Batman is the greatest comic hero ever. Any suggestion otherwise may result in a ninja stealing your breath in the night. With a new Batman film coming on Friday, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at an adaptation of an earlier movie in the series.
It was 1989 and the world was caught in the fierce grip of Bat-mania. You couldn’t turn your head without seeing the logo at the very least. I was no exception and I managed to coerce my parental units to invest in all manner of merchandise. I had Batman headware, Batman footwear, even the soundtrack by Prince (an album so riddled with innuendo, no right-minded adult would allow a child to hear it; it remains one of my favorites today).
And what would a summer blockbuster be without a videogame tie-in to squeeze that little bit of extra cash from kids? Sunsoft answered the call and released Batman for the NES six months after the film release. Now, we all know how films translate into games but I recall this being a really entertaining one despite my general reticence toward such things. I guess we can find out together when you hit the jump.
Batman is a side-scrolling platformer where you control the Dark Knight as he battles, blasts and batarangs his way through twelve stages and six boss fights. There are roughly a dozen different enemies to contend with using fists and three special attacks.
The story of the game attempts to mirror that of the Tim Burton film. It seems as though nobody at Sunsoft saw much more than a few publicity stills and select action sequences because the plot presentation is quite jumbled. Cutscenes between levels do not, in any way, reflect the progression of the film’s storyline and the intro offers a vastly different story where Joker rules over a largely deserted Gotham City. Then again, it isn’t really any further off from the film as the film is from the comic books.
Also, just like the movie, the story doesn’t matter. This game is about action and excellent level design. Locales in the game are similar to the film, going to places like Axis Chemical and Gotham Cathedral, and many levels offer multiple paths through them. They make great use of Batman’s admittedly limited abilities (he can attack, jump and wall-jump but that’s about all) to provide challenges that are almost puzzle-like in nature. Practically every obstacle can be overcome without taking damage if you can find the best route and have accurate timing and control of jumps.
At the end of each of the game’s five areas you’ll encounter a boss character. After the challenge of the level before it, these often seem a little disappointing. They look really cool but, provided that you have most of your health remaining, they’re easy to defeat once you’ve found their pattern.
The graphics are pretty damn good for the hardware, with detailed (sometimes animated) backgrounds and some very impressive animations. One of the reasons that I never really got frustrated when dying in Batman is the badass death animation. Check this out: