Monday, January 9, 2012

Before cataloging the myriad testicle-shrinking terrors that is the Battletoads, let's set the mood with a little music:

The above music, played every time Battletoads is paused, beyond being my favorite part of the game (literally) becomes quite important as the game advances.

BattletoadsDeveloped by Rare and released in 1991, Battletoads is the consensus #1 hardest game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. And for good reason; much like Bayou Billy or TMNT, Battletoads is a hybrid beat 'em up/action/racing game, the difference being that each segment of the game is both well designed and incredibly difficult.
Hootie McBoob
uh, maybe we should...
hehe...let her win...

To say the plot is 'run-of-the-mill' would be derogatory to mill products like particleboard and plywood--evil Hootie McBoob kidnaps someone (I'm not sure who, I pressed start) and its up to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Battletoads to defeat her. Aiding the the Toads are in this quest is Splinter Professor T. Bird. The game is an  unabashed Mad-Lib of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, swapping 'toad' for 'turtle' on the line 'Semi-Aquatic Animal.'

Scissor Birds
This is one bird you DON'T want to
play scissors with.
You punch things and they die. Not much challenge. For that matter, NONE of the beat 'em up sections of the game are particularly difficult. Chesty LaRue's minions, it would seem, trained under Glass Joe. Flying enemies here score 1-hit deaths and there are a few chasms to jump, but nothing--including the rather cool 3-D boss--is difficult.

Here the Toads repel down a long chasm. Again, the challenge is lacking. Beware, however, the scissor-beaked birds. If not killed immediately, they sever the 'Toad's rappel line, scoring 1-hit kills. It's also worth nothing that repeatedly punching dead birds will yield 1-ups if timed correctly--a skill worth having.

Bikes o' horror
I'll just avoid this pink wa--d'oh!
This level is analogous to the damn dam level in TMNT, except in the Mad-Lib of NES games, Rare has chosen 'speeder bikes' instead of 'poison algae.' Punch some kangaroos (really? kangaroos?) to death, destroy the life-stealing Space Invaders and then its onto the aforementioned bikes o' horror.
The challenge of this and all subsequent 'race' sections is that the screen scrolls at the limits of your reaction time. After burning a few continues here, I discovered the glory of the pause button. Jamming on start creates a sort of slo-mo effect, making wall avoidance easier. Therefore:


By pausing as the walls appear, I was able to move by degrees and avoid them. It also enabled me to see the glimmering warp point near the end of the level. Hitting a warp skips 2 stages forward, so onto...
surf's up!
Game Executive: Well, do they surf?
Rare Developer: Uh...sure. They do now.

Another racing level?! Sonofabitch! Stage 5 swaps surfboards for speeder bikes, and thankfully, dials down the difficulty. The logs only injure (not kill) and the action never moves as fast.
There's a battle with a giant rat halfway through, but again, its a Glass Joe kind of fight. The rat literally lets you punch it in the back of the head. I recommend doing so.
After the rat, level 5 finishes with a slightly more difficult surfing segment.

Is that a snake in your cavern, or are you
just happy to see me?
This is the first level where it behooves one to have an extra few remotes lying about. In an accident of which the details are still hazy, all mine were destroyed. Level 6 is basically a series of puzzle screens where your Toad must Ride the Snake from one point to another, avoiding all manner of spikes along the way. Unfortunately, there's no real way to tell at which point the snake is going to shunt you into a spike until the snake shunts you into a spike. Hope you collected an ass-load of dead-bird lives on Level 2, because this level is all trial-and-error.

A rehash of Level 3, swapping pillars of fire for pink walls. Just as annoying; jam on start.

Level 8LEVEL 8
Level 8 is a basic climbing level, offering a nice respite before shit gets real. In a thoughtful move, Busty St. Croix left a weapon at the start of the stage, making the baddies laughable. The only real warning here is the gas jets which begin to appear at the halfway point score (again) 1-hit deaths.
After a rather boring climb, the boss fight is with a bull of some sort. Jump over him and punch him in the back of the head. Annoying but easier than the preceding level.

Weee! Helicopter rides!
It seems when Rare swapped out Mutant Turtles for Toads, they forgot to also remove the obligatory sewer level. No joke, though, Level 9 begins the grueling gauntlet to the end of Battletoads. Most of the enemies here score 1 (or 2) hit deaths, there's spikes abound, and a large portion of the level consists of running from giant gears which squish you flat. Again, I can only give the anachronistic advice that you get a shit-ton of 1-ups in Level 2.

Rat Race
Can't we just punch him instead?
Level 10
This is the granddaddy of them all, the hard of the hard--Rat Race. Level 10 has you racing a rat to the bottom of a tower in order to diffuse a bomb before it explodes. Rat Race is so difficult, it makes watching Rat Race seem like a good idea. Luckily, there's a glitch here: after the first race, if you can punch the Rat out of the air AFTER it's head bonks the steel girder, it will fly off screen and you'll advance to Level 11 without having your soul crushed by two more races. Unfortunately for me, I was unaware of said glitch. Many hours. Many hours.

Clinger-WingerLEVEL 11
After the grueling difficulty of Rat Race, Level 11 offers the only-slightly-less-soul-crushing Clinger-Winger level. Here your Toad must outrace a whirling vortex of doom on an anti-gravity unicycle. As dumb as that sounds, Level 11 is even dumber to play. Holding in on the D-pad makes your Toad go, and turning corners with even the slightest hitch will spell certain doom. This is another level where constant pausing is a must. After the race, however, you do get the joy of beating the shit of the Vortex, so it's not ALL bad.

Although certainly not the hardest, this final stage is without doubt the most annoying. It's another beat 'em up/climbing level, except instead of a stationary chute, your Toad must climb a spinning tower of doom. There are disappearing platforms, platforms which drop and monsters which delight in creating gusts of wind which push you to oblivion. Once you learn the timing of each specific platform (i.e. die a couple hundred times) the level becomes manageable.

He's got horns and she's a dominatrix...There's
something awfully Shakespearian going on here.
Atop the tower is ol' Hootie McBoob herself. This is the most difficult Boss Battle in the game, which is to say it's kin to KO'ing Piston Honda after a couple thousand bouts with Glass Joe. Busty St. Croix attacks by kicking and turning into a yellow tornado, attacks avoided with a simple jump. However, due to the timing of her kicks, any hit usually results in Toad death. Slow and steady wins the race here: wait for her to stand still, jump behind her, punch and repeat. In this way the battle took me around five minutes, but I managed it on only a handful of lives.

After 12 ball-busing levels, after the Jet Bikes and the Rat Race and the Clinger Winger and death after death after death, your reward is to watch the escape of Chesty LaRue. That's right, after defeating the game's final boss, she flies away free, with the following text as consollation:

Fuck you, Battletoads
Fuck you, Battletoads!
Battletoads is unequivocally the most difficult of the TEN HARDEST NES GAMES OF ALL TIME. Although some levels tend to mirror the action of earlier levels, there are no simple pallete-swaps, meaning each stage has its own learning curve, and each curve grows steeper as the game progresses. Three lives and three continues will get a Battletoads novice to Level 3 if they're lucky. Getting through all 12 levels requires practice and brute force of will. Battletoads easily earns:

Five Controllers of Impossibility! I'd award it more, but all my remaining remotes are mysteriously broken.

And finally, 12 games fought and bested, I claim myself

I fully expect my new found title to get me into the VIP at local clubs, act as a half-off coupon at all participating Chipotle restaurants and earn me the right to shout "I am the Potentate!" at whomever I damn well please.

NES MONSTER!There is, however, the nagging feeling that my title is only partial. I know FOR A FACT of a NES game much, much, MUCH harder than any of THE TOP TEN HARDEST NES GAMES OF ALL TIME. This legendary beast of a game is worse than the combined nightmares of Battletoads and Ikari Warriors, a game to make the weak run and the strong cry out in anguish. It is the Clulex to my gaming Smithy, a boss beyond all bosses. And the name of that game

...will be revealed next week.

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