The Good Old Days: Battletoads

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Welcome to the first edition of Good Old Days, the new regular column at IoM where we take a look at the crap we loved as kids and give it another look as adults to see if it still holds up.

Have you ever had a situation where you just were so excited that something you loved as a kid was coming on TV, or being released on DVD, and you showed it to your friends or loved ones and realized that you were embarrassed for liking it in the first place? Yeah…we’re going to do that…weekly. Prepare for raped childhood memories.

Today’s discussion – BATTLETOADS!

I loved a lot of assorted geekery as a kid – my dad owned a video/computer game store, so I was always up to date on the newest video games and movies, without having to buy them or run to Blockbuster and rent them. It’s in that video store that my love of horror, Full Moon movies, and video games really began. The store isn’t open anymore, but I still have fond memories of working there every Saturday (or most every day during the summers) and the great movies, computer games, and video games that I experienced.

battletoadsI had a thing as a kid (hell, still do) for talking animals in space. Hell, talking animals in any kind of geek-friendly environment (have you listened to our interviews with the creators of Missile Mouse and Mouse Guard?). No talking animals captured my love as a kid love the beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and when they started releasing video games, it was like someone had created the perfect game matched to my tastes.

Rare, the company behind such hits as Donkey Kong Country, Goldeneye, and Perfect Dark, tried to capitalize on the whole “talking green lizard-type thing” fad by creating their own badass characters, the Battletoads. Zits, Rash, and Pimple premiered on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991.

I can’t lie, as a kid, I never really got past the first couple of levels in the game. Battletoads is infamous for its difficulty level, and with good reason. There’s so much crap trying to kill you, and it’s so easy to die, it’s actually been nominated as one of the most difficult games of all time. Nevermind the fact that I never got very far in the game – I LOVED it as a little Paul. I mean, you were toads…in SPACE!

Apparently the story is that one of the Battletoads and a Princess were kidnapped by the Dark Queen and you, playing as one of the two other toads (or both with a second player), were sent by Professor T. Bird to rescue them. What happens at the end? F*ck if I know…I’m not sure I even made it halfway into the game.

I think the main thing I loved about Battletoads was the variety of gameplay – sure, you could tell there were regular beat-em-up levels, akin to stuff like Double Dragon or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle video game, but there were also levels where you cruised around on a flying motorcycle, or repelled down a shaft while robots tried to kill you. Plus, there were scenes where robots tried to kill you and you actually had to throw stuff at the screen. Loved that stuff.

543416-battletoads_superThere were also cool “finishing moves” – a headbutt where you grew ram horns, a punch with an enlarged fist, a kick move where you sprouting an enlarged boot, and on climbing/falling levels, the ability to transform into a wrecking ball by having your character line up with the wall on either side of the screen. It had the “edge” of the TMNT, with a ton of great humor thrown in too.

There were also a couple of awesome sequels, including a team-up game with Double Dragon that I actually enjoyed even more than the original game.

Revisiting original NES games is less tricky nowadays thanks to things like the Wii, and emulators (hell, Mozilla Firefox has a plug-in that allows you to play these games). The only bad thing is that I don’t have that original Nintendo joystick to play the game with.

Not surprisingly, the game actually holds up pretty well to this day. I mean, the graphics are 19 years old, but you can still tell what’s going on, the animation is still pretty well done, and the humor comes through. These are the kinds of retro-games that companies are putting out nowadays, just with swankier graphics, to appeal to a modern audience who used to play games like this growing up.

The bad thing, though, is that the game is still hard as f*ck. I know I’m a better gamer nowadays than I was when the game originally came out, but it kicks my ass all over the galaxy. I barely get to the third stage of the game, and even then that was a challenge. I remember that playing with 2 players does make the game significantly less difficult…but it’s still a damn ass hard game. In fact, nothing describes my feelings about the difficulty of Battletoads better than this video:

Love the reference to the music in the game – I still beatbox the pause music from time to time when I’m bored.

With Splatterhouse, Raccoon Knight, and all sorts of 90’s games coming back in modern interations (even the original TMNT: Turtles in Time game was reimagined with modern graphics) I think a downloadable reimagining of the original Battletoads would make a killing nowadays (maybe they could add varying degrees of difficulty?). I wonder what a modern Battletoads game would entail – would it just be a fancy looking beat-em-up, or could they try something different?

What do you guys think?

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