Box Shot
Platform: NES
Publisher: Sunsoft
Designer: Sunsoft
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Published Date 1990
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

Video game translations of movies often suck. Take the movie, make every scene into a dumb action sequence and you get something to capitalize off the popularity of something. Yet Sunsoft seems to stray totally from the movie, invent its own version, and make it into a decent game (like Gremlins 2.) They did the same with Batman: The Video Game. It's an excellent game based off an excellent license.

The basic story is the same as the movie...there's crime going on and Batman's out to stop it. After a bit of playing, you learn that the Joker is behind all of this, and now you've got to head to the top of Gotham Cathedral to defeat him. Although there are tiny cinema scenes between each level, they do nothing to advance the plot; they're all little animated views of Batman breaking into the chemical plant, or the Joket taunting you, or something like that.

Batman has eight life bars, three lives, and unlimited continues. When you die, you get sent back to the beginning of the substage you are at. If you're at a boss, then you'll just start the boss stage won't repeat the previous stage unless you run out of lives. Batman's main weapon is his fists. You'll spend a majority of the time punching the hell out of bad guys. When killed, enemies can yield little bullet icons, which gives Batman the power to use his three weapons. Batarangs have limited distance but can rapidly be thrown, the missile gun has far range but is slow, and the dirk, using three missile points, splits in three directions when fired. Although your fists are enough for most bad guys, you'll definitely want weapons to kil the bosses.

Batman also has the ability to jump into a wall and bounce of it. You'll use this skill quite often in the game, to scale walls and such. There are also plenty of spots where you must time your jumps and bounces just right, so you won't accidentally send yourself hurtling into the electric bars on the walls.

The game starts at a Gotham City construction site, but soon ends up at the Axis chemical plant, goes to the sewers, then the museum, Joker's hideout, and then the cathedral. Right there, you can point out how the plot deviates. Come on, Batman never entered the sewers! All of the bosses seem to be made up the machine at the chemical plant or the Electrocuter in the sewers. It's actually good that the developers deviated from the movie and instead created obstacles that work well in a video game.

One small control quirk is that Batman ducks for a split-second before he jumps. This can be a bit annoying, especially when you want precise and quick manuevers. Getting hit by an enemy in mid-air won't send Batman hurtling back but will instead send him plunging straight down. This makes many jumps very, very annoying, especially when there are plenty of platforms to jump and falling will send you to the bottom..usually into a bit of acid, to boot. ARGHH! Also, for some oddball reasons, Start cycles through your weapon and Select pauses (???) The game is already a bit on the difficult side, but what is really frustrating is the fact that some enemies can really only be defeated with weapons. There are big jumping mutants at the beginning of the third level that are near impossible to defeat without weapons..and if you just continued, you don't have any missile points to use against them. The game at least has a decent learning curve...the first few levels aren't too tough, but the difficulty progresses nicely until it gets to be near impossible at the end. Unlimited continues help too.

I'll be honest and say that Batman has some of the best animation that the NES had seen when this game was released. The way he runs, punches...even the way his cape flows in the air is remarkable. The backgrounds are suitably dark, just like the movie. The cinema scenes use digitized graphics and generally look good, except some scenes have very annoying flicker. Much of the music is pretty good, especially the first level, and the sound effects are very nicely chosen.

Even with the annoying control quirks, Batman still manages to be a very good game. The levels are very interesting, and it's at just the right difficutly... you won't get through it on your first try, but (until the end) it's not impossible. It just requires persistence. Even if it is based off a movie, give Batman a try and see what you think.