I’m sure I’ve written about Battletoads before, probably in relation to its difficulty level. It’s not a long game, but it’s hard, particularly when you’re stuck piloting one of its several vehicles. It was really quite innovative, providing multiple modes of gameplay and ways for your characters to interact with the environment. The Toads could perform attacks that transformed parts of their bodies, and use parts of defeated enemies as weapons.
If anything, it might have been too much of a variety, as every stage being a different experience meant you could never really get used to the mechanics. Despite the fact that I’m sure few people ever finished it, it had a few sequels, one of which teamed up the Toads with Billy and Jimmy Lee from Double Dragon.
It appears that the arcade game is widely considered the best iteration, and it leaves out the vehicles and other gimmicks in favor of more beat-’em-up action. Now the Toads are back for a cameo appearance in the Xbox version of Shovel Knight, but I doubt I’ll ever play that, as I don’t have an Xbox. I believe pretty much all the Rare properties are in Microsoft’s hands now, with the exception of the extended Donkey Kong family.
The games were released in the heyday of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, when everyone wanted to create their own variation on wisecracking teenage anthropomorphic animals who fight crime, often in outer space. This was back in the days when I had a subscription to Nintendo Power, and the magazine promoted the game heavily, suggesting not only a series of games but other media as well. It even featured a comic telling the origin story of the Toads, something that was neglected in the actual game and its instruction booklet. They were originally three human game testers working on a virtual reality Battletoads project. The head programmer, Silas Volkmire, introduced a virus into the game that turned the testers into Toads permanently and trapped them inside the game world, which was actually an alternate universe ruled by the Dark Queen.
I don’t know how official this story was, but the Super NES game Battletoads in Battlemaniacs did incorporate the idea of the Toads as game testers and Silas as one of the Dark Queen’s henchmen with a presence in the real world, although here he was a skeletal monster with an exposed brain.
It’s not too surprising that a cartoon was attempted, but there was only ever one episode. It aired on Thanksgiving weekend in 1992, but I didn’t hear about it until years later. It’s available to watch online, and it’s pretty terrible.
There are scenes where the characters are fighting against plain white backgrounds, and the dialogue is a collection of the kind of slang kids in 1990s TV shows were always using but I’m not sure anyone ever used for real. The origin story is somewhat different, with Professor T. Bird using the essence of ancient royal toad guards to transform three junior high school losers from the town of Oxnard, California (one of those names that sounds vulgar but really isn’t) into the new Battletoads. It incorporates the shape-changing punches and kicks from the games, and one scene uses the Dark Queen’s revolving tower. It also gives a larger role to Princess Angelica, although that’s not to say she’s given any personality to speak of. And we never actually find out what she’s the princess OF, even more than we do in the games.
Why did all video game princesses in the nineties have that same hairstyle?
One joke that I think deserves some mention (and not because it’s funny) is one of the kids handing the Professor a small, unmarked bag of “organic bean sprouts.” Is there any way this ISN’T a marijuana joke that they slipped past the censors? Also, the Dark Queen is such an idiot that she blows up her own flying saucer trying to kill the Toads. Bumbling villains are one thing, but isn’t she supposed to be the main threat? No one that stupid would have ever been able to devise the Turbo Tunnel.