What I learned from: Battletoads


We’ve all played difficult games. That’s the fun, really, figuring out the best way to get to the end of the game (or get a high score). But sometimes that difficulty is just too much, which is a lesson I’m glad I learned early on.

Battletoads was one of the few games I bought brand new rather than used. Battletoads had some good hype behind it and frankly, it just looked like fun. How can a two-player game featuring super strong toads be bad? Well, it’s not a bad game…at least not at first.

Failure is always an option

Battletoads has gone down as one of the hardest platformer games ever released on the original Nintendo and that’s not just lip service. Getting started in the game is easy enough and was quite refreshing compared to other games of the time, but once you get about halfway through the game you hit the cold wall of despair. No matter how hard I would try or how often I tried, I just couldn’t get beyond Level 9…the Terra Tubes.

In the level you have to run through an elaborate maze while being chased by a giant gear that will crush you if it catches up, a la Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even knowing the level design by heart wasn’t seemingly enough. One false move or poorly timed jump and it was over. Sorry.

Battletoads was the type of game that resulted in many a thrown controller. Battletoads might have been the first game where I experienced my first legitimate rage quit. Yet I kept trying and trying and trying…and failing and failing and failing. It wasn’t for lack of trying but after a while I just gave up, accepting that I would never finish the game.

Meanwhile, in the futureā€¦

While Battletoads is a particularly hard game, many of us have memories about how difficult those old NES games were at the time. Many 30-something gamers talk about how easy games are these days compared to the “good ol days.” I’m not saying that I disagree with that statement but it’s not entirely true in most cases…you just think it is.

Not too long ago I went back through my NES collection to replay my old favorites, mostly in effort to complete those games I had never finished. Games I remember being difficult like Contra, Rush N Attack and Shatterhand were everything but difficult, now some 20-years later. Contra took less than 20-minutes to complete and I almost attained the Rush N Attack speed record, completing the game in just over 12-minutes. Shatterhand took a little more time but it was a straight shot. Even Batman, the game that made me write to Nintendo Power, was far from the challenge I remember.

Of course, back then I was 10-years-old, everything was hard. Maybe those games are easier now because I’ve been playing video games longer or maybe I just think faster. Perhaps the current gen games are actually really difficult, making the old platformers seem like mini-games at best. All of this might be true…who knows…but what’s also true is that Battletoads is still extremely difficult.

Twenty-two years after the game’s release, it’s still ridiculously hard. After defeating many other NES games without so much as breaking a sweat, I figured Battletoads would behave similarly, hard then, easy now. Wrong. Sure, I can approach the game a little differently now, trying to be more logical or less concerned about speed & score but I’m still unable to complete the game. The Terra Tubes still gets me. Even now with YouTube walkthroughs and speed runs at my disposal, passing Battletoads is still a dream.

Battletoads is one of the games I remember most fondly from my NES days, despite its difficulty…and despite that I still can’t beat it. But in that I feel Battletoads taught me that failure is always an option. I don’t fancy myself a quitter in the slightest but you need to know when to pick your battles when something is worth the effort. Maybe one day I’ll be able to reach the end of Battletoads and enjoy what is most certainly an underwhelming series of static cut scenes, and then I can die knowing I did what many other couldn’t. Or maybe I’ll continue to accept that there are some challenges I just won’t be able to overcome, and that’s okay.


About Author

Brian is a staff writer at TMA. He races Hot Wheels at RedlineDerby.com while watching cartoons with his kid. You can follow @morningtoast on Twitter.

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