Five Things We Didn't Learn From Battletoads

By Aaron Matteson in Five Things, Humor, Lists!
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 2:00 pm

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Get ready for the TOADS

Several weeks ago we ran an article about all the various things we learned from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video games, and in the introduction we ruminated on the many nonsensical aspects of Turtles lore. We all love anthropomorphism, but when we're talking about not only turtles with human traits but adolescent turtles with ninja skills spouting late-80's buzzwords and eating pizza, some kind of line has been crossed.

Battletoads, on the other hand, not only crosses that line. Battletoads sprints across the line, punches the line with an enlarged fist, and then defecates on it.

Battletoads is one of the more notoriously difficult NES games, and for that reason alone it's left an imprint on the minds of many young gamers who strived valiantly to save Princess Angelica by subjecting themselves to the horrors of planet Ragnarok. Incidentally, many of these same children formed metal bands in high school to vent all that stored frustration and to use words like "Ragnarok" again.

Maybe it's a function of how hardcore the game is, but it's difficult to identify things that Battletoads actually taught us. It is easier to see things that it absolutely and in no uncertain terms did NOT teach us.  These things include...

1.) Be original.

 

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Does this rad dude remind you of anyone? Hint: Cowabunga!

 

For some reason, some creative enterprises seem to attract clumsy, strange derivative rip-offs more than others. For every high school there are ten would-be singer-songwriters that sound like terrible, alternate world Jack Johnsons and for every college there are fifteen "art rock ensembles" that sound like Radiohead cover bands composed of tonedeaf spider monkeys with Telecasters.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, offbeat an idea as it is, proved to comic publishers, toymakers, video game developers and television executives everywhere that taking aquatic or at least amphibious animals and making them hardasses is a surefire way to get kids to throw money at you.  The result -- Street Sharks, Extreme Dinosaurs (we didn't even know that this existed until Wikipedia told us it did) and, of course, Battletoads.

 

2.) Have appealing main characters.

 

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This toad just oozes likeability!

It's strange and a little bit of a non sequitur to have Splinter name his turtle proteges after his favorite Renaissance artists, but there's something about it that works. "Donatello" has a nice ring to it, you know?

"Rash," on the other hand, does not have a nice ring to it. It's not meant to have a nice ring to it, it's the word used to connote a skin problem. Though perhaps the Italian word for rash is better.

Similarly, the innocent charm of the Turtles is replaced by weird coarseness in the Toads. The inter-species crush all the Turtles have on their reporter ally April is not offensive; one of the Toads, Pimple, on the other hand, is taking Princess Angelica on what is clearly a date at the outset of Battletoads.

The heroes of TMNT made children want to do backflips and fight evil. The heroes of Battletoads made children weirded out.

 

3.) Never give up.

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Battletoads: confidence-sapper.

 

The original Battletoads game taught many children that the maxim "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" was a recipe for humiliation. As mentioned in the introduction of this article, not only was the basic gameplay of Battletoads difficult, but two-player mode, often the easiest way to beat challenging games, was fraught with added obstacles such as the constant danger of friendly fire.

 

4.) Cynicism makes you cool. 

 

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EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Admittedly, in terms of artistic merit, Battletoads is not the Mona Lisa of game franchises. It's probably not even the Thomas Kinkade "bucolic cottage painting" of game franchises. It's difficult, it doesn't make a lot of sense, and it just doesn't have the legs that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has.

But, that said, it garnered essentially good reactions from the gaming press at the time. In fact, it still has many adherents who remember the series fondly and who wish that it would be revived in some form or other. And though the mere thought of a maddeningly hard Xbox 360 Battletoads 3D makes some people weep, one can't deny that there is at least some demand for the product out there (as evidenced by the hilariously-titled IGN feature, Battletoads Retrospective).

So, for all the snarkiness within this article, we have to concede that the Toads did find a niche.

 

5.) The future is bright!

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Utopia? Or Dystopia?

 

You thought the future was full of gene therapy, jetpacks and utopias, right?

Well, actually, it's full of big, mean amphibians, space vultures, and difficult-to-control airbikes. Also, the only human males present are the two dudes from Double Dragon.

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