Most people are probably familiar with Battletoads via the initial game for the NES, which was really a pretty blatant copy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - cutesy anthropomorphic reptiles on a quest to beat up other cutesy anthropomorphic animals. The Battletoads arcade game, however, is like the Satanic, heavy-metal-listening older brother of the Ninja Turtles. It still has the physical comedy focus of the NES game, but the tone is much darker, and there's quite a bit of blood fying around as well as graphic, violent deaths for both the Toads and their foes.
This game marks an extremely rare arcade appearance for both EA and Rare, and apparently they decided to celebrate by charging fifty cents to start playing (but a more standard twenty-five to continue.) The game itself has cheap, quarter-sucker design written all over it, which is unfortunate, because it also has great visuals, pretty good sound, and levels totally devoid of the annoying bike/surfing/whatever levels that confounded gamers in the NES game.
The game is a pretty standard beat-em-up, but the three Toads each finish off enemies with some over-the-top move like turning their appendages huge to knock the enemy out of the screen, or savaging a downed enemy with a power drill or chainsaw. The enemies likewise show no mercy on the Toads, however, coming in huge waves and putting them in a lot of situations where they can't avoid cheap hits.
The game is stacked against the player in other ways. Weapons barely get four or five uses before disappearing, and none of the Toads can take much more than four or five hits at full strength before they crumple up (and you only get two lives per credit.) There are little flies you can munch here and there for health, but they are really there more to give you the illusion that the game is allowing you to recharge rather than actually recharging you - they barely grant a couple of points of health, quickly taken away by the next sissy rat punch that you absorb.
The worst is the boss battles, however, particularly the second boss battle, which is where I predict about half the people who tried this game quit. It's actually a cool concept - a giant, well-animated snake who lurks in the background and makes quick strikes at you. Problem is, unless you have full health he also kills you in one hit. He then eats your carcass, which is bloodily lulzy, but it also seems to restore his health. He takes a ton of hits to kill, and gets faster as his health wears down, to the point where he's almost impossible to avoid, and then when he snags you, he gets his health back and you have to start the whole thing again.
I really think the game was designed in a very cynical way, make it flashy-looking with lots of blood and gore to suck people in and make them want to see what's next, then hit them with cheap difficulty to force scads of quarters out of their pocket. Of course, we all get the last laugh as now you can play it on MAME. But, even though it's basically a solid brawler with impressive graphics, the action is more than a little repetitive and you might find the bosses and all the cheap hits too frustrating to be worth the trouble.
* Gameplay Video