Review by Retro
"I HATE IT! Wait, no, I love it."
There are some things that I just don't know whether to like or dislike. Green beans I can take or leave. You won't ever hear me ask for them, but if somebody cooks some, I'll eat them. A certain aunt has always been super nice every time she sees me. She'll say ''HEYYYYYY'' and walk up to me and embrace me as if I were the fountain of youth that could cure her wrinkling skin, but I've heard word from reliable sources of her judgmental, backstabbing tactics that she employs when I'm not around. Sometimes I like her. Sometimes I like her about as much as I enjoy stepping in fresh, mushy dog crap on my way to a date's door.
Battletoads gives me the same feeling.
Dark Queen, an ugly humanoid character with dark hair and squinty eyes, has a great liking for frog legs. She captures Pimple and his girlfriend, Angelica, while they're minding their own business cruising through outer space in a futuristic car. The remaining toads, Rash and Zitz, must do as their feathery leader, Professor T. Bird (he resembles Larry Bird a great deal), says and go rescue them, no matter what it takes.
Starting off well is nothing. Let's say you're a star basketball player. You can contribute a lot to your team's success by scoring a few points in the first quarter, but you'll be remembered a lot more for how you finish the game. Lighting up the opposing team for ten crucial points down the stretch of a close game would earn you much more respect. And just think how you and your teammates would feel if you were to hit the game winner! Battletoads seems extremely promising right from the beginning.
Rash (the toad you use in a one-player game) steps out of the bird-looking spaceship and is set onto a planet in which axe-wielding pigs walk up to him as if they've known him all their lives. A few seconds later, you run into a couple of flying dragon/pigs that are gliding toward you, just wanting to get their sharp claws on some slick amphibian skin so they can body slam you from more than fifty feet in the air. Be nice. Don't kill them yet; just stun one and then hop on for a ride to experience something that's toadally classic! All of this greatness of the first level concludes with a fight against an eternally memorable 8-bit boss. You see your pitiful-looking self through the boss's first-person, infrared screen as you run back and forth, grab a steel ball, and throw it toward the screen to try and avoid becoming swamp stew.
Good times continue full force in level two, where you slide down the screen holding on to a cable while starving plants, cable-snapping ravens, and electrical robots called Retro Blasters (come on now, who'd want to blast me!??) attempt to make you fall down and go RIBBIT! But don't fret. You can sissy kick them, swing at them with the sharp blade of a sword, or, best of all, hug the side of the wall until you literally morph into a wrecking ball that could turn any boss into a wreck, let alone these regular enemies.
Man, Battletoads seems to be a surefire classic with excellent variety and originality so far. Level three, Turbo Tunnel, is the most notorious part of the game for its blinding difficulty. I find its challenge to be rather overrated, myself. I used to brag to all my friends about how I was the only person I knew that could pass it. You just beat up a few rats and jump over some rocky lava pits before you get to take a ride on a fun ''speed bike'' that looks more like a snowmobile.
Memorization comes into place here as solid white barriers flash and then come your way. No cool lasers or bombs are present on your vehicle; you have no choice but to dodge all of these obstacles and to use ramps to sail over mindless stretches of lava that would make football fields appear small. In the very last section of Turbo Tunnel, I can see into the mind of all the whiny gamers out there. It's tough. The bike on which you ride eventually travels beyond the speed of light as several barriers pass by either side of your vehicle, leaving you to press up and down as fast as you can. If your fingers just aren't quick enough, if your hand-eye coordination needs some work, or if you're a constant blinker, you're simply doomed.
The icy cavern is where Battletoads begins to become hard as calculus to me. It includes some interesting concepts, such as defeating a live snowman and then using its remains (perfectly round snowballs!) to break through walls that aren't as solid as they look. I would assume that since I only hear frogs and toads making noises in the summertime where I live, that they're not fans of cold places. You'll want to pass this icy stage as fast as possible, not only for that reason, but because it's horrendous. The second you reach a certain place, a spiky, yellow shell will come sliding out of nowhere and knock you down on your warty ass. And that takes away half of your energy! Just a bit later in your 2D, below freezing quest, you'll have to run down a series of icy cliffs, but before you're even halfway down, an ice cube bowls you over. You won't get up until you reach the bottom (at least you reached the bottom, though!). You'll catch yourself yelling, ''****, that ain't fair! I didn't see it coming.'' But that's just the way it is with Battletoads. Until you lose legions of lives memorizing where all the hazards are, you're not going anywhere, buster.
I love the beat 'em up aspect of Battletoads. Video games that have a lot of variety also score big points with me, but this one's different. I would've liked to have seen more of the beat 'em up side of it. Maybe there are more levels of that type later in the game, but how would I know? Most of the time I can't get past level six, the snake pit. Loooooong snakes that almost seem mechanical slither out of one hole in the side of the rocky walls, and then crawl around in twisting directions, sometimes overlapping its own body, until it escapes into a different hole. You must use these serpents as platforms in order to make it out of this unfair stage that is as fun as picking up a frog in real life and having it piss on you.
Riding the snakes, climbing up their vertical sections, and yes, even wasting a few lives trying to remember where they're going to go isn't the bad part. The bad thing is the balls of spikes lying around at various places. That's Battletoads's other fatal flaw. It's alright to have one or two types of enemies or obstacles in a video game that can spell death with just one blow, but when you have spikes, mines, etc., that are scattered about as far from each other as peas in a pod, things become hectic and your patience runs thin.
If looks could kill, Battletoads would be a killer title. The backgrounds are usually something very simplistic, such as rocks or intestines-looking patterns. But those beds of rocks are detailed greatly with splits all over them, making them look like they came from a real river. The 'intestines' look so real it almost gives you a stomachache, and the parts of the background that are closer to the screen pass by faster than those that are farther away, making for a realistic effect. However, the biggest accomplishment of the graphics is the superb animation. As if a toad walking on two legs isn't scary enough, the Battletoads are dressed up in spiked elbow and kneepads to give them that classic badass look. While jumping as far as you can over a pit, Rash and Zitz's legs spread apart and then widen even more at the peak of their jump before coming back together for the landing. When punching or kicking an enemy to its death off the screen, your toad's fist or foot becomes bigger than the rest of its body in comic book style fashion, which is liable to make you think to yourself, ''Now that was cool!''
I feel that the music is a mixed bag of decency and blahfulness. Some of the tracks sound too distant for their own good, and when you turn the volume up to hear them more clearly, you find out your effort was in vain, because they usually sound mediocre at best. There are two standouts, however. The pause screen music makes you want to sarcastically get up and dance with its catchy beat that loops around about every five seconds. When you first jump onto a speed bike in Turbo Tunnel, you'll instantly notice that the music becomes faster-paced, which really adds to the atmosphere, cause boy, you're about to travel fast on that bike! You better hope that you like the music of the game over/continue screen (I actually do), because you'll get to know it real well. The fighting sounds and other effects are usually relevant, but, like the music, they're typically not that noticeable. They're just there. The one exception is the sound of head butting, punching, or kicking an enemy to its death. That loud ''BOP'' makes you feel like you kick ass!
Another good side to the Battletoads experience is that you and a friend can play simultaneously in a two-player game at any time for even more fun! One of the ''little things'' that makes me like Rampage more than I should is that, when you play a two-player game, you and your pal can beat each other up. Doing the same in Battletoads never ceases to be both hilarious and toad loads of fun, especially in the second level.
I'm beat. I just can't decide what to think of Battletoads even after all these years. Its difficulty drives me up the wall, but I love its charm, variety, and it's downright fun in places. I know I won't pass that horrific snake pit every time I jam the cartridge in, but I play it anyway. Whether it's for a good or bad reason, Battletoads will always hold a special place in the video game section of my heart until I die. The following poem is my opinion of this gem/stinker in a nutshell:
Good starts don't always equal a good finish.
If you think they do, then you wish.
Battletoads is a prime example,
Play it and see more than a sample.
Original tactics, variety, and fun gameplay spell greatness,
But only three continues and mindless difficulty spells madness.
It almost makes me hate the game,
Proclaiming that it's toadally lame.
Underneath it all, I love Battletoads,
So I won't flush it down any commodes.
I don't know what it is,
I'm certainly no Battletoads whiz,
But nevertheless, the game is an NES classic,
Almost making the challenge seem not so drastic.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/09/03, Updated 06/03/04
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