With the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, we have a modern recreation of a beloved ’80s cartoon with all the trimmings. A good 16-bit art style, a bit of retro arcade gameplay, and modern refinement that shreds the unnecessary frustration found in some of the real oldies. In general, I really like it!
To accompany the review, I sat down with Tribute Games Marketing and Publishing Director Eric Lafontaine to discuss what the team wanted to achieve, recreate the humor of TMNT and bring the complexities of the cartoon to a modern platform.
VG247: What are the main things you want to accomplish when making a TMNT game?
The fountain: All of the Tribute staff are retro fans – we grew up with the Turtles 80’s cartoons. It’s kind of a Tribute mission to pay homage, while also adding that modern twist to the games we develop. We knew we needed to treat the IP with great respect, and it was important to us to recreate what it felt like to play those games from that era. It would have been too easy to develop a totally retro game, so we had to remove some of the frustrations and bring this old-school experience to a modern audience of gamers.
I don’t like the term “fan service,” but we wanted to put in as many references and tropes from the Turtles franchise as possible. We wanted to include as many references to the 80’s cartoons as we could, but also Turtles in Time, the old fighting games, the old arcade game, and also some collectible toys that were never produced that were floating around in the wild. Every Turtle fan will find something specific for them in our game.
We also wanted to make sure we developed a game for everyone, not just hardcore fans of the genre. It can be a very difficult game if you choose to do it that way, but it can also be a super easy and fun party game if you so choose. Those points were our main goals when creating Shredder’s Revenge.
VG247: How did you go about characterizing the turtles, Foot Clan, and just the game as a whole in a way that fit with the source material?
The fountain: Many references and animations that lean heavily on the personality of each of the characters. Raphiel is a bit more dopey, a bit darker than the other turtles. So the slides, the run state, all of that will look more aggressive so you get the characterization when you’re actually playing. The taunts too: one of my favorite animations is the Donatello taunt, where he reaches down and pulls out a handheld (he’s a Gameboy). That’s also a reference to consoles from the 80’s and 90’s! Animations and little touches like that go a long way.
What’s interesting is when you get to characters like Splinter, who we don’t see fighting much in the ’80s cartoons. So we had to take some liberties when fleshing out the attacks, which meant we had to look to the cartoon for references like if he quickly hit wooden boxes in the intro. That’s a quick snippet that we later identified as game designers as something we could recreate, so we added that as his basic special attack.”
VG247: With ’80s cartoons so central to this game’s identity, how often was that material referenced during development?
The fountain: Our narrative designer listened to every episode, all of them. When we had a little break, we would all watch it together, we would also show moments from the episodes to each other. We’d joke that all the research we had to do for the game was done 30 years ago, we just had to get official approval from the IP holder! We knew what we wanted to share in theory, but we had a lot of fun coming up with ideas based on the show.
From the very beginning, when one of our co-founders, Jean-Francois Major, approached Nickelodeon, he ended up shipping three or four releases in total, he was always selling the idea of a classic beat ’em up based on the cartoon. Obviously, he and the other co-founders had worked on Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game at Ubisoft, as well as the previous TMNT Ubisoft beat ’em up game. So we had a good track record behind us and we got lucky, which I think secured us the IP.
VG247: Super serious question. Since this is a TMNT game, I need you to speak on behalf of Tribute Games and tell me what the best type of pizza is.
The fountain: Oh my God. Do I have to speak for the whole study?
VG247: If you have to. You are trapped.
The fountain: Since I am a marketing manager, I need to have a business type response. I’m going to say cheese pizza. It’s a very politically safe answer, so I’ll go with cheese. However, personally, I will say anchovies or Hawaiian. Yeah, I know pineapple and ham pizza shouldn’t exist, but I love it (laughs).”
VG247: What is the division of the office in pineapple on pizza?
The fountain: It’s 50/50. It’s a very polarizing question.
VG247: Tell me about Ghostface Killa and Raekwon’s track! How did that come about and why did it fit?
The fountain: So obviously Mike Patton of Faith No More sang the original theme song in the game – it was a surprising choice for fans, and a lot of people probably don’t know them or Faith No More. We could have made a more obvious choice, one that was more geeky, but it was our idea to go further and go with a behemoth from the ’90s.
Obviously, we wanted to have another collaboration with a musical artist and another original song in the game. We wanted something a bit closer to the game, related to ninjitsu and ninjas, and Wu Tang made sense! So, on Dotemu’s side, they contacted the management of Ghostface Killa and Raekwon, and came to an agreement.
It was a really fun process, at first we didn’t even know it was possible. T. Lopez, who worked on Sonic Mania, he worked on the beat, he’s brilliant, and we sent him in with an idea of what kind of direction we wanted to take with the couple. It had to be E for everyone! Nickelodeon was okay with it, so it had to have familiar lyrics, but they sent us some ideas for the verse and after some editing and a second version, we got the final version.
When we announced it to collaborators and partners, they couldn’t believe it, and we are very happy with the result. They’re obviously TMNT fans, and we’re happy they said yes.
VG247: One thing that caught my attention is the humor of it; see Foot Ninjas cooking live in the TV studio they took over or sleeping on benches. Why was it important to bring that humor here?
The fountain: It’s really a Tribute Games thing to have that humor in the background, to always be tongue-in-cheek. It’s a video game, we don’t take things too seriously. It’s also TMNT, so it’s always at least a little bit funny. Obviously, we like all versions of the Turtles, but the fun tropes you saw in the original cartoon really resonated with us, and we wanted to explore them a lot more.
We had a lot of fun revising and adding that TMNT humor throughout. In that first stage, for example, the TV studio, there are four Foot Clan ninjas typing at desks, but one of them is missing a keyboard. That came about because one of the animators just pitched ideas while we were doing it, and by bringing out the keyboard, it was immediately a lot more fun.
There’s always a Foot Clan doing something crazy; adding humor is important to us as it makes the whole experience more fun. And for younger gamers, they’ll have a lot more fun thanks to that inclusion.