Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows is a four player, beat'em-up that will be released for digital download on Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and the PC. The game will borrow a lot of elements from the ongoing television series, while also molding a different visual style to the turtles. We sat down Red FLy Studio's Chris Ferchette and talked details about the new spin on the turtles, including the take on combat, the importance of multiplayer in Turtles videogames, as well as the longevity of the franchise.
To start out, tell us a bit about the background to the game, and how things begun.
CF: Growing up, I was a big turtles fan. Had all the toys, watched the cartoons, and memorized the soundtracks. I have a dozen notebooks full of Turtles drawings. I had a dream about building the combat system around the Turtles, weeks before we had our first talks with Activision. We told them about it, they thought it sounded pretty crazy, and the experience of getting to do this has been awesome. One of the big focuses is the team aspect, and to still have the team mentality even in single players. You always have three co-op AIs if you’re alone, and you can swap between them at any time. What I really wanted to set out to do, was to make a game that was accessible to all, but a 30year-old fan like myself will get the same enjoyment. I really wanted to blend their personalities into the combat mechanics.
CF: Leonardo, being the leader, is the most disciplined and composed. He is the most balanced of all the turtles. Donatello is the slowest but he has the most reach. And with having the staff, he has an sort of kung-fu flair to some of his attacks and posing. Raphael is the brute; we wanted him to be a bit more brutal than you’ve seen him in previous games. He’s got a bit of a Muay Thai/MMA style to him, a lot of takedowns, ground and pounds. Michelangelo is the fastest, and I wanted him to have his nunchuk and kick attacks to really flow. He’s got a bit of capoeira in his move transitions.
Talk a bit about the lore of Out of the Shadows. What is the background context of the game? It seems like you guys are evoking sights into the Turtles past.
CF: We are staying within the realms of the new Nickelodeon fiction. But our take on it was, we wanted to do a grittier more hardcore take of the Turtles. What would this newest incarnation of the turtles look like if we took them out and into a more urban, realistic setting? The art style is not a look that we’ve seen on the Turtles before. We take elements of the show and then incorporate some of the grittier elements of the past. When you go into combat, you get the ‘white eyes’ that they are known for. There are seven different environments and we maintained a lot of darker light approach to the underground sections. It really pops with a lot of the visual effects of the game, and provides some contrast to the other looks you’ve seen. Some fan favorite enemies as well as new enemies have been created as well.
How deep are you drawing into Turtles Lore? Will we see Shredder, Krang, Casey Jones?
CF: We haven’t really divulged into those details yet. There will definitely be some people you’ve seen in the past, and some that are created specifically for the game. It will stay in the realm of the television show, in those regards.
CF: Four Turtles, four players, it just feels right. If you can get a brawler with four guys in it, sometimes magic just happens. We wanted that to be the case, and have the team element shine. You used to go the arcade and play the originals and they were such a blast. I would go to the arcade and just play and ask “What are some things that could give me inspiration?”. When you’re playing, you’ll notice a few throwbacks to the feel of the old games. For example, the timing on the attacks in the old arcade, if you jumped and attacked, or jumped, paused, and then attacked would give you different moves. We wanted to maintain whether you’re playing with multiplayer online, two player split-screen, or just AIs that you would still maintain that feeling of teamwork.
It wasn’t until recently until these games began to see this resurgence. Why do you think it took this long for the beat-em-up genre to see another spike in popularity?
CF: I think a lot of it is what the publishers are looking for. With the next-gen consoles coming out, I think they are throwing a lot of money for bigger titles for that, and then have a lot of smaller titles that can be distributed digitally. I think digital is going to be a big chunk of the future, and there has been a lot of great digital games coming out lately. Games that you expect 3-4 hours out of, and with smaller the price point are becoming very popular. This approach to digital is giving a lot of older IPs the change to make a comeback. For us, four players, multiplayer, the look, as a digital package I think it’s a perfect fit.
CF: A lot of that is on my personal preference. I wanted a game with enough depth that a 30-year-old gamer who is looking for something more substantial that simply attack-attack-attack-attack. At this point, if you’re a brawler and this system is all you have, I feel it’s not enough. You need to come up with something new. For me, the right-stick special attacks is a very unique feature. Now you can do attacks, you can counter, but once you start using the right stick and different rotations, you really can become very efficient. The right stick is also the camera and you hold a button to transition it to attacking.
Do you think the mechanical depth required you to capture a lot of essential elements of the Turtles? You’ve said a lot of the specials are pulled from movies and other media.
CF: The Turtles are always having fun in combat. That had to be conveyed. And that came with variety, and we wanted to show off their personalities in combat. The specials were a great way of really putting exclamation marks on that. When you’re Raphael, and you do a 180 spin on the right stick, you’ll powerbomb a guy. When you’re Donatello, and you do a 360 spin, he’ll spin around in a circle on his stick and sometimes you can take out a whole crowd of people. I think it really lends itself well.
CF: I hope so. The first comic dropped in 1984, and you have kids who enjoyed the original comic. Then you got the 90s cartoon, which was the right point of time for those growing up then. Then you have the more angular turtles that came out in the early 2000s that was an interesting, different approach. Every 5 years, there is a new generation of kids that get to fall in love with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s hard to say why the series is so strong, but it’s definitely undeniable. I don’t want to comment too much on the movie, but we'll see how Michael Bay appraoches the franchise. The comic that's been out for about two years now has also done some interesting things, they’ve flipped the origin story a bit. This series is really unique in the different ways people have taken it, and I think fans will always able to love the Turtles, no matter which way they are represented.