Battletoads
Box Shot
Battletoads
Platform: NES
Publisher: Tradewest
Designer: Rare
Genre: Beat-em-up
Players: 2 (Simultaneous)
Published Date 1991
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

There's nothing worse than a game that stresses character and attitude over gameplay. See, as a selling point, marketing people try to make video game characters appealing, usually by making them "cool" and "with an attitude". This works in some cases (Sonic the Hedgehog) and fails in others (Bubsy). The reason behind Bubsy's failure was that it wasn't a very good game, even though it was so very hyped up. What is the point of this, you ask? This is a NES review page, not my ranting column about video game marketing! Well, Battletoads suffers from the same syndrome...excellent characters, great idea... crappy game.

There are actually three Battletoads (appealingly named Rash, Pimple, and Zit) but one of them has been captured, along with the obligatory princess. For some reason, the evil Dark Queen did this, probably to lure the "Battlejerks" into her hideout where they would meet their demise. Well, they won't stand for that, so it's off to the rescue. When you first start the game, isn't doesn't seem that bad. It's vaguely like a simplified Double Dragon, with an attack button and jump button. Once you hit an enemy enough times with normal punches, you send out a wallop that sends that bad guy flying! There are also robots on stilts (once you kill the robots, you can take their legs and use it as a weapon), and dragons that you can mount and fly. The way you fight the boss is even innovative... you don't actually see the boss, but the view is from the point of the monster, looking at the Battletoads. Very cool indeed. Now only if the rest of the game was like this.

You then descend into a crater, hanging on a bungee cord, working your way down. Once you reach the bottom, after some more fighting, you have to hop into a hovercraft and race. The object is to move up and down to dodge walls, most of which come at you too fast to comprehend. This is where things start to go wrong. If you actually beat the level, there are several more than involve surfing over logs, climbing moving snakes while making ridiculously tough jumps to avoid getting killed by spikes, or racing a rat, on foot, to the bottom of a shaft to defuse a bomb. In the ice levels, you are forced to make nasty, precise jumps with a character that's hard to control when they jump. Why can't there just be more of the *bam* *thwip* *pow* of the first level? Why must the game change from a beat-em-up, to a reflex tester, to an annoying side-scroller? That side-scroller is where the worst of the game is...you must make very precise jumps or else you die.

Obviously, Battletoads is extremely hard. Almost everyone I know that has this game can't beat the racing segment on the third level. The later levels aren't any easier...racing that rat to defuse the bomb is near impossible, and swimming through the ducts of the Gargantuan spaceship is downright damn impossible, due to the swimming fish and the narrow passages, and even that gigantic gear chasing you, forcing you to make split-second moves. You get four lives, which go by quickly, and a few continues.

If there's one thing to not complain about, it's the graphics. The backgrounds are all excellent, using plenty of multi-plane scrolling, rare in an NES title. All of the 'toads special manuevers are very goofy and cool looking, and everything is animated well. The last level, with the rotating cool, is especially cool (although you'll find the same thing in Kirby's Adventure, a much better game.) The sound is okay...it's full of thumps that seem to go along with the image of a pig being booted several feet in the air. Most of the music is very annoying, except for the title screen tune, which is half decent. The game controls fine in the Double Dragon-like segments, but jumping seems too "floaty", which makes the jumping more frustrating than neccessary. Manuevering through underwater spikes is also very hard because of the jumpy controls. But more of the games faults lie in overambition than sloppy game control.

If Battletoads had stuck to its original game, it would've been awesome. If the other parts of the game weren't so bloody difficult, it would've been great. If you have unlimited continues, plenty of lives, and would not die so damn easily (and sent back so far, in some portions of the game) Battletoads would be playable. Alas, these faults make Battletoads incredibly difficult to enjoy and actually have fun. If you're the competetive type who wants to spend hours tearing your hair out to beat the ridiculously difficult areas and then brag to your friends, so be it. Everyone else, pack a Game Genie. It still won't help those spikes though (extra lives will help you practice!)