Also available on Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 07/08/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
I am a huge fan of Battletoads. My friend, Brett, and I played through Battletoads and Battletoads/Double Dragon on my NES as well as Battletoads in Battlemaniacs on SNES when we were in high school, and I bought Rare Replay day one specifically for the inclusion of the Battletoads arcade game. Despite that, this release somehow managed to fly under my radar for nearly a year. When I saw it on Game Pass the night I signed up a few days ago, I immediately downloaded it.
Battletoads, for the uninitiated, is cult classic early 90s beat ’em up series from Rare that tried to capitalize on the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The three Battletoads, Rash, Pimple, and Zitz, battle their archnemesis, the Dark Queen. The early games are fun, brimming with 90s ‘tude, and brutally difficult. An April Fool’s joke in 2008 of a fake trailer for a Wii reboot of the series exploded into a meme, reviving interest in the series and eventually leading to (or at least I assume it was a factor) the inclusion of Battletoads as well as the first-ever console port of the Battletoads arcade game in 2015’s Rare Replay for Xbox One.
This reboot of Battletoads is as much a love letter to the series as it is a continuation. It’s done in an animated art style which I was lukewarm on at first, but it grew on me. The premise is that the Battletoads find out that rather than being beloved heroes, they’re totally unknown random toads who have spent 26 years locked up in a buried underground bunker; likewise, the Dark Queen has spent 26 years held prisoner in an abandoned theme park. The Dark Queen then teams up with the Battletoads to fight their common foe. It’s cheesy and cliche, but it works.
The gameplay is what kept me playing. It spans multiple genres. Obviously, you have the beat ’em up levels which I honestly felt weren’t particularly well done; they’re fun and totally functional, but they felt very generic and blah. You’ve got a few turbobike levels, callbacks to the infamous stages in the original games. There are a handful of platforming levels, a handful of shmup levels, and even a few QTE-style levels. There are several boss battles spread throughout, and they’re all unique with their own gimmicks and tricks. The level variety may be a turn-off for some as it does, admittedly, keep the game from fitting into any one genre and excelling at that, but I found it to be great as it kept the game from feeling stale. I never got bored at any point because it never stuck with one playstyle long enough to feel monotonous.
This Battletoads reboot is going to be divisive among longtime fans, but I personally had a blast with it. It only took me I think two and a half hours to beat, but it was a fantastic time. The writing is stupid but hilarious and clever, and at no point does the game take itself seriously; it’s aware that it’s just a reboot of a TMNT rip-off. The varied gameplay styles keep things interesting, the fact that each level has five collectibles to find adds some replay value, and the inclusion of three different difficulties tailors the game for everyone from the longtime Battletoads veterans to the newcomers who just want to laugh at the dumb jokes. It’s definitely not quite what Battletoads fans, myself included, probably wanted out of a reboot of the series, but it’s definitely fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.