When Red Fly Studios' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows releases this summer, players will be able to experience a grittier take on the Turtles and an in-depth fighting system that hasn't been seen in any TMNT game before it, according to lead designer Chris Frechette.
In an interview with Polygon, Frechette demoed a pre-alpha build of Out of the Shadows and walked us through Red Fly's take on the TMNT universe.
"I wanted to make a Turtles game that a 30-year old gamer who grew up watching TMNT would relish and say, 'This is what I remember, this is awesome," Frechette says. "The game is inspired by the Nickelodeon cartoon (which is currently in its first season on television) but it's basically our take on this fiction and this new incarnation of the Turtles: What would it look like in a realistic, more gritty setting?"
Frechette says that when Activision approached the studio to work on the licensed gamed, the team at Red Fly saw an opportunity to make the Turtles game they'd always wanted to play. As avid TMNT fans themselves, they didn't want to carelessly throw together a licensed game: they wanted to create something that did the brand justice.
Red Fly wanted to play on one of the biggest strengths of the brand: the Turtles themselves.
According to Frechette, the studio approached the game with the intention of bringing out the personalities of each turtle through their fighting styles. Rather than have four turtles that look the same, act the same and play the same, Red Fly wanted to play on one of the biggest strengths of the brand: the Turtles themselves.
"They each have different physiques — Donnie's the tallest, Mikey's the smallest, Raph's kind of the brute, Leo's a bit of an all-rounder — and we've gone a step further by bringing their personalities into combat," he says. "For example, Donatello is the slowest of the turtles, but he's got the the most reach, so when he's twirling his staff he can hit multiple enemies. He's great for composed players and his style actually has a bit of a kung fu influence to it."
Every character has a different move set, with each turtle having up to 70 unique attacks. The timing of a attack will also determine how it is executed, and whether a player is attacked from the front or behind will determine how a defensive move is pulled off.
Frechette cites Batman: Arkham Asylum as a source of inspiration. He says the team incorporated some elements of Arkham's battle system of balancing offense with defense and the timing of attacking and counter-attacking. The studio also looked to more traditional fighting games for inspiration, particularly for counter-attacks and special attacks.
"It could have been so easy to give them all the same moves," Frechette says. "But since they don't have your typical classes like a tank or a paladin, they don't necessarily have roles. They're all ninjas. They can all hold their own. It's more about how they hold their own."
Frechette says that by giving each turtle a "unique flavor," when the four characters play together it brings an interesting dynamic to the battles. The game allows for up to four-player co-op, and when there are fewer than four players the AI will take control of the remaining Turtles. In single-player mode, players can swap between Turtles using the D-Pad. Every character can be utilized in the team, and when all the Turtles are working together they can chain combos and finishing moves.
"They're all ninjas. They can all hold their own. It's more about how they hold their own."
"For example, I could launch a guy into the air and now you go after him and slam him down," Frechette says. "So there's push and pull, like I'm giving you an opportunity to do something awesome, and we're working together as a team with a unified goal. It was a lot of fun to plan and design."
Frechette says it's important for all four Turtles to be present in the campaign mode because that's when they're at their best. They fight together, taunt together and perform special team attacks together (at one point, players can connect with Raphael to perform the bowling ball maneuver seen in the original movie). Players won't get the best result if they button mash – there's a sophistication to the fighting system and, once they understand the system, the rest will flow like kung fu.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a downloadable title coming to Windows PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this summer. The game's official trailer can be viewed above.