torstai 19. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Battletoads (1991)

Genre(s): Action / Fighting
Released: 1991
Available on: Amiga, GEN, GG, NES
Developer(s): Rare
Publisher(s): Tradewest
Players: 1-2

In the commercially golden era of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s independent comic book series turned into a multi-million franchise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, anthropomorphic heroes became a growing trend. In 1991, Rare Ltd. and Tradewest introduced the world to Zitz, Rash and Pimple, collectively known as the Battletoads. Their namesake hybrid of a beat ‘em up game and a platformer is forever remembered as one of the most difficult games in the history of the video game industry. Thanks to its unique design and the fans’ positive reaction to the characters and visual humour, the game was ported to several platforms a few years later, and it also spawned an arcade version, one “sequel” and a spinoff game starring Tradewest’s stalwart duo Double Dragon. From the design team that joined forces with Nintendo just a few years later and totally broke the bank with Donkey Kong Country, here’s Battletoads. Make what you want of it.

Like getting hit with a Frog Splash

Three computer technicians transformed into froggy, intergalactic peacekeepers known as the Battletoads, are ordered to escort Princess Angelica back to her home planet. To keep the spoiled girl happy, the ‘Toads take her on a pleasure cruise to the far sides of the galaxy. The Dark Queen ambushes them and succeeds in kidnapping the princess, as well as Pimple. Zitz and Rash immediately begin a long journey across the planet Ragnarok to save both their comrade and the princess from the clutches of the raven-haired fiend and her Psyko-Pig henchmen.

Battletoads is quite good looking, even on the NES. What matters here most is character animation, and it is very smooth. The toads’ movement and especially their combos look absolutely wicked on the system’s scale. The extremely complexed level design is handled well, even on this given capacity. The music by David Wise is simply put, groo-VAY! Rare has a reputation of employing some of the best video game music composers in the world, and with Battletoads, the company sure lives up to it.

The controls are responsive and the unique stages bring nice contrast to the constant, but extremely amusing fighting sequences. You don’t need to use only the toads’ oversized fists, feet and head to survive them, you can also equip yourself with pretty much anything you can get a grip of. Most of the weapons are left behind by fallen enemies, and they include robot legs and long bird beaks that cut like swords.

Battletoads IS fun, as long as the difficulty stays fairly medium, but we’re talking about an extremely short period of time here. Let’s get back to that in a bit. The unique level design has been mentioned a few times, so here are few examples. The first stage is pretty standard, but it has a huge robot boss which you don’t actually see; you can tell it’s huge, and your ‘Toad is totally freaking out so it can’t look too promising. Instead, you see yourself through the robot’s radar. Every time it shoots at you, you must throw a rock at it. You see the radar breaking and when you’ve thrown enough rocks, the whole thing explodes before you can see what it was. One of the most unique boss fights ever, I like it. It’s cool.

Stage 3, the calm before the storm.
In the second stage you have to watch out for birds, drones and flesh-eating plants while spelunking down a large chasm. The second half of the third stage is an unforgiving jetbike race in which you have to watch for different stone obstacles and Psyko-Pigs flying at you all the while travelling at an ultra-high speed. Did I say unforgiving...? I meant next to impossible and long as hell! Bring your patience and all the other things you might need for an overtly difficult game, ‘cause it doesn’t even give you more than three chances to continue. Frustrating, I know. Third stage of the game, and already they’re lashing out divine fury on us. That’s no way to treat a consumer.

I’m very serious about the game’s difficulty and so are a million other people who’ve had what it takes to beat the game. I haven’t, at least not yet. Although the limitations in your health and continues (read: pure frustration) play a huge role, the challenge is pretty much up to yourself, especially if you’re using an emulator to play the game and saving every moment you have the chance. You need a child’s patience to do this honestly, I reckon, but an adult’s reflexes and focus. The game is full of situations in which you absolutely need fast reflexes, and having a brilliant memory doesn’t hurt either. Good luck, you’re going to need it.

Battletoads sports cool characters, good graphics and downright awesome music, but let’s face it, the game is way too difficult for anyone to fully enjoy. It isn’t exactly for kids, but they would surely take all the backdrops easier than adults. Dying way too many hundred times and then going back to square one over and over again with no apologies isn’t the best possible way to pass the time. Apparently Rare figured that the extreme, almost impossible difficulty’s one of the strongest qualities of the game and carried this “tradition” over to the next couple of games... yet still, the first game stands at the peak in that sense.

Graphics : 8.7
Sound : 9.2
Playability : 7.3
Challenge : 9.8
Overall : 7.7


The palette is larger and the animation’s better. The 16-bit capacity does the design full justice. There are some new, awesome licks mixed up with tunes from and inspired by the original game. Dave Wise is king.

Battletoads for the Genesis is a bit easier to handle in all different situations, although I’ve always hated the scheme of the Genesis controller and hate to say I prefer it in any case. Even the jetbike races aren’t _quite_ as hard... but far from a breeze. There are a few more weapons, which you can use only once, but overall, the game is pretty much identical to the original NES version in terms of gameplay and order of progress.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse...
Like I said, the game is far from a breeze. The extra lives help out in a lot of sticky situations, but of course in the infamous racing sequences, they don’t help you one bit as you die instantly upon hitting an obstacle. This updated 1993 version of Battletoads fixes a few of the original game’s faults, but its unforgiving, nearly inhuman nature pretty much remains.

Graphics : 9.0
Sound : 9.4
Playability : 7.5
Challenge : 9.5
Overall : 7.9


GameRankings: 72.50% (GEN)

The backstory of the Battletoads was explained sometime after the release of the game, in a series of comics published in Nintendo Power and written by Rare designer Guy Miller.

While it sports the same cover art and title as the NES game, Game Boy’s Battletoads is a whole different game. The original Battletoads was later ported to Nintendo’s handheld as Battletoads in Ragnarok’s World.

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