Last year’s Batman film, directed by Tim Burton went down as not only one of my favorite films of the year, but the entire decade. I grew up watching reruns of the zany 1960s Batman, and to see this dark, adult version blew me away. Michael Keaton made an outstanding Dark Knight, but Jack Nicholson stole the show as the nefarious Joker. There was little doubt we’d get a game adaptation. Other superhero games on the Nintendo, namely Superman and X-Men have been poor efforts. However, Batman was developed by Sunsoft, the company that brought us the brilliant (yet exceedingly difficult) Blaster Master.
Batman doesn’t try anything goofy like Kemco’s Superman did. It’s a straight up action game that borrows heavily from Ninja Gaiden. You make your way through sections of Gotham City, dispatching thugs in route to the Joker. Batman’s punch is your main attack and there are three different subweapons that you locate and then collect ammo for. They include: the Batarang, the Dirk, and the Spear Gun, all of which fire slightly different projectiles and can be very useful when close quarters combat is dangerous. The areas are filled with common enemies who either run at you or fire weapons, and there are also lots of tiny robotic drones that also prove to be menacing.
This title also features a fair amount of platforming, as many of the stages have you progressing upwards. Batman is able to cling to and jump off walls, much like Ryu in Ninja Gaiden. The platforming can be challenging and frustrating, as it’s possible to fall back down all the way to the bottom of the level – much like in the Wizards & Warriors titles. You have a fairly large health meter and more can be replenished after knocking out enemies. At the end of each stage there will be a boss fight, either a villain or a machine that needs to be disarmed. There are five stages, all quite large with different acts. The game is brutally difficult, but fortunately continues are unlimited.
The game very loosely follows the Batman film, and features short cutscenes in between stages to tell the story. You start the game on the streets of Gotham, working your way through familiar sights like the Axis Chemicals building and the Gotham sewers. Diehard Batman comic fans may recognize many of the common enemies and bosses, but casual fans probably won’t know characters like Firebug, Deadshot, or Nightslayer. You won’t find popular villains like Penguin, Riddler, or Catwoman in this game. Also absent are the henchmen from the film, like Bob (Joker’s #1) or the guy who carries around a boom box playing Prince cassettes.
The game has a dark and gritty atmosphere that does match up with the film. All of the stages take place at night or in drab interiors. The sprites are large and drawn well, and very recognizable, although Batman has a purplish hue, which makes him stand out from the dark backgrounds. The cinematics between gameplay look very good, I just wish they were a little longer and told more story. The hilarious morbid humor Jack Nicholson brought to the film is entirely absent from this game, which is a huge miss. While the soundtrack doesn’t feature chiptune versions of Prince songs from the film, the music is excellent. Batman has the same composer as other Sunsoft titles like Fester’s Quest, Freedom Force, and Blaster Master. Each stage features a different tune, and the music syncs up with the unsettling atmosphere of the game.
Batman is a great action-platformer game that should appeal to both fanatics of the superhero, fans of the new movie, and casual gamers. The game features challenging boss encounters and frustrating platforming making it a very difficult game, despite only having five stages. Although this is certainly influenced by Ninja Gaiden, it does not match the quality of that superb game, which features a much more engaging story, a higher variety of enemies, and better and quicker action. However, this is still a fine game and one of the best movie-based Game Paks we’ve seen on the Nintendo.
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
I loved how the darker themes of the movie carried over to the video game. I only wish there was more story and more recognizable characters from the Batman universe. This game features excellent graphics and another phenomenal Sunsoft soundtrack. Although not the very best action title ever, it is still high quality and goes to prove that you can make a great game based on a beloved film.
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.