Released: June 1991
US Cartridge ID: NES-8T-USA
Genre: Beat `Em Up
Supported Peripherals: Controller
ROM Size: 2 megabit
Mapper: AOROM (256k PRG)
Battletoads, a late generation game owing much of its style to the infamous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, is among the best of prolific developer Rare’s offerings on Nintendo’s eight-bit workhorse. Battletoads stars three oversized humanoid amphibians named after unsightly skin blemishes and their mutant avian mentor, Professor T. Bird. Growing restless while escorting Princess Angelica back to her home planet, Pimple decides to take her royal highness for a pleasure cruise in space. Knowing a golden meal ticket when she sees one, the Dark Queen waylays the unsuspecting pair, and transports the abductees back to her home planet, Ragnarok. Realizing what has happened, Professor Bird prepares to drop Rash and Zitz on the surface of Ragnarok, where they will fight their way to Dark Queen’s citadel, the Tower of Shadows.
The sheer number and variety of gameplay styles incorporated across Battletoads‘ twelve stages is staggering for a cartridge that only stores quarter of a megabyte of data. Upon finishing the initial side-scrolling Double Dragon style beat ’em up stage, the toads will find themselves rappelling down a bird infested crater, riding hover bikes at breakneck speed through a trap infested tunnel, surfing mined rapids, hitching rides on the backs of giant snakes, and more as they make their way closer to their friends. Guarding these routes to the Tower are the Queen’s minions, as colorful and varied as the stages themselves. Rash and Zitz will encounter, amongst others, killer androids, giant snowmen, crazed rubber duckies, and globs of snot, all strategically placed between countless lethal obstacles strewn across each stage.
The gameplay is smooth and lightning quick. In addition to standard jumps and punches, the two controllable toads have a plethora of attacks at their disposal. Most of these attacks, contextually activated, are performed following a successful combo attack. These moves, depending on the current state of the enemy, range from a huge powerful punch that will standard foes flying off the screen, to a repeated double-axe handle that pounds anything still breathing through the floor. Many different scenes feature altered controls to accommodate the changes in play mechanics, like the ability to turn into a wrecking ball while rappelling, or flinging projectiles into the screen to damage during the first-person view first stage boss.
Battletoads‘ is most well known for its ostensibly impossible level of difficulty, which has garnered it a near legendary reputation in the video game world. Granting only three lives and three continues per game with which the player must complete all twelve stages, Battletoads is indeed an extremely hard game. Thanks to (mostly) excellent hit detection and easy to handle controls, it is conquerable; don’t expect to get far, however, without much practice, patience, memorization ability, and light-speed reflexes. Obstacles (often an instant kill on contact) and foes fly at Zitz and Rash nonstop, and one-ups and health powerups are incredibly rare. Warp zones ease the burden to some extent, but less adventurous players might want to play with a turbo controller for its slowdown function in certain areas.
Finally, though the game supports two players simultaneously, an added hero makes things considerably more difficult. In one-player mode, a dead character will immediately reappear where they met their demise; in two-player mode, if one player dies, both toads restart at the last checkpoint. Zitz and Rash can also hit and kill each other, making the range of their finishing moves problematic, and unfortunately, a glitch on Stage 11 makes the game impossible to finish with two players.
Battletoads‘ graphics are among the most impressive seen on the NES.Many levels feature fully animated backgrounds with layers of parallax scrolling and smooth sprite scaling, though several areas rely a little too heavily on neon pink. The intro sequence and the cinematics between each stage look good, loaded with color and detail. In game, the toads’ animations are fluid, complete with a huge array of over-exaggerated, cartoony facial expressions. Sonically, Battletoads is loaded with heavy hitting bass effects (especially the awesome stomp-clap sample looped when the game is paused), and each level has a different tune, each impressively layered and driving.
Though the difficulty level will test the best players, Battletoads will thoroughly trounce any casual player’s notion to claim themselves skilled at old-school games. For those that persist though, despite its flaws, Battletoads‘ high production values and carefully crafted mechanics will prove a boon to seasoned gamers.
|Battletoads Tradewest, 6/1991|
|Battletoads Tradewest, 2/1993|