Publisher: Tradewest (Designed by Rare)
Year of Release: 1991
Date Reviewed: 2-16-98 ("Old Era")
There are times when a game arrives that is so unwilling to take itself seriously, so similar to an established marketing giant (in this case, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles medium), and so otherwise bizarre that it impels those habitual overtinkers among us to believe there is something more to it than there really is. Those of you who have read the introduction that previously occupied this space know the case to which I am alluding. I thought Battletoads was a satire of what was then the American obsession with the aforementioned Turtles. Perhaps it is that, but I have come to doubt it -- mainly because the TMNT empire was beginning to fade into obscurity by the time "Toads" was released. I'll admit, the similarity to the Turtles can be misleading to those of us whose tendency is to compulsively over-interpret everything -- I am a regent among those people. But, upon reflection, I've come to think that Battletoads has no reason to satirize that aspect of society, principally because it probably isn't worth satirizing. This game, long as it's taken me to realize this truth, is just plain fun.
The story begins with Pimple and Princess Angelica (the nation of which she is a princess is never specified) out for a joyride in a little cruiser ship, whereupon the "Dark Queen" kidnaps them by swallowing their ship with a much bigger one. The two remaining toads, at the urging of their sarcastic vulture mentor, set out to rescue their compatriot and the princess. The plot is, quite obviously, deliberately silly, but the action is really quite a lot of fun.
The Dark Queen's minions are primarily war robots, rats, and warthogs. Due to the fact that, to most, these are not likeable animals, beating the hell out of them is that much more fun, especially with the finishing blows with which the toads come equipped. After dealing out three or four standard punches, the toad's fist becomes very large, and the enemy is blown off the screen. There are also occasions on which the toad will kick with a very large boot, ram its head (which becomes two big horns when properly executed) into the enemy, and squash its enemy against the wall.
However, there is more to this game than mere fighting. There is the "Turbo Tunnel", in which the toads speed through a tunnel on jet bikes, the surfing stage, in which the toads surf down a raging river, a stage in which the toads must climb on giant mechanical snakes, and the list goes on from there. Each of these stages is unique, and enjoyable once its little secrets have been figured out. Before that, however, many stages are nothing short of infuriating, especially when you factor in the fact that your mentor taunts you every time you have to invoke a continue.
In my opinion, the most blatant irony of this game was its success. It was released in 1991, a year I credit as being the renaissance of the NES -- a time when everything in game production was attempted, all of it to its best. However, in this year when so many fine games were released, one game won nearly every one of Nintendo Power's "Nester Awards." Battletoads was this game, and (if I may speak candidly), it was not that good, especially when one considers how many fine games were released in 1991. To put it succintly, Battletoads is an entertaining game -- very much so, in fact. However, it is not meritorious of the number of accolades it received.
My Score: 8
Like fish in a barrel...
Four words: Seat belts save lives.
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