What do these animals have in common, besides the fact that they live and around water? Well, they are the subject of several cartoons and accompanying games released in the decade of high top sneakers and the first Bush Administration. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had the airwaves and digital world under their green thumbs. Like their animated series, the Turtles games were also incredibly popular. Game developer Rare saw this as an opportunity to hitch a ride on their coattails. They created a game starring their own amphibious fighting force who battle mutants in space. Welcome to “On the Next Level” and this week it’s a look at Battletoads!!
As mentioned before, Battletoads was developed by Rare to compete with Ultra’s series of game based on the Ninja Turtles cartoon and comics. The game features a trio of anthropomorphic frogs named after various skin conditions- Rash, Pimple and Zitz. The Battletoads fought against the Dark Queen and her army of mutants to save Princess Angelica with assistance from Professor T. Bird. In the game, Pimple and Angelica are kidnapped by the Dark Queen while they were out on a leisurely trip. Zitz and Rash travel to Ragnarok’s World to rescue their comrade and Princess Angelica. Players start with three lives in the side-scrolling beat ‘em up, which are restored whenever the player continues following defeat. The levels vary in gameplay style, keeping you on your toes throughout the game. There are varying elements of racing, climbing and vehicle-based obstacle courses. Even with these elements, Battletoads is still largely a beat ‘em up title. As Zitz and Rash, players defeat groups of enemies while avoiding environmental hazards. Weakened enemies can be finished off in a variety of ways such as punching with a huge fist, kicking with a large boot, head butting with large ram horns or, in some stages, changing into a wrecking ball.
Battletoads was presented in isometric perspective for side-scrolling stages that feature vertical movement, while the platform stages were standard allowing the player to crouch. Several levels in the game feature an obstacle course type stage. The infamous Turbo Tunnel stage is one such course. You must dodge the incoming walls while the speed increases as the stage progresses. Other types included two “tower climb” levels, descending into a chasm hanging from a rope and the snake maze where the Toads climb giant snakes to reach to exit while avoiding environmental dangers. Between levels, the Battletoads received info from Professor T. Bird along with teasing from the Dark Queen.
Battletoads was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in June 1991 followed by a Famicon release in Japan a few months later. The game was well received by critics, praised for its graphics, cartoon-style cutscenes and gameplay. A Mean Machines reviewer praised the gameplay as fast, addictive and challenging, summarizing that the wide variety of levels are enough to prevent the player from “getting bored easily.” Battletoads was nominated for the 1991 Nintendo Power Awards in nine categories, winning first place for “Graphics and Sound”, “Theme and Fun”, “Best Play Control”, and “Multi-player.” In 2008, Topless Robot ranked it as the best “least terrible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rip-off.” But many gamers will remember Battletoads as one of the most difficult game ever released for the NES. The “Turbo Tunnel” level is hailed as one of the most difficult levels ever in a game. Due to the difficulty of NES release, almost all future ports were toned down to varying degrees in order to reach a broader audience. Despite this, Battletoads was a commercial success and Rare developed two direct sequels, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs and Battletoads & Double Dragon, were both released in 1993 for various consoles. Battletoads Arcade would be the last game developed by Rare due to mediocre sales in 1994. Still, the Toads will always hold a special place in the hearts of gamers hoping that they will make a comeback.
Battletoads NES gameplay!