So, confession time: Although it was one of my favorite video games because of its first three levels, to this day, I still haven’t made it past level four of Battletoads. I am aware of its existence, because I have seen sturdier gamers than I tackle it in speedruns, but I realize my difficulty with the difficulty is shared by others, given its coverage by the Angry Video Game Nerd (NSFW).
Simply put, Battletoads is a lot of fun because you get to beat the hell out of pigs and send them hurtling across the screen with a gigantic green fist or boot. Unfortunately, you can only do this in roughly 2.5 stages, depending on how skilled you are when it comes to the third stage.
I would say that the third stage is the first of an increasing number of bottlenecks on player skill, except that’s not entirely true. If you’re not careful, even the second stage can be hella tough, because you have the stupid floating robots that shock you, and you also have to weave your way through electricity fields. There is a trick to get multiple 1-ups out of the ravens in this stage, but it’s a bit of a Catch-22 here. I you’re only an average-skill platform gamer like myself—the sort of player who especially needs those extra lives—there is almost no chance of you being able to pull off the juggling required to get the extra lives.
Anyway, that third level. Thanks to my unofficial research, I can tell you that it’s the second-most annoying early level stage in a NES game featuring green characters. (If you actually are an NES fan, you definitely know the most annoying: That goddamn dam level from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, where you have to defuse bombs and seemingly everything underwater hurts you, even though you’re a turtle.)
The level starts out normally enough, as you get away from the toad-on-a-line of the second stage and back to semi-stable, left-to-right platforming action. The first problem arises when you try to jump from one platform to another. Because of the weird perspective, you need to be jumping from the bottom of the screen. You will most likely not figure this out until you die once, or if you owned the Nintendo Power issue detailing how to beat this part.
Once you get past the brief platforming bit, it’s on to the jetpods. This was a young Stephen Greenwell’s first bout with tense, character-defining adversity, and it did not go well. It was always 50-50 about whether I’d make it past the aptly named Turbo Tunnel and its hellish walls.
Don’t worry though—I’m not fibbing with the premise of this piece. If it was a 50-50 shot that I’d get through stage three, the switch back to platforming in stage four would eliminate the rest of my continues. This was because after getting on edge with the quick-twitch movements and pattern memorization needed to get through the Turbo Tunnel, you must now have patience to work your way through the ice stage. I… was not so good at this.
However, Battletoads! Man, those first two stages are fun. From The Internet, I have read and seen that the fifth stage features yet another race on jetpod things, followed by unwelcoming places called Karnath’s Lair and Intruder Excluder. Also, there is a level that you have to jump from snake to snake, and then in level 13(!), you finally fight the end boss.
I, uh… I think I’ll just replay level one again.
(Words by Stephen Greenwell)