By Dojo Master
Right around the time when Double Dragon was beginning to lose its luster and the cartoon was making its introduction, Tradewest started pulling every possible marketing scheme to keep the franchise alive and milk it for more money. One of the most obvious ploys was a crossover game. Rare's Battletoads series had attracted quite a following and Tradewest, who produced some Double Dragon games, also managed to produce all of the Battletoads games. So perhaps it was Tradewest who approached Technos and Rare with the crossover idea, but either way Rare accepted the idea and developed a massive beatemup in the likes of the Battletoads series. In fact, this game is really nothing more than a Battletoads game with a cameo appearance from some Double Dragon characters. The game's engine, design and all other features are directly lifted from the Battletoads series. Except for the DD characters, the are really no characteristics incorporated from Technos' popular fighting series.
Not surprisingly, The SNES version has the best graphics of all three home console versions of Battletoads and Double Dragon. The graphics are pulled straight from the Battletoads games and Billy and Jimmy have been given new cartoony sprites to match the foreign atmosphere. The graphics are highly detailed and colorful, even more so than the Genesis version, and the animation is smooth. The characters themselves are highly detailed as well and you can see comical facial reactions as you beat certain enemies to a pulp with ridiculous, over-the-top moves.
I'm a big fan of the level design in this game because it mixes things up by incorporating well-placed obstacles and even vehicle sections. This makes the levels far more interesting than what we saw in Super Double Dragon, and it reminds me of the amazing level design from the NES Double Dragon games. For instance, level one has you fighting on some sort of giant, outdoor spaceship where enemies fly in from all angles on rockets and climb up the sides of the ship to get to you. If you happen to catch an enemy climbing up the side of the spaceship, you can drop the big elbow on his fingers and send him falling to his death. While level two is fairly linear, it features a trademark speeder bike section pulled from the first Battletoads game that tests your reflexes quite well. And level three has you swinging over large pits and rappelling down seemingly endless shafts as you dodge incoming enemies and obstacles. Overall, the level designs are excellent and quite inspired, but it is a much heavier dose of obstacles than DD fans are used to, so it can cause quite a few deaths. And there's also that one bizarre level apparently based on the arcade game Sinistar where you fly around in a little spaceship and take out one of the Dark Queen's giant rat ships or something. I don't know why Rare threw this in there, but this level alone can make or break beatemup fans depending on their skills with classic arcade shooters.
The rock and roll soundtrack actually fits in quite nicely with a game where you run around beating the crap out of giant rats, ravens and half-animal mutants. It's a nice, fast paced tempo that suits this 16-bit game. The action sounds are quite comical. Don't be surprised if you and your friends burst into laughter from the splat sounds while you pummel Linda (she really deserves it here).
Die-hard DD fans will likely complain about the severe inconsistencies, or shall I just say, mistakes that Rare/Tradewest made. Obviously, some people didn't do their homework (see the characters section for more info). Anyway, moving on... Several villains from the DD series are here, but your previous experience against them won't help because their attacks have been modified to fit the Battletoads universe. Abobo smashes his way in as the boss of level one and proves to be tougher than some of the later bosses, even though he is unarmed (though no person should ever think of Abobo as merely unarmed). Roper (who should be Willy) serves as the boss of level three and is a bit more dangerous than Abobo because of his machine gun. The Shadow Boss (no, not Jimmy) acts as the second-to-last boss and is some weird armor-wearing guy who looks like a DNA splicing experiment between the Shredder and a furnace. The developers at Rare simply pulled this character out of their asses because no one has ever seen this guy before. Minor characters appear here as well such as Lopar (who should be Will), Linda and Shadow Marines (perhaps Furnace-Man gave illegitimate birth to these guys). Linda in particular will cause quite a bit of frustration. Her attacks are extremely cheep and I took great delight in using the Toads to toss her around by the hair. The rest of the game is filled with Battletoads enemies who present much more of a threat than the DD enemies. The final boss is none other than the recurring Battletoads baddie: the Dark Queen.
The weapon selection here is extremely limited compared to DD games, which makes this part of the game quite disappointing. There are only two weapons in the game, unless you want to count your character's spaceship from those Sinistar-style levels. When you take out a Walker, it'll leave behind one of its legs, which you can use as a bo staff. This is actually the only real weapon in the game because it's the only one that you can against any enemy on screen. Dynamite is back, but you can't use it against just anyone. Instead, dynamite is thrown by the Doorman and Windowman of Doom, and you have to toss it back to defeat those two enemies. So that's it. Yeah... like I said: disappointing.
Controls and Moves: B+
The controls are very responsive, but they follow the simplified Battletoads format. There is a punch and a jump button. That's it. While such a simplistic format sounds limited, the attacks change for each level. Even though your basic attack is always a punch, your finishing move will vary as you progress forward in the game. So sometimes you'll finish with a hair grab and a knee to the face, but other times it'll be a jump spinning kick. The attacks also differ between Toads and Dragons. Thankfully, you can run in this game by double tapping the control pad in one direction and holding it. While running, you can execute a charging attack that is useful against bosses. Jump kicks are also included. The martial arts moves are completely exaggerated and are meant to fit in with the comedic style of the Battletoads games. Drop-kicking a mutant rat off the screen is not exactly your traditional Sousetsuken technique.
If you're playing by yourself you have only one mode to choose from. If you're playing with a friend, you can select whether you want to be able to hurt each or not. Unfortunately, the two-player mode suffers from a debilitating continue feature. Each person has separate lives and continues. Whenever one person continues, both players have to start from the beginning of the level, even if the other player is about to die. This feature is extremely detrimental to the game play as it only hinders your progression in co-op mode. Bad move on Rare's part for implementing the broken continue system from the first Battletoads game. The company should have taken a note from Technos on this feature.
Make no mistake, this is a Battletoads game. Billy and Jimmy are just visiting. Since Rare developed all of the Battletoads games, it is understandable why the company didn't incorporate more features (more like any) from the DD series. Rare had no experience with Technos' series and as far as we know, Technos had no involvement with the development of this game. Rare was left on its own to create a game that was obviously made to increase Tradewest's profits, though Rare was probably eager to develop another title in its trademark comedic fighting series. That's not to say this is a mediocre attempt by Rare. It really shines as a Battletoads game, but the content leaves little to entice DD fans. It's the same as watching Executive Decision to view a five-minute cameo from Steven Seagal. You'll be disappointed because you're anticipating something that really isn't there, save for aesthetic purposes. Judged as a Double Dragon game, Battletoads and Double Dragon doesn't fair too well. But judged as a fighting game in general, it performs just fine. When a fighting games pulls off a two-player cooperative mode, it achieves its goal. This game does just that, but with a different style. It deserves a solid place in the beatemup genre, but it's nothing more than a quick detour on the road through the DD series.