The year is 1989, and if you’re a comic book fan, that summer you went to see Tim Burton’s epic masterpiece Batman in all its big screen box office glory.
Undoubtedly, the marketing & merchandising for this thing was through the roof. Everything everywhere had a Batman symbol on it. It was on T-shirts and lunch boxes. Heck, it even got its own cereal. So, of course it makes sense that it wouldn’t be long before some company developed a Nintendo game.
Batman NES & Genesis | Sunsoft Beats LJN For Rights
At the time, mostly all licensed intellectual property games such as this were developed and adapted by LJN; a company that is infamous for making awful games on a consistent basis. Batman, luckily, dodged that bullet & was licensed to a developer called Sunsoft. The result was truly much better than anything LJN could have ever dreamed of.
The developer chose to utilize a style & theme similar to Tecmo’s recent top title Ninja Gaiden by making it a side scrolling action platformer. While developing this near or at the same time as their version for the Genesis, Sunsoft decided to add a defining difference. Also very similar to Ninja Gaiden, the player had a unique ability to jump off the side of a wall propelling him higher and higher which I remember being touted in the promotion for the game. While you can lament that the Sega version is pretty much the same game but better, you can’t take away this distinction in game play, which adds a whole other layer to the platforming.
Batman NES & Genesis | Similarities to a Peculiar Tecmo Franchise
So arguably half the work was already done for them. By merely emulating a great model–after all, Batman is basically an augmented ninja–some will debate that this is just a rip off of the Ninja Gaiden series. Sunsoft took advantage by learning from some of Ninja Gaiden’s pros while eliminating some of that game’s more annoying features. One major con that Batman addressed from Gaiden was that being bounced backwards each time the player takes damage usually resulted in a repetition of hits or instant death. By fixing this, Sunsoft had created a saving grace to the Ninja Gaiden-style game play formula.
Now the game didn’t bring in much innovation with it, but having that similar game play style definitely gave it an edge, critically as well as on the market.
Batman NES & Genesis | Theme
Concerning how well the Sunsoft games approached the theme & source material, I feel like they did a relatively good job. They obviously couldn’t incorporate all the elements of the movie into the game, but the ones they did choose to use were well implemented; such as the Joker and his extremely elongated hand gun.
Using cinematic sequences as transitions between levels certainly wasn’t original, but it reminded us very well that we were playing a game based on the movie.
The tone was mostly achieved through music, which was both original and unique. The sound track somehow achieved that dark, ominous nature of the franchise.
The graphics were standard yet fulfilling in subtle ways, such as the flutter of Batman’s cape when jumping or gliding. Also, the implementation of batarangs was crucial to the design of this otherwise non-Batman oriented character; although they really should have included the grappling gun which is also so very iconic in both the movie and comics.
Batman NES & Genesis | Game Play
The game play, while challenging to the point of being frustrating had solid controls and simple commands that easily got the job done. Unlike many of the games at the time like Mega Man, which emphasized having a wide variety of weapons, Batman stuck with just three powerful yet limited ones. Batman required acute timing and particular movement with positioning to make it through. The game really tests your determination, focus, and visual judgment.
Batman NES & Genesis | The Verdict
Completing the game was extremely rare and without any password or saving feature, the game forced you into an all night or all morning arm wrestling match. Having said that, actually finishing the game felt entirely rewarding. A true mark of mastery–taking out the notoriously cheap & stubbornly difficult final boss was empowering.
Overall, Batman stands out as an action heavy game that is addicting and yet interesting enough to make it worth while. If you enjoy precision platforming, fast reflex button pressing, and pretending to be the guy in the batsuit, then this is totally the game for you.
Batman NES | How to Beat The Joker Video
Batman NES How to defeat the Joker by MizasterJ.