Toxic Crusaders’ Mop Stands Among the Best Weapons on the NES
Ninja Gaiden II’s Invincible Fire Wheel. Contra’s Spread Gun. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Kiai (often called Scrolls). There are a lot of incredible weapons in NES games that can make our lives a whole lot easier. Until we run out of them or lose them, I guess. One of the absolute best fighting tools on the system isn’t what you’d expect, though. It doesn’t use fire or bullets. Doesn’t cut foes up with a razor edge. It’s an aggressive cleaning implement: the mop from Toxic Crusaders.
Toxic Crusaders is a video game based on the cartoon of the same name. Which is, in itself, based on Troma’s The Toxic Avenger (a remake of which is in the works). As an adult who has seen the 1984 movie, it is already a lot to believe that someone saw the film and felt that there needed to be a kids’ cartoon. That someone would watch said cartoon and feel that we also needed a video game on it is kinda wild, too. But given that there’s games about Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street on the kid-friendly console, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that much.
Anyway, Toxie’s girlfriend, Yvonne, has been captured alongside the rest of the Toxic Crusaders. So, Toxie needs to save everyone from the polluting villains who took them. It was the 90’s, so anything eco-friendly got a green light. Toxie’s got superhuman strength, allowing him to punch out any litterer who steps into his path. However, punches in this game have nothing on our boy’s special mop.
The Mop is a wonderful tool for the guy who normally has to punch everything. Enemies throughout the game are fairly aggressive. Even the basic foes often have long-range attacks and lunging punches. They move pretty fast. This game has a well-earned reputation for being really hard. Punching these guys works, but with your mop in hand, you extend your range a little bit. It makes it a lot easier to catch those quick enemies.
That range makes a difference you can feel, but that’s just the beginning of what Toxic Crusaders has to offer. If you pick up a Toxic Barrel symbol, you’ll make the mop stronger, which adds a ranged shot. I’m not sure I want to know what sort of gross goo is coming off of it, as these droplets kill enemies fast. Again, it increases your fighting range, keeping you a bit safer and out of striking distance.
Find another Toxic Barrel and you’ll grow the mop to (nearly) the height of its power. Here, you can throw the thing like a boomerang. It’ll sweep all the way across the screen, cutting a massive swath through the enemies on its way out. Then it’ll come flying back, chasing your character until it’s back in your hands. Toxie’s not a small guy, and neither is the mop, either. It easily carves through most of the space enemies occupy on the screen, so it just steamrolls your foes. Since it will follow your walking path, you can easily guide it into enemies by throwing it and moving around while you punch creatures on the other side of you.
Toxic Crusaders has one final mop trick for you, though. If that wasn’t enough stopping power, you can also pick up one more Toxic Barrel and have the mop gain sentience. It’ll hop out of your hands and begin bouncing around the area, slamming any foe it comes into contact with over a short period of time. It’s not as effective as the boomerang mop, honestly, as it just does what it wants. It’s hard to rely on it to track foes with any reliability. Still a neat addition to your arsenal.
The kicker with this weapon, like many great tools on the NES, is that it isn’t permanent. Getting hit will make your mop move down one power level. Get hit when you have the boomerang and you’ll be back just flinging droplets. Get smacked again by surprise and you’ll just be swinging your cleaning implement. You have to guard this weapon with your life against the game’s aggressive enemies if you want to keep that power level up.
This adds an interesting tension when you’re doing well. It’s like you’re constantly teetering over the edge throughout Toxic Crusaders. You can be…mopping the floor with your foes (sign, I’m sorry) one minute, but with a single mistake, your power level will plummet. Toxic Barrel pickups aren’t terribly common, either, so you have to struggle in your newfound weakness if you take even one cheap hit. Which can happen quite often in this game.
What I honestly like about this is that, the stronger you get, the more terrified you get of taking a hit. You scramble to avoid ever projectile coming your way. Leap aside to avoid getting punched in the mouth. You have a whole health bar of hits you can absorb, but losing that added strength makes that health bar nearly worthless. You’re in big trouble if you lose the stronger mop, so you treat just about any hit like it’s your last.
This left me in a state of near-panic throughout Toxic Crusaders. It’s like playing the Contra games in the final levels. You’re doing well with the Spread Gun, mowing down anything that’s in front of you with a cone of shots. Then, some silly little thing kills you that you don’t expect. Now, your gun just shoots these tiny basic shot. Suddenly, those masses of enemies mean you’re in a whole lot of danger as you can’t cut them down as effectively. You’re in much more danger than you were before.
The mop, silly weapon as it is, carries players to those same heights of power. You have a vicious cleaning tool that can get so strong it kills enemies on its own. You can chew through whole screens worth of polluting punks with a swing of your arm. It’s all ready to topple at any moment, though, punishing overconfidence and forcing an unease on players as they battle massive oily monsters and other irradiated creatures. The mop’s a fantastic multi-purpose weapon that will have you feeling like a toxic god, yet it comes with an unease that loads every second of the game with tension.