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
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 over...you 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 to...like 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
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.