. Like the protagonists, the bad guys are quite fun and have their own creative set up to defeat them. There were even one or two that I didn’t know about, so they do go into the lore quite deep to pull from.
One early concern I had as I progressed through the game is that a lot of the levels took place in the urban streets of Manhattan proper. This was probably due to being spoiled by that game of my childhood where the city was only really the midway point level, with the rest of the game’s environments being far more creative. This fortunately changed when we hit the midpoint of the game and went down into the sewers.
This is ironic, because it is basically a meme that sewer levels are horrible in video games. I’ll go on record to say that the Ninja Turtles have always been the exception to that rule. Though in exchange their dam levels are damned, I guess. More environmental hazards are introduced as the levels progress as well, giving combat a more organic sense of danger.
One thing that’s more of an oddity is that while the normal enemies become tougher as the game goes on, some of the end bosses are far easier than their earlier counterparts. I remember Krang and Super Shredder being very intense fights in the Manhattan project. In Shredder’s Revenge though, Krang seemed quite easy, despite seemingly being inspired by the older game’s mechanics with the separating torso and all.
While the game is short, probably about three hours on an initial play-through, that’s by design, as this is based on an arcade game, and even has an arcade mode that asks the player to complete the game in one sitting. If you want to give more length to your experience after enjoying the Story Mode, try and see if you can complete the whole experience in one go. You know, like we had to do in the olden days. As you learn the layout of the levels and the proper timing, you’ll feel like a proper ninja yet.
Big fans of the Turtles have probably already played this game. I would argue that even if you are not a Turtle fan and you want to enjoy an action game, you can’t go wrong with the green machine. If you’ve never given the brawler genre a shot, this would be a very good entry point.
There are plenty of references to the technology and culture of the past in this game, but Shredder’s Revenge does go to show that if you have a passionate developer, then the present can bring forward the best elements of the past with the lessons learned along the way. The question is, as more things try to grab attention, will we be able to find the time to appreciate when progress has actually been made, or do we take it for granted? For myself, I’m grateful for this team’s efforts on a job well done bringing Turtles games into the modern era.