Although the Battletoads first appeared in 1991 as an attempt to capitalize on the thriving market for humanoid animals fighting crime, they never really stuck around outside of their initial rise to fame since their last game ended up being an arcade release in 1994. Despite this, these three toads named after skin afflictions always had something of a place in video game culture and have risen once again to try and shine once more. With a fresh style of design and a new take on the characters as a whole, has this revitalization of the Battletoads been a success or a failed experiment?
What do you do when a series has spent twenty six years languishing with only the internet and a 2015 game compilation keeping it alive? Well when it is revived you immediately take a shot at that fact of course. Rash, Zitz, and Pimple might have thought they were living the sweet life of fame after defeating the Dark Queen but it quickly turns out that their time in the spotlight was far different than what they had imagined. Instead now these action heroes now find themselves working standard jobs trying to make ends meet, and rather poorly at that.
Of course that is until Rash grows tired of it all and, through copying detective dramas, tries to reinvigorate the team to hunt down the Dark Queen once more and bring their names back into the spotlight and reclaim the fame they thought they once had. This style of self-deprecating humor and fourth wall breaking jokes quickly becomes something of a norm as the story quickly goes places that no one could have honestly imagined, even when it comes to a trio of toads capable of morphing body parts to attack enemies. Even if this style of humor isn’t up your ally, there is always something there for everyone outside of those looking for a super serious take on the group’s adventures.
While the initial reaction to the new cartoonish take on Battletoads may seem a bit rough, it is rather amazing to see how far the developers have actually managed to develop these characters and provide each of the three toads their own unique personalities all while giving some extra side-characters plus some returning faces for longtime fans some more exposure as well. With some great writing, the story surprisingly keeps things moving at a brisk pace that changes just as often as the genre of the game itself does. This means that, although the game itself may only be about four hours long depending on the difficulty the player plays at, the story itself easily could have been pushed beyond that point. Let us just hope that this new take on Battletoads isn’t the last time we’ll see this style of humor and writing for the toad trio.
When it comes to Battletoads players will find a rather strange blend of brawler, platformer, bullet-hell, and more as this entry takes the series to new heights in a variety of different ways that see the game move a bit beyond standard brawling combat, even if that brawling is still the bread and butter of the game. Players, when playing solo, will be able to swap between the three Toads on the fly with Pimple being the slow heavy hitter, Zitz being the faster combo building fighter, and Rash serving as the middle ground. All three of these characters share the same style of combos but unleash different types of attacks depending on who is being used at the time. There are the standard X strike combos, Y that serves as a launcher, and a special B move that can either deal tons of damage when worked into a combo or charged and used to smash an enemy’s guard.
This fluid combat works incredibly well as players can also dodge incoming projectiles with quick dashes, use the Toads’ long tongues to either grab and pull enemies or pull themselves toward a foe, shoot a wad of bubblegum to temporarily stun an enemy, and more. These aspects work great and it is a real blast how much action can be happening on screen at one time. It is a bit unfortunate however that the game only features local three player co-op and has no way of playing online with others.
Other than brawling against plenty of enemies, players will find that many other elements have been added into Battletoads as well, including the return of the infamous speeder bikes. Players will be tasked with taking part in platforming sections, simple hacking puzzles, bullet-hell style shooting, and more. This unique aspect allows for players to never really know what to expect when it comes to the game, as it is clearly willing to throw anything at the player to surprise them. That being said, the short length does end up playing a factor here in the end as many of these mini-game style sequences could easily have been expanded upon though even this is often used as a butt of a joke most of the time.
As for the franchise’s infamous difficulty level, Battletoads is no slouch should the player want to truly challenge their skills. There are three difficulty options that players can select when starting a save, Tadpole, Toad, and Battletoad which are fairly self explanatory and while the easy mode allows the game to be acessible to newcomers, even the normal difficulty may pose a challenge to many especially when it comes to the speeder bike levels as higher difficulties here increase the speed of the bikes though a fairly generous checkpoint system makes things bearable at least. Those looking for a real challenge will want to try Battletoad however be prepared for plenty of game over screens in this mode.
Visuals & Audio
When the new cartoonish art style was revealed for Battletoads many were concerned about the nature of the game but thankfully those concerns can be put to rest as this art style actually fits the tone of the series perfectly, especially with the way that the story has taken our Battletoad heroes. Between extremely fluid animations during combat that see the Toads’ morphing abilities look absolutely absurd while decimating foes that constantly vary in design from level to level to the fully animated and voiced cutscenses spread throughout the game, it truly feels like the developers were trying to capture the 90s cartoon style of edgy humor with a more modern aesthetic.
As mentioned before, the game features a fully voiced cast of characters that all speak frequently both during cutscenes as well as while fighting against enemies in the game. The voice work for the Toads fits their personalities perfectly while the enemies that players face off against are also voiced in a fittingly outlandish fashion.
When taking a franchise that has been beloved by many despite being mostly dead for nearly three decades, the way Battletoads was handled is probably the most correct approach possible. Sure, the short length and lack of online co-op is disappointing and those who prefer brawling only will also find the wide variety of stages not to their liking, however not only has this served as a reboot that has modernized the game’s brawling mechanics but it has also served as a way to develop personalities for all of the cast while delivering a humorous story that, while simple at its core, serves as a great starting point for what will hopefully be more games to come.