Over my 20+ years of pouring time into video games I have run into many difficult and challenging games. Some that just required hours of twitch-based muscle memory such as Bit.Trip Runner, others needed a hefty time investment to even be considered a decent player, like StarCraft. But there had been one particular challenge that haunted me from childhood, one gaping hole in my gaming accomplishments that had been taunting me over the last couple years because of its rise to infamy online. Battletoads.
Battletoads was a beloved game from my childhood, but one that I had never come close to defeating. In fact, most attempts started with optimism and joy which was then shattered by the attacks of giant rats. As a child, getting anywhere in Battletoads was a task all its own, but once I ditched the NES for a PlayStation (my family didn’t buy any consoles in between) I had given up on fighting frogs and moved on to Lara Croft (I was a teen boy, what did you expect?).
Recently, with the rise of Battletoads’ popularity online, I found a renewed fire to finish the game that stomped all over me through my childhood. Thinking that my fine-tuned skills and wealth of experience would carry me through the caves and caverns in a few attempts, I dug out my NES and cartridge and waged war against Battletoads.
Wait, wait, let’s do this right. If you’d like epic music for this post click here.
From the moment I repelled onto the world’s ground and the music began I was thrown back into the same feelings I had as a kid. I laughed at myself once I realized how much anxiety had already started filling the pit of my stomach. What I thought was a happy time in my youth had apparently been my mind’s way of dealing with trauma. This game was and is terrible. Well, by terrible I mean loved begrudgingly. The first level on the surface was no problem. I shamelessly used the warp after about 10 seconds. That way if I died quick I could at least rationalize to myself that I made it to level 3.
Next I’m fighting rats in what appears to be a cavern filled with orange slime and walls made of brains. I’m not really sure what is going on in this game, but I always liked the aesthetic. All the odd shades of purple and orange were something I didn’t see much as a young gamer.
The long jumps from platform to platform after booting giant rats seem as though they are barely close enough to successfully cross. The further I get into this game the more I realize that my younger self had no chance in Battletoads. Sure, I enjoyed playing it, but there was no way I could have beaten this. I wasn’t even sure if I could beat it now. Then came what is, in my mind, the most iconic part of this epic adventure: The speeder bikes.
Speeder bikes, futuristic motorcycles, floating jet skis, whatever you want to call them, were the downfall of any good Battletoads run I had as a child. You hop on and the game seems to be put into fast forward. Small walls blink on the right side of your screen to indicate where the oncoming obstacles are as you strafe up and down weaving through is apparent maze built in the middle of the underground path. Jumping over and ducking under small chunks of wall you speed towards them faster and faster, the timing getting difficult because the speed change seems to come while in mid air. Hitting ramps which launch you over huge gaps in the ground as your poor little toad hangs on for dear life…I’m rambling, but this is a section that actually brought me excitement. Finally passing the section the plagued me throughout my childhood.
I pressed onward, surfing down the underground river and head butting space invaders. I climbed up the pit using odd candy cane colored snakes who weave in and out of the walls. Through several attempts I managed to work through the fire world and mechanical levels (that underwater stuff, forget that…) to finally finish the game that haunted me.
After several hours and a large release of pent up rage, I finally defeated Battletoads. Now I can look back on it as a success and not block it out of my mind. Although I would label it as an experience I’m glad I had, you won’t catch me replaying this torturous game any time soon. I’ll leave that to the masochists and History Channel’s Pawn Stars.
What game has haunted you since childhood? Let us know in the comments below!