Pizza dude's got 30 seconds.
The great thing about all things cultural is that they don't exist in vacuums. The past influences the future, the present influences our interpretation of the past. Books inspire movies, inspire games, inspire books, inspire music. The more time I spend as a passenger on this little spinning rock in space, the easier I can start to see the rhythms in the various cycles that constitute human existence. Fashions and fads come and go, and return again when you least expect it. Look at the current resurgence of baggy jeans and wallet chains - I never thought those would come back... but here we are. At this rate, if I'm not careful I might end up inadvertently becoming cool again - which is a terrifying prospect.
It's not surprising that video games aren't exempt to any of the rules above. The medium has been around long enough now for some of those trends and sensibilities to come and go, and then return again - even if in some cases, that return is inexplicable. It's through this lens that I've been playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge - and enjoying it enormously.
Games like this are rapidly becoming a calling card for French developer Dotemu, who are gaining a reputation for delivering excellent updates to retro arcade fighters. Their games are practically guaranteed to haze the vision of video game players of a Certain Age. They provide a digital time-machine; a pixelated doorway through which you can travel to a simpler time. They're the blurry-eyed early morning excitement of a Saturday morning in front of the TV - a heavy dose of button-bashing nostalgia.
As with their work on Streets of Rage 4 before it, TMNT: Shredder's Revenge shows a respect and love for the source material that verges on reverential. Everything feels authentic to the source material that inspired it - a combination of the early 90's arcade game and the late 80's arcade machine that it was based on. The graphical style, from the chunky sprites and gorgeous pixel art style right down to the UI, is intentionally reminiscent of that game, with lots of nods of the head to some of the later console games (especially TMNT IV: Turtles In Time - which was a game I spent a lot of time with on the SNES). Some of the nods are subtle (a level from Turtles in Time was called "Big Apple, 3am" while Shredder's Revenge includes "Big Apple, 3pm" for example) while some are more obvious - with boss designs and behaviour that are sometimes VERY similar to what we saw before all those years ago.
The attention to detail continues though - the voice cast features the original actors from the TV show. The intro to the game is a love letter to the intro to the TV show, and the way in which the game progresses (particularly in the Story mode) nods its head to the episodic nature of the TV show, the news report style presentation of the arcade game, and even includes an overworld map reminiscent of the old 8-bit NES game. The music ties it all together, and the sound effects are as schlocky and cartoony as we all remember them being.
It's fair to say that as a homage and love-letter then, it's exceptional. But... how is it as a game? Well, it certainly doesn't disappoint. I've played through the story mode now as a couple of different characters, and used a couple of others in the arcade mode in some couch co-op with my son - and we've both had a lot of fun with what Shredder's Revenge has to offer. There's a surprising amount of depth here, if you're prepared to play on a slightly higher difficulty level that demands you to master it - the default difficulty level offering up some serious button-bashing opportunities. It knows what it is - it isn't doing anything new, and doesn't really pretend to try. What it does do though, is service a memory of a game and a time that a lot of us loved.
With a successful update of Streets of Rage and now Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles under their belt, you can't help but wonder what's going to come next for Dotemu. There was a wonderful Simpsons arcade game back in the day - I can all too easily imagine what their team could do with that. Of course, there are a load of other 80's cartoon properties that didn't get their own arcade games - and I bet I'm not alone in thinking that an adaptation in this style of Thundercats or Transformers would make me sit up and pay attention.
Here's to hoping, anyway. For now, it's pizza time.
Are you playing Shredder's Revenge? Give me a shout on Twitter and let me know what you think!