Special: We Need the Battletoads!
Robert Falcon argues why Rare's classic superheroes need to make a return to the portable gaming scene.
I love Battletoads. Not familiar with it, you say? Well, let me clear the air for you. Back in the late 80's, Tradewest worked with a small development team (at the time) known as Rare Ltd. to produce a trailblazing new game for the NES. That resulted in the game Battletoads, an action-packed game that let players control three different toads with strengthened abilities, battling an evil queen and her minions. Directing the toads is a helpful pilot, Professor T. Bird, who flies them from surface to surface and briefs them on each mission. The action varied throughout each stage, from pounding pig soldiers on the surface to battling a boss with a first-person perspective (in short, you actually became the boss) to rappelling into a dangerous cavern. Throwing snowballs, riding a fast hoverbike, and surfing also became popular events in the game.
The original game turned out to be a hit, growing in popularity and eventually getting ports on other systems. Newer games were released as well, including a completely new solo-player Game Boy game and Battlemaniacs for the SNES. The 'Toads also found themselves teaming up with some legendary heroes in the form of the Double Dragon brothers, Jimmy and Billy Lee, for Battletoads & Double Dragon: The Ultimate Team. All of these efforts were produced by Rare, and helped put the development team on the map. Years later, they would move on to more engrossing projects, including Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64, the Donkey Kong Country trilogy for the SNES, and, eventually, newer developments for the Xbox and Xbox 360, including Viva Pinata.
Somewhere along the way, however, the Battletoads got lost in the shuffle. Electronic Arts worked out a deal with Rare to produce a three-player arcade game based on the franchise, which came out a few years after the NES game. However, following that, the Battletoads haven't been seen or heard since. Rare hasn't given up completely on them though. The company has insisted that if someone comes up with a good enough developmental idea featuring the 'Toads, and they still have the rights (which they should, now that Tradewest is defunct), then they would go for it.
So this little article is sort of an explanation as to why I think the Battletoads need to come back. In this time of huge next-generation developments, it's pretty easy to see that the past still has quite an impact in the gaming scene. We're eagerly awaiting the next Mario and Super Smash Bros. games on the Wii; Halo's coming back around the corner for another chapter; and several classic franchises will make a return with new chapters this year, including Ninja Gaiden and Metal Gear Solid...both of which got their start on the NES.
There's no better time for a comeback for the Battletoads. Rare knows their platforming stuff, even to this day, with such games as Kameo and the forthcoming Banjo Kazooie adventure for Xbox 360. Having players switch off between the three toads in real time would be a novel idea, and giving them different abilities to make each one special in their own way would do the trick as well. Next-gen consoles would be an ideal place for these 'Toads, but another option to consider is portables.
See, the 'Toads made a better impact on portables than you might think. They've appeared on the Sega Game Gear with the original Battletoads (still a lovely game to this very day), as well as the Battletoads/Double Dragon hybrid. Over on the Game Boy, a clever single-player game was conceived, with players choosing their favorite Toad and then setting off on different adventures across a series of well-designed levels. It was cool that the game changed up to a completely new adventure, instead of just being a port of the popular NES game.
The 'Toads still have it, and I think they'd fit in right at home on the PSP and the Nintendo DS. The PSP would benefit from letting players take on fist-crunching combat with ease, while the DS could utilize the touch-screen for special attacks, a T. Bird thunderous attack from above that obliterates other enemies, or even other things, like steering a hoverbike in a 3-D stage or surfing. Both of these systems could also make use of multiplayer, with two players working together to pound the evil queen's armada or even fighting competitively to see who can bolster up the higher score.
Even a classic compilation would be welcome at this point. The original Battletoads deserves all the attention it can get; the Battletoads/Double Dragon mesh-up wasn't half bad; and the arcade game was far better than people gave it credit for. (I should know- I spent $20 on a clean run to finish it one night.) Putting these together, along with the Game Boy game, would make for a pretty neat $20 release...even if it does seem a little "old-school".
The bottom line is this- the Battletoads are just primed for a comeback. It's just a matter of someone at Rare coming up with the right idea or scenario and giving it the same kind of care and love they gave the initial NES game back in the 80's. Hopefully, someone at Rare will have read this and heard the battle cry to bring Zitz, Rash and Pimple back to a platform they deserve. Hey, if Conker can get his time in the sun, along with Diddy Kong, then so can the muscle-bound 'Toads. Thus endeth my plea.