When I was younger, one of the games I played a lot with my brothers was Battletoads. I had always been a huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan so, for me, it was just a small lateral leap to get into Battletoads.
Developed by Rare, Battletoads came out for the NES in 1991. It would eventually spawn sequels that I would never play and a cartoon on television that I would never see. What the hell, Mom and Dad?
Now, for the unenlightened, Battletoads was a side scrolling beat ’em up. In the game, you played as an anthropomorphized toad dripping in ’90s attitude. You can play as either Rash or Zit who must fight their way through hordes of Psycho-Pigs, Scuzz (rats) and more to rescue your brother, Pimple and the lovely Princess Angelica from the clutches of the evil Dark Queen. This premise isn’t unique as it was common for the time (and now, too), for the forces of good to fail to mobilize against evil until the pretty blonde Caucasian girl with blue eyes was in danger.
Social justice rhetoric aside, what made the game so fun for my Frosted Flake addled brain was that when you attacked an enemy, your limbs would take on certain physical characteristics. For example, if you were about to finish off a Scuzz with a kick, your foot would change into a huge boot. Or, your character’s fist might grow to some obscenely large proportion to deliver the final blow.
There was also a campaign mode where you could hit hit your friends with friendly fire. Oh, the fights I had with my brothers when one of them inadvertently caved in my character’s head with a metal pipe or sent me plummeting off a cliff due to an ill-timed kick. Part of me wonders if these events weren’t accidents at all but were planned and well-orchestrated attacks on the sanity of the much larger older brother of the family. A sort of guerrilla warfare, if you will.
Sadly, I never finished the game. It wasn’t because of my brothers undermining my efforts to rescue Pimple and the princess. It was because of Stage 3, Turbo fuckin’ Tunnel. There are 13 stages in the game and I only made it to the third one. Ever. I had this game for years and I couldn’t beat that accursed turbo bike section. To this day, it actually bothers me that it defeated me so utterly. I firmly believe that to avoid the obstacles and master the physics of the turbo bike requires a mastery of all of the knowledge in the universe. Pretty certain that science would back me on that.
Still, I had so much fun with this game. There are still things that I remember to this day, twenty-four odd years later. The mech fight at the end of Stage 1 blew my tiny little eight year-old brain away. Dropping down the hole in Stage 2 with nothing more a thin rope to keep me from plummeting to the Game Over screen. Smothering my brother with a pillow after he severed said rope with the beak of a black Bird of Prey and sending me to my death. Ah, sweet nostalgia.
It says a lot about the greatness of a game that I can have only played the first three levels over two decades ago and still feel like the memories are vivid, like they just happened yesterday. Battletoads was a blast. Every now and then, people cry out for justice, for a new entry into the Batteltoads franchise or a true HD remake of the original.
I know that I would love another opportunity to grab Zit and Rash and take a final stab at the Turbo Tunnel.