Retrogaming Review: Batman (NES)
Just because a game came out for the Nintendo Entertainment System doesn’t necessarily mean that it features at least one seemingly impossible gameplay obstacle, but it’s not a terrible rule of thumb.
The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game features an underwater bomb defusing level so frustrating that blood pressure medication is probably not a bad item to have around. Batman for the NES has a couple spots that may not live up quite to that extreme, but do cause a fair amount of controller throwing, gameplay cursing rage (even with every possible Game Genie code enabled).
Now foreign to gamers used to being hand held through figuring out controls, abilities and the like, Batman throws you right onto a city street with little explanation. Fortunately for the narrow minded, every ability Batman will have at his disposal is given to him at the very start of the game. There are no life expansion slots, no gadgets to be found, just a set of boomerangs, rockets and um…mystery disks of some kind that break into 3 projectiles.
Unburdened by any sense of learning or adaptation, Batman is a pretty straight forward platformer, with the lone exception of a video game staple, the wall jump. The extra game mechanic adds a little bit of fun and exploration to the game, but ultimately, you’re walking down a very constricted hallway to the tune of five stages and a date with the Joker.
No matter the obstacle that ultimately claims Batman’s life, he bursts into flames once energy has been depleted, presumably thanks to some kind of gruesome self-destruct feature of his Batsuit. The game is rather stingy on lives and continues, so tread lightly.
Bosses cap each of the 5 levels, though you probably already guessed that, and range from the simple “fly and swoop” model employed by this unnamed Level 1 boss:
To a room itself as a level 3 boss that I’m ashamed to admit took a trip to GameFAQs to polish off (I blame Game Genie codes for dulling my inventiveness):
What Went Right
Aside from a couple of nightmarish spots (I’m looking at you level 3-3 and the level 4 white box bosses of doom), the game is fun. The soundtrack is varied and upbeat enough to keep things lively and the enemies are not quite as stupidly repetitive as other similar games.
The length of the game is fulfilling, giving just enough content to not feel ripped off without forcing monotonous levels or endless waves of enemies to arbitrarily extend the experience.
The pixel art between stages ranges from simple to expansive, but it’s all fun, though Joker strangely has a very green tint to his complexion throughout the game. Clearly he doesn’t use Proactiv. The end game sequence is particularly entertaining, depicting Batman summarily tossing Joker out a window after a heated, 3-second conversation (take that, due process).
What Went Wrong
As with most games of the era, the levels themselves vary from embarrassingly simple to maddeningly difficult. As a rule of thumb, if you see some kind of Swamp Thing-looking toad creature headed your direction, you’ve probably stepped into the maddeningly difficult (and sometimes arbitrary) end of the spectrum. Nothing like having one of those jump on your head 8 times in a row to test your controller throwing willpower.
Recommended Time Investment
This isn’t a bad game at all. There are a couple of rough patches, but it’s worth a playthrough. My time recommendation would be 30 minutes if you’re kind of into Batman, an hour if you own some kind of Batman-themed article of clothing, 2 hours if you want to see 8-bit Batman throw 8-bit Joker out a window.
Trusty Wikipedia Entry
GameFAQs (If you’re as challenged as I am)
IGN’s entry of Batman as the #33 NES game of all time
Full Game Speed Run