Let me tell you something about Battletoads, folks. These games were never good. Nostalgia is an incredible force that can make something terrible seem great, depending on how young you were when you experienced it. The only actually fun Battletoads game is the 1994 arcade game, and that’s because it’s a quarter-fed brawler. So when the new Battletoads happened by way of post-ironic gaming fandom hubris, I wasn’t sure what to think. Turns out the combat is actually great.
Battletoads Combat Guide
Especially in a year that gave us all-time great contender Streets of Rage 4, expectations for a new Battletoads in 2020 haven’t been great. I figured it would at least be silly fun like the arcade version, but at the end of my play session today I was hyped up on video game combat juice, the kind I only get from games that make you work for success. But you don’t work through poor design or obscene difficulty, you work for success through a joyous toolbox of destruction. Battletoads answers a question nobody asked, but that question is, “what if we mixed Ninja Turtles with Dragon Ball Z?”
Hear me out! Battletoads’ new combat system utilizes almost the whole controller to make a genre best known for mindless simplicity feel more like a modern, anime-style fighter. Streets of Rage 4 is similar, but in a much meatier, Street Fighter-like sense. Battletoads has dash cancels, air combos, launchers, mid-combo character swaps, grappling hooks, juggles, even literally a kitchen sink. Before I knew it I was using game principles from totally different games and was handing out 100-hit, S-rank combos like boring office people hand out corporate-branded pens at job fairs.
Here’s how it all works. You have three Battletoads at your disposal, assuming you’re playing by yourself. Each hero has their own health bar, which will recover some when they aren’t in use. Press the appropriate direction on the d-pad and you’ll switch, even in the middle of a combo. Since each Battletoad has demonstrably different physical properties, your options change despite the controls staying the same.
The X button is your standard brawler combo you can mash out, which has a different ender based on your toad. The Y button is a launcher that will pop enemies up in the air, but only Zitz follows them up for an easy air combo. With the other two you’ll have to reposition to take advantage. B is a heavy attack that can be used in the air, interwoven in combo strings, or held to charge into a guard-breaking move. Context is key here as heavy moves can vary wildly depending on where you are, which toad you’re using, and when you use it in a combo.
If you hold the left trigger, you can use your tongue with the face buttons. Y will let you grab stuff, usually health-giving flies or special collectibles. X, however, is a grappling move that can either pull enemies to you or pull you to them depending on the enemy. Some enemies will even be stunned, opening up for free damage. And speaking of damage, pressing the right trigger is a dodge move that works in whatever direction you’re aiming at. It’s a short dash, but when it’s active you do have invincibility. Of course, you eat a hit if you’re too antsy and dodge too early.
Battletoads is pretty loosey goosey, so depending on the situation you can do nearly whatever you want. You can snap in a different direction if you’re surrounded, dash in and out of combos, juggle fools from above or below, swap toads mid-string, the works. Any combo-stoppage is either due to a mistake on your part, or enemies that have special properties like a guard you have to break or super armor that ignores hitstun. With a big enough wave of enemies and care taken not to whiff or get punked out, you can easily break 100 hits in your combo and get tons of points. The better you perform, the better your rank. And levels have special bonuses if you rank high enough.
That’s the Battletoads combat basics in a nutshell. You can basically kick ass for as long as you want to, what with all the anime game-style cancel-heavy combo properties. This is no Devil May Cry, but it’s almost like a low-budget Marvel vs Capcom spinoff featuring rude toad bros instead of superheroes. The game eventually throws different kinds of gameplay challenges at you, because Rare, but as far as the basic brawling goes there’s a lot to love.
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