Rare would not be up to the task of porting the original Battletoads to the Game Boy right away, but they did deliver a brand new spin-off title for the portable console. Released shortly after the original, the Game Boy Battletoads follows a very similar plot as the original. This time, Rash and Pimple are captured by the Dark Queen and Zitz alone must battle across the planet Armagedda (in this title considered the Queen’s home planet) to get them back. Despite the fact that she still taunts the player when they lose, the Dark Queen is absent from this game, leaving Robo-Manus to host the final battle.
In a sense, Game Boy Battletoads is very much like other portable console titles like Super Mario Land, The Castlevania Adventure, or the Game Gear/Master System Sonic the Hedgehog, a “Battletoads Gaiden” if you will. It plays pretty similarly and reuses a lot of the conventions of the original, but puts its own spin to things. There’s variations on the canyon stage, the water rapids, the chase sequence, and the turbo cable descent, as well as new stages like a swamp and high crags. The sprites are all redrawn and, with the exception of your Toad (whose face looks seriously messed up), there’s an improvement in detail, particularly with the bosses.
There’s also a greater emphasis on combat than on platforming or obstacle courses, though these mechanics are well represented too, and there’s lots of new enemies to pound and a boss concluding most of the levels. The Battletoad ‘Butt isn’t as useful for some reason, but the new jumping punch has a long enough range that it easily becomes the new standard attack against enemies old and new. The new soundtrack is also worthy and fits with the spirit of the original. Curiously, pausing the game only mutes some of the channels.
The vehicle stages have been completely reimplemented from the original. Though the jet ski segment is similar to the Surf City one, there’s a mini-plane and jetpack that feature blasters to allow for rudimentary shoot-em-up stages, both horizontal and vertical. And while these levels follow the old checkpoint-based respawns, most of the other levels resurrect you right on the spot, even after using a continue. All of the new elements translate rather smoothly and almost nothing about this title, with the exception of one poorly designed level, causes even a fraction of the headache the original game could induce. That level in question attempts an ambitious gimmick requiring Zitz to jump onto circular platforms with revolving blades spinning around a central pillar. Upon landing on the platform, left and right are supposed to translate to clockwise and counter-clockwise, respectively.
In practice, the game seems to forget that you’re supposed to be moving tangentially and will suddenly switch back to lateral movement, usually when you’re near an edge, causing you to plummet to your death. This stage wouldn’t be so bad if you could horde lives to throw yourself through the gauntlet, but there’s no way to accumulate extras, so you’ve got to master the early levels to have a chance at the last few, not unlike the original title, really. But with only nine levels to clear, and fairly short ones at that, Game Boy Battletoads won’t take nearly as long to conquer and probably won’t be calling you back for seconds.
Overall, a reasonably good, if lightweight companion-piece to the series. Its approach is consistent with the original, but just different enough that some might prefer it. The Japanese version differs only in the between level cut-scenes, where the boss name is displayed with their picture instead of a corny taunt.