TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge Designer Reveals a Love Letter to the Classic Games

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has become one of the most beloved video game franchises of all time, based on the comic book series by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird and a popular animated series adaptation that debuted in 1987. While there have been plenty of new takes on the crime-fighting reptiles since, video game developer Tribute Games and publisher Dotemu are teaming up to take players back to the basics with the new game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge. Designed in the style of the classic animated series and its video game adaptations, Shredder's Revenge boasts frenetic beat 'em up action as players can team up locally and online to pummel waves of Foot Soldiers commanded by the fearsome Shredder as he menaces New York City once again.

In an exclusive interview with CBR, game designer Fred Gémus detailed the loving detail in having Shredder's Revenge evoke the classic Ninja Turtles games while updating the gameplay for modern sensibilities. He also explained several improvements made to the game and hinted at what players can expect when the game drops for multiple platforms this summer.

CBR: I love this demo. It brought me right back to playing the old Ninja Turtles games. What was it about this gameplay style that you wanted to bring with Shredder's Revenge?

Fred Gémus: We are big fans of the arcade games, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game and Turtles in Time. We really wanted to capture the spirit of these games instead of remaking them exactly as they are. We love to make games how you remember them rather than exactly how they are because sometimes they can be rough and limited. One of the things that we really loved about the old arcade games was the pacing, as opposed to other beat 'em ups where they're about 1-v-1 fighting to get rid of one enemy at a time. The Turtles games are really about plowing through a bunch of enemies at the same time. It's almost like an action game where enemies come in and out as fast as possible when you dispose of them.

That was something we really loved about the older games. We thought that was quite fun and different from other games in the genre, especially working with Dotemu, who had just come out with Streets of Rage 4. Their knowledge of the genre was very valuable, but, of course, they understood that we are making a different kind of beat 'em up. Playing these older games, we definitely found inspiration there.

What did you want to update with the gameplay for Shredder's Revenge to match more modern sensibilities, especially for those that didn't play the older games?

The first games were built with a more arcade state of mind, where it's about as many of your quarters as possible. This was definitely something that we wanted to address and make sure that it would be a full-fledged home console game where there would be smoother progression. Accessibility is also something that we wanted to make sure that the game would be playable by players of any skill level. Any younger player can be able to pick up a controller and have fun with the game just mashing random buttons, but a more skilled player will understand the finesse that there is in the control scheme to perform combos and such. That was another thing we really wanted to focus on.

When you play those older games, you may notice some things that didn't work that [well], but it was something that we accepted. There are thousands of small quality of life improvements that we put everywhere, including in the controls to make sure that we have more control over what's happening and that the control scheme is better and easier to do combos.

One of the things that we did very early on... In the older games, you could knock enemies out of the [frame], and you'd have to wait for them to walk back in. We decided to make those edges solid, so if you throw an enemy, they won't go off-screen but bounce back, and that enables you to juggle. The juggle system came naturally out of that and aided the combo system that we have that rewards players for delivering successive hits on enemies. This is another thing that we added to enforce the idea of it having very active gameplay and fast-paced action.

Another thing I really liked is that the Turtles themselves are more than just a sprite swap. They each have their own distinct play style based on their personality.

This is something we also decided on early on, but it also came out naturally. When we started, we wanted to make sure that, if your [favorite] character got selected, you wouldn't be stuck with a character that you don't like. We were wondering how to make it work, making sure players weren't stuck with characters they didn't like because we didn't want them to go with completely different play styles. What we went with was basically having the characters be better reflections of who they are in the cartoon.

For example, Michelangelo has very goofy moves and goes headfirst into the action, and sometimes he runs -- he basically headbutts. Leo is more balanced and methodical because he's a leader. We approached them on who they were and figured out how they could basically have the same control scheme, but all play differently. Michelangelo can bounce on characters when he does dive kicks, while April is super agile and great at doing long combos. Expert players are going to have a lot of fun with her. Master Splinter is a bit older, but he's the most powerful of them, so we made sure all of his special moves and combo finishers would always be strong and able to link into more amazing opportunities.

It was really about trying to find out what clicks with each character, and then we went all-in. There are no reused animations or swapped color sprites, so everything is [unique] to each of the characters.

How early in the process was the decision made to include April and Splinter as playable characters?

When we pitched the original idea, that was already there. We wanted to be sure that, if we were going to bring back such a beloved type of game -- it's not a direct sequel, but it's inspired by the older games -- we knew people would want to have something new and fun. I think with all the time we spent with the franchise and the older games, people are expecting to play as these characters, and we really wanted to make sure that we would have a fresh, new take on the games.

In terms of level design, I always think of the burning building or Technodrome from the classic games. What did you want to invoke in designing levels for Shredder's Revenge?

There are, for sure, all the classic locales from the TV show. We really wanted to go through New York City, but a New York City inspired by the cartoon, not having something too realistic but fun, new parts of it. For example, we really wanted to have a stage set in a mall. That was something that really marked the '80s and golden age of malls. Even though there are not a lot of malls in New York, in the cartoon there are, so we really found the right episode for that.

We really wanted to have locations that would be familiar but places that we haven't been in the games. The whole design process was having this huge wish list of things we wanted: characters, enemies, locales. There was a very big brainstorm and then figuring out how to make it all work together. In playing the arcade game, there was a sense of camaraderie even if you were playing with people you didn't know.

How did you want to approach the multiplayer component of Shredder's Revenge?

Even though we were all separated because of the pandemic when we started the production of the game, multiplayer was still a key aspect of the game. This is a game where people can just jump in and have fun, and it was cool. We were at PAX East two weeks ago, and it was great seeing people just meeting for the first time because they needed a fourth player and having fun together. It's a really great game for that because of the accessibility but also the multiplayer focus. We really wanted to have a full-fledged multiplayer experience right from the start. We made sure the game would have a jump-in/jump-out at any time multiplayer [experience] for online or offline. You can jump on next [to] me on the couch and just pick a character to start and leave it local, just to friends, or public online.

What's really cool about it, since we embraced that philosophy, the game also adapts itself according to the number of players in real-time. If I'm playing single-player, I have a specific enemy group position, and the encounters are set for one player. If two other players jump in, it'll adapt to the new number of players that we have in real-time. We rebuilt each level multiple times to ensure that it wasn't just four players against one enemy, but four and the patterns and level design would change accordingly and make sure the game is always fun.

You mentioned enemy types. What is your personal favorite type of Foot Soldier to add to the game?

I think we really have a great variety. One thing we wanted to make sure is that it wasn't just about button-mashing but having Foot Soldiers that also do things that would force players to use certain moves against them or wait for openings. My favorite ones are definitely the katana Foot Soldiers because they look pretty sick using katanas. That's hard to beat. [laughs] At the same time, they can block attacks, so it forces players to either use charged attacks to break their blocking stance or use grabs. I also designed the A.I. in the game, so it was cool to watch them perform a super leaping attack on the player. I think it looks pretty cool, and it forces you to use a dodge or rising kick. Our enemies are really trying to push what a typical button-mashing beat 'em up is.

How has it been working with Dotemu on Shredder's Revenge?

I think Dotemu are like our brothers from another continent. [laughs] They really have the same passion that we do for the older franchises, and they're doing an amazing job at it. When we spend time with them, it's obvious that they know what they're doing, and they really love it. At Tribute Games, our name says it all. We're trying to bring the older, nostalgic games from previous generations to the current generation with modern twists and better execution. It was a perfect match right from the beginning.

They were wrapping up Streets of Rage 4, and, even though it's a different beat 'em up, we were all on the same page. We weren't doing Streets of Rage with Ninja Turtles. That was never really on the table. It was about replaying the [TMNT] arcade games and figuring out what were the coolest parts from them. They went all-in on the project, and, for example, the announcement trailer that we had with all the animation and the theme song, that was their work in figuring out how to make it happen [and getting Faith No More singer Mike Patton for the theme]. They always go the extra mile to make sure everything is fan-perfect. It was amazing to work with them and achieve the great game that we have today.

Developed by Tribute Games and published by Dotemu, TMNT: Shredder's Revenge will be released Summer 2022 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Read Next
About The Author