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Games of Summer: Batman (NES)

It’s true.  A few weeks ago, I already covered Batman in a previous Games of Summer article, talking about how glorious The Adventures of Batman and Robin was back on the SNES.  So then, why am I revisiting the Dark Knight for yet another entry in the series?  Well, that’s easy.  For yet another game experience that everyone needs to check out, especially now.

With The Dark Knight Rises now in theaters (be sure to check out my review), we only felt it was right to bring another Batman game to light, seeing as how Arkham City did so amazingly well last year and the Caped Crusader still resonates well within the community.  With that, let’s go back to the title that really helped him get to where he is in video games in the first place – the original Batman game for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Batman

Released in 1990 to coincide with Tim Burton’s timeless cinematic tale (featuring Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader and Jack Nicholson as the Joker), the game didn’t really have much tie-in with the film, save for the license, some cinematics and the appearance of the familiar Batmobile.  Instead, Sunsoft, the game’s developer and publisher, opted for a more straight-forward adventure, where Batman battled enemies using his bare fists, along with various weapons, including a Bat gun, as well as single and triple-powered Batarangs.  Now, there’s a tool counter on the corner of the screen, so each time you fire off one of your utilities, it dwindles by one, two or three, depending on which item you use.  Fortunately, defeated enemies drop a good amount of refills, so you can always keep up stock.

Though the game seems pretty basic at first, you start to get more of the gist of it as you go on.  In fact, during the first stage in the game, you’ll discover the uncanny ability of jumping off walls, a technique used in a number of games these days, including Prince of Persia and Ratchet and Clank.  You use your momentum to rebound off the wall and move up a bit, while moving over to the next wall.  It’s imperative that you hit the button at just the right moment, or else you’ll sink like a stone – into the waiting arms of Joker’s assailants.

batman nes

But this wall jump isn’t just used in one spot.  In a level later on in the game, you’ll need to use it to stay out of trouble, walking off a ledge and then hitting the wall jump to give yourself enough momentum to clear a gap and avoid electrocution in a trap below.  (Just plain jumping over it is a no-no, as there’s electricity above that could easily fry you.)  This depth of level design wasn’t really common in those days on the NES, making Batman a welcome surprise – especially considering how badly Acclaim was mucking up film franchises in game form.  Don’t even get us started on Total Recall.

As you went through the game, you faced a number of interesting bosses, including a rocket man that storms down on you when he isn’t firing lightning bolts from above, turrets within ACME Factory, and, eventually, a showdown with the Joker himself, who isn’t afraid to use his bug gun on you.  Though the game is over within about five stages (an hour or so of play), it’s a tough challenge to overcome, and a great deal of fun.

Batman

The graphics for batman were excellent at the time, with moody atmosphere recreated from Burton’s film and plenty of diabolical traps to avoid, including electrical panels on the walls to maneuver past and sewer pipes to get over.  The running water effects were very cool, and Batman himself moves with divine nimbleness.  And when he dies, he flames out like a phoenix – which ROCKS, by the way.  The music is equally awesome, and while it’s not taken from the film, it really fits in with each stage, with an up-tempo energy that few NES games at the time could match.

We know you’ve got your Arkham City to rely on for Bat thrills, but if you have an NES or access to a classic emulator, we humbly suggest checking out the original Batman.  It helped define what a movie-licensed game should be at the time, and stood just as boldly as the film back in those days.  It still holds up well today…which leaves us wondering just what Rocksteady Games would do if they had the option to redo it in HD.  Hmmmm…

See you next time on Games of Summer!

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Robert Workman
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