Front cover of the NES version
|Platform(s)||NES, Genesis, SNES, GB|
|Genre(s)||Beat 'em up|
|Mode(s)||Single-player, multiplayer (except on the Game Boy)|
Battletoads/Double Dragon (also Battletoads & Double Dragon - The Ultimate Team) is a 1993 beat 'em up developed by Rare and published by Tradewest. It was originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System and later ported to the Mega Drive/Genesis, Super NES, and Game Boy.
The Ultimate Team is a crossover of both Technos Japan's Double Dragon and Rare's own Battletoads game franchises, although Technos had little or no credited involvement in the production of the game outside of the Double Dragon license. The game features the characters from the Double Dragon series, Billy and Jimmy Lee, two young martial arts experts; also included are the three humanoid toad protagonists from the Battletoads game. It is also the first Battletoads game to feature all three toads as playable characters. The game's engine and design are directly based upon the Battletoads series.
Gameplay and premise
Battletoads/Double Dragon consists of three play modes: a single-player, a "2 Players A" mode where the players can hit each other, and a "2 Players B" that doesn't have that. It uses the engine of the original Battletoads game, and its gameplay sides more with the Rare-developed product than Double Dragon. Like the prior Battletoads installment, there are only three continues and no password system, and in the two-player modes, if one player loses all lives, both players have to start a level over. Since the 16-bit ports are identical in gameplay to their NES counterparts, attacks and jumping are triggered by two buttons on their respective controllers.
After being defeated by the Battletoads, the evil Dark Queen flees to the outer reaches of the universe and the 'Toads and their mentor get on with their lives. However, one day the Earth's military is neutralized and a giant spaceship called Colossus emerges from the moon. Apparently, the Dark Queen is back with another plan to dominate the galaxy, and she has allied herself with the Shadow Warriors (from the Double Dragon series) to supplement her forces. Deciding to even the odds, the Battletoads get in contact with Billy and Jimmy Lee and ask them for their help. The brothers agree, and all five immediately take off for the Colossus in a mission to stop this two-pronged threat.
The first level of the seven-level game takes place on the tail of Colossus, the second on the interior corridors of the ship in level two, the third in the ship's base, and the fourth where the player attempts to destroy the ship from the outside while on a small space craft. The fourth level is where the beat 'em up game turns into a shooter, and the Dark Queen throws asteroids, mines, and UFOs at the spacecraft controlled by the player. Although the ship is successfully destroyed, the Dark Queen and the Shadow Queen survive by escaping in a missile hull, thus making the fifth level's goal to board it. The final two stages are boss battles with the Shadow Boss (stage six) and the Dark Queen (stage seven).
The player has a choice of five playable characters: Billy and Jimmy Lee from Double Dragon, and Zitz, Pimple and Rash from Battletoads. All of the toads are equipped with their usual "Smash Hit" attacks, such as big punches ("Kiss-My-Fist"), big kicks ("Big Bad Foot"), double-handed hits ("Nuclear Knuckles"), headbutt ("Battletoad Butt"), a wrecking-ball-like charge used while hanging on a cable ("BT Bashing Ball"), kicks done while hanging on a rope ("Swingin' Size Thirteens"), a pick-up and throwing of enemies ("Take Out the Trash"), backward kicks done while riding a speeder bike ("Bikin' Bash"), walker leg bashes ("No Way Back Thwack"), and enemy slamming ("Twin Side Slam"), with a new attack being a kick while hanging on a ledge named "Back 'N Front Punt." Likewise, the Lee twins' Dragon Force techniques are playable in the crossover, such as spin kick, knee drops, and elbow-drops done while jumping ("Twistin' Typhoon Kick," "Thunderin' Typhoon Kick," and "Earthquake Elbow Smash" respectively), flying Dragon kicks, fast-spinning attacks ("Whizzin' Whirlwind"), smashes of enemies against surfaces ("Side Wall Smash"), "Nose-Crunching" kneesup, and enemy throws from the enemy's back (Dragon's Tail Throw), and the twins can also perform the same Bakin's Bashes, walker leg strikes, and enemy pick-up-and-throws as the toads. New abilities include hanging off of and moving across sides of platforms, and kicking off enemies while doing so, although the player can fall off and lose a life if other enemies step on his fingers.
In addition to the three titular toads, Billy and Jimmy, and the two main villains, there are other characters that previously appeared in prior Battletoads or Double Dragons titles that are in the crossover game, such as the first level boss Abobo, the Rat Pack chief Big Blag who is the second level boss, a gun-wielding Roper who is boss of level three, Robo-Manus who is the fifth level boss, Battletoads enemies such as ravens, walkers, General Slaughter, Scuzz, and retro blasters, and Double Dragons enemies including Linda Lash and Lopar. Like the first Battletoads, the crossover also has a speeder bike section at the end of stage two, where the player dodges big blue "Drums" and jumps over "Post Walls". As walkers are a returning enemy, their legs can once again be used as enemies. A Turbo Rope is used in the third stage and is like the Turbo Cable from the first game; however, unlike the Cable, the player can use the Rope in the level's horizontal-scrolling sections by attaching it to ceilings through B-button presses in order to get from platform to platform.
An item in Battletoads/Double Dragon not seen in prior installments of both franchises are "Bonus Pods" that each consists of either points, energy, a weapon, or an extra life, although like the first Battletoads, garnering 100,000 points (and 200,000 points each after reaching 100,000) is another method of obtaining lives. Enemies that only appear in Battletoads/Double Dragon include the dumb but rough Guido, a cowardly, dynamite-throwing "Doorman of Doom" the player faces in the corridors, the grenade-throwing "Windowman of Dooo" who is the Doorman's brother and fought in the fifth stage, a "Shadow Marine" of "mindless morons" guarding the ship on its tail, Ryders in the second level's speed-biking section, Buzz Discs on the walls of the ship's interior that lets out 10,000 volts of energy, and Securi-cams encountered throughout the Colossus's base that shoot high-powered blasts if something is in its lens.
Development and release
Battletoads/Double Dragon was developed by the company that handled the 1991 Battletoads game, Rare, which produced several games as contract work for other intellectual properties in the late 1980s and early 1990s; the 1993 crossover was one of them, and its development involved Rare receiving little feedback from the owners of the Double Dragon license.
The initial NES version of the game features 3D scrolling and other advanced special effects not commonly found on the console. The Game Boy version is similar to the NES version, but it is only for one player. The sprites are the same size although the screen is smaller (leaving less room for movement) and the 3D effects were removed. The logo on the game cover art was one of Rare's first dive into 3D graphics.
The later Genesis and Super NES versions of the game are quite similar. Some differences being that the SNES version has better graphics and higher quality sound, while the Sega version features more music tracks, has sharper sprites for the 'toads, and more comical reactions from the characters and from defeated enemies, as well as blood from said enemies' post-defeat portraits.
|Initial reviews (NES)|
|Initial reviews (Other consoles)|
Nintendo Power asserted that, despite the confusing depth perception, "great action, graphics and theme make this one of the strongest titles this year," going as so far to proclaim it as better than Battletoads in Battlemaniacs (1993). Its staff rated it as the second-best NES game of 1993. The NES version was also nominated for Nintendo Power Awards 1993 in the categories "Graphics & Sound", "Theme & Fun", "Play Control", "Villain" (The Dark Queen) and "The Best Overall Game".
Electronic Gaming Monthly's Steve Harris, reviewing the NES version, loved its "side-scrolling techniques," "nice" attack combos, and combination of game licenses, but found the graphics too average even for an 8-bit title and the controls "slightly haphazard." Another critic from GamePro disappointed with the NES game's graphics enjoyed the character animation, particularly when it came to the bosses and the playable characters' attacks; however, he also criticized the cutscenes and level designs, for replacing the "pizazz" and vibrant colors of the previous Battletoads installment with "a flat, 2D appearance and almost robotic animation," also reporting problems of disappearing sprites during "hectic fighting scenes." Other reviews, such as another Electronic Gaming Monthly critic, Martin Alessi and Mike Weigand of Electronic Games, found the visuals amazing for an 8-bit title, citing its parallax scrolling effects. Critics from GameFan called the SNES port superior to the Genesis version for its better presentation, specifically when it came to color, detail, effects, and sound.
Alessi, Weigand and Ed Semrad praised the two-player mode, attacks, moves, and fast-paced gameplay. Weigand praised the challenging gameplay and noted aspects of it that make it more forgiving that the previous Battletoads game, such as not having to re-do the speed bike section if the player falls off a bike. Sushi-X, however, brought up unfair elements to the difficulty, such as "enormously cheap kills in many areas, like being knocked into pits and unblock-able attacks."
Mega Fun, reviewing the Gameboy version, stated that it benefitted from diversity when it came to playable characters, enemies, and backgrounds but lacked the "unusual" elements of other Battletoads games. Reviews of the Gameboy version frequently critiqued the graphics and music; Mega Fan criticized the small sprites for not giving the player a clear perspective of what is going on sometimes, and Michael Koczy of the German edition of Total! wrote the game had "poor animation," "average" music, and toads that were hard to distinguish between each other. The small sprite size was also critiqued for the SNES version when reviewed by a GameFan writer nicknamed "Mr. Goo."
A GameFan reviewer was critical of the inclusion of Double Dragon characters, reasoning that the franchise was past its prime.
The visuals were praised, common highlights including the humorous animations, especially when it came to the attacks, and vibrant colors. Sega-16's Vince Thornburg stated the character selection screen is "a surreal experience that still slightly lingers to this day," and that the "enemies are nicely detailed, along with the characters profiles actually having elements of shading and personality instead of just being blinking, talking portraits in a little box." He also wrote the soundtrack was "full of catchy tunes which really set the tone," highlighting the first level theme. Matt Hull of Hardcore Gaming 101, reviewing the NES version, praised the humor of the moves and sound effects, "superb" music, "very smooth" controls, and for having the same 16-bit-looking graphics as the prior Battletoads game, particularly when it came to the animation, backgrounds, parallax scrolling, and the Colossus: "You'll see parts of the spaceship moving and it just looks so fluid/smooth that I can't believe that it's 8 bit!"
The Video Game Critic favorably called the stages "fully interactive and full of surprises." While Hull appreciated its more forgiving difficulty in comparison to the originalBattletoads, Thornburg stated it was still unfair at times, noting "unbalanced fights," "moving down a rope too fast for the screen and being killed by seemingly nothing or being overcrowded by enemies at the most frustrated moments." Jason Venter felt the slower speed and less hazardous obstacles of the bike section made it less fun that that of the prior Battletoads game, the unnatural movements of the playable characters and "inconvenient" enemy placements led to cheap deaths, and the bosses were so overpowering they "often can brutalize you from a safe distance" and "getting in close for an attack is frustrating." The two-player mode was positively commented on, with some critics claiming the game to be less enjoyable on single-player. Marc Golding of Honest Gamers noting that two-player options where both players can choose their characters were uncommon in other 16-bit arcade games of a similar style. Thornburg, however, was annoyed by having to start over a level if only one player loses a continue.
The combination of the Battletoads and Double Dragon properties were well-received, with Skyler Miller of AllGame opining that "Rare does a fine job at connecting the two universes without making it seem forced or arbitrary." Thornburg was amused by the ability to use moves and attacks the toads usually use as Double Dragon characters: "While it seems Billy or Jimmy suddenly sprouting giant limbs or at least acting suddenly superhuman to take down a foe seems odd in a Double Dragon game, in the cross-overs universe, it all fits." However, some reviewers brought up problems in presenting the Double Dragon property, such as Double Dragon II's Burnov being the Shadow Boss instead of Jimmy and Roper being misnamed. Golding criticized how Jimmy and Billy felt "just there," with none of the presentation tipping a hat to the Double Dragon franchise, and also wrote that the "decidedly bland outer space environs" made both the Double Dragon and Battletoads made characters from both properties feel out of place: "The result is that both the Dragons and the Toads seem quite out of place in front of the cardboard, uninspired backdrops and the Dragons especially seem to be wasting their celebrity on a game that is tilted toward the cartoonish personality of the Toads."
An AllGame critic, Brett Alan Weiss, was harsh on the SNES version, calling it "an unnecessary creation, except to line the pockets of the companies involved," and too similar in looks and gameplay to its 8-bit counterpart, thus not taking enough advantage of the 16-bit console's capabilities. His other criticisms were the "slow" controls, "jerky" character movements, and poor audio, writing that "the sound effects are boring and the music is of the pseudo rock 'n' roll variety, replete with drum machine-sounding drums and thoroughly unconvincing guitar riffs." Golding, in his review of the Genesis port, also panned it for looking too similar to the NES version and missing the "atmosphere" and better graphics of another 16-bit Battletoads title, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs (1993).
The game was featured on the lists of top 11 video game crossovers" by UGO Networks and the 15 most bizarre crossovers in gaming by GamesRadar. It has been ranked the 76th best NES game by IGN and the second best Double Dragon game by Cinema Blend, calling it "one of the most memorable beat-'em-up games of all time, one of the most iconic crossovers of all time, and one of the best SNES games of all time. Battletoads & Double Dragon was easily one of the most defining games of the 16-bit era, featuring a great sense of scale and scope while including some unforgettable moments, like the hover bike sequence. Having the Battletoads duke it out alongside the Double Dragon was a surreal moment in gaming, but that didn't stop the game from being hard as nails, but that was all part of the 16-bit charm. Anyone who enjoyed beat-'em-up games and had an SNES likely had Battletoads & Double Dragon."
- In Electronic Gaming Monthly's review of the NES version, two critics gave it an 8/10, one a 7/10, and another a 6/10.
- GamePro gave the NES version two 3.5/5 ratings for graphics and sounds and two 4/5 scores for control and fun factor.
- Nintendo Power gave the NES version 3.1/5 for graphics and sound, 3.4/5 for play control, and two 3.9/5 scores for challenge and theme/fun.
- In VideoGames & Computer Entertainment's review of the NES version, its main writer and three of the four editors that gave brief comments gave it a 9/10, while one editor awarded it an 8/10.
- In Electronic Gaming Monthly's very brief review of the SNES version, four critics gave it an 8/10, and another a 9/10.
- GameFan's review of the SNES version was done by four critics, who awarded it different percentages: 79%, 74%, 80%, and 77%.
- GamePro gave the SNES version two 3.5/5 ratings for graphics and sounds, a 3/5 for control and 4/5 for fun factor.
- Nintendo Power gave the SNES version 3.6/5 for graphics and sound, 3.2/5 for play control, 3.3/5 for challenge, and 3.4/5 for theme/fun.
- Nintendo Power gave the Gameboy version 3/5 for graphics and sound, 3.5/5 for play control, 2.5/5 for challenge, and 4/5 for theme/fun.
- Mega Fun gave the Gameboy version two 62% score for graphics and fun and 53% for sound.
- Play Time gave SNES version 48% for graphics, 53% for sound, and 56% for fun.
- Total! Germany gave the Gameboy version two 3/6 scores for gameplay and sound, and two 2/6 scores for graphics and replay value.
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- @WinkySteve (November 26, 2019). "Slightly interesting fact: The Battletoads logo here is one of the first uses of 3d graphics at Rare before DKC" (Tweet). Retrieved September 7, 2020 – via Twitter.
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