Total time played: 5 hours over a week
Short review: The cutscenes are as good as anything on the NES, the game play is better than average, the music is great and the difficulty is almost perfect. Batman is one of the best licensed titles on the NES.
Interesting links related to Batman
- My play through with commentary (1 hour 8 minutes)
- Speedrun (10 minutes 34 seconds)
- Video Review (Cygnus Destroyer)
A close friend of mine owned Batman when we were kids so we spent many a nights taking turns playing the game (when we weren’t swimming in his pool). But, as a kid we could never beat the second level. My friend ended up giving me his copy of Batman in high school and that is the copy I beat today.
The game features multiple attacks including punch, boomerang, gun and triple ninja star. I am sure these aren’t the real names but that is what I have always called them. You can switch between weapons on the fly by pushing the start button which is a step above Mega Man which makes you pause the game to switch weapons. In order to use the weapons you must collect powerups from enemies you kill that look like little missiles. Each missile you collect gives you 10 shots for your sub-weapons. The maximum number you can carry is 99. The boomerang uses 1 point the gun uses 2 points and the triple ninja star uses 3. I found myself using the boomerang more than the other two combined.
The jumping mechanic is a little wonky, there is a slight delay when you jump and much like Castlevania once your momentum is set you can’t change course while in air. This gives the game a more real life jumping mechanic but is tough to get used to. Usually I am not a fan of this in games but it works pretty well in Batman. There isn’t really a time when I could blame poor controls for getting hit or falling from a ledge. In fact, there are no holes in the game that cause instant death which is a nice reprieve from every other game on the system. But, don’t let that fool you, you will still die, a lot.
Much like Ninja Gaiden and Little Samson you can also jump off of the walls to reach high ledges which you use quite a bit throughout the game. In fact, about 75% of the final level involves intricate wall jumping.
Batman features 5 different levels and 2 to 3 sections in each level. One of my big gripes with the game is that all of the levels look very similar. They are all very dark and dreary, which fits the tone of the character and the movie but doesn’t make for an exciting game. I think a lot of the issue with the dark levels is that I am playing on an old CRT TV using composite video cables. I think if I had a better connection I could see more detail in each level.
The enemies and the bosses in the game all have set walking and attack patterns that do not change based on where you are standing. This was very common in NES games as the enemy AI was not very sophisticated. But, what this means is that the levels always play the same so if you keep dying in one spot it means you aren’t learning from your mistakes and you can blame no one but yourself.
The game offers unlimited continues and when you die you start at the beginning of the stage you were on instead of at the beginning of the level. As an example, if you get game over on stage 3-3 you continue on stage 3-3 and not on 3-1. The one exception to this is the final level of the game.
Level 5 is a nightmare, it features a vertical climb up a clock tower to meet the Joker for the final battle. The tower is full of enemies and turning gears and pretty much everything you touch causes damage. I spent more than 50% of my time playing this game on stage 5-1. When I finally reached the top and went to stage 5-2 I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to play 5-1 again. Then I got game over and started back at 5-1. It was a huge blow to my confidence. You pretty much have to beat all of level 5 on 3 lives. I say pretty much because stage 5-2 is a boss and stage 5-3 is The Joker. If you make it to the Joker and die you must play through level 5-1 again but you no longer have to fight the 5-2 boss, you go straight to The Joker.
But, once I finally got to the Joker I knew I could beat him. I tried maybe half a dozen times before I was able to do it but now I can finally say I have beaten Batman on the NES.