|Release Date:||June 1991|
|Players:||1 or 2|
There is simply no video game that epitomizes a love/hate relationship quite like Battletoads. I absolutely love playing this incredibly diverse game although the mind-numbing difficulty has resulted in plenty of passionate yelling along with a side-helping of thrown controllers. Seriously though, Battletoads is a truly amazing, completely original video game experience. The graphics, music, atmosphere, and gameplay are all world-class...as is the difficulty. Speaking of which, Battletoads might very well be the most challenging game that I have ever played in my entire life...and THAT is saying something!
Overview: Battletoads. By simply mentioning the name of this classic NES title, a whole host of thoughts, memories, and experiences are sure to come flooding back into the minds of those of us who grew up playing this amazing video game. Battletoads was simply unlike anything we had ever seen and as far as diversity and originality go, it was second to none. Everything from the radical graphics and super-hip music to the varied controls and gameplay elements seemed to totally shift gears after every stage! No two levels were exactly alike and that element of surprise really made it exciting especially during the initial playthrough. You never knew what to expect or what was waiting for you just around the corner which was so unlike many of the generic, unoriginal games of this era. Unlike many video games that are decent but become somewhat forgettable once you beat them, Battletoads will stick in your mind forever whether you like it or not! It is just one of those rare, unique games that was all about the journey itself and not necessarily the destination. It is not simply about getting to the end...it is how you go about playing the game and the incredible challenges that you have to face and overcome in order to reach your goal.
Before I delve any further into the actual gameplay, however, I want to briefly discuss the origins of our toad friends. For those of you who perhaps were too young to remember the Battletoads (I feel old as I type this!), they were undoubtedly created as a direct result of the overwhelming popularity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I mean, doesn't a cast of three anthropomorphic toads and a mentor resembling a bird sound just a "little" like the four turtles and their Master Splinter? Although the obvious copycat nature of the 'Toads usually ends up backfiring in the end, the funny thing is that the Battletoads, while not nearly as popular as the aforementioned Turtles, still ended up creating a nice albeit short legacy of video games.
As I have already mentioned a few times, the sheer variety of gameplay elements and styles found in Battletoads is truly remarkable considering this is an 8-bit video game that was released more than twenty years ago! Initially, Battletoads feels like a Double Dragon/TMNT hybrid. You can jump, punch/bash/kick enemies into oblivion, and even use weapons like the walkers' legs in Stage 1 to take out the trash. One aspect of Battletoads that I really like, however, is the fun, comedic ways in which you can dispatch your enemies. Whether an enemy is "kissing your fist" or you are simply giving them the "big, bad boot," the exaggerated size of your appendeges when connecting with your enemies is so hilarious...and satisfying! It lightens the mood of an otherwise unforgiving gameplay experience and allows you to vent a little if things aren't going your way. Better to send a few psycho-pigs or head-butting rats into oblivion rather than sending your controller flying into the nearest wall, right?
Although the first stage of Battletoads is relatively tame in terms of gameplay, everything changes pretty quickly. Stage 2 involves you going down a giant hole/chasm with a tightrope supporting you, Stage 3 introduces you to the dreaded hover bikes, and Stage 5 (at the aptly named Surf City) involves you treading water carefully as logs, whirlpools, and land mines all attempt to end your journey with a bang. Stage 3 in particular is where the gameplay really throws you a curveball because after playing two relatively normal stages, you suddenly feel like you are in an intense racing game! You essentially fly along a tunnel in your hover bike all while attempting to dodge countless obstacles and make timely jumps. It is an incredibly unique stage that is unlike anything else that the NES has to offer and is officially the point in the game where Battletoads becomes, well, Battletoads!
The wackiness doesn't stop there either because this game features stages where you have to literally climb on the backs of snakes, fly a plane through a raging inferno, race a homicidal rat to a time bomb, and ride the zany clinger-wingers! If you enjoy diversity in terms of gameplay, just play this game already!
Graphics: If you grew up playing games on the NES and Super NES, there is a good chance that you probably played at least one game that was developed by Rare. Famous for pushing the boundaries in terms of graphics and music, Rare was responsible for classics such as Wizards and Warriors, Cobra Triangle, Snake Rattle 'n Roll, and the acclaimed Donkey Kong Country series. Their most impressive NES offering, however, had to be Battletoads without question. For an 8-bit game released in the early 90s, Battletoads absolutely pushed the limits in terms of graphical quality. I would even make a case that Battletoads not only features some of the very best NES graphics ever, I would take these visuals over many of the early generation Super NES games!
Like so many other games that Rare developed during this time, everything is just really bold and vibrant in Battletoads. The graphics really bring this game to life and give it a personality that seems to leap from the screen at times. Not only are the various color schemes pleasant to the eyes but the amount of parallax-scrolling in Battletoads is, well, unparalled. Seriously, nearly every stage in this game uses parallax-scrolling (i.e. the background graphics moving at a different pace than the foreground graphics) and the effects are very impressive! Rare clearly didn't want to leave anything on the table when they developed this game and it shows.
Lastly, any discussion of this game's graphics would be incomplete without discussing the amazing animation throughout Ragnarok's World (the planet where this game takes place). From the plethora of hilarious actions that occur when defeating foes to a wide variety of enemies being present in Battletoads, there is always something going on in this game. The importance of this element cannot be underestimated either because without this element, Battletoads would be just another ordinary, soulless game. Battletoads toes the line between comedy and toughness and overall, it makes for an incredibly unique gameplay experience.
Music: Along with the big, bold, in-your-face visuals, Battletoads features one mad, bad, and crazy soundtrack! For an 8-bit video game (How many times have I said that phrase already?!), the music throughout Battletoads is really hip! I thought this back when I first played the game and I still feel the same way today. The music in this game is not only really good; it is also incredibly original and diverse. Nearly every stage features its own, unique tune (only Surf City and the Terra Tubes share the same track) and the style is simply one of a kind. It almost sounds like glorified Commodore 64-styled music but even that probably isn't a fair comparison. If you have played some of Rare's other offerings like Wizards and Warriors, you might recognize some of the same sounds in Battletoads' score. Rare always had its own fun, unique style and the Battletoads soundtrack certainly reflects this.
As far as the individual tunes go, they are all very appropriate for their given stages and none of them really stand out above each other. Consistency is probably the key word here. Stage 2 (dubbed "The Wookie Hole") features just a really fun, mysterious track that gets you itching to see more while the Stage 3 hover bike track is fast, upbeat, and long (you literally have to make it through three sections of the race to hear the entire track). I also really like the track that plays in Stages 5 & 9. It is actually quite relaxing with a "watery-like" feel (which is fitting since both stages are water levels after all!) and is just an old sentimental favorite of mine. Pretty much all of the other tracks littered throughout the game are very enjoyable as well. Nothing really strikes me as being bad although the Rat Race stage probably had my least favorite music in the game.
In addition to the actual music, the sound effects in this game are simply incredible for the NES! I absolutely love the sound of clobbering enemies in this game! It is the perfect (and funny as all get-out!) sound for sure. Simply punching enemies, breaking glass, and treading water on your surf board sounds as realistic as you could hope for with the NES. Heck, even the pause sound/music is amazing in this game. Even my mom loved that little ditty and she doesn't even play video games!
Play Control: For a game as diverse as Battletoads, the various control schemes work exceptionally well! Everything feels very fluid and natural which is crucial considering the already insane difficulty level of this game. Poor play control would have absolutely killed this game but thankfully, Rare didn't forget this all-important area of the game during the development stages. This is especially the case with the myriad of vehicle-based stages that involve you riding a hover bike, a surf board, an airplane, and the dreaded clinger-wingers. Although the clinger-wingers in particular can be a pain at times (you have to be incredibly precise with the control pad), the other vehicles are incredibly simple to use. And even the clinger-wingers become second nature over time. As far as the more standard stages go, everything from tapping the control pad twice in order to run to jumping is silky smooth. There is a nice variety in terms of what you can do which keeps the gameplay from becoming stale. On the flipside, nothing ever gets too complicated. Granted, I don't think that the play control in Battletoads is quite up to Mario/Mega Man/Ninja Gaiden standards but still, it is closer than you might think.
Challenge: Boy oh boy...that's all I can say. Any discussion of Battletoads for the NES absolutely, positively, has to include a detailed section discussing the game's difficulty. Simply put, Battletoads is in a world of its own in this particular department. This game is truly a man among boys and only a world class gamer can even hope to beat this video game (from start to finish without any warps or five man codes that is). Of the 500+ or so video games that I have played throughout my lifetime, Battletoads might very well be the most difficult game that I have ever encountered. While you could make a case for a stinker such as The Adventures of Bayou Billy or Deadly Towers (both NES games...go figure) claiming this title, those games were difficult for all of the wrong reasons. Battletoads is a great game that happens to be extremely difficult as well. That only adds to this game's mystique because how often is an insanely difficult video game actually, you know...fun?
So what exactly is it that makes Battletoads such a formidable foe you ask? Well, for one thing, the challenge level picks up in Stage 3...significantly. The moment you leap onto the hover bike(s) in the Turbo Tunnel, this game proceeds to grab you by the throat and squeeze you into submission (followed by a relentless supply of "Game Over" screens with the Dark Queen talking smack which only adds insult to injury) throughout the remainder of the game. It never really lets go until you manage to beat the game (good luck doing that!) My good friend Jon Pursel and I first played this game back when it was first released and it kind of tricks you because the first two stages are relatively tame. Not easy mind you but reasonable in terms of their difficulty. Well, when Jon and I managed to get to Stage 3 and got to the point where you ride those crazy hover bikes, the difficulty just spikes from moderate to insane! We never did manage to get past that third stage the first time we played the game and it took me literally hundreds of tries before I eventually got the pattern down. And that was only Stage 3!
What is truly scary about this game is that Stage 3 is actually easy compared with the rest of the game. The Ice Caverns (Stage 4) feature some difficult jumps that involve precise timing, Surf City (Stage 5) is very similar to the third stage in that it involves near-perfect timing and reflexes, and Karnath's Lair (Stage 6) is simply brutal at times. Speaking of which, Stage 6 has to be one of the most unique video game levels that I have ever played. It involves you running on/climbing snakes and attempting to make your way to the exit in each room. Considering that rooms 3 and 4 of this stage feature no floor with spike balls all around you, you can see how this could be just a teensy-weesy challenging.
Are you shivering with fear yet? No?! Well, if the first six stages don't give you any trouble, just wait because the worst is yet to come. The final six stages of Battletoads feature a jaw-dropped level of difficulty that only a superhuman gamer can hope to beat. Flying an airplane through the fire (literally!) is no picnic nor is climbing the "Intruder Excluder" and having to deal with the brutal Robo-Manus. And Stage 9...oh...my...gosh...Stage 9. This particular stage might have actually been the toughest one for me to beat because there are simply so many ways to die via the one-hit KO. Robots that explode if you don't hit them right away, gears that you have to outrace in two tough-as-nails sections, a plethora of toad-hating fish/sharks/electric eels wreaking havoc, and some of the most unfriendly rubber duckies that you will ever see make this stage particularly unfair. Add the fact that this stage is simply teeming with spike balls and you can start to see why this particular level still gives me nightmares. Granted, Stage 9 does feature excellent graphics, music, and atmosphere but dang...is it ever hard!
Without allowing this review to become a book, let me just say that the game's final three levels don't hold anything back. The Rat Race level (Stage 10) actually isn't too bad once you get the hang of what to do (although the last section of the stage is tough thanks to the crazy rat that makes Usain Bolt look like a freaking snail). The Clinger-Winger stage (Stage 11) has tripped me up more times than not, however. It actually is a cool stage with a unique concept (riding a vehicle along a crazy track that doesn't seem to be affected by gravity) but the execution has to be darn near perfect and the precision needed to pull it off is unreal. Lastly, the Dark Queen's Tower is both one of the coolest levels you will ever see and is completely and totally void of mercy. You essentially must climb this enormous tower all while making super-difficult jumps, dodging enemies, and grabbing onto poles without getting blown off. It is incredibly difficult and is a huge reason why I have only beaten this game twice in my life (one of my proudest video game accomplishments for sure).
As you can see, Battletoads is freaking difficult! The funny thing about all of this, however, is that the challenge level of this game is possibly its greatest asset in a way. This game, like other toughies such as Blaster Master and the first Turtles game, keep you coming back for more because of how enjoyable the gameplay is. You have to earn everything that you get in Battletoads and once you really get the hang of the gameplay and learn how valuable your limited lives are (you have three continues and three lives per game to start so essentially that is 12 lives to work with), basics such as accumulating as many points as possible and gathering all of the extra lives littered throughout the game become even more important. That glowing feeling of accomplishment that you get from beating a tough stage or a super-hard boss is a big reason why I find Battletoads so appealing, however. It is incredibly challenging and is absolutely brutal in spots but the game is simply too good to throw by the wayside. There is a "grudging respect" for this game if you will.
Storyline: For a game that places such a huge emphasis on gameplay and challenge, Battletoads actually has a decent background story. It isn't the best one ever but it definitely works for this style of game. Basically, our three toads (Rash, Zitz, and Pimple) are escorting the beautiful galactic princess (or something like that) Angelica to her home planet. At some point along the way, Pimple (the big, brutish Battletoad of the bunch) offers to take Angelica on a fun joy ride in his special spacecraft. Unfortunately, the villianous Dark Queen spoils everything by ambushing them in her Gargantua and taking them captive.
Naturally, our remaining 'Toads are not going to take this sitting down. Before you can say "Big Blag," Rash and Zitz are dropped onto Ragnarok's World which is where the Dark Queen and her minions are waiting in the shadows...beckoning. With the help of Professor T. Bird, Rash and Zitz plunge headfirst into a crazy, wacky world with more challenges than they could possibly imagine.
Thus begins the epic journey. Overall, this aspect of the game is definitely better than I expected. Heck, there are even brief cinema scenes that take place between levels! They usually involve the Dark Queen talking smack while T. Bird gives advice (or insults the 'Toads when they aren't doing so hot). The dialouge is random too which makes playing through the game a fun experience. You never know what to expect...even regarding the game's in-story!
Funfactor: Even though Battletoads is an epically hard video game that has probably caused more gamers to throw controllers or yell expletives than any other video game, it is, for the most part, lauded as one of the greatest NES games of all-time. And honestly, I couldn't possibly agree more with that assessment! I absolutely love Battletoads and have really grown to appreciate it more and more over the years. Unlike a lot of NES games, time doesn't really seem to affect Battletoads. Whether it is the year 1991 or 2011, this game is timeless with its amazing gameplay and razor-thin margin for error. It is a gamer's game and is a great litmus test for any aspiring gamer. If you enjoy video games and feel like achieving greatness in the realm of gaming, you couldn't possibly pick a better game to test your skills. Battletoads will push you more than virtually any other game out there. Even tough-as-nails classics such as Contra, Life Force, and Blaster Master seem rather tame after taking on this monster!
As far as NES games go, Battletoads has to rank among the very best of them. This game is likely in my personal Top 10 all-time NES games list which is saying something since I have played literally hundreds of NES games. Although the graphics and music leap off the screen, the gameplay is equally deep and enjoyable. Battletoads is dynamic in every way and belongs in every NES fan's collection. This is one game that just might beat you up if you don't buy it! ;)
Negatives: I don't need to elaborate any further on the game's challenge level but it is probably safe to say that Battletoads isn't for the impatient and/or easily frustrated gamer. I hate to say this but it might be in the best interest of your controller to stay away. I honestly recommend this game to anyone who loves playing video games but realizes that they will probably never see the ending (which is just as well as Battletoads actually has a really disappointed ending). The insane challenge level probably prevented 90-95% of gamers that played Battletoads from seeing anything beyond Stage 3.
And while the two-player option is a lot of fun, the fact that you can interact and hit your partner is a real bummer. Granted, it can be a lot of fun to knock each other around and give your friend the big, bad boot when he/she is misbehaving but it definitely makes getting far in the game together super tough. What Battletoads needed in this regard was an "A" and "B" option like Double Dragon 2 where one option allowed you to hit your partner with the other option allowing you to play the game without destroying each other!
Lastly, this might sound odd but Battletoads at times can be one of the more glitchy video games out there. This is especially the case with two players. My brother and I were just playing the game recently and something really weird happened in Stage 4 where the whole stage had the wrong screen in the wrong area...?! There was also one particular instance back in the early 90s when I made it to the end of the Rat Race stage and General Slaughter (the boss) never appeared!! I do love this game but just be warned that strange things might happen when playing the game. Lol!!
Ratings: Graphics: 4.9 Music: 4.6 Play Control: 4.5 Challenge: 4.8 (Insane...but great!) Storyline: 4.1 Funfactor: 4.8 Overall Score: 27.7 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Golden Classic!!
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: November 20, 2011