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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Memories #7: Battletoads

In Memories I like to reminisce about my past experiences with games and the good times I've had with them. Of course, like all forms of memories, there are both good memories and bad memories. I'm pretty sure you already know which direction this particular entry is going.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made their TV debut in 1987 and even by the early 1990s, they were still a force to be reckoned with. In an attempt to steal the spotlight from everyone's favorite pizza-loving heroes, Battletoads was created. Being a huge fan of the Turtles, I couldn't help but see the appeal of Battletoads because they reminded me of them so much. Sure Zitz, Rash and Pimple were only three Toads when compared to the four Turtles, but you couldn't help but root for these guys. Anyone can punch the crap outta their enemies, but can they morph their hand into a giant fist and launch some poor sucker off the screen? No. No they cannot. Much as I love the cast of Final Fight, not even Guy can grow ram horns out of his head while delivering the final blow to an opponent. That's how awesome these Toads were, except Pimple, the strongest Toad, who ironically got captured with Princess Angelica. I always though it was interesting that the slimmer Toads had to save the strongest one.

I think the first time I played Battletoads was in 1991, the year it was released. My friend had rented it so I played it at his place. I remember going through the first two levels and having a grand old time. When we hopped on the hover bikes in Turbo Tunnel, well, yeah, pretty sure I lost all my lives there. If I recall, my friend somehow made it to the fourth stage. Those are the earliest memories I have of Battletoads. During the few days I played, I had fun with it.

The Toad's reaction to a coming boss. Also the
player's reaction to the game's rapidly advancing

Fast froward to 1999, some time after I picked up a copy of Battletoads on the cheap. I fondly remembered the times I had with the game when I was a kid. Being in my late teens, I had no idea of the true horrors that were in store for me. Well, me and one of my best friends. See, it was January and we were frequently hit with heavy snowfall, which meant school was closed a lot that month. HOORAY! Anyway, when we were deciding on a game to play, we ended up going with Battletoads. We were having fun, kicking and punching enemies to the classic Battletoads exaggerated extremes. But I'd completely forgotten that you could hurt each other, one of my biggest annoyances in beat 'em up games. Try as we might, it was almost impossible to avoid causing damage to each other. We had to have lost a few lives in Wookie Hole, the second stage.

Nothing can prepare for you this level.

Can you guess what level caused us to quit? Sure, you can because if you've played Battletoads, you can never unplay this stage: TURBO. TUNNEL. The start of that level is simple. Run to the right and beat up mooks in your way. And then it happens. You reach the hover bikes. I really couldn't remember this section too much as a child, but I remember it in 1999 as if it were yesterday. I almost wish I never got on the bike. We crashed into walls, fell of the track, and missed jumps over and over again. Every way that it was possible to die in Turbo Tunnel on the hover bike, we did it. It didn't get much better as it got faster. The realization of Turbo Tunnel's massive difficulty spike hit us like a collapsing brick wall. Beating Shadow Link without exploiting the wall trick was easier than passing this level! We were left wondering how could any stage in a game be that hard. Whenever one of us screwed up (which was often) we were both penalized by starting over at the last checkpoint. It's a miracle our friendship survived that level! People that value their sanity usually stop playing the game at this point.

The obligatory ice level. Slippery and tough.

Months later, I was sitting in school thinking about how I'd like to complete Battletoads and how I'd use any means to do it. I had a Game Genie and some code books so I was good to go. I figured infinite lives would keep me going. But Battletoads is not just a hard game. It's a hard game that mock's it's players for thinking any soft of cheats will help them. There's a good chance that your mind will shatter before you finish this game. But even so, I was determined to do it, largely because I didn't know any better.

If you thought Turbo Tunnel was the only
racing stage, think again.

I actually made it through the Turbo Tunnel. I believe I skipped the fifth stage, some annoying ice level. The sixth stage has you surfing, which did not sit well with me because the Turbo Tunnel was it's own nightmare. You mean to tell me there are more racing stages in Battletoads? And even more than just those two. Every time I skipped a stage, the game just kept on getting more and more maddening, including another Turbo Tunnel stage! Even with infinite lives, I did not have the patience for this game. I turned off the power, pulled the game out and have since never played Battletoads.

Do I remember Battletoads as a bad game? Certainly not. It's not even a game I hate like Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. At the same time, now that I'm fully aware of how brutal Battletoads is, I see no reason to put myself through such agony. While I still own my copy of the game, I doubt I'll ever play it again. If beating Battletoads makes you hardcore, I'm perfectly fine with being a middle core gamer.

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