A few months after Batman: The Video Game hit the NES, a Game Boy version was released, partially made by the same staff and using the same title, but it’s a completely different game. For an early Game Boy platformer, it’s pretty fun. While the sprites are amusingly tiny, the action is pretty fast and smooth compared to contemporaries like The Castlevania Adventure.
It’s interesting that the opening cutscene, the title screen, and the game’s levels are all fairly accurate to the movie, with sone slight divergence in how Batman plays compared to any previous Batman games: You just run around shooting people. You get a wide array of projectiles, and while one of them looks like a batarang, the rest wouldn’t be out of place in a run-‘n-gun like Contra. Even the wave beam from the Metroid series makes an appearance, “W” icon and all. The graphics aren’t designed to make it look like a “wrist mounted batarang launcher” either, Batman just goes through the whole game with a pistol drawn. While the character was pretty trigger happy in the comics in the 30s, this was quite a contrast to the vigorously anti-gun portrayal of Batman in comics current to when the game was made.
The platforming is a fairly interesting for a Game Boy movie cash in. Levels are linear with the typical moving platforms and pitfalls, but there’s a large amount of destructible blocks scattered along each level as well. Shooting color coded blocks like these is where you get your more powerful weapons, but if you don’t shoot them you can often use them as stepping stones to completely avoid several of the game’s obstacles and enemies. It gives the action a nice ebb and flow as you often have to stop and decide if it’s worth taking the easy way through a level or if you will need the extra weapons to help deal with the game’s bosses and more powerful enemies. So while the game is simple, the unique structure and controls help it hold up. There’s also a pretty fun level where you get to control the Batwing, but it’s the platforming that makes this game worth playing.
The best part of the game, however, is the impressive soundtrack. Naoki Kodaka and Nobuyuki Hara were responsible for the music again, and despite being on the Game Boy it sounds just as good as some of their best NES work. Sunsoft’s classic game soundtracks stand up there with the best of their contemporaries. Interestingly, while the music is completely different from the NES game, the Axis Chemicals background music is similar or reused across all of the Sunsoft Batman games, while the rest of the soundtracks are mostly unique to each game.
So while Batman: The Video Game on the Game Boy is a simple game, and the depiction of how Batman operates is a bit questionable, it still holds up as a fun way to kill half an hour. It was fairly popular due to the success of both the 1989 movie and the NES game, and Sunsoft would make a few more Batman games to cash in on the hype.