I’ve mentioned it before, but my first system was the SNES. It’s been clear, particularly with the past few weeks, that the majority of what I played on there, what I play period, was/is JRPGs. However, I can distinctly remember as a kid going over to my cousin’s house to watch them play video games. Like most kids that grew up in the 90’s, I was obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (my favorite then was Michelangelo, ‘cuz he liked pizza and the color orange and was fun; now it’s Donatello for most versions).
My cousins were playing the original TMNT Arcade game on the nes. The graphics nowadays are charmingly dated, but back then, it looked like they were playing the show. I think I got to sit in and do multiplayer a few times, but I wasn’t very good at the game, which was notoriously hard.
Fast forward a few years, and I got TMNT: Turtles in Time on the SNES. I played that game to death, with just about anyone and everyone who’d play it with me. I may be misremembering, but I remember going through that game with my mom at one point (she was actually surprisingly cool about video games: played Super Mario World for a while, and would pop a beer and play Super Bomberman to relax after work). If that TMNT Arcade experience was like playing the show, Turtles in Time took that even further.
Shredder’s Revenge is like reliving all those old memories, but better.
The game is your classic beat-’em-up, a genre which rightfully catches a lot of flak for being repetitive and annoying. You control a character from an impressive roster: not only are all four turtles here, but their mentor Splinter and April O’Neil of all characters is here. They all control more or less the same, with one button attacking, another jumping, and another used for special moves. The basic controls are simple enough that I could likely call Mom over to play another nostalgic round.
The gameplay is fast and frenetic, which is precisely what you’d want in a beat-’em-up. I couldn’t convince my usual crowd to buy copies of the game (I predordered it; I was that convinced I wanted it), so I only got to run through a single player. But even then, the screens would be filled with action and detail. This goes beyond the enemies to engaging environments that often seem to have hidden bits and bobs everywhere.
The graphics look so spot on that it’s almost uncanny. Again, it’s really like playing the old show, and there’s something utterly joyous about it. The various special effects add quick flashes of color, enough to brighten an already great screen without going overboard. I’m someone far more used to the sedate pace of a JRPG, and I never found myself overwhelmed by what was on display here.
I mostly stuck to the Story Mode for my playthroughs, which incorporates a slight RPG leveling system into the normal beat-’em-up formula. There’s that Super Mario World style map that’s on display, with you taking the Shell Shocker van to various locations. Each one is a different stage that you walk from left to right through (or auto-scroll). The goal is to chase down various minions as they work to put alien leader Krang’s suit back together.
The story feels appropriately goofy, with voice acting that mostly comes from the old cast. I’m going to be a stick in the mud here and say I kinda wish that they’d found good replacements for the Turtle crowd. I love Rob Paulsen as much as the next rabid animation fan, but he sounds like what he is: a 66 year old man. Time has made each of these men sound like the respected elders they are, which means that all too often the turtles sound less like teenagers and more like old men doing fun voices for their kids.
So yeah, there’s that nostalgic kick there, but I often found the replacements, like for Splinter, to be as enjoyable if not more so. It’s a move pandering to the nostalgic crowd that’s great fanservice, and these guys obviously deserve to be honored, so I’m not too upset.
Honestly there’s little wrong with this game that’s not a persistent issue of the beat-’em-up formula. They’ve tried to side step the mostly repetitive gameplay here, and they mostly succeed. Characters can now jump, taunt, double-jump, dodge, and flip around the stage. The controls might be simple enough for Mom to pick up, but there’s an intricacy here to master for anyone who’s got a little more experience in video games.
I found the game to be just right in terms of difficulty. This was built for console players, so no arcade shenanigans or the early ’90s’ ramped up difficulty for repeated rentals here. I played on standard difficulty and only struggled with my first playthrough of the first scrolling stage. That’ can likely be chalked up to my playing alone, with two janked up arms, and not quite remembering how those stages work, as much as it can to design.
They really knew how to balance what we want from the old school with new school tricks and tips. I do find myself wishing the story was a bit more engaging, or maybe there were a few more surprises. The various extra stuff mostly comes down to “find hidden stuff in the stage,” and is almost exclusively just about destroying an environmental hazard or two. Alternate paths or more intricate secrets could be more fun, along with a few more rewards.
But seriously, everything’s just working almost too well here. I’m playing the soundtrack as I write this review (common thing I do), and it’s reminding me of just how good the music is, even divorced from the game. It rocks and rolls with this updated ’90’s sound that does a great job getting the blood pumping. Again, it all works just about too well.
The game’s available on pretty well every console and PC, and it’s running for $24.99. I got it with the pre-order sale, and it’s arguable that the price is a bit too high. But if you’re a TMNT fan, or even a fan of this oft-neglected and maligned genre, the game is worth picking up.
9 Near perfection with just a few areas that could use improvement. The sort of game I will be coming back to again and again for some time.