These days, you don’t see too many games licensed from movies. Wonder why that is? It’s because, over the years, we’ve seen a lot of hit and miss efforts that either truly nailed the atmosphere of the film it was based on – or became a licensed train wreck. The Nintendo Entertainment System saw a lot of these, particularly duds like Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Total Recall, and The Rocketeer. However, there were also some good standouts, like Sunsoft’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch. One remains a true standout after all these years – a game we’ll talk about here – Batman: The Video Game.
It’s the Batman!
Produced in 1989 by Sunsoft, Batman: The Video Game was an odd little entity. It was based on the Tim Burton live-action film of the same name, featuring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. However, it doesn’t properly follow the events of the film. Instead, it’s Batman just being a bad-ass as he prepares for his final showdown with the Joker.
Along the way, Batsy has some tools of the trade he can pick up. These include an effective set of Batarangs; a gun that fires one bullet at a time; and a special three-blast bullet. He can also punch enemies if need be, and rebound off walls Prince of Persia style. At the time, wall jumping was an unheard-of ability, so Batman nailed it down beautifully. Still does, too.
Across the game’s five levels (strewn across mini-stages), Batman has some enemies to overcome. These include human soldiers, as well as mutants of some kind (like the hoppers) and machines. He has to overcome these before facing a boss fight. These include the ACME Chemical Factory operating room, a flying menace, and, of course, the Joker himself.
Does it make sense compared to the film? No. Who cares, though? It’s still a bad-ass example of how to make a great NES game. It’s wonderfully done when it comes to gameplay, and continues to be a fun title to play after so many years.
The Bat Has a Great Presentation To Boot
Another key aspect to Batman: The Video Game’s success is its presentation. The visuals, for its time, are outstanding. The level design is jam-packed with goodness, and the use of colors is dazzling. This is actually a pretty dark adventure, right up Tim Burton’s alley. Not to mention the almost complete lack of slowdown, save for some descents into enemy-filled places.
Not to mention the music! There’s a great soundtrack being played throughout, with each theme being more fun than the last. Sure, it repeats, but what NES soundtrack didn’t? Sunsoft did a bang-up job composing this one. The sound effects are minimal by comparison, but who cares when the tunes are this good?
The game’s pretty much over in like an hour, or less, depending on your skill. Still, it represents a great journey into Batman’s world. As we said, it’s still very highly playable, and a stylish NES endeavor to boot.
Batman’s Start Into Greatness
Other games followed as well, helping encapsulate the Dark Knight’s journey into games. While the NES version of Batman Returns wasn’t dazzling…well, the SNES version is. For that matter, other little gems popped up here and there.
Sunsoft actually produced a Batman game for Sega Genesis that followed more closely with the film’s themes. While I prefer the NES version, by comparison, it’s actually really cool. More fun than whatever that PC Engine game was, with its maze-like gameplay. We’re still wondering what happened there.
Batman’s early game endeavor helped pave the way for future titles. Along with the above games, we also got more. The Adventures of Batman & Robin on SNES faithfully followed the animated TV series. For that matter, as tough as it was, the Genesis version proved to be a treat as well.
Over the years, the games would be scattershot. For the loyal (but straightforward) port of Batman Begins, we had a lacking title like Batman: Dark Tomorrow. There were also decent beat-em-ups like Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu; as well as the okay Batman: Vengeance. Not to mention Raw Thrills’ rad arcade racing game, jam-packed with Batmobiles from the past and present.
Obviously, though, this all led to Rocksteady’s take on the Dark Knight with its Arkham trilogy. It remains a real treat in the world of Batman, particularly Arkham City, one of the greatest comic book games ever made. We’d like to think the inspiring NES game helped bring that together, giving players the ultimate power of being the Bat.
Always a Classic
Whatever the case, Batman: The Video Game remains a triumph. As short and sweet as it is, it makes you feel like the Dark Knight in his own world. Considering what other cruddy NES games we had at the time, that was a sensational feeling. We’ll happily soak it in again.
Need more retro goodness? Check out our review of River City Girls Zero!