How Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge builds on legacy

Tribute Games' Eric Lafontaine and Dotemu's Cyrille Imbert talk to GameDaily about their history with the TMNT franchise, and how it was channeled into Shredder's Revenge.

Earlier this month, developer Tribute Games and publisher Dotemu launched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge to critical acclaim. A beat ‘em up burdened with the weight of legacy, Shredder’s Revenge revels in the past of a beloved cross-media franchise while catering to more modern design sensibilities. It’s a balancing act to be sure, but by all accounts Tribute has walked the tightrope with gusto. 

“It was very important for Tribute Games to create an experience that felt like the one lived when you first played a classic Turtles beat em’ up,” Eric Lafontaine, marketing manager at Tribute, told GameDaily. “The objective was clear: take the classic old school beat 'em up and modernize some aspects to make it fresh and crisp, but still rooted in what makes those old games so special. The challenge was balancing all that.”

For Lafontaine and the rest of the development team, the key was a combination of immersion and appreciation. Most of the team at Tribute are years-long fans of the TMNT franchise, including the comic books, the late-‘80s cartoon, and the handful of arcade games.

“We often joke that Tribute Games devs did all the research needed for the game about 25-30 years ago,” Lafontaine said.

Founded in 2011 by a trio of former Ubisoft employees, Tribute Games has made its name on retro-inspired action/platformers like Panzer Paladin and Flinthook. Additionally, before leaving Ubisoft, the founders worked on seminal beat ‘em up Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. As such, Shredder’s Revenge is the product of years of experience in the genre.

As fans of the golden age of the Ninja Turtles, one of Tribute’s goals with Shredder’s Revenge was to channel the franchise’s ‘80s and ‘90s roots. Part of this was bringing in the original voice actors from the animated series to reprise their roles. All four turtles got brand new voicework thanks to Cam Clarke, Townsend Coleman, Barry Gordon, and Rob Paulsen, who voiced Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael, respectively.

Another big focus was the music. Tribute Games and publisher Dotemu wanted to pay homage to the era, but with modern production values. To that end, the studios tapped Tee Lopes for the game’s soundtrack, who worked on Sonic Mania and Sonic Team Racing, among other projects.

“Tee Lopes created amazing tracks for us to use--with so many musical and sound references that fit the project’s direction,” Lafontaine said. “With such classic pixel art and background art we had to have music that projected that same nostalgia.”

Tribute also brought on Faith No More’s Mike Patton to record the theme song for Shredder’s Revenge, itself a cover of the theme for the cartoon. Additionally, Wu-Tang Clan members Ghostface Killah and Raekwan recorded a promo song that was released just before the launch of the game. For Lafontaine, being able to work with these artists was exciting and integral to the Shredder’s Revenge experience.

Tribute’s mission to honor the past extends to many gameplay tenets as well. Like the classic arcade and console games, co-op is a pillar of Shredder’s Revenge. But the developers didn’t stop at just four players; the game includes a chaotic six-player mode, with Master Splinter, April O’neil, and Casey Jones rounding out the roster of playable characters.

“We wanted to make sure that the game would be experienced differently depending on the numbers of players in the game,” Lafontaine explained. “The solo experience is way different than with two- and four-player. However, the six-player mode is something of its own! We weren’t afraid of chaos. But when us devs first experienced it--it was so much fun we had to put that in!”

Publishing duties for Shredder’s Revenge fell to Dotemu, who published and co-developed 2020’s Streets of Rage 4. The studio’s stable of games also includes other retro-inspired titles like Windjammers 2 and the upcoming Metal Slug Tactics, making it a perfect fit for a spiritual successor to the classic TMNT brawlers.

For the most part, Dotemu’s staff is made up of people in their 30s, meaning they grew up with the TMNT franchise.

“We lived the golden age of TMNT when we were young with TV shows and toys--everyone is super familiar if not huge fans of the license,” Dotemu CEO Cyrille Imbert told GameDaily. “And the same goes for the arcade game. When most of us were young, we were still going to the arcades during vacations or on the weekend and where there was a TMNT cabinet. It was amazing.”

As publisher, Dotemu’s role in the development of Shredder’s Revenge was supportive. Imbert explained that its job was to help Tribute find the resources it needed to realize its vision. Dotemu also provided feedback during the production process based on its time playing the game. At the end of the day, though, Imbert said that Tribute itself deserves most of the credit.

“Tribute Games was in total control of development and creation, so it’s really them that everyone should thank for the amazing game that we have in our hands today. They nailed it!”

This collaboration has paid off, if media consensus is any indication; in its review, Game Informer called Shredder’s Revenge a “lovingly crafted homage to TMNT’s glory days.” Meanwhile, IGN noted that it’s “a prime example of how to breathe new life into a classic arcade beat ‘em up.” For Tribute Games, this reception has been overwhelming.

“As fans ourselves, It’s really great to see that the game we wanted all these years, resonates equally with the Turtle fans out there,” Lafontaine said. “That labor of love was really a natural process for Tribute Games--it’s good to realize that people acknowledge it now. We are relieved, ecstatic and grateful.”

It’s this effort that Lafontaine is most proud of, and Tribute Games hopes it will be the lasting legacy of Shredder’s Revenge.

“We are most proud of the overall effort we put into it. All of it! The art, the gameplay, the music, the playable characters, the original voice actors. Everything we wanted for this game is in it! We couldn’t be more proud.”

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Editor-in-Chief

Sam, the Editor-in-Chief of GameDaily.biz, is a former freelance game reporter. He's been seen at IGN, PCGamesN, PCGamer, Unwinnable, and many more. When not writing about games, he is most likely taking care of his two dogs or pretending to know a lot about artisan coffee. Get in touch with Sam by emailing him at  sdesatoff@rektglobal.com or follow him on Twitter.