Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge proves that a little personality goes a long way. I’m not talking about the turtles themselves, though my theory is their banter distracts from the pain of shoving pizza into their lactose-intolerant faces. Instead, it’s the Foot Soldiers whom Shredder’s Revenge gives a leg up, and it really shows.
The problem with the old Foot Soldiers seen in Konami’s arcade brawlers Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time was that they were so ridiculously generic. Encountering TMNT’s Mouser robots was sweet, sweet relief, even though they wanted to tear my turtle avatar’s face off.
Of course, most sidescrolling beat ‘em ups have rank-and-file foes. But they typically have the sense to mix them up — you’ll get a guy with a mohawk and a yellow coat, a bald denim-clad punk with a knife, then a rollerskating woman with a whip — enough to inject a little variety.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ first three levels, on the other hand, pitted you against Foot Soldiers who — wait for it — had different-colored leggings and head coverings. On top of that, they were robots, basically so the turtles could get away with murdering them on screen, so you didn’t have the satisfaction of dispatching a “real” villain.
So how does Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge solve this? You’re still fighting against Foot Soldier after Foot Soldier, albeit with slightly more variety in weapons and items. However, now the Foot Soldiers have things to do when you’re not pummeling them into pieces. In turn, that imbues them with the aforementioned measure of personality.
Some Foot Soldiers will amble onto screen, ready to turn you into turtle soup, but you’ll see several of them sitting at desks, messing with handheld consoles, all manner of activities. The first time I saw a pair of them sitting behind office desks, typing away, I did a double take. I couldn’t help but laugh as, for a good minute or so, my brain attempted to process the possibilities.
I had so many questions. Were the pair actually typing, or had they just witnessed someone else at work and, when they fled, sat down at their desks? Were they only now realizing that there was something more to life than being ordered around by a cape-wearing jackass?
Maybe they were foolishly hoping that I’d see them as hapless human workers, not the ninja-themed murderbots they actually were. Perhaps their plan was to, as soon as I’d waltzed past, to make a break for it and start their own company of unsettlingly fast clerical workers. I’m only half-kidding, too; when series villains Krang and Shredder decided to boost the intelligence of one of their Foot Soldiers, it promptly decided it didn’t want anything to do with them.
I didn’t get my answer as, when I got close enough, whatever Order 66 chip they had in their brains activated and they tried to murder me. But hinting that I wasn’t their sole focus was enough to make them a damn sight more interesting than they ever were in Konami’s first two arcade entries.
There are other touches in Shredder’s Revenge too, such as that Foot Soldiers can be dizzied and so on, again giving them an extra dab of personality. The results are surprisingly profound, and by profound, I mean it’s much more fun to kill them. That scrap of individuality is enough to suggest that, when you’re flattening a Foot Soldier, when you see them twitch and then explode, you’ve destroyed something halfway unique, despite the costume.
Yes, I’m a huge hypocrite for speculating about the Foot Soldiers’ potential autonomy and then finding joy in their annihilation, but it’s a real step above the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games. The extra design and frames of animation have added up to a big return. Some beat ‘em ups already have enemies sitting on benches, but the extra imagination that Tribute Games has put in makes all the difference.
So, instead of inwardly groaning at another wave of identical foes, as I did with the original arcade games, I’ve started seeing the Foot Soldiers as individuals. I smile in anticipation of their efforts to hide in plain sight, wondering how else they’ll fail to blend in. And as terrible as it sounds, I get a real rush out of smashing them to the floor, making a mockery of their attempted subterfuge. I almost found myself missing them as Shredder’s Revenge threw in more varied foes.
There is definitely a balance here; if the Foot Soldiers started fleeing in mortal terror, I genuinely would feel bad about dispatching them. But it proves you don’t have to go full Albert Wesker to make enemies that bit more interesting. And in the case of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, a little personality works wonders.