torstai 19. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Battletoads & Double Dragon - The Ultimate Team (1993)

Genre(s): Action / Fighting
Released: 1993
Platform(s): GB, GEN, NES, SNES
Developer(s): Rare
Publisher(s): Tradewest
Players: 1-2

In 1993, Rare and Tradewest collaborated to create a commercially viable union. 1991’s Battletoads had gained reputation among die-hard gamers and the titular characters were seen by some as serious rivals to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Instead of simply making a game called Battletoads II, Tradewest did one better and took their long-standing Double Dragon franchise, momentarily mixed these two up and created their ultimate team. Zitz, Rash and Pimple joined forces with Billy and Jimmy Lee in a game that got mixed reviews, but remains a decent curiosity item in my books.

Next up, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Mario Bros....?

When a giant spaceship dubbed Colossus emerges from the moon and the Earth’s military is incapacitated, the Battletoads hit the scene. The Dark Queen has apparently returned and joined forces with the Shadow Boss. The situation calls for backup, so Shadow Boss’ arch rivals Billy and Jimmy Lee, the Double Dragon, are called in to aid the Battletoads to put an end to this catastrophic union. With the help of Professor T. Bird, the ultimate team starts taking down the Queen’s army one by one.

The NES game looks quite all right, like a partly updated version of the system’s original Battletoads. Character animation isn’t quite as nice, more emphasis is apparently put on the overall concept of the game instead of making the famous moves look good. The music, although written by David Wise yet again, isn’t quite on par with what I expected, but it’s good nonetheless. With Wise on board, you simply can’t go all wrong with the music.

It really makes no spitting difference which character you use. Sure, all of them have different moves, but they all play out the same and your success in the game isn’t character-dependent in any possible way. The ‘Toads are just a tad easier and smoother to control, and even that might just be a matter of opinion and habit; for the record, back when this review was written, I hadn’t played one single Double Dragon game in 15 years. Technos Japan, who have made most Double Dragon titles, the ones that are considered official, wasn’t involved in the game’s development in any way, and it shows, ‘cause the game really focuses on the Battletoads, the previous game’s legacy and themes related to both.

Many features from the previous Battletoads game return, even some of the most feared ones. Yes, I do mean the jetbike race. But, it is much easier than in the previous game. The gameplay’s the same, but there are less obstacles and they’re quite easy to dodge – the biggest problem here is the swarm of enemies that follows you and can drop you off the bike with one single, well timed punch. The spelunking stage is a bit harder than before due to some awkward problems with the control schematics emerging from time to time, usually at the utterly WRONG time.

The boss fights, although they’re so hyped in the beginning of each level, are sad, simple deathmatches with very little strategy involved. If you can punch in a series of well timed combos, you can pretty much lock the boss up with those and keep punching until he drops. Easy, and totally anti-climactic.

Take that, you stupid TV. For all the great
shows you've cancelled.
Arguably the most difficult sequences in the game are the space shooters that remind me a bit of Solar Jetman. In these, you have to use the “Toadpod” (?) to shoot down meteorites and all the crap thrown at you from the Rat Ship. First of all, the pod is incredibly difficult to control. You will be no stranger to sudden death, and just like in the original Battletoads game, extra lives are pretty scarce, or extremely well hidden. You have three continues, and you always start off with three lives. Three ain’t your lucky number in any Battletoads game, that’s for sure; remember what always lurks in Stage 3.

Progress itself isn’t quite as difficult as it used to be, but the later half of the game, from Stage 4 onward, will still give you a fair amount of hell, and if you don’t happen to be some sort of superpro (or have the tendency to save at a 10 second interval on an emulator), you’ve already probably lost a whopping amount of lives and continues before reaching that point in the game. So, don’t expect any rewards for beating a tough stage, no matter how challenging it is. There’s always something worse coming your way. At least the game’s a little more consistent than the first game which had next to no breeze in it.

Battletoads & Double Dragon
is not a bad game, but first of all, a shameless and irrelevant plug to propose to Double Dragon fans. Secondly, although easier, the game does have its moments when you just want to smash the controller to three million little pieces with a sledgehammer and scream until your throat bleeds, not because of the difficulty of the game itself, but the mental difficulty to bear the measly amount of opportunities and the good Professor’s jabs at your incompetence once you die. Seriously, if that guy would’ve been removed from the game altogether, the final rating would’ve gone up by at least two tenths.

Graphics : 8.5
Sound : 8.3
Playability : 7.0
Challenge : 8.7
Overall : 7.5


16-bit colours once again, naturally, breathe new life into the game, but I’m not a fan of the doll-ish look of the characters, especially not that of the enemies. The soundtrack sounds much better at this capacity, but the tunes themselves still aren’t up to par. The title track rocks, though. I could pretty much listen to that one for the duration of the game.

What the hell happened to the controls? They’re painfully oversensitive and the difficulty in comparison to the NES version explodes through the roof. You’ll very easily be caught in situations in which you have three guys mauling your character at the same time and you have no chance of breaking their dominant hold. You don’t have to play long at all to see your life drained away in this kind of bind. You can’t do much of anything but just stand there and wait for them to quit, or just die and try again. This kind of reminds me of the boss battles in the NES version (they’re actually quite easy here as well), only this time the recipient of the unforgiving violence is your character. It’s impossible to just ignore the enemies, too; you still have to beat each one to advance to the next screen. As far as everything else is concerned, the versions are identical. Of course, this very important, spoken subject has quite an effect on the overall rating.
They're like G.I. Joe action figures made out
of rubber.

This game is unadulterated anger and frustration in motion. It’s extremely hard, in the completely wrong way, and tedious, and absorbing to make progress in this game, and remembering what you have to go through later, the jetbike race, the space shooter etc., makes the immense loss of opportunities in the first one or two stages that much harder to watch. It’s unbelievable, but the 8-bit version is considerably better. The faulty, naturally a bit more complexed controls, and the enemies who’ve had way too much caffeine ruin every chance of a joyous gaming experience.

Graphics : 8.6
Sound : 8.5
Playability : 6.2
Challenge : 6.9
Overall : 6.6


GameRankings: 65.50% (GB), 65.00% (GEN), 59.70% (SNES)

Technos Japan, the creator of the Double Dragon franchise, was not part of this title’s development in any way. The lack of their developmental efforts resulted in character inconsistencies and many die-hard fans of the original franchise disregarding the game.

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