Header image: Screenshot: Moby Games (Battletoads In Ragnarok’s World Box Art)
Hunters of long-lost video games can now add another one to the wish list: Battletoads: The Arcade Game for the Game Boy.
Speaking with the fansite RareFanDaBase this week, veteran Rare developer Paul Machacek said that the company had completed a port of Battletoads Arcade, a cabinet released in 1994, for Nintendo’s black-and-white Game Boy, but it was never released due to the poor sales of the arcade original.
“It was the fourth one I’d written[,] was a spinoff from the arcade game of the same name, and was 100% finished and signed off [on] by Test,” he said. “Then it got cancelled shortly after I moved onto Donkey Kong Land because the arcade game had underperformed in market and Tradewest pulled the plug on the whole franchise.”
According to Machacek, other longtime coworkers of his at Rare didn’t believe that the game even existed. Back in 2015 when the team was working on Rare Replay through, a diverse collection of 30 different games the company produced over the years, Machacek was able to find it on an old disc and prove he wasn’t making it up. “One of the engineers here happened to have a Game Boy emulator and we dragged the file into it and waited with bated breath,” he said. “It ran! I couldn’t believe it, no one had seen this game in about 22 years, and I was the only person who recalled its existence at all.”
GIF: Battletoads for Arcade (YouTube)
Using the original source code, Machacek worked out an infinite lives cheat for the game so someone else on staff could play through the entire game quickly. They were apparently able to do so without encountering any bugs and also recorded the playthrough, although neither the ROM nor the video have been made public.
The Game Boy had three other Battletoads games: a 1991 game simply called Battletoads that was completely different from the NES version, a 1993 one called Battletoads in Ragnarok’s World that was a cut down port of the original console game, and a Game Boy version of the crossover project Battletoads Double Dragon.
Battletoads Arcade, which at one time also had a Super NES port planned called Super Battletoads that also got canned, was a perfectly decent beat ‘em up. Thanks to being an arcade game, it had significantly better graphics, and is currently playable in the Rare Replay collection, which includes generous saves and infinite lives, something I’m sure 1990s arcade goers didn’t have. Unflinching difficulty has always been part of the series’ charm and enduring legacy, but when a machine is eating a month’s pocket money, it can wear a little thin.
In an email to Kotaku, Machacek confirmed that the Game Boy version didn’t change much about the original, other than some of the level layouts and timings in order to account for the change in hardware. As to whether it was any good, he responded, “You’re asking the person that wrote it ‘Was it any good?’ Mmmmmm. Well, I’m not inclined to say ‘No,’ however it was basically an offshoot / port of the Arcade one we released, so you decide.”