#59: Battletoads

Format: NES Genre: Fighting/Platform Released: 1991 Developer: Rare

Battletoads was one of my favourite games on the NES, second only to Super Mario Bros. 3, although I have to admit my recollections of how it actually played are hazy at best.

I read through a few internet reviews before I started writing this post, and almost all of them mentioned how incredibly difficult Battletoads was – something that I don’t remember at all. That either means I’m an amazingly skilled gamer or my memory isn’t up to much –  I’m guessing it’s the latter. Most reviewers bewailed the teeth-grinding difficulty of the hover bike bit on level three, and after watching a clip of the level on YouTube (see below), painful memories of thrown joypads and screamed curse words gradually began to float towards the murky surface of my brain pool. Obviously Battletoads caused so much trauma to my poor teenaged brain that the delicate organ has suppressed all memories associated with it.

Punching out the robots let you use their legs as a weapon.

There's nothing more satisfying than beating up cartoon enemies with bits of other cartoon enemies.

Battletoads was obviously a thinly veiled attempt to cash in on the mania surrounding the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the time, and I seem to remember a whole crop of these rip-offs emerging during the nineties (anyone remember Street Sharks?). I never really ‘got’ the Turtles though – even as a ten-year-old I thought they were one of the stupidest ideas I’d ever seen, and my position hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. Having said that, the Turtles video games were generally pretty good (my favourite was the original Game Boy one) – but Battletoads was in a league of its own.

"It's too orangey for crows." Not sure how the Kia Ora crows ended up in Battletoads.

"It's too orangey for crows." There was no explanation as to why the Kia Ora crows made an appearance, nor what they had against anthropomorphic toads.

One of Battletoads‘ best features was its sense of humour – something that its po-faced beat ’em up cousin Double Dragon lacked. All the cartoon violence staples were there – the character’s foot turned into a giant comedy boot to give enemies a final kick off the screen, and some enemies could be pounded into the ground, leaving only their heads showing. It was like watching Tom & Jerry but with ‘attitood’.

Comedy-violence fans rejoice! The first appearance of the Big Boot.

These comedy-violence tropes were just one example of the imagination that really set this game apart, but the variety of gameplay styles was another. The second level saw the gameplay change completely as you abseiled down some sort of multicoloured mine shaft, and then of course it all changed again on the third level with the introduction of the infamous hover bikes. My favourite bit was probably the end of level one, which saw you face off against a giant robot boss, but from the robot’s point of view – a fantastic idea that I don’t think has been used since (please correct me if I’m wrong). Skip to the end of the video below to see what I mean.

Oh, and did I mention that Battletoads looked utterly amazing at a time when most 8-bit games made do with monochromatic backgrounds and barely functional animation? No? Well consider it mentioned.

The insanely hard hover bike bit on level three – one mistake and you were sent back to the beginning.

Lewis

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7 Comments

Filed under 1991, Fighting, NES, Platform, Rare

7 responses to “#59: Battletoads

  1. skilled gamer or my memory isn’t up to much

    thanks
    killing games

  2. Psybin

    I find it funny that you never hear anyone talk about any level after level 3, like climbing the snakes or anything else! I even did a quick google image search on “battletoads” and you maybe see one level from the original battletoads that came after the hover bikes. I myself only passed the third level using an emulator and constantly saving state whenever I passed another portion. I ended up having to use this method consistantly to finally finsh the game. To anyone who has beaten this game on pure skill…we are truly not worthy.

    • lewispackwood

      Like I said in the review, my memories of the game are a bit hazy, but I’m certain that I never made it to the end – respect to anyone who did!

  3. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!
    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future. All the best

  4. Personally, I never had many issues with the third level. My bane was the seventh when the ‘toads hop on their jets! That got insane and required a lot of memorization.

    It was entirely accurate to have flames in the background of the level from Hell…

    • lewispackwood

      Urgh, the frustration that game caused! I remember that level!

      Word is that Microsoft have got Rare to work on a remake or sequel to Battletoads: I’m intrigued to play it, but my guess is that it won’t be anywhere near as hard as the original. Which is probably a good thing.

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