The video game “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge” begins on a very familiar note: with the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” theme song:
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/ Heroes in a half shell/ Turtle power!”
The music and the game’s introductory scenes set the tone for what comes after. From one level to the next, “Shredder’s Revenge,” released June 16 on platforms including the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, calls to mind the popular 1980s animated series starring the world’s most fearsome fighting team — Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo — and the arcade games it inspired, 1989’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and its 1991 follow-up, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time.”
That was by design.
“We were not only trying to sell a video game that is fun and accessible for everyone, but we also wanted to kind of reflect the inspirations, where it came from,” Frédéric Gémus, who worked on the game design for “Shredder’s Revenge” for Tribute Games, told TODAY in a Zoom interview.
A little less than a month after “Shredder’s Revenge” made its debut, its publisher, Dotemu, announced that more than 1 million copies had been sold around the world — evidence that “Turtle power” has staying power in the gaming world.
Going back in time to make ‘Shredder’s Revenge’
“Shredder’s Revenge” is a collaboration between Tribute Games; Dotemu, which had previously revived the ‘90s fighting series “Streets of Rage”; and “TMNT” rights holder Nickelodeon. The game makers were longtime fans and already knowledgeable in the “TMNT” universe.
“We love to say that we did the research basically 20, 30 years ago, when we were young,” Gémus joked.
Still, they put in the sort of work that would make any person who grew up in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s feel nostalgic, envious or both: They rewatched the original cartoon, they played the old “TMNT” arcade games (Gémus was a tween when those games were released by Konami), and they studied video game magazines from the time period.
All of that preparation is reflected in “Shredder’s Revenge,” from the 16-bit-style graphics to the pizza powerups to the amusing one-liners the Turtles drop from time to time, voiced by the actors from the original cartoon.
“Being able to work on a game like this and not trying to necessarily re-create (the older games), but re-create the experience and the feeling we had with it was kind of something that was quite amazing,” Gémus said.
Doc Mack says “Shredder’s Revenge” does have “similar feels” to the classic arcade games — and he would know. He’s the owner of Galloping Ghost Arcade in suburban Chicago, home to nearly 900 arcade games, including “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Turtles in Time.”
“It was definitely on par with (the arcade games). … Visually great. There were one or two little things that were, just as a game designer, I was kind of like, ‘I would have done that different, personally,’ but, like, great, great-looking game, great-sounding game,” he told TODAY over Zoom.
Of course, this being the year 2022, there are some modern twists in “Shredder’s Revenge,” including an online play option and the ability to have up to six players take part in the game simultaneously. There are also characters who were not playable in the arcade games, like the Turtles’ mentor, Splinter, and their human friend, reporter April O’Neil.
The gameplay itself is pretty straightforward, even if you’re an old-school gamer who remembers a time when video games only required the use of a couple of buttons.
“The original arcade games really inspired us in terms of simplicity. We really wanted to make sure that it would be a game that anyone could just jump in and grab a controller and jump and attack,” Gémus explained while also noting that more experienced players “can go crazy and do combos and different special moves.”
Mack said the controls in “Shredder’s Revenge” have more “depth” when compared to the gameplay in the “TMNT” arcade games.
“There were times to use specific moves and everything, and that was really cool. The originals were very basic, just very limited in moves,” he explained.
‘Overwhelming’ response to ‘Shredder’s Revenge’
“Shredder’s Revenge” has been praised by those who have fond memories of playing the “TMNT” arcade games, with a 4.8/5 audience rating on Google and many glowing reviews on social media.
“‘TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge’ is so freaking good,” Brian Shea, the online content director for Game Informer, tweeted following the game’s release.
“Love, love, love ‘Shredder’s Revenge,’ and say so as a lifelong ‘TMNT’ fan,” wrote New York Post MMA reporter Scott Fontana.
Mack said some members of his team at Galloping Ghost Arcade have played through the game several times. A few people have even felt inspired to visit his arcade after playing “Shredder’s Revenge,” he said.
“It’s definitely the right demographic and getting people talking,” he added.
Gémus said the response to the game has been “overwhelming.” He and his colleagues especially have enjoyed hearing feedback from parents who have bonded with their children while playing “Shredder’s Revenge.”
“They’re thanking us for being able to share this type of experience with them,” he said, adding, “This is also why we made the game so accessible, so that younger players like 5, 6 years old can easily play with a parent.”
James Rolfe, known to his millions of YouTube subscribers as the “Angry Video Game Nerd,” touched on both the throwback qualities of “Shredder’s Revenge” and its reach with a younger audience when he tweeted in June, “Over the weekend, I finished ‘Shredder’s Revenge’ with my daughters. What a fun retro game! The perfect follow-up to ‘Turtles in Time.’ Made me feel like I was 10 again.”
(“Shredder’s Revenge” is rated Everyone 10+ for “fantasy violence” by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. In other words, the content is generally suitable for kids ages 10 and up, according to the ESRB. The trailer above will give you a good idea of what the action in the game is like.)
There’s no news yet on a potential sequel to “Shredder’s Revenge”; for now, the game makers are focused on offering support and updates for the current release, according to Gémus. However, the summer of “TMNT” gaming nostalgia continues: Konami on Tuesday released a collection of classic “TMNT” video games, including the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Turtles in Time” arcade games, for the major home consoles.