Note: This article is strictly using the American NTSC NES version and will not apply to the PAL or NTSC-J Japanese Famicom versions, as they are vastly different and would require separate comparisons on their own.
Rare has to be responsible for some of the most infamously difficult games of all time. That being said, Battletoads has to be one of the most polarizing games ever made. When it comes to gamers’ opinions this classic, it’s truly a love/hate relationship. Personally, I happen to truly love all of the titles in the series (well maybe not those Amiga duds). Despite the difficulty, you have to give to Rare for the sheer amount of variety that it put into the original Battletoads game on the NES. It was twelve crazy stages full of twitch reactions and blindingly fast speeds and memorization. Despite this, it keeps me coming back for more, even after twenty years of play.
As of this writing, I’m still not able to finish the NES Battletoads in its entirety. I can blaze through the Genesis port without using continues, but I still haven’t been able to conquer the last stage of the NES version, though I can make it all the way there fairly regularly. That being said, I will conquer this Godzilla-sized mountain of a game, and I will do it soon. I have received a lot of requests from all of you here at Sega-16 for a Side-by-Side article that indicated that I was probably the only one on the site who knew both versions so well, as not many here can even come near to finishing the Genesis version. Despite not finishing the NES original, I have seen enough of it and know the ending so I give an unbiased comparison of the two games.
Presentation: Battletoads was initially released on the NES in 1991 and slightly later the same year on the Genesis, and it was full of style and was a graphical tour de force when it was released. It was also full of attitude, with Professor T. Bird who insulted you when you died and a femme fatale villain who antagonized and insulted you at every chance. Rare spent a lot of time on the intro, which is ’90s cheese at its best, as are all of the scenes between each stage. The ending is a bit on the thin side, but it’s still fitting and has a bit more meat on the bones compared to many NES games of the time. Arc System Works decided to cut about half of the ending out of the game for the Genesis version, and this still has me shaking my head. I have to give a point to the NES version for that. Asides from the ending being stripped in the Genesis port, there are also many subtle and lesser-known differences that you would never notice if you don’t know the game very well. These details will be covered below.
Graphics: As a whole, the Genesis version looks better than the NES original, but I can’t necessarily give it the edge overall. The ending is chopped, and you can just tell that the game doesn’t push the Genesis very much at all. Despite that statement, there is far less color bleeding in the Genesis version, and there’s more detail in the Battletoads themselves, such as their ram horns being gray instead of green or yellow in the NES game. I have to give the edge to the NES release here though, as it just pushes the system so far to its limits. I don’t know just how Rare managed to get such a fast-moving game to run on the NES with only minimal slowdown, but it did so I have to give the edge to the NES.
Sound/Music: The audio is yet another area where the NES version outshines the Genesis one. Stage nine in the NES version is the only stage to have a repeated theme (from stage five). There is an unused theme that you can listen to on YouTube that was probably going to be used in stage nine, but no one knows why it wasn’t included. On the Genesis, stage eight’s theme is again used in stage nine. This is a prime example of Sound Designer Hikoshi Hashimoto not really improving the Genesis version and just simply porting it; It really shows here. The unused theme could’ve been remastered and actually used here in stage nine, but it wasn’t. The pause theme was also removed on the Genesis as well, which is a shame, as it was so memorable on the NES.
Hikoshi just seemed to struggle when he ported the music to the Genesis. David Wise is a brilliant composer, and his soundtrack was truly memorable on the NES, but it really sounds crude and rough on the Genesis. That’s not to say that I hate it by any means, as I’ve come to really appreciate the upbeat and keyed up sound of the Genesis soundtrack. It really fires me up for the fast gameplay. I also have to say that the themes for stages eight, nine, and ten are definitely better on the Genesis.
As a whole the sound effects sound very grating and rough on the Genesis and are lacking all of the charm of the NES.
Ragnarok’s Canyon (NES)
Ragnarok’s Canyon (Genesis)
Turbo Tunnel Part 2 (NES)
Turbo Tunnel (Genesis)
Gameplay: If you’ve played both releases, you’d know that Arc System Works drastically watered-down the difficulty of the Genesis port. This makes it the best one to start with if you’re new to the series. In the Genesis version, you automatically start with five lives instead of the three given on the NES.
The most notable chance is in the speed of the game. The NES version practically requires twitch reflexes of a god, as it moves so fast. The Genesis version’s speed is drastically reduced and gives you a lot more breathing room. The other big difference is in the zoom of the screen. The Genesis port is zoomed in further, giving you a bit more room to move around and maneuver through the stages. If you compare the two side-by-side in the screen shots, you can actually see more obstacles in the NES game due to the ratio.
Also, the Genesis version is full of easy leaching areas where you can rack up dozens of lives and points as the enemies are very easy to hit and juggle over and over again. This is very hard to do on the NES, and you can often juggle an enemy only a few times before the game disables the collision detection and doesn’t allow you to hit the enemy anymore. Other reasons the Genesis port is easier include the logs in stage seven, which move all the way up to the land you’re standing on, instead of making you jump to them like on the NES. Moreover, many of the bosses in the Genesis version also don’t speed up much when they’re close to being defeated. Other examples are that the sharks in stage nine can be defeated, unlike the NES version, the logs in stage five no longer move up and down, and the timing of the disappearing platforms in the final stage are timed differently and are much more forgiving as a whole.
Altogether, the Genesis release just feels tighter where as the NES version can feel a bit loose and can cause some unwanted deaths at times due to the speed. The Genesis game also fixes the game breaking bug in stage eleven, which completely disables player two’s controls completely making the game impossible to complete in the NES version. Still, Battletoads came out first on the NES and just feels more rewarding when you progress through it.
Overall, I really like the NES Battletoads original. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with it and it has some nostalgia for me, but I also think it’s technically the superior game. That’s not to say that the Genesis version is bad either, since its weak points are only minor, aside from the missing parts of the ending. Aside from that, the Genesis game is clearly the version to start with as it’s just far easier compared to the punishing difficulty of the NES one.
Battletoads image property of TheWolfGalaxy.