Destructive deconstruction

The new Battletoads game is more or less out, with all the cutscenes already out on Youtube. When the characters are effectively told that everything they’ve been doing for the last twenty-six odd years in a fantasy bunker (think of Holodeck from Star Trek, same thing), followed by an assurance that they’ll find a new audience, you get the thing the game is going for. This soft-reboot, which turns out to be a sequel, effectively tries to undermine and destroy the older games setting. After all, it was all a fantasy. It’s not just spiteful towards the ‘toads themselves, belittling them and making them outright idiots, but also turning the Dark Queen into some kind of annoying, childish bitch. The two of course team up to destroy two god-like alien beings, which for whatever reason are also gay stereotypes. I’m not going to pretend to be in the writer’s persona this time around and will call the game’s depiction of the characters, the setting, and pretty much everything about it, fucking retarded.

I’m sick of destructive deconstructions. Battletoads is a prime example of people wanting to play with an IP but having zero respect for it. Every aspect the original games had, from the cartoony giant mallets and drills in punches and kicks to eating flies, has put under the lens, made fun out of and turned to eleven for a comedic effect that doesn’t deliver. It’s like watching a train wreck being piled on five other train wrecks while people are still screaming in agony and pain amidst burning fuel and crashing steel. Except what the people are screaming is constant bad jokes and self-aware puns about themselves and the situation. That actually sounds better scene than anything in the game. Though the game isn’t just vile against its own cast, but also at the fans, the core audience this game could’ve had. There’s a scene where a non-player character laughs at the redesign of Dark Queen’s clothes ends up him being blown out into space with Dark Queen announcing he doesn’t get to decide what she wears just because they hung out twenty years ago. While it’s nothing new for developers, songwriters and directors to execute or belittle their critics in their works, it’s not too often you see them telling the IP’s fans to fuck off. After all, they are aiming to get that new audience.

Alan Moore’s (in)famous for deconstructing and reconstructing comics goes long way. Sometimes he fucks them up, sometimes he manages to take some of the parts and build something better. When he worked on Captain Britain in the early 1980s, he started a storyline called Crooked World, where a character called Jasper goes insane with his reality-warping abilities, ending in Captain Britain killed by a creature called The Fury. Merlin rebuilds Brian Braddock back from scratch to mettle with now-multiverse level threat and to restore a resemblance of balance. Rather than belittling Captain Britain’s past in fighting low-level crooks and criminals, Moore ultimately based all the previous adventures as building up to Jasper and his insanity. Rather than just fighting these street-level villains just for heroics, Merlin had build-up Brian Braddock’s mental capabilities in dealing with threats and enemies from down to up, until the moment when he had to face a supervillain capable of reworking reality in whatever form he wished. It must be mentioned that Moore didn’t work alone on this.

Alan Davis’ contributions as an illustrator and fellow writer made the pages breathe far more down the line and had a significant positive net effect on the whole storyline. Early on the story is rather text-heavy, but with Davis getting more room to tell the story through the images towards the end makes their writing stand out even more. This deconstruction of the character is an exceptional success, as it literally strips down everything the character was and had been up to that point and is rebuild from nothing in both physical and mental sense. However, the main difference in the two deconstructions, between the new Battletoads and Captain Britain: Crooked World is that Brian Braddock as a character didn’t change, nor did his intent. The ‘toads, and everything about them, has been revamped and changed, destroying their late 80s/early 90s too-cool attitude and replacing it with modern quippy, jokey, annoying parodies of themselves. If they had ended up as late 2010s/early 2020s cool actions heroes, or perhaps even as nostalgic throwbacks to 1980s teen action heroes through a modern lens, the deconstruction might’ve been successful. However, as they stand now, they’re spiteful tackles with no worth to them. It’s a new franchise shitting on the name they took with no recognisable characters to it.

Deconstructions have always been around. Yet with modern popular culture during the last century or so they’ve become more and more common as the millennia changed. Rather than building up something new and awe-inspiring, we’ve been getting works that take what’s known, breaking them apart and using those elements to produce pale copies with little to no relation. Often for political messages and agendas, which worked so damn well for the latest Terminator and Charlie’s Angels movies. Breaking things down is easy, deconstructing something is even easier. Creating something new and original that’s also worthwhile, that’s the hard part. Turns out, the new Battletoads can’t really do deconstruction properly and opts to channel the worst of Rick and Morty into its building blocks. You know what was the spot I honestly quit? Early on Rash is wearing diapers full of piss and shit while being a conspiracy nut, trying to parody procedural detective and police shows. I want to say this is taking a shit on the character, but this isn’t even the same character. It just has a similar face.

Could we burn the game while we’re at it?

You can only ignore these character to certain points. Everything from characterisations to the world and the setting is, putting it simply in one word, wrong. A game can be divorced from its story just fine, but it can’t be divorced from its visual and flavours. It’s a game that actively hates people who are fans of the original Battletoads and the developer intentions are loud and clear. When there’s a tiny particle of the original characters and games towards the end, they’re called relics of a time passed. Now you die. Microsoft probably enjoys all the publicity they’re getting.

Speaking of Alan Moore and deconstructions, that one The Simpsons skit with him describes the whole situation perfectly.


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