Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Birth of a Franchise 5: Battletoads

Does anyone even remember this franchise anymore? I do! Anytime you take three obvious Ninja Turtles ripoffs and let them hit people, it's going to be good. Three Toads -- Zitz, Pimple, and Rash, all are involved in fighting crime, so on and so forth, yadda yadda yadda. But hey -- the game is a big shaper of the industry. Here are the three most influential entries of the series.

Battletoads (NES, 1991)
So let's start from scratch. You've got Zitz and Rash, two crude dudes (not to be confused with 2 Crude Dudes or 2 Live Crew) that are out to rescue their brother Pimple. First of all, these graphics are pretty kick ass for the NES. Props to Rare and DataEast for getting the most out of an aging system.
The most noticeable thing about the game was the difficulty. Jesus, this game was hard! There was no password system, and no save games. Use your continues, and that's it.
Finishing off enemies was done in a cool, stylistic way, where the final blow in a combo would result in a humongously oversized first, headbut, and so on (think how Mario's fists bulge out in Super Smash Bros when he punches. Now make it 2D).

Also, in what was just forming as a trend, you could now pick up weapons and use them (ala Streets of Rage and Double Dragon). Needless to say, hitting things is cool.
Other additions were races, many of which involved memorizing a sequence of upcoming obstacles on a 2D plane (or you crash and die instantly), and 3D (a first!) sequences where you had to dodge an enemies' attacks. Cool beans.

Battletoads and Double Dragon (NES, Genesis, SNES, GameBoy, 1993)
Two words: marketing crossover. What better way to milk two franchises that you own than to combine them into a sure-sell game? Super Smash Bros. anyone? In a move that completely says "Fuck You" to the Double Dragon story, DataEast throws these guys into a Battletoads game. Choosing from 5 characters (the brothers and three toads), you punch and kick your way through...well, pretty much what seems like the first game.
There are more vehicular obstacles, and even a level where you have to descend a chasm with a cable, and touching something kills you. I'm sure that a game rips this off somewhere. I don't really know the significance of that, but it really sticks out in my head. Maybe because I died there so many times.
Again, the NES gets pushed even harder, and comes away with a scrolling 3D background. Holy crap! Not only that, but as you can see, the sprites are some fiiiiine looking ones, and the game is still as impossible as ever (although anything is easier than the original Battletoads). Seeing as the NES can do no more, the good folks at DataEast decide to try their luck on the "next generation."

Battletoads in Battlemaniacs (SNES, Genesis, 1993)

Now, I list this game not because it's so fantastic, but because it teaches a lesson. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what our "sequels" have become. This game, in essnece, is Battletoads. With pretty graphics.
But seriously, that's it. Same gameplay, same "run before this kills you," and same frustration (although still easier than the last two). But what the hell does this game bring to the table that's unique? Nothing. Not a damned thing.
So, as you've probably figured out, this is the last console Battletoads game. DataEast made a souped up version of this game in 1994 for arcades (comeplete with three-player action), but without anything new to add, the series ultimately died.
As it is, Rare (the owners of the license after DataEast went under) currently has no plans to make another Battletoads game, but has said that if a new idea presents itself for use with the license, they might do it.

Here's an idea: Make it three players, and release it to Live Arcade or Virtual Console.

1 comment:

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