Battletoads (video game)
Arc System Works (MD/GG)
|Genre(s)||Beat 'em up, platformer|
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
|Distribution||ROM cartridge, floppy disk, CD-ROM|
Battletoads is a platformer video game created by Tim and Chris Stamper and developed by Rare as the first installment of the Battletoads series. It was originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991 and subsequently ported to numerous other platforms. In the game, two space mutant warriors known as the Battletoads, Rash and Zitz, embark on a mission to defeat the evil Dark Queen on her planet and to rescue their kidnapped friends: fellow Battletoad Pimple and Princess Angelica.
Battletoads is arguably one of the most graphically advanced video games ever released for the NES, at a time when the video game market was moving on to 16-bit consoles. The game became famous for its extreme difficulty and humorous ways of beating enemies, as during finishing attacks, the main characters' body parts transform into oversized appendages for devastating and comical attacks.
Despite its positive reputation, the NES version of Battletoads is often regarded as one of, if not, the hardest video game ever created. The single player mode is often even called unbeatable.
Players start with three lives each time the game is started, and get replenished every time the player continues after reaching game over. While the levels of Battletoads vary greatly in gameplay style, the game is generally presented as "beat-em-up" in which the players progress by defeating enemies while avoiding the hazards in the environment. The players can finish off enemies in special ways, such as punching or kicking with an enlarged fist or boot, head-butting with huge ram horns, or by transforming into a wrecking ball.
Side-scrolling stages are generally presented as having an isometric perspective, while platforming stages that feature vertical progression are presented with no depth, which allows the player characters to crouch. Several levels in the game feature sections in the form of an obstacle course, where the character rides a vehicle and must dodge a series of obstacles with speed increasing as the level progresses. Other types of level include two "tower climb" levels, a descent to a chasm while hanging from a rope, an underwater level populated by lethal spikes and dangerous creatures, a maze chase riding a unicycle-like vehicle trying to escape from a deadly orb, a climbing/jumping "snake maze", and a race level in which the player has to fall as quickly as possible through countless platforms to reach the bottom of a tower before an opposing rat does. Hidden in four of the levels are "mega warp" points, which, when found, allow the player to automatically advance by two levels.
Professor T. Bird and the three Battletoads, Rash, Zitz, and Pimple, are escorting Princess Angelica to her home planet using their spacecraft, the Vulture. Pimple and Angelica decide to take a leisurely trip on Pimple's flying car. They are ambushed and captured by the Dark Queen's ship, the Gargantua. Pimple sends out a distress signal to the Vulture, alerting Professor T. Bird, Rash, and Zitz that himself and Angelica had been captured. Learning that the Gargantua is hidden beneath the surface of a nearby planet called Ragnarok's World, Professor T. Bird flies Rash and Zitz there in the Vulture to rescue them.
Between levels, the toads receive briefing comments from Professor T. Bird, along with teasing from the Dark Queen. During the game's 13 levels, the Battletoads are faced with Dark Queen's minions Big Blag, Robo Manus and Major Slaughter as bosses, ultimately facing the Dark Queen herself at the top of the Dark Tower, the game's final level. Once the Queen is defeated, she claims it will not be the last they woud see from her, later turning into some sort of tornado and flying into space, "retreating into to the shadowy margins of the galaxy to recoup her losses". With Pimple and Princess Angelica rescued, the four are brought back into the Vulture and the game ends.
The original NES game was localized for Japan a few months after its western release, with several gameplay tweaks resulting in a marginally easier experience. It was ported by Mindscape to the Amiga in 1992, by Arc System Works to the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and Sega Game Gear both in 1993, by Rare to the Game Boy in 1993, and by Mindscape to the Amiga CD32 in 1994. Ports for PC DOS and Atari ST were planned by Mindscape but never released. Due to the extreme nature of the original NES Battletoads' difficulty, almost all ports went to measures to tone it down to varying degrees, seeking to make the game more accessible to casual players.
At a first glance, the Amiga port of the game appears to be graphically superior to the NES version. The intro is more richly animated and presents extended dialog, and the in-game graphics have better resolution than the original game. However, the sound is much more rudimentary and many actions that have sound in the original game are silent in this port. Also most of the music is missing, and the level's song assignment has been completely shuffled between many of them. Furthermore, animations are simplified and some game mechanics have been altered.
The greatest differences in this port, however, were made to the game's levels, seeking to tone down the difficulty that characterized the original game. To this effect, some of the levels range from presenting slight alterations, to some of the most challenging ones being completely replaced and some of them even removed altogether. Namely, the two infamously hard racing levels in the game were entirely replaced. The third level, "Turbo Tunnel" is now replaced by a much slower paced level called "Pot Holing" in which the player flies an airplane like the one in "Volkmire's Inferno" through an automatically-scrolling maze-like level, having the ability to shoot to destroy most of the hazards in the level. The fifth stage, originally "Surf City", is now a level called "Backpackin'" in which the players ride a jetpack going up a level similar to "Wookie Hole", using a different color palette and featuring spiked obstacles. "Volkmire's Inferno", now featuring "Turbo Tunnel"'s background, was also modified; its flying section has been shortened and its difficulty greatly reduced, and the obstacles no longer cause instant death to the player, only removing health points. The Amiga CD32 version is very similar to the regular Amiga port, save for the inclusion of the Rat Race level.
The Genesis version of Battletoads is probably the closest to the original NES game. This version features all of the levels, sprites, music and animations from the original, and improves on each, providing higher definition and more richly colored graphics. The game's difficulty has been slightly toned down in the hardest parts of the game, such as the "Turbo Tunnel".
The Game Gear port, while largely faithful to the NES port, features completely redrawn graphics, the main character being the biggest departure from the NES sprites from all of the ports. The stages' features appear downscaled to account for the small screen size, and there are no cutscenes. The music, while rewritten, does a good job at following the one in the NES game. The Game Gear features 10 out of the original game's 13 levels, losing "Intruder Excluder," "Terra Tubes," and "Rat Race". The game also includes gameplay modifications to make it more accessible, such as how hoverbike crashes in the "Turbo Tunnel" only temporarily knock the player off the vehicle at the expense of some health.
Despite the original Game Boy version having the same box art and title as the NES release, Battletoads for the Game Boy is an entirely different game. While the player sprite remains the same as the NES, this version of the game only features single-player gameplay, and has fewer levels and simplified graphics and enemies. The NES game's difficulty, however, is largely maintained. The game's plot is similar to that of the NES game, only Rash has also been kidnapped alongside Pimple and Angelica, so the player takes the role of Zitz, having to go to the planet Armagedda to rescue them from the Dark Queen. After going through the game's 9 levels, the final battle is waged against Robo Manus.
A more faithful conversion of the NES game was later released in 1994 for the Game Boy as Battletoads in Ragnarok's World. This version, while graphically faithful to the original game, still had to get some cuts to fit the portable console. Featuring only eight of the original game's 13 levels, the game skips "Surf City", "Volkmire's Inferno", "Intruder Excluder", "Terra Tubes" and "Rat Race", which means the Dark Queen is the only boss the player gets to fight in the game.
|NES||Amiga||Amiga CD32||Genesis||Game Gear||Game Boy
|1. Ragnarok's Canyon||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2. Wookie Hole||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|3. Turbo Tunnel||Yes||Replaced||Replaced||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|4. Ice Caverns||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|5. Surf City||Yes||Replaced||Replaced||Yes||Yes||No|
|6. Karnath's Lair||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|7. Volkmire's Inferno||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|8. Intruder Excluder||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|9. Terra Tubes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|10. Rat Race||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|11. Clinger Winger||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
1 - In this version, Armageddon (the fight against Dark Queen) takes place seamlessly upon reaching the end of level 12 (Revolution).
The game was well received by most gaming critics. Dragon reviewers commented: "We usually are not fans of action games, but BattleToads [sic] is truly exceptional." It was nominated for the 1991 Nintendo Power Awards in nine categories, winning the first place in the categories: Graphics and Sound (NES), Theme and Fun (NES), Best Play Control (NES) and Best Multi-Player or Simultaneous (NES), the second place in the category Best Play Control (Game Boy), and the third place in the category Best Challenge (NES); it was also given the title of the "by far" Overall Best Game for NES of 1990.
In 1997, Nintendo Power ranked the NES version as the 89th best game on any Nintendo platform, commenting: "The graphics created by Rare were so exceptional by any standard and the game was so challenging and fun we devoted an unprecented 35 pages to it. Subsequent Battletoads games, such as Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, were also beautifully done, but they didn't have the impact of the original." In 2010, UGO included it on the list of the games that need sequels, also featuring the Arctic Cavern levels on the list of the coolest ice levels". Topless Robot ranked Battletoads as the number one "least terrible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rip-off" in 2008, also naming it as one of ten best beat-'em-ups of all time in 2010 and as one of ten video games that should have gotten toys in 2012. That same year, it was also listed among ten "classic videos games that deserve an HD remake" by Yahoo! News. GamesRadar ranked it the 18th best NES game ever made, stating that it was a fun game but its most notable element was its difficulty.
Battletoads has been probably most remembered for its extreme difficulty, even for experienced players. The game has even been included in numerous occasions among the hardest games ever made, including the number one spot as determined by GameTrailers. According to Destructoid, "Despite the game's brutal and unbalanced difficulty, it is remembered as one of the most beloved titles of the eight-bit generation." In 2012, Yahoo! Games stated it is "still widely recognized as one of the hardest—if not the hardest—games ever made", particularly noting the ability for players to accidentally harm their partner in two-player mode. On the negative side of things, SPIKE ranked the game's ending as the sixth biggest letdown in video game history.
The game was followed by Battletoads in Battlemaniacs and Battletoads & Double Dragon in 1993, and Super Battletoads in 1994. Also, in 1992 a pilot was presented for an animated TV series that would have served as a prequel for the video game, but never came to be.
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