The Success Of TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge Shows How Far The Beat-em-up Revival Has Come
, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge has launched to high praise, boasting a Metascore rating of 86 and an astounding user score of 8.9. It has simple controls, a wonderful, eardrum-kicking soundtrack, and a six-player co-op feature that allows you to kick some butt locally or online. But in order to really understand how far the genre’s revival has come, we must go all the way back to its beginning in 1984, when Irem released the Takashi Nishiyama-developed game, Kung-Fu Master.
The implementation of health bars, hand-to-hand and melee weapons, as well as the multiple plots surrounding revenge and crime-fighting, were inspired by two classic martial arts movies; Wheels on Meals starring Jackie Chan, and Game of Death starring Bruce Lee, who in 2002 appeared in his own beat-em up game Bruce Lee: Quest Of The Dragon, though it was a 3D-style beat’em up and not a pure side-scroller. In 1987, Double Dragon and its offering of two-player co-op helped usher beat-em-ups into a new beautiful era – one that led to arcade owners lining their buildings’ walls with beat-em-up cabinets like 1988’s Michael Jackson’s: Moonwalker, whose soundtrack was comprised of – you guessed it – music from the King of Pop himself.
In the game, Jackson did not beat up his enemies with fists but with magical attacks, and the arcade cabinet allowed for three people to play at once. Each player would play as Jackson but would wear a different colored suit. The Simpsons arcade game offered four-player fun, with each player taking control of one of the four family members. Bart attacks enemies with his skateboard, Lisa uses her jump rope, Homer uses his fists of fury, and the blue-haired combatant Marge swings her mighty vacuum at enemies as they try to save Maggie from kidnappers.
The 90s also saw the release of games like Comix Zone, Battletoads whose speeder bike level has left behind a mountain of broken controllers and dreams, and the ginormous purple multi-screened X-Men arcade game that was based on a television pilot called X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men. As far as side-scrollers go, 2003’s Viewtiful Joe was the start of what is believed to be the revival of beat-em ups. The game’s inclusion of 3D cel-shaded graphics, and Joe’s use of a VFX meter that when filled unleashed powerful cinematic moves that would make any action star jealous and any cinematographer an Academy Award winner.
Beat-em-ups were popular but needed that extra razzle-dazzle, and Viewtiful Joe did just that. But as the years went on, classic side-scrolling beat-em-ups took a back seat to hack-and-slash-style games where instead of fighting a few enemies at once, you fought a whole horde of them. It was not until 2010 when Scott Pilgrim reappeared on the scene and allowed you and three others either locally or online to play together and take on Ramona’s League of Evil Exes. The game was a return to the genre’s roots, offering different game modes like Battle Royale, dodgeball, and even a zombie mode. As a tie-in to a popular movie of the time, it had a great foundation, but it was also a wonderful game in its own right, and revealed a long-dormant desire among gamers to return to urban streets and beat up hordes of goons alongside a buddy or three.
The rise of the indie gaming scene, which revived pixel-art aesthetics due to their relatively low development costs, made a return for beat-em-ups possibles. This was boosted by an unexpected ally, Xbox Game Pass; the popular subscription platform has proven itself to be a low-key champion of beat-em-ups. There was River City Girls in 2019, Mother Russia Bleeds, and – the big one – Streets of Rage 4, not to mention the more recent Battletoads and of course Shredder’s Revenge.
Having these options available brings back that amazing nostalgia of standing next to a group of people at an arcade cabinet hitting buttons and jostling joysticks, albeit side by side on the couch or online. Even though classics like Altered Beast and Golden Axe only offer local play, newer beat-em-ups have carried the torch towards the future. Shredder’s Revenge is a great game, but make no mistake: it’s a massive beneficiary of the games that boldly hit those pixellated beat-em-up streets in the preceding years.
At this rate the revival has shown no signs of slowing down, with a sequel to the under-appreciated River City Girls set to come out in 2022. It is an exciting time to be a fan of beat-em-ups and an even worse time to be a 2D sprite with a crimal record and/or wants of revenge.
The post The Success Of TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge Shows How Far The Beat-em-up Revival Has Come by Nick Battaglia appeared first on DualShockers.