Battletoads

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Battletoads was possibly the first supremely hard game I ever owned. Sure, I’d had some that took some time to get anywhere in, but this game stopped me at the third level for years. Of course, part of that was that it hard to maintain interest in this game for too long because the Super Nintendo was right around the corner.

Today? After memorizing patterns, I can make it pretty far in this game. Don’t know if I could beat it, though. It pretty much stands as one of the hardest games ever. If you youngsters out there think a Hitman or Borderlands game is in this category, you have no idea…

Before we get into the stats, I point out that there is a Sega Genesis version. It’s a rock-solid version in its own right, but I’m reviewing the NES version because it’s the one I played as a child.

Plot: 6 out of 10

It’s a kidnapping plot. If you don’t play right away, you are treated to a cutscene in which we’re told that Princess Angelica and the biggest Battletoad, Pimple, have been captured by The Dark Queen,so the remaining two ‘Toads, Rash and Zitz, make a rescue attempt, with their mentor, Professor T. Bird, coaching them between levels.

Beyond the unoriginality of the plot, humanoid green animals taking on a dark human antagonist? What’s familiar about that? Could it be (sarcastic pause) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Thought so. Rash is the kool kid and party animal, while Zitz is a serious, calculating field leader. In short, Michelangelo and Leonardo.

That said, the humor in the cutscenes and names of enemies like psyko-pigs and and Scuzz are effective.  However unoriginal it is, I do enjoy this plot.

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Plus, the Professor acts less like Splinter than Hollywood’s idea of a coach.

Graphics: 9 out of 10

One of the best-looking NES games ever, Battletoads Looks excellent all around. Everything is both animated and detailed superbly.

Sound: 6 out of 10

The music isn’t all that bad, with one exception. When you pause the game, crude fart sounds (I think that’s what they’re supposed to be) start playing. It’s nothing less awful. Worse, you’ve got to hear it every time you pause the game.

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That’s one way to deal with an infestation.

Gameplay: 8 out of 10

This game has a lot of styles of play. The first level is a beat-’em-up. But subsequent levels do different things like avoiding obstacles on a fast vehicle, riding wild snakes, and platforming on slippery ice.

Jumping is a bit floaty, but other than that, the controls work well. And the variety of styles give this game quite a bit of replay value.

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This game is not for those with a fear of snakes.

Challenge: 4 out of 10

And now for what Battletoads is best known for by far. The first level is easy and the second isn’t too hard. But when you come level three, the difficulty skyrockets! You are constantly given very little time to react and not allowed even a single mistake before dying. In fact, the life bar seems superfluous because there are so many one-hit kills.

Still, apart how suddenly the difficulty goes up, this game can be quite fun. Not only is there great action, the difficulty gives you a reason to work.

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Does that cable have its own air supply?

Still, I have to give this category a low rating for two reasons. The first is that you have limited continues. No game this hard should send you back the beginning. Secondly, the ending isn’t worth working so hard to reach. The Dark Queen gets away and the Professor congratulates you. That’s all there is. An ending should be more satisfying than this, especially for such an extremely hard game.

Overall: 6 out of 10

Battletoads got quite quite a bit of hype back in the day. Nintendo Power Magazine gave it some short comics and an excessively long overview that all but predicted the beginning of a monster series. That’s not quite how things turned out. There was a Gameboy game that I’d say was about the same as this game. The Gameboy also had a shortened port of the subject of this review. The Super Nintendo got a game that, incredibly, is actually significantly harder than the one I have reviewed. Then there was the crossover with Double Dragon but with the Battletoads style of play. Quite honestly, this one was really good. But I don’t remember any of these sequels being all that successful. The reason, in my opinion, is that mega-hard games have a limited appeal. The average player can’t get far in them, so they’re not likely to go back for more.

As for the original Battletoads, it’s fun, but the high difficulty, limited continues, and weak ending, detract from it.

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