Battletoads and Double Dragon – SNES
Platform: Super Nintendo
Developer: Rare Ltd.
Release Date (NA): December 1, 1993
Genre: Beat ’em Up
Nerd Rating: 9.0/10
Reviewed by Gunsavior
Battletoads and Double Dragon was one part of a three-pronged attack. Along with Battletoads in Battlemaniacs (SNES) and Battletoads in Ragnarok’s World (Game Boy), its mission was to cement Rare’s amphibious heroes as a viable, evergreen franchise while pulling Double Dragon out of its horrible rut. This was one of the first major video game crossovers from an era before gaming crossovers were cool/played out. What should have been the young franchise’s finest moment turned out to be its last hoorah, but does that mean gaming’s first team-up was a forgettable endeavor?
The game’s story is as simple as it is ridiculous. The Battletoads‘ nemesis, the Dark Queen, teams up with the Shadow Boss to take over Earth. In order to save the planet, the Toads pick up Billy (not Bimmy) and Jimmy Lee in a toad shaped helicopter and fly to a rat shaped space ship to combat the new threat. A story like that would be laughed at in today’s gritty, ultra-realistic gaming culture but in 1994 it was par for the course.
At its heart, BT/DD is more Battletoads than Double Dragon and, like its predecessors, it’s not content to be JUST a brawler. The game’s seven levels consist of traditional brawling interspersed with speed biking, rappelling, and shooter sequences. This variety keeps the surprisingly long stages interesting since you’re rarely doing the same thing for too long. Even the play control is classic Battletoads with a regular attack combo, jump attack, and rushing attack. It may lack Double Dragon‘s complexity, but it plays smoother than any game that franchise ever had.
One area that was thankfully adjusted was Battletoads’ maddening difficulty. The original game is considered to be one of the hardest on the NES (even more-so with two players) which definitely limited its appeal. This game wisely scales back the difficulty, making it considerably more fun to play. Make no mistake, though, seeing the end credits requires considerable effort, but it’s nowhere near as punishing as before. The only level that may prove to be a sticking point is level 4, in which you fight the Rat ship from a space pod. The level is a direct ripoff of classic Asteroids with the addition of homing missiles, flying saucer dogfights, and a boss battle. The controls are terribly awkward, and this level may single handedly obliterate your 1up reserve. This is a trial you must suffer through to continue on the good stuff and oh does it get good.
The main reason to play this on the SNES instead of the other three systems it was released for (NES, Genesis, and Game Boy) is the audio/visual experience. Originally designed as an NES game, the SNES’ superior graphic capabilities and vast color palette create a vibrant, cartoonish look with smooth animation and expressive characters. The character sprites were a bit small compared to its contemporaries (Turtles in Time, Streets of Rage 2, Final Fight 2, etc.) but the graphics were striking and moved at a surprisingly fast clip.Where the game truly excels, though, is its soundtrack. The music was composed by David Wise who brings an ’80s metal feel to the game. Its electric guitar heavy OST makes great use of the system’s sound chip and no other version of the game can even dream of touching it.
Battletoads is one of the few franchises to die without actually having a bad game, so what happened? Rare seemed poised to turn the Toads into its big franchise until the 50 megaton bomb that was Donkey Kong Country landed the following year. With a massive hit and Nintendo’s aggressive support, the company would shift gears and focus almost exclusively on Kong for the next few years. The Toads were quickly forgotten. The last game in the series, Super Battletoads (Arcade), was released twenty years ago.
It was a major push that turned out to be a last hoorah but Battletoads and Double Dragon’s legacy has not been forgotten. Shortly after the release of WayForward’s Double Dragon Neon (2012), the game’s lead designer, Sean Velasco, commented on the possibility of Battletoads DLC in the game’s future. He said, “maybe if everyone from the internet calls and bothers Microsoft and Rare enough, we could get the Battletoads into Double Dragon Neon as DLC.” While this statement wreaks of sarcasm, just the prospect of a new Battletoads game created by WayForward would be an exciting proposition.
With spot on controls, a quirky story and varied gameplay this was the kind of action game that demanded attention. It’s a game bursting at the seams with personality and campy humor that rises above others of its era and genre. Grab the game, grab a friend (and maybe a few beers) and get to battling through this silly, bygone adventure. Once you’re finished, you may begin harassing Rare and Microsoft for a franchise revival.
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