Overall Rating: 3.75/5
Anthropomorphic creatures have always been a popular cultural fascination; after all, even the ancient Egyptians worshipped creatures that were half-human and half-animal, and Greek mythology tells many tales of minotaurs and other half-animalistic beings.
A few thousand years later, the idea still found popularity, and perhaps there was no better example than the phenomenon of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was a white-hot franchise for a few years in the early 1990’s. The brand was so successful, in fact, that it is often argued that they were the direct inspiration for another series of character that appeared in multiple media: The Battletoads.
They got their start on their self-titled debut cartridge, Battletoads, for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991. Created by now-legendary developer Rare, the video game followed the exploit of Rash, Zitz, and Pimple, as they chased the Dark Queen throughout the galaxy in an effort to thwart her quest for galactic domination.
A pure beat-em-‘up leveler for one or two players, Battletoads is now one of the all-time iconic classics that ever released for the NES. This just leaves one question: Why?
Walking through 2.5d levels and offering humorous flavor involving their “mentor” character Professor T. Bird and a host of robotic, alien, and creature enemies alike, the Battletoads punch, kick, and otherwise brutally harm all adversaries in their way. It is, indeed, in a similar style to the TMNT titles or the Double Dragon games, to an extent.
What makes this entry for Nintendo unique is the comic effect given to the “finishing blow” on enemies: Appendages on the Battletoads may suddenly grow, meaning that it might turn into an enormous body-sized fist that violently launched the foe across the screen, or a giant boot-like foot that kicks an enemy into the sky. This extra flair given to finishing level baddies offered the game a unique experience.
The looks of the game were stellar, for NES standards. It looked a step above the Double Dragon series and, though the character sprites were smaller than the excellent Ninja Turtle adventures, the looks were still sharp. Sci-fi landscapes were impressively rendered, and the boss baddies were able to seem truly repulsive. The Battletoads themselves never looked better, instantly recognizable and iconographic.
Rare was a developer that, unlike some, left no detail minimally worked on. While some titles from other companies would have great gameplay but profoundly lack in graphics, or look spectacular but be no fun whatsoever, Rare liked to really wring their hands through the hard work of every aspect; this shows in Battletoads, where the original score utilizes a music soundtrack that definitely sounds better than the .midi-like tracks on competing games. The effects themselves are perfect, pungent, and humorous, providing just the right enhancement to the environment in place.
Creativity and Innovation
Other than the comically exaggerated fighting moves, the game also featured a variety of different stage types, like vertically oriented climbing levels. But, in hindsight, the most infamous of these alternates were the “speeder bike” levels. These scrolling sites had players speeding through on vehicles that needed to both fend off attackers and dodge fast-coming obstacles, and required a player to either have inhumanly quick reflexes or memorize the course entirely.
In fact, overall, this is the lasting legacy of the Battletoads game: Although it is certainly known for its classic characters, its fun gameplay, its well-rounded development, and other factors, it is perhaps most famous for its high level of difficulty. Beginners should steer clear of trying to complete it; but for the true retro gamers out there, Battletoads is a fun romping classic, earning its score of 3.75 stars out of 5.