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Battletoads (2020) – Review

Since the very first game released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991, Battletoads quickly became an iconic franchise that somehow has still remained relevant today, despite not having a new release in 26 years since Battletoads Arcade released in 1994. Unfortunately the series was actually short lived lasting only 3 years, however its popularity earned the franchise a toy line, mini comic series in the Nintendo Power magazine and even a cartoon series, which unfortunately didn’t make it past the pilot episode. For decades, fans have always remained hopeful for a sequel starring Rash, Pimple and Zits.

Since their last appearance in 1994, the Toads have appeared in other games including two of the games (original Battletoads and Battletoads Arcade) as part of the Rare Replay compilation, Rash appearing in Killer Instinct as a guest fighter and all three Toads as a boss level in the Xbox One version of Shovel Knight. But at long last in 2020, the classic side scrolling beat’em up is back in the long awaited new release developed by Dlala Studios under the supervision of Rare and published by Xbox Game Studios.

The new Battletoads is a reboot to the franchise and presented in a whole new art style. Though its overall presentation will have long time fans divided, they can rest assure that the Battletoads spirit is intact, which is very evident from the moment the game is booted up, with a rock cover of the main theme song playing as the game loads and keeps playing in the menu screens. In this new story, the Toads form an unlikely alliance with the Dark Queen to take down a race of sinister creatures known as the Topians.

Up to three players will be able to pick from the three heroes; Rash, Pimple and Zits, who this time each have their unique abilities in battle. Pimple is the biggest of the three utilising his size and powerful attacks, Zits uses his speed and quick combos, while Rash is an all-rounder with a balance of both speed and strength. The side scrolling beat’em up gameplay is back with a fresh overhaul. A single player can actually use all three heroes by tagging in and out using the D-Pad, giving them a better chance completing each level. Although the real fun is having all three Toads on screen being controlled independently for triple the fun and triple the mayhem.

One big change is there is no friendly fire with players being able to hit one another like in the original games, which is one of the biggest reasons that made them notorious for being incredibly difficult back in the day. The gameplay feels very fluid and is easy and quick to learn, especially with the helpful tutorials on screen (which can be turned anytime in the settings menu). The Toads are provided with a variety of ways to take out the enemies with their unusual yet comical body morphing abilities, which really come in handy with large horde of enemies on screen and unique and fun boss battles.

Though the Battletoads series is more than just a side scrolling beat’em up genre, this reboot actually has other genres included such as the returning Turbo Tunnel, which is similar to a racing game, a space shooter with a top down view much like classic arcade games, and a side scrolling 2D platformer with puzzle solving and various mini games in between levels. The Turbo Tunnel levels back in the original games were infamously hard for a lot of players trying to control the Turbo Bikes and making their way through all the obstacles. However in this reboot, the Turbo Tunnel levels have a behind view much like racing games, making it easier to see the obstacles up ahead.

At first these levels may seem easy enough, but after players get comfortable just moving left and right, the intensity quickly picks up and really tests the players’ reflexes. The space shooting levels are actually quite enjoyable with a single player using the twin stick controls to pilot the spacecraft and aim the ship’s guns at the enemies, while three players will be divided as one pilots the spacecraft and the other two control a gun each, allowing them to aim independently.

The 2D platform levels play really well with a lot of creative puzzles to solve giving players a very rewarding feel, but doesn’t actually have any combat involved and with the relaxed background music makes it the least exciting of the levels in the game. That’s not to say these levels are bad, but for a Battletoads game that’s known for its chaotic gameplay, they feel very out of place and may have players eager to get back into its traditional beat’em up genre. The various mini games are quite enjoyable, though some can be frustratingly difficult and unfortunately cannot be skipped.

The story of Battletoads has always been kept simple and straight forward, but this reboot has a more fleshed out story and is presented like a Saturday morning cartoon in its cut-scenes (though the content may not be suitable for young children). Rash, Pimple and Zits as well as the Dark Queen and other characters each have their own unique personalities that really shine through during the entire game.

The overall art style has changed dramatically since the last game in 1994, with the Toads having more exaggerated features than before. The Dark Queen’s design has also been changed from her dominatrix like outfit from the original games to a more modest scientist look. The majority of the music playing gives that 90’s era hard rock feel, which really compliments the game’s tone and personality. Sadly the iconic pause screen music from the classic games isn’t present during the pause screen of the latest game, although it can be heard during certain parts of the game. It still it would’ve been nice to hear the tune anytime the game is paused though.

Battletoads is definitely a really fun multiplayer game with friends, but unfortunately at the time of this writing, it is only a couch co-op game. Online multiplayer isn’t available at all, which is a real missed opportunity, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic still in effect. Earlier this year, Streets of Rage 4, which is also a series that didn’t see a new release for 26 years, introduced online multiplayer for the first time, making it a very welcomed feature allowing friends or even random players online to team up and enjoy the game together. So it’s a wonder why online multiplayer wasn’t included, but hopefully a future patch update can fix this.

Even with the lack of online multiplayer, the new Battletoads honours the past and brings the franchise to the modern era. The Toads’ unique personalities, simple yet deep gameplay, rocking soundtrack and entertaining story makes Battletoads (2020) a very welcomed addition the legendary series.

The Good

  • Rash, Pimple and Zits back in action after 26 long years
  • Easy to learn beat’em up style gamepla
  • Couch co-op multiplayer
  • Rocking Soundtrack
  • Multiple genres in one game

The Bad

  • No online multiplayer
  • Iconic pause screen music missing
  • Some non-beat’em up genre levels can feel like they drag

Written by: Sammy Hanson


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