Frederick Gemus still remembers the first time he played the original Ninja Turtles arcade game. There was something about the experience, with its great expressive characters and accessible gameplay, that sucked him straight. “Playing this game was so insane because it was just like playing a cartoon,” he tells me through Zoom (with a huge collection of retro games behind him). “He was so different from Nintendo in the past.” So when Gemus, now a designer at the Montreal-based Tribute Games studio, had a chance to work on modern perception. TMNT, it was almost a dream project. “It was great to learn about it,” he said of the project.
Ninja Turtles: Schroeder’s Revenge is already on the market and comes from some proven experts in the field. It was developed by Tribute, which includes developers who have worked on titles such as Scott Pilgrim vs.. World: The game and the cult hit TMNT game for Game Boy Advance and published by Dotemu, the team behind the incredible revival of Streets of rage. The point of Schroeder’s Revenge it was almost the same: to take the best parts of the classics TMNT titles and make them work for a modern audience.
For Gemus, there were a few things that made these classic games stand out, in which he wanted to emphasize Schroeder’s Revenge. The first was accessibility. Although arcade games were still designed to take up as much of your space as possible – and thus were quite challenging – they were still easier to pick up and play than many of their contemporaries. He also believes that the pace and level of design of the original TMNT the games had a lot more to do with the action game than with the standard beat ’em up side scroll. “You have enemies coming in different models, and it’s all about throwing them out very quickly so you don’t get swarmed,” he explains. “It’s something we really wanted to get back in the game.”
Of course, while the team used a similar design philosophy, they also managed to take advantage of modern technology. Schroeder’s Revenge is available on PS4, Switch, Xbox and Steam, which is a slight step up from 16-bit consoles and arcade cabinets from the 90’s. Most importantly, it still looks delicious retro, with beautiful and expressive pixel art, full of all sorts of great animations. I especially love the Fooths’ enemies, who hide in garbage bags or disguise themselves as cooks before an attack. (This also sounds like this part thanks to a brilliant soundtrack from Sonic Mania composer Ty Lopez.)
“We like to say we like to play games the way you remember them, not the way they were,” Gemus said. But the developers weren’t so limited when it came to how much they could put on the screen, and they weren’t forced to do things like reuse animations or character sprites in the interest of saving memory. In addition, they managed to add completely modern features such as online play.
Achieving this balance between modern and retro was a challenge that involved a lot of research and testing. The development team played most of the classics – not only that TMNT games, but others beat them – and dug up old problems Nintendo Power to get a better idea of how the levels are arranged. Meanwhile, testing was particularly complex. It was initially impossible for testers to play together locally due to the pandemic. But even when they could, the chaotic nature of the game’s multiplayer – which supports up to six players – made it difficult to follow the game. “Sometimes it’s a little difficult to analyze what’s going on because there are so many things happening on screen,” says Gemus.
And while nostalgia is clearly a big part of the experience, both for the classic games and the original animated series, says Gemus Schroeder’s Revenge is designed so that even brand new players can take it. “There are no real points in the game that you need to know about [the original games]”He says. ‘There are a lot of Easter eggs, of course, and a little respect. But there’s never really a prerequisite for you to still be able to enjoy the game.’
Schroeder’s Revenge comes out at a time when there is something like a revival of beat ’em ups with side scrolling. This is a particularly great time to be a fan of turtles; In addition to Schroeder’s Revenge, 13 classic games will also receive a package later this year. And Gemus has a theory as to why these games, which once dominated arcades, are so durable.
“At first you feel like it’s just pushing buttons, but then at some point you realize it’s more like a dance,” he explains. “There’s a lot of positioning, a lot of rhythm – it’s like a dance. You can just dance for fun, but you can also become a professional dancer and do all these amazing moves. ”