Movie to game adaptations have to walk a thin line. Depending on how faithful to the source material they are the gameplay opportunities can be limited. On the other hand take too many liberties and you might as well have created an original game to begin with. Most of these “conversions” tend to go a bit too far in either category when the best course of action would be a blend of the two. Batman for the NES is one such product, using the framework of the movie very loosely to propel the events of the game forward and turning out one of the better Batman games.
Batman was released in 1989 roughly coinciding with the release of the movie that same year. That was more serendipity than careful timing. Loosely following the plot of the movie Batman is on the trail of the Joker across 5 levels of pulse pounding action. About the only ties to the movie are the cut scenes and some of the stage locations and truthfully its better for it. For the longest time the NES game was the standard by which most other Batman games were measured which speaks volumes to its quality.
Batman has a variety of weapons to fight the opposition but the most readily available are his handy fists. Obviously the range is short and will force you to observe attack patterns before jumping in. The 3 weapons accessible from your utility belt are the Batarang, Spear gun, and Dirk, all of which use different amounts of ammunition. The Batarangs are all you need to be frank; the power more than makes up for the limited range plus the boomerang effect can be exploited to decimate the bosses without taking a single hit if you’re fast enough.
The multi-tiered stages present ample opportunity to make use of Batman’s agility with the wall jump integral to progression and mastering its use becoming essential by the second level. Timing how high and how far you spring takes practice, something you won’t necessarily have a lot of time to do once the game stops holding your hand early on.
The challenge is a bit uneven at points. The first level eases you into the game but then jumps by way of environmental hazards on level 2 making for some very tricky platforming. Most of the standard enemies pose little threat with few exceptions; its more their placement in relation to whatever gruesome deathtrap lies before you. There are a few control quirks that also have to be taken into account: there’s a slight delay whenever you jump that can be really frustrating in an emergency.
The bosses follow the same see saw challenge, with some absolute pushovers and others like Firebug a relative nightmare to beat. It sounds a bit strange to say it but a password feature would have been welcome. There are only five stages, true, but they are all really dense and it can be a bit much to do all in one sitting. Overall the difficulty remains fair, a trait many similar games on the NES can’t claim.
Graphically amazing and fairly challenging, Sunsoft were beasts on the NES.
This still remains one of the better movie licensed games released on the system and maybe of all time. The graphics are outstanding; highly reminiscent of Blaster Master while still capturing the dark and drab look of Gotham City at the same time. The music is dark and haunting and matches the tone of the game perfectly even though they did not make use of the movie’s score. Toss in the steady challenge and decent length and you have an action game that stands with some of the best on the console.
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