Review: Shredder’s Revenge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is more than retro cool

For the nostalgic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, the new Shredder’s Revenge game will be something of a dream come true. The work, after all, pays homage to the original 1987 animated series, as well as the 1991 Super Nintendo iconic game Turtles in Time. These are the most daring turtles – carefree, chaotic and humorous. And all this is done in a bright pixel style.

But it’s not the sentimentality of the late 80s/early 90s that makes the game work as well as it does.

It’s modern coloring, whether it’s reporter April O’Neil using broadcast equipment as a weapon, or lots of cute animations that involve henchmen before starting a fight. A few minutes after downloading Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, I smiled as I enjoyed the evil Foot Clan laying siege to the news station and immediately went to work at the front desk and recipe kitchen instead of trashing the place. .

Nostalgia is a big part of Shredder’s Revenge, but revival-inspired video games work best when they’re retro without feeling retro. It was the specialty of Montreal-based Tribute Games and Paris-based Dotemu, who combined their talents to make the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fresh again. Rather than trying to reboot the series as with later film and television offerings, the studios instead took influence from not only decades-old Nintendo games, but long-discontinued toys from the 80s and 90s, wanting to to make the game charming, family friendly. – the friendly attraction of spending time in a digital playset.

Of course, the game is based on motives. No doubt, for example, the modern owner of the Nickelodeon brand wants to keep intellectual property in the spotlight until a new animated film debuts on Netflix this summer. But for Tribute and Dotemu, “Shredder’s Revenge” is another example in which they can preserve – and reinvent – aging pixel art styles. While pixel art is heavily used in independent games, local studios Yacht Club Games rose to prominence Creating love letters to the 8- and 16-bit eras of the past with Shredder’s Revenge, Tribute and Dotemu set out to revisit, update and improve the games of their youth.

Animated villains fight the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a mixture of chaotic action and humorous animation.

(Tribute to the game / Dotem)

“People will compare it to arcade games from the 80s and 90s,” says Tribute Games co-founder Jean-Francois Major. “People have corrupted memories of that era. If you were to play any of the old Nintendo or Super Nintendo games, they would be quite difficult. The controls are not as intuitive. Today, in modern games, we are used to doing a lot of quality things. We needed to make it look like a game from the 90s, but modernize it.”

Says Dotemu CEO Cyril Imbert: “What I really find interesting about video games is that gameplay is a language that you learn over time and evolve over time. We don’t speak the same language we spoke when we were younger with video games. As a creator, even if you’re working on a game that looks like a retro game, you’ll need to get your current language to work in the game.”

There were many other challenges. Modern games tend to focus more on story than in decades past, and studios have sought to balance narrative animation with the chaos of a six-player game. Encouraging players to replay the game was a primary goal, as Shredder’s Revenge could be completed in less than three hours. This meant making sure that each character had a unique feel and that the narrative elements didn’t get in the way. And then a decision had to be made about what to keep—and what to update—from earlier Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

This is where the lessons from the team’s past game projects came in handy. Dotemu is perhaps best known now for Streets of Rage 4, a resurrection of the beloved Sega Genesis-era brawler, while Tribute Games was founded by a team of former Ubisoft employees who worked on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game” before forming his own company and creating original games such as “Metal Slug” influenced by “Mercenary Kings”. It’s worth noting that back at Ubisoft, some members of the Tribute team were working on the Game Boy Advance game TMNT, based on the 2007 movie of the same name.

“The Turtle games were less about one-on-one combat,” says Major. “It was more about crowd control. When we replayed old games, we counted how many enemies appeared on the screen and tried to match the pace and rhythm. This is a big difference from Streets of Rage 4, which is more one-on-one, and Scott Pilgrim, which is more mid-paced, he said, explaining that Scott Pilgrim is more fast-paced than Scott Pilgrim. Streets of Rage” but it’s still slower than a TMNT game.”

In Shredder’s Revenge, enemies seem to come from all directions, whether you’re walking through the Channel 6 newsroom or skateboarding around Manhattan. They will idly go about their business when the character appears on the screen, until more opponents appear from windows, doors or behind, and it is possible to suddenly fend off the pile-up. However, with three difficulty levels, Shredder’s Revenge is suitable for casual or family gaming sessions, as well as more challenging runs for those looking to master dozens of game moves. But be careful. If you’re anything like me, you’ll lose the fight by being distracted by parrots, hippos, and giraffes in the background of the Central Park Zoo level.

“We went back to the 1987 Turtles design,” says Major. “If you remember the TV shows from that time, they were kind of funny. They weren’t super violent. They had a more humorous tone. We tried to work with it and remember it. While you’re arguing, we’re trying to be carefree.”

Inspiration sometimes came from unexpected places. “We were also heavily influenced by the toy lines of that era,” Major says, specifically citing some of the toy robot designs that made it into the game. “They had some pretty fancy toys. It adds vibration. We didn’t really mind if they got on the show or not. If they made sense, we chose him.”

Another modern invention, each Turtle here moves at its own pace and has its own set of combat abilities. “In the old arcade games,” says Major, “all the turtles had their own set of moves.” But even here, the team referred to the vintage design, going back and looking at the coin-operated, dual-screen X-Men arcade game from the early 90s. One of the goals, according to Major, was to make the game feel completely different no matter how many people are playing.

“I don’t even know what kind of magic it took to not have a big gap in the middle,” says Major from the X-Men game. “That was what really influenced our decision. Can we make a beat’em-up for six players? It’s more dynamic, really chaotic. The experience is very different when you play with six players. It’s more like a party game than a tactical crowd control game. We designed each level so that each level has different waves of enemies – different models – depending on how many players are playing. Care has been taken with this, considering how many players are playing in the level. It was a lot of work and a challenge for us, but I think people will appreciate it.”

A woman holds a TV camera like a bat ready to strike the villain as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fight outside.

Up to six people can play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge.

(Tribute to the game / Dotem)

Initially, according to Major, Nickelodeon approached Tribute Games about working on other properties, but Tribute was made for the original games, and Major says the studio pushed for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles if it was going to take on the licensed property. This was partly because many of the team members had experience with the brand from the days of Ubisoft, and partly because the early Turtles games were a big influence on the side-scrolling and beat’em-up genre.

“Turtle games have left a mark on the entire industry,” says Major. “At the time, if you had a Super Nintendo, it was a game to own. If you had a Super Nintendo, you should have had Turtle in Time. And we wanted to go back to an era where people were big fans of TMNT.”

It helps that the hotel looks a bit odd, says Major, who admits to dressing up as the brains of the operation, Donatello, on Halloween as a child.

“If you think about Mario, for example,” the Nintendo mascot major says, “this guy is a plumber. I don’t think if you introduced a plumber today it would really work. But this game is iconic. The Turtles were a revelation when they were released. He’s holding on and I don’t even know why. There’s something appealing about all the characters and they’re all so different.”

“Everyone can identify with one of them,” Imbert interjects. “Everyone has their own favorite Turtle. They’re not perfect and that’s what makes them cool. They’re just teenagers, but they’re also turtles.”

Expect, however, that everyone’s favorite characters in Shredder’s Revenge may not be turtles at all. From the beginning, Major and Imbert say, it was critical that reporter April O’Neil be a playable character. “It was always planned,” Major says. “April, from the first pitch we made, was playable. I just feel like it’s time. We wanted to have a wider roster, not just the Turtles. It really is time for April to prove herself and not just be a damsel in distress. She’s been with the Turtles all this time and it’s time for her to kick some ass.”

Consider it a decision and a game worthy of one of April’s trademark tricks: dropping the microphone.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge