E3 2019: Battletoads Hands-On Impressions

They’re back! It has been one year since we first learned that the toads were coming back with a Battletoads teaser trailer shown at E3 2018. This year, E3 2019 brought a brand new gameplay focused trailer and a chance to actually play the game in a show floor demo.

Looking back on our week at E3, we can say without a doubt we enjoyed Battletoads more than any other unreleased game we played.


Comic Book Dialogue

The demo opens with a short cutscene introducing the toads with witty banter appearing in comic book word bubbles. As if we weren’t steeped in enough nostalgia, the dialogue transports you straight back to your favorite 1990’s cartoons!


The Art of Nostalgia—Surprisingly Refreshing

Even better—as beautiful as computer animation can be—the hand-drawn animation is somehow both comfortingly reminiscent of our childhood, and also incredibly refreshing.

It’s like listening to a live performance in this world of autotune. While still polished professional art, there’s also something captivatingly organic and raw about it.

The color-pallet is worth mentioning, as well. The art style has beautifully integrated a 1990’s cartoon color pallet with the glowing opalescent colors you’d expect to see beaming around an EDM concert.


Using Toad Design to Enhance Gameplay Feel

Just like the Battletoads that came before, the new character builds are fantastically designed to further the new style of gameplay.


The O.G., 1991

In the 1991 version, the gameplay was understandably a bit more “grounded.” Movements—for all games—were a bit more rigid. The characters were going to land more-or-less flat footed with few if any bodily responses to physics. So, for that game, it made sense to have a thicker, seemingly more solid and less lithe build.

Battletoads 1991: Original Animation

The Arcade, 1994

In the arcade version, the Toads’ builds were appropriate for arcade gameplay. While obviously more fluid than the 1991 version, the Toads’ movements certainly matched the desired staccato, deliberate, power-move-laden 1990’s arcade style. Furthering that end, the Toads were a bit more brawny—the better to deliver that feeling of force behind your punches and kicks.

Battletoads 1994 Arcade Animation

Killer Instinct, 2016

For Killer Instinct, Rash was redesigned to reflect the feel of a fighting game. While Rash was much more springy and agile, the main goal was to display a force to be reckoned with. That head-to-toe ripped muscle fed into that feeling of dealing your opponent a powerful blow.

Battletoads 2016: Killer Instinct Rash

Battletoads, 2019

For this new Battletoads, the character animation expertly complements its new style of gameplay. A bulkily muscular upper body still furthers the feeling of melee that packs a punch! Yet, we expected that. Here’s where the new Toad bodies and the new gameplay really come together:

The Toads’ lithe lower bodies work perfectly with a new feeling of elastic potential energy that could not be captured in video games of the 1990s.

Springy yet fluid, the Toads’ movements feel agile, flexible, buoyant even—with a satisfying rubber-band-like tension and snap. Silly as it may sound, those lithe lower limbs really bring the new mechanics to life.

Battletoads 2019 Toad Art

Speaking of which… let’s talk new mechanics!


New Gameplay Mechanics

Rest assured: Battletoads is as fun and challenging as ever!

The E3 2019 trailer lists a wide variety of gameplay to expect from platforming to puzzle solving. The demo we got to play included two levels, with two very different gameplay experiences.


Battletoads 2019 Demo Level 1: Beat Em Up!

The first demo level was the classic side-scrolling beat ’em up gameplay that is the very heart of Battletoads. While true to its 1991 roots, there is so much more these Toads can do in 2019!


Moves Mapped to Individual Buttons


Basic Moves

Each Toad has its own unique set of moves. They have basic moves attached to individual control buttons. There is, of course, a punch and a kick.

There is also a Battletoads classic: throwing your opponent. Except this time you don’t just throw your opponent onto the ground, you volley them up into the air. More on useful ways to enjoy this throwing feature below…

For even more fun—just before your Toad throws his foe—you’ll see your Toad transform. Below, you see the trailer moment when Pimple transforms into an angry primate just before he hauls off and throws his opponent.

Battletoads 2019: Pimple Before Throwing

Morphing Moves

One of the most memorable parts of the combat from the originals is the transformative attacks. These are back, but now these can be initiated at any point in combat!

On the left side of the trailer screenshot below, you can see Pimple’s morphing move—charging into his opponents with the force of a train!

Battletoads 2019 Trailer: Pimple's Train Morphing Move


While there doesn’t appear to be any running, there is a dodge move to evade enemy attacks or to quickly go on the offensive.

Dodging evasively came in handy during our demo, especially against an enemy that flies around on a hoverboard, while shooting lasers.



In this 2019 version, having three Toads means more three-player co-operative capabilities—including an ability to revive each other.


Dual-Button Moves

Try using the buttons simultaneously, and things get even more interesting.

Do you remember sticking out your tongue to catch flies for health in the earlier versions? Ah, now you can use that amphibious ability for combat!

Every Toad has the ability to launch out its tongue to grab and pull back an opponent. As an additional cooperative element, a Toad can also grab and pull back a fellow Toad—depending on how you press the two buttons involved. This tongue slinging can be done on the ground or up in the air!

Battletoads 2019: Rash Tongue Grab

Then, there are other simultaneous button combinations for which each Toad has new moves that are creative, fun, and wildly different from each other. You can see where the dev team really had some fun here.


Moves Performed in Sequence

The real magic happens when you string together your moves in the new combo system! The game rewards players for chaining moves together and trying to achieve the highest possible combination.

What might this look like?

Alright, so above we listed a few basics: kicking, punching, and throwing your opponent into the air. Want to spice it up?

Step 1: Volley your opponent to high heavens.

Step 2: Jump up to meet them.

Step 3: Juggle your opponent up in the air with more kicks and punches.

This is without even adding any morphing moves or simultaneous button moves! Throwing a few of those into the mix will add flair to any combo!

You know the previous photo with Rash grabbing an opponent with his tongue? Yeah, that’s after Rash threw it into the air. The screenshot below was taken right after the one above and shows Rash dealing out one of several juggling blows to the still airborne foe.

Battletoads 2019: Fighting Combos, Rash Punching in the Air

Super Moves

With all these new moves to use, each player will be building up a meter that results in a special move. Of course, if you use this move you’ll need to build that meter back up before you use it again. So, use it wisely.

For example, Zits can summon a bubble shield. Facing a barrage of enemies? You might use that bubble and allow your team to get their bearings.


Room to Excel

This more in-depth combat system should really let players get more creative and stylish with their fighting. Not only does this make for a more engaging fight system, it also creates the opportunity for greater achievement.

Each section of a level will grade you on your abilities. The higher your combos the higher your grade. So, you can simply do what’s necessary to beat your opponent, or you can strive to perfect your combos—earning the maximum grade.


The Demo Boss: Porkshank

At the end of the stage we were acquainted with the boss, Porkshank. He dealt heavy blows for which you had to watch because—once you were caught by any one of his punches—he would juggle you across the screen until his attack was over. Luckily, this particular Boss’ moves were readable making it possible to dodge and counter-attack.

Battletoads 2019: Porkshank

Battletoads 2019 Demo Level 2: Turbo Tunnel

Remember the Turbo Tunnel? Ah, those words tend to  immediately bring back memories of pain and suffering for any veteran of the franchise. Yet, playing the 2019 version was a highlight of E3!

Battletoads 2019: Turbo Tunnel

First—rest assured—the 2019 version of this classic level has checkpoints!

This addition alone does wonders to transform what might have once been admittedly aggravatingly stressful into an adrenaline rush filled with laughing, cheering, and even stamping our feet in giddy excitement!

The basics are still the same. You can jump, move left and right. Now, you can use the new dash left and right for quick corrections and dodges. Importantly, you can move—and even dash—in the air after you have jumped.

Battletoads 2019: Turbo Tunnel, Looking Ahead

The 2019 take on the iconic speed bike level also changes the perspective so the camera is behind the toads like a traditional racer. This allows you to better see the obstacles ahead and plan accordingly. It also plays a role in cultivating the absolute best part about this level…

The absolute best part about this new and improved Turbo Tunnel was the teamwork. Yep. If your Toad died, you could respawn in about five seconds—as long as at least one other Toad was still alive.

This respawn mechanic meant that even while your Toad was “out” you still felt fully in! You could feel your stomach drop with each near miss, rooting for your fellow Toads while you were out, champing at the bit to get back in!

By the time we finished the demo my cheeks actually hurt from laughing and smiling so much!

Battletoads 2019: Turbo Tunnel Near Miss

Eager Anticipation

We have only seen the two levels showcased at E3, but we are beyond excited for the day the game is finally released.

The 90’s nostalgia, the hand-drawn animations, the vibrant colors, the witty dialog, playfully creative yet in-depth beat ’em up combat, and the opportunity to make this your most memorable co-op ever make Battletoads a revival to celebrate.

We can’t wait to see more!

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