The plot for Battletoads was unique in the sense that it was similar to one of the more popular superhero franchises of the time: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The theme of flying super-hero, anthropomorphic turtles helped some of my love for this game develop, I think. The player (or players) control one of three Battletoads named Rash, Zitz or Pimple who are all crewmen on a spaceship, the Vulture. Along with the Battletoads on board are Professor Bird and Princess Angelica—though they their roles aren't as strongly described, it seems that Professor Bird is something of a guide or mentor to the 'Toads.
In the beginning of the game, we see Pimple and Angelica "cruising" in some sort of space convertible, and gobbled up by a larger, more evil-looking spaceship. We then learn that the two have been abducted by the Dark Queen, and are being taken and hidden away from their team on the planet Ragnarok. The game is basically designed as a thirteen-level romp through the crust of Ragnarok to the waiting Gargantua (the Dark Queen's ship) below to save the Princess and Pimple. Once this has been accomplished the team joins together with the traditional good-riddance to the Dark Queen and returns to the Vulture—then the game ends.
The plot is definitely unique—it reminds me of Turtles in Space in a good way. But, it is truly the game play that sticks out most. Similar to the way that the player is able to swap out heads in Sega's Dynamite Headdy, the turtles are able to become gigantic body-parts or grow giant features that enable them to beat enemies more rapidly. Similarly, they are able to use body parts of enemies that they have defeated and turn them into weapons such as bow staffs that they can use throughout the level.
While there are several different types of game play the main portion of the game is side-scrolling, there are a few obstacle course type drops (like in Solar Jetman), and snake mazes that allow for different controls. This, I think, presents one of the largest challenges in the game. While it can be easy to do obstacle courses and mazes on your own, in Battletoads co-op play you are able of accidentally injuring your team mate if you run into them or hit them with your weapon. For some of the smaller mazes and races, this could prove deadly.
Other things that make this game unique are the sound and graphics which ran a far cry from some of the more "traditional" 16-bit games of the time. As you can see in the game play video above, the shadows, features of enemies and even the 'Toads themselves are significantly more clear than other titles reviewed in the past from 1991 or 2. The soundtrack to the game does seem a bit harsher than other games, taking a turn from a cartoony soundtrack into one that seemed to more so espouse metal and rock. This game seemed to want to separate itself as a "more adult" game than others released by Nintendo in the same platformer/side-scroller genre.
If you have not played this game or heard of it, I've found a pretty good emulator here. If you have player it before and thought that I missed something, or just want to talk about your favorite parts of the game—leave a note in the comments! Happy playing!