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Battletoads (Game Gear)

Genre: Beat’-Em-Up Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Tradewest Players: 1 Released: 1993

If you ask me, it’s actually pretty hard to honestly review Game Gear games without some kind of bias, especially the games that were ports or remakes of console titles. Most are pretty bad, to say the least. Many are difficult to play because of screen issues and due to the fact that the little handheld is underpowered when it comes to tackling most ports. Other programmers managed to make these games work and many are eclipsed by ports on less powerful game systems like the Game Boy. Also, most games don’t have squat for info or help on the web anywhere. This makes it all the more difficult to keep a positive mindset.

That being said, I’m a Battletoads fan through and through, and the Game Gear port never receives much attention. I at least tried to  enjoy playing it and wanted to give it a fair assessment. I actually decided to play the entire game through, overlook its shortcomings, and take some great screen shots and shed some light on this otherwise unknown port of a classic series of games, despite the game being a poor version.

Battletoads for the Game Gear is mostly a port of the NES (and Genesis) game. There are nine stages in total here: stages one through seven are in the same order of the console versions, stage eight is stage 11 (the Clinger Winger stage) where you’re chased by the orb, and stage nine is stage 12 (the Dark Queen’s Tower) and the final stage of the game. Tradewest gave the stages a different layout for this port, so there are new things to look out for and obstacles to overcome. Everything here also seems to be toned down in difficulty this time around, as things are much easier to predict now. For instance, in any of the vehicle stages you can take multiple hits instead of wiping out after one crash. It makes the game much easier and is a welcome break for anyone who’s turned off by the original’s difficulty.

The graphics are the highlight here, sometimes outshining the Genesis version, and they definitely show what the Game Gear is capable of. The animation is extremely sharp and detailed, and there is some amazing use of parallax scrolling, especially in stage seven. It’s definitely one of the best-looking Game Gear games I’ve played in a while. The sound is also great for such a limited console; the music is dead on and is almost as rich as the NES version and much cleaner than the Genesis version. There are some nice thuds and whacks when you defeat an enemy, and I was thoroughly impressed with the game’s presentation.

So what kills it? Unfortunately, it’s the gameplay. It has more problems than you ever need to deal with. To start, the sprites are all zoomed in to compensate for the small screen, and the jumping was never tweaked to compensate for the screen zoom. Virtually every jump has to be dead accurate, or you won’t jump far enough and you’ll lose many lives. You barely jump high enough to clear most pits and can spend forever trying to make one single jump, especially in stage four, the Arctic Cavern.

The next problem is the fact that when your hit by an enemy, you get stunned, get bounced back, and take far too long to recover. This is much more so than any other version, and many times enemies can juggle you back and forth until you lose a full health meter, and that sucks! This becomes the biggest issue of the game, and just wait until you are at the beginning of stage three and get knocked into the pits by the same enemy over and over again!

Another major problem lies with the collision detection. Honestly, it is accurate at most, maybe 50% of the time. You’ll spend so much time trying to hit certain enemies just right that you’ll scream. The final stage is especially infuriating, as you have to jump up and grab and hang onto poles to avoid being blown off the tower by the giant heads. My toad lost countless lives when the collision detection just didn’t feel like registering. Needless to say, it’s frustrating to no end.

My final, but less prevalent issue is that it seems like the programmers tried to make the graphics too nice and included too many stages, as there are a lot of other details missing. You can’t get a bird’s beak in stage two, since those birds are missing. The point grabs and 1-ups are also missing throughout each stage, and there are other finer details missing as well, making the game feel like it lacks polish.

You can tell that Rare gave this version of Battletoads to Tradewest, who in turn gave it to a small publishing house called Arc System Works, because it lacks all the perfection that made Rare’s other games so great. Because of these issues, the game is far too frustrating for its own good and definitely falls into the “inferior port” category that so many other games fall into. Overall, it’s a sloppy port of a great and original game, so play at your own risk, unless you’re a die hard Battletoads fan like me who just has to beat every version. For now, enjoy the rare screen shots. If you want a really nice handheld version of Battletoads, then you should check out the far superior Battletoads in Ragnarok’s World on the Game Boy. It far outshines this version, despite not being in color. Oh, one other thing about the Game Gear port: there isn’t even an ending, if that makes you feel any better. It just simply resets to the title screen when you defeat the Dark Queen and nothing more!

SCORE: 4 out of 10

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