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Konami Beat-em-ups

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Batman Returns - NES (1993)

American NES Cover

Before the Batman movies became painfully embarrassing camp-fests and gave Batman tits (and even longer before the awesome Christopher Nolan movies) there were actually a couple starring Michael Keaton that did fairly well. The second of them was called Batman Returns, which was made into a crapload of games for just as many platforms. Among them were two beat-em-ups by Konami for NES and SNES. Despite sharing the same name, genre, and source material, they're actually separate games with very different gameplay.

When I first played the NES version of Batman Returns, I thought that it was crap. Maybe I've been spoiled by what Technos was able to do with the hardware with River City Ransom and Double Dragon II, or something, but after a couple of plays I realized that it's actually among the better games in the NES' library of beat-em-ups, and possibly the best entry from Konami.

Batman Returns (NES)

The combat is strongly reminiscent of TMNT II, but there's quite a bit more to it than in that game. You've got the same moves that Turtles II has, but you can also do long range slide kicks, block to reduce the damage that you take, and pull of a Final Fight-style crowd control move at the expense of one notch off of your health meter. By pushing Select you can cycle through a couple more items - a grappling hook (more on that below) and batarangs. Each batarang is only good for one toss, but their strength makes up for it. You won't find all that many batarangs along your way, but if you do you can store up to nine at a time in your arsenal.

There's more to the stages than just moving right and beating up on Tim Burton's evil clowns. For example, the first level has a section where you'll slide around on the icy ground, and the second stage has an area where a remote-controlled toy helicopter drops bombs that blow holes in the floor - taking you down to a lower floor of the building if you fall through them. Another cool area is a slanted rooftop section in the third level where you have to constantly readjust your position or else you'll fall off. Nothing spectacular, really, but it all works well and mixes things up nicely. At other times the stages move vertically, and you'll have to get out your grappling hook and latch it onto these orange parts of the ceiling to ascend to a higher level - you can also hit the toy helicopters, this way. One of the levels has you driving the Batmobile. During this stage the game switches to a horizontal shooter mode. You have to shoot cars and obstacles on the road, and you also get a limited but replenishable supply of missiles. It's sure as hell not going to compare to Konami's titles that are dedicated to the shooter gameplay, but it's still fairly interesting stuff.

Batman Returns (NES)

Having been released in 1993, the 8-bit version is among the later titles for NES, and that fact is demonstrated by its presentation. It's not that it's all that fantastic looking or anything, but Konami was still able to do amazingly well at recreating the look and aesthetic of Tim Burton's movie. It's obvious that a lot of effort went into making the backgrounds evoke the stylized set pieces of the film, and there are even digitized images of the actors between certain levels. Lastly, the difficulty level, while still fair, isn't always very forgiving, especially against bosses. Luckily, you can continue indefinitely, and there's a password system so that you can restart at any level.

Overall it's a pretty enjoyable title, but it does have a rather disappointing flaw: Batman Returns is for one player, and one player only. No Catwoman, Konami? Yes, I realize that Batman's the only hero in the movie, but I've seen more ridiculous creative license taken before, so they could have at least tried. Even a palette swapped mirror image of Batman would have been perfectly acceptable. Hell, I would have even taken Aqua Man or those kids with the pet monkey from Super Friends that never did anything - ANYBODY, at all, would have been nice. Still, as a one player game it might arguably out-class TMNT III for the title of best Konami beat-em-up for NES. It's just a shame that there's no way to recreate the mayhem that comes with co-op play.

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Batman Returns - Super NES (1993)

American SNES Cover

Japanese SFC Cover

Released the same year as its NES equivalent, Batman Returns for SNES works with the same source material as the 8-bit version, but builds a very different game out of it. To begin with, only about two thirds of the areas in the game are standard beat-em-up sections, with the remainder consisting of a few one plane beat-em-up/action stages and a lone driving level. The bulk of the game, though, is still your basic 16-bit Final Fight-style game. While you've still only got one attack button, you can pull of quite a few more moves than in its NES counterpart. You can still block and do health-draining crowd control moves, and you've also got three different aerial attacks and a multitude of different throws. You can actually grab two people at once and then bash both of their heads together, like in Technos' Combatribes. Whenever there's a wall in the immediate background you can hurl people against it, smashing any breakable terrain they collide with, just like in the 16-bit beat-em-up The Death and Return of Superman. You can even walk around after grabbing somebody to get into a better position to throw them.

Batman Returns (SNES)

Batman also totes around an arsenal of weaponry in his belt to assist with the ass whupping. You've got a grappling hook and infinite batarangs, and you begin with three test tubes. The grappling hook lets you swing a very short distance across the screen, knocking down any foes you plow into in the process. It's a pretty cool move, but you also lose a small amount of health for each thug that you collide with, so it's practically worthless. Your batarangs don't do any damage in the normal levels, instead briefly dazing any target that they hit to give you the time to get in some easy blows. The test tubes are basically bombs. To toss one out you have to push X while in a blocking stance. Most thugs go down from just one test tube, and they do full screen damage, making them essential for getting out of trouble. However, as you only get three of them per level, it's best to save them for bosses.

When you get to the one plane sections the whole game works very differently. For starters, you can no longer throw or perform any aerial attacks. If you try to attack anybody standing within range then you'll punch, but if you attack from a distance you'll toss a batarang. As opposed to the standard beat-em-up stages, the batarangs do damage to anybody and everybody they hit, but lack any kind of dazing effect. Most of these areas also have some platforming segments where you fire your grappling hook into the ceiling and swing across gaps or hazards. The only other kind of stage is the level where you drive the Batmobile. All you really do here is move back and forth shooting crap, but it plays a lot like a generic action game, and they really paled compared to similar levels in Sega's version of Batman Returns for the Sega CD, which was otherwise a much inferior game. Your objective is essentially just to blast bikers while you burn rubber, before encountering The Penguin's campaign RV at the end of the level.

Batman Returns (SNES)

The plot is, of course, identical to that of the NES game, but the SNES release actually does a much better job of recreating the movie. The graphics more closely resemble the film, and both the backgrounds and The Penguin's army of evil clowns will be immediately recognizable if you've seen the movie before. Even the sequences that are shown between each level depict actual scenes from the movie, completely with quotes yanked directly from the film. Of note in the first one plane level is a boss fight based on the scene where Batman rescues the woman that would later become Catwoman from one of The Penguin's clown goons. If you've seen the movie then you might recall that Batman took down this guy by firing his grappling hook into the concrete wall and yanking a chunk of it out into the back of the thug's head, knocking him out cold. If you're quick enough then you can recreate the scene - just without the easy KO.

Batman Returns is arguably among the better games in the console's amazing library of beat-em-ups, but it still feels like it should have been even better. The one plane levels and the driving stage are really only just decent, so, as nice as it is to have this much variation in the genre, it probably would have been best if the whole game was just a straight up Final Fight-style beat-em-up. A much lesser problem is that the bosses are all stupidly over powered, with obscenely strong attacks and excessively long health meters that can easily stand up to your entire supply of test tubes without even showing much sign of damage. Yet the biggest problem is that it's still for just one player. As entertaining as it already is, an all co-op version of the game with balanced boss fights would have been a great improvement. You gotta give Konami credit for the many things that they did do right, but it really feels like we missed out on a would-have-been vastly superior title.

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Additional Screenshots


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
The Adventures of Bayou Billy
S.P.Y.: Special Project Y
The Simpsons

Page 2:
Astérix
Bucky O'Hare
X-Men

Page 3:
Batman Returns (NES)
Batman Returns (SNES)

Page 4:
Metamorphic Force
Gaiapolis

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