batmanlogo.jpgEven though Batman is one of the most prolific names in movies, comics, and TV, his history in video games has been somewhat less than encouraging as of late, as evidenced by the recent Batman Begins game. However, things weren’t always like this. Lets head back to a time when Batman games were *gasp* good.

batman1b.JPGWe start off first with Sunsoft’s NES adaptation of the 1989 movie. You took the caped crusader through 5 levels, each loosely based upon the movie. The boss characters you meet however, were taken from the comics. You had an arsenal of weapons readily available, and as long as you had ammo for them, you could use them at your will. For a guy with no superpowers, Batman could certainly get around, even clinging to walls. He was second only to Ninja gaiden’s Ryu Hyubasa in this aspect. This game boasted some of the best music on the NES, and had one of the coolest intro sequences (well, that’s if you didn’t press start immediately after the title screen.). Sunsoft also made a version for the Genesis, however this didn’t come out until much later due to Nintendo’s questionable licensing policies.

Batman - Return of the Joker - Japan - Ingame.gifNext up is Batman: Return of the Joker for NES and Genesis. On Genesis it was all right, although it didn’t stand out much from the other action games on Genesis. However, the NES version was regarded by many players as being one to the few games on the NES to push the system to it’s limits. It had large character sprites, cool scrolling backgrounds, and a catchy soundtrack. It was a side scrolling action game with shooting action similar to Contra. At the end of each level, there was a one-on-one boss battle, similar to a fighting game (although at this point, they had yet to reach the popularity that they did). There were also some flying shooter stages thrown in to mix things up. A SNES version was planned, but was scrapped, possibly due to the poor sales of the NES and Genesis versions. However, a rom of it can be found floating on the internet for you emulator fans.

BatmanReturns-2.gifbatmanreturns4.gifSoon Konami would get the licence, and would make games based on Batman Returns. Much like Capcom’s acquisition of the Marvel licence, gamers were skeptical of the quality. That is, until the games came out. Both the NES and Super NES versions were 1-player beat-em-ups. However, in an age where the difference between multiplatform releases on two separate generations were more than just graphical releases, the two were vastly different. The NES version was inspired both gameplay and soundtrack wise by Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games.(This would only be a bad thing if the TMNT games weren’t as good as they were.) There were side-scrolling Batmobile and Batboat levels in the game. The Super Nintendo version was closer to the feel of the movie, integrating it into it’s soundtrack. It contained a mix of Beat-em-up, 2-d side scrolling, and 3-d batmobile racing levels. Both versions of the game followed the movie’s plot line, and you couldn’t go wrong with either of them. Adaptations of Batman Returns also came out on Genesis and the Atari Lynx, with both versions being developed by their system’s respective developers.

BatmanandRobinAdventuresof(GS).gifThe next round of Batman games would be based on the animated series. Sega released games based on it for the Genesis, Game Gear, and Sega CD, while Konami made games for the Game Boy and Super Nintendo. The Genesis version was a 1 or 2 player side scrolling blastfest, similar to Contra with 1 player taking control of Batman and the other playing as Robin. There were no differences between the two. You fired batarangs at scores of enemies lead by the Joker, the Mad Hatter, and other villains. While it boasted some of the best graphics of the Sega Genesis, it’s insane difficulty kept very many players from getting far.

BatRob_3.gifOn the Super NES, the Adventures of Batman and Robin was a 1-player side scrolling game that was closer to the feel of the series than even the Sega version. Each of the game’s 8-levels was set up like an episode from the TV series. You fought against the Joker, Poison Ivy, the Penguin, Two Face, and others. Each level threw in gameplay differences to keep the action from getting stale. In level 4 you chased Catwoman throughout the roof tops of Gotham while level 5 had you in a street race against Two-Face and his henchmen. Level seven put you in the Riddler’s maze where you had to solve a series of puzzles to advance. The music was top notch, and many agree to this day that this is one of the best, if not THE best game based on the Batman franchise.

batmanforever4.gifWhen the movies took a sharp nosedive in quality, so did the games. Acclaim’s “Batman Forever” on SNES and Genesis was a particularly low point. The designers decided to focus more on the graphics than the actual gameplay. In a rather genius idea, someone decided to put fighting game moves in a side-scrolling action game. Each of the special gadgets required a button combination to press, but they were misprinted in the manual. The worst part of it all, were the load times on the SNES version. Load times. On a cartridge. KILL YOUR ******* SELF!

Since then, Batman games have ranged from mediocre to just plain awful. However, there seems to be hope on the way, as Lego Batman has recently been announced. Also, Justice League Heroes is shaping up to be pretty good too.

Well that’s it for this week’s edition of lost classics. I know I left out quite a few good Batman games, so feel free to discuss it in our forum.