torstai 19. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Batman - The Video Game (1989)

Genre(s): Action / Platform
Released: 1989
Available on: GB, GEN, NES
Developer(s): Sunsoft
Publisher(s): Sunsoft
Players: 1

In the wake of a whole new generation of Batman fans brought on by Tim Burton’s classic 1989 movie, Sunsoft, Atari Games and Ocean Software bought their own separate licenses to make games based on the film. Sunsoft released the successful Batman – The Video Game on the NES in 1989. A Genesis version was initially planned to be released at the same time, but delayed due to a legal conflict between Sunsoft and Nintendo, who demanded the game to be exclusive to their 8-bit systems. The Genesis version, released a year later (at the same time as the Game Boy version of the game), didn’t fare too well commercially, even while the game’s plot was closer to the movie than the NES version’s, which apparently wasn’t originally supposed to be even loosely based on the movie. Both home versions were moderately acclaimed by critics.

Ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?

Batman is the new guardian of a corrupt, run down metropolis known as Gotham City. Widely regarded an outlaw, the Dark Knight is on a quest to prove his honesty, integrity and sense of justice. When a rogue villain calling himself the Joker emerges with a host of powerful henchmen at his side, Batman sets out to hunt down the clown prince of crime for sins of the past and present.

"You will let me pass. I'm Batman."
The game looks pretty good, but a little bit of more “meat” wouldn’t hurt. The backgrounds and characters look great by themselves, but mix these two together and Batman looks like a blue, pixelated blob and you can’t always see the enemy even if he’s standing/crouching right in front of your character. Spotting the locations from the movie is a hoot, although the storyline doesn’t really follow the movie a whole lot. The music in the game is downright excellent. Composer Naoki Kodaka isn’t exactly Danny Elfman, but great at what he does. The soundtrack kind of reminds me of Mega Man, with a darker feel, and a quite authentic Batman atmosphere. Awesome. The title track and “Streets of Desolation” from the first stage are classics in my books.

Batman’s semi-stiff movement makes it hard to advance in the stages which range from dead end-laden mazes to straightforward, side scrolling platforming stages. Luckily, in reference to Batman’s movement but disappointingly otherwise, the enemies’ movement is extremely linear and predictable. They have no A.I. at all. Some exceptions, bosses at least, and a few bigger and stronger regular enemies. This predictability doesn’t help too much, though, because you’ll still have a lot of trouble dodging anyone’s attacks; there are a lot of annoying enemies that are extremely hard to hit, but they’ll hit you with 99/1 odds.

Luckily you don’t have to run around like an idiot with your fists flying all the time, you also have a variety of gadgets at your disposal – well of course you do, you’re Batman! There are three different projectile weapons you can use, and must use from time to time: the Batarang which we all know, the Batdisc – a shuriken which shoots into three different directions, and a Speargun, which basically works like a small missile launcher. The Batarang can damage one enemy twice in one shot, the Batdisc is to your advantage in situations in which you must hit multiple targets or a target not on the same floor level as you, and the Speargun is simply a gun. The downside to these weapons is the very limited ammo. You get more ammo by killing enemies, but that doesn’t help you a whole lot in some boss fights in which you absolutely NEED a projectile to win. Actually nothing helps, except dying or your old friend, the Reset button. Tough luck, ain’t it?

"Could you hurry up, buddy? My Bat-balls are
In addition to crouching, punching and jumping, Batman has the wall kick; a familiar move to anyone who’s had the pleasure of playing the very original Ninja Gaiden. At some point, the need for the wall kick becomes a bit too rough. You have to do a ridiculous amount of consecutive kickjumps, and just one badly timed kick will lead you one step closer, if not TO death.

The gameplay’s weaknesses, the limited use of weapons and the nearly impossible dodging of incoming attacks add to the game’s difficulty quite a bit, but once you get in that certain mood, it’s still an entertaining game and there’s not much of anything unbearably frustrating in the big picture. The game is quite, quite challenging, but luckily you have unlimited continues. In other words, the maximum lives don’t really stand for shit. In every possible case of dying, you have to start the current sublevel over, it makes no difference whatsoever. Don’t take this all the wrong way, and don’t get too proud of yourself before reaching Stage 3-1, that’s the best advice I can give.

To this day, Sunsoft’s Batman – The Video Game is one of the more enjoyable games in the Batman franchise. I loved this game when I was a kid, and as a lifelong Batman fan, I can’t help but play a round every once in a while. It isn’t quite the same now that I understand the art of gameplay better, but it’s still surprisingly addictive.

Graphics : 7.9
Sound : 9.2
Playability : 7.5
Challenge : 8.7
Overall : 7.7


Even small time crooks in Gotham City have next to no fear of the police. A masked vigilante calling himself Batman takes over, much to the dismay of the police force, and starts spreading fear over the Gotham underworld. When a mob henchman named Jack Napier turns into a disfigured homicidal maniac known as the Joker after an incident at the chemical plant, it’s soon evident that the only man who can save Gotham is the outlaw Batman, to whom the war against the Joker is personal.

Being a 16-bit game, the Genesis version of Batman naturally looks a lot better than its 8-bit counterpart. Character animation is a bit poor, though, with the exception of the moderately slick-looking Batman. The soundtrack is a collection of new tunes by Naoki Kodaka, who wrote the music for the NES version, and these tunes kick ass just as well.

Now that they left out the wall kick, I find myself missing it. Why? Because it would bring something into the game. It’s like a standard, boring beat ‘em up game now. There’s not much platforming, or anything else for that matter. Just side-scrolling bash action. I was hoping that a game this close to the original plot would have a little more hook and variety to it, but no. Well, later on there are some horizontal shooting stages in which you control the Batwing or Batmobile, but they aren’t very entertaining. Kind of like poor man’s arcade entertainment or irrelevant minigames.

"Like I said... I'm Batman."
The Batarang is the only weapon at your disposal in the beginning of the game, and it’s extremely limited. So is your health bar. The grappling hook is a cool addition on paper, but quite useless and unpractical in the long run. Very disappointing. Batman has one new move, the leg sweep, which has the exact same effect as the low punch in the NES version. The flow of enemies is endless and punching them around is boring. The boss fights are as anti-climactic as they can possibly get, in contrast to the complex nature of the ones in the NES version. So what we have here, realistically, forgetting the improved audiovisuals, is a stripped down 16-bit conversion of a NES game. Incredible.

The biggest challenge here is definitely to bear the game. Some might say it’s more difficult than the NES version due to the limited amount of continues, but overall, it’s so simplistic that it doesn’t really pack much. Now you tell me something... ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? After playing this game, I’m sure you would find that a much more pleasant way to pass the time. The Genesis version of Batman – The Video Game is a generic, boring and moreover, disappointing, late rendition of a decent NES game.

Graphics : 8.5
Sound : 8.9
Playability : 6.3
Challenge : 6.7
Overall : 6.5


a.k.a. Batman

GameRankings: 77.50% (GB), 70.00% (GEN)

A total of eight different Batman games were released on home computers and video game consoles under the license of Tim Burton’s movie. Most of them were published by Ocean Software, but they bear notable differences depending on the developer and each platform’s capacity.

Sunsoft didn’t wait around long enough for the release of the 1992 movie Batman Returns or to get their hands on another movie license. Instead, the company released its own “Batman II”, Return of the Joker, in 1991. The movie’s video game licenses went to Atari Games, Konami and Sega.

Since it isn’t strictly based on the movie, the NES version of the game features several cult characters from the DC Universe as enemies, including KG Beast, Firefly, Maxie Zeus and Killer Moth.

The storyline in the Genesis/Mega Drive version of the game is faithful to the movie. However, fans have pointed out a major difference. The boss fight against Jack Napier ends in Batman fighting Napier until he falls into a vat of chemicals, which of course leads to the birth of the Joker. In the movie, a panicked Napier shoots Batman, who reflects the bullet with his arm, and it accidentally hits Napier in the face. He falls over the railing; Batman tries his best to save Napier from falling into the vat, but loses his grip. So, there’s no actual fight between them at all, and Batman sure doesn’t drop him on purpose. After all, it is a principle of his to not inflict death.

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