Love them or hate them, licensed videogames are a permanent part of the industry. Anyone can see the attraction of a popular license: a built in fan base that will (hopefully) carry over to the videogame landscape and give its publisher massive amounts of money. The majority of the time this never works as planned, but when it does (Enter the Matrix) that 1 game will finance a shitload of lesser games. The Batman movies were huge in the early 90s so when Batman Returns opened to big numbers the rush was on to release games to capitalize on it. No console was left untouched, with even the god damn Atari Lynx getting a game.
Batman Returns was part of the massive media blitz that accompanied the movie of the same name. There were scores of games based on the movie for every console and handheld known to man by various publishers. Konami made the majority of those and this SNES version turned out the best of all of them. It follows the plot of the movie loosely in which millionaire Max Shreck teams up with the Penguin to have him replace the current mayor of Gotham City with a side of Catwoman thrown in. You know thinking about that plot has made me realize just how dumb it is. The SNES version is a beat ‘em up like Final Fight and Streets of Rage before it, and a damn fine one at that.
Some seriously brutal moves here. Batman does not play around.
The game takes place across 7 levels ripped straight from the movie. You control Batman as he pummels everything in his way to the end of each stage. If you’ve played any game in the genre you know what to expect. What sets Batman Returns apart is your rather large assortment of moves. Most of them are brutal as hell and are uncharacteristic of the genre. One hand slams, grabbing two mooks and smashing their heads together, it’s what you would expect of Batman. My personal favorite is throwing them into the background scenery; such an awesome move that should have been added to these types of games long before this. The ability to block also comes in handy, another one that has never made sense when it’s left out. But those aren’t your only moves.
Aside from your fists you have batarangs to momentarily stun enemies, a grappling hook to traverse sparse terrain and screen clearing test tubes that are in limited supply. The grappling hook is underused unfortunately but is still a welcome addition for its few uses. The levels switch up the gameplay constantly. Nearly every level has segments where your standard attack is replaced with unlimited batarangs, almost turning the game into a shooting gallery. Whether it is a slow trek up the side of a building or riding escalators these parts were clearly designed to break up the monotony of the standard punch, punch, kick levels and are on the same level as the rest of the game. The fifth stage is a ride down the highways of Gotham in the Batmobile and makes full use of mode 7 scaling to give a sense of 3d.
Everything is tightly balanced: you’ll never be overwhelmed by an unfairly high amount of enemies at once, none of the levels run too long, and the game will switch things up at the right moments. The game does still adhere to some of the tropes of the brawler genre in that bosses still deal unfairly large amounts of health but extra lives are awarded at a decent clip and offset this. By this point Konami had made numerous arcade games of this type and that heritage and experience carries over to this game.
The only negatives would be the lack of enemy variety and overly cheap bosses. These are problems most games of this type face but it still sucks that nothing was done about this. Though the game changes constantly you will get tired of facing the same fat and thin clowns. But those points don’t bring down an otherwise excellent game. It isn’t everyday that you can say a licensed product is good but Konami definitely did the license justice here.
Buy Batman Returns