Monday, January 13, 2014

Batman (NES, 1989)

The "Sunsoft Batman" has been highly-acclaimed for a long time, but I didn't get around until playing it until early last year. I found it to be somewhat overrated and frustrating, but it's still worth a look. Originally, this was going to be the 1989 game in the Three Decade Project, but I got stuck on Stage 5-1 and gave up. Bad Dudes got the nod for that year instead. Later I found out that Stage 5-1 is actually the final level of the game, so it seems I quit too soon.


 While he may not use guns or kill in the movies, in this game Batman does both. As a result, I give you... the theme music for this game.

 Nunununununununn GAT-MANNNN!

 Nununununununun

 GAT-MANNNNN

Here's the man himself. And yes, he does fire a Gat. You've also got a big Spazer Beam type deal and your standard Batarangs. The Batarangs consume the least amount of ammo, so I stuck to those for the most part. All weapons use ammo from the same pool, and enemies drop a lot of ammo to restore your stock. You can also punch enemies, but that's super short-range and often results in taking damage. Still the best option for a lot of enemy types, and Batman can punch much more rapidly than he can fire any of the weapons.

 In this game, defeating an enemy causes them to BURST INTO FLAMES. Dear God! I though Batman didn't kill? Maybe this is Mirror Universe Batman.

 You can wall-jump in this game, and getting good at it is pretty much a requirement. I was hoping there would be a glide ability of some sort like the Arkham games, but no dice.

 I go all Power Blade, firing batarangs at foes. Actually, this game is very similar to Power Blade in a number of ways (mainly enemy design). Not as good, though.

First boss is a flying death knight. It's fast-moving and a little intimidating, but it doesn't have very much health.

The key is to catch it when it swoops and just wail on it, but the swoops are at high-speed and it requires good timing. Already this game is pretty high on the difficulty chart.

Nunununununun! GAT-MAN!

"You touch Shady I'll leave you dearly departed!"

Now this is weird. In this game, if you die (as seen here when I fell into some acid), Batman bursts into flames just like the enemies do.

The backgrounds and foregrounds in this game are a little bit messy; it's often hard to tell what's going on. The game also loves damaging surfaces; the floor and ceiling here are electrified. This is an early example of a maneuver that becomes increasingly needed as the game goes on. Drop off the edge of this block, grab hold of the side of it, and wall jump off to the right. Can't jump off the top of the block because the ceiling is in the way. However, if you fall too far before you kick off, you'll hit the electric floor. If you don't fall far enough, you'll wall jump into the ceiling.

Another boss. This one is a bizarre trap room with conveyors. It sorta reminds me of that one Wily stage boss in Mega Man 2 where you have to use Crash Bombs. No walls here, but there are a few pods to take out and they all present their own mild challenges. Still, once you figure out what you're doing, this isn't too bad.

Joker "cutscene", though it's just a still shot. This game is based on the movie that came out around the same time. When I was a kid I was a big fan of said movie, but watching it as an adult I just can't get into it. Not with the Nolan movies around.

These monstrosities show up in a few stages. They jump all over you, and you can't get away from them. Need to stop and fight. There's a definite pattern to it, at least, and if you bob and weave they'll continually miss you with their jumps. Usually. Woe to you if you have to fight two of them at once, though. Like many NES game protagonists, Batman isn't very mobile.

I go all Power Blade and unleash hell on this mecha-tank. EAT THAT, SKYNET!

The game starts to go a little nuts with the wall jumping sections. Here's a ridiculous one; there's an enemy on the left and a spinning gear that'll damage you on the right. Basically you have to jump up right between them and punch the enemy several times, then jump onto his platform. It's really difficult to do without taking a hit, something that happens a lot throughout the game.

Not sure what this boss is supposed to be. Are these bosses based on villains from the comics? Maybe this guy is Bane. Who knows.

Aw shit HE'S COMING RIGHT FOR US

FUUUUUUUUUU-

After that brutal fight (I don't want to talk about it) we get another shot of this guy. He's looking pretty old and green here for some reason...

Protip: There are hatches that spit out endless skittering enemies that can be one-shotted. They drop ammo and (occasionally) a heart, which restores all of one tick of energy. Given how stingy they are with their healing, there aren't anywhere near enough hearts in this game. However, I found that I could stop and camp out at a hatch until my health was restored and it usually didn't take very long. Very useful.

Joker pops up on a bunch of screens to taunt our hero as the game progresses. Why is he so green?

Man, I love these spawning hatches. GIMME HEARTS!

Fire pits may be intimidating, but in this game they don't instantly kill you. They do one damage every couple seconds, like most of the spikes, blades, gears, and electrified surfaces in the game.

Another boss fight. This one consists of blocks that move around the room. I found that it was possible to wall jump between these two platforms repeatedly and be relatively safe while throwing batarangs at them.

However, punching at this spot worked pretty well too. It seems like enemies pass right through you if you punch them as they make contact, or at least bosses do.

The final level of the game... is the tower of Castlevania, apparently.

The game really starts to overdo it with vertical passages and spinning, damaging gears at this point. The last vertical hallway of the game is absolutely brutal to get through, and the spawning device at the top rarely gives up hearts.

The fifth stage has two bosses; considering how difficult they both are, I wish they would have had a stage six and stuck the second one there. All things considered, they kinda had to make the game as hard as it is because otherwise people would blow right through the five stages and be done with it. A lot of these NES games would be 20-30 minutes long if you didn't die at all.

Regardless, this fight is brutal. His attacks come so furiously that there isn't much you can do besides take the hits and fire back in a war of attrition.

It's too bad that these boss fights are so hellish and difficult, because the bosses tend to have better animation than anything else in the game. This guy looks a lot like Shredder, doesn't he?

B...Batbrain? OH NO HE DIH-INT!

Just like that, it's time to fight the Joker. He's got, to quote rapper 50 Cent, "a big-ass revolver"

He fires highly-damaging bullets from it, but he also attacks with less-damaging lightning bolts. This fight is extremely difficult, even if you know what to expect and how to react. Good luck learning this fight on the NES where you have to re-do the supremely difficult stage 5-1 every time you die a couple times. Oh yeah, and fight Shredder again too. He's nearly as difficult as Joker.

Gat-Man opens up with gunfire of his own... but that isn't the way to win this.

The path to victory... lies in ducking down and punching. This causes his gunfire to go over you, but the lightning bolts often hit you. Also, you want to punch rapidly. Just mash Joker right in the penis, Johnny Cage style.

Batman is stealing lines from Joker now, making him seem even more like a beta character to the clown man. Because he is. Joker has always been the center of attention in the Batman-verse.

He then proceeds to HURL JOKER OFF THE TOWER. So much for not killing, eh. Interesting that Joker killed Batman's parents in the original mythology. In the Nolan movies they changed it to a random mugger killing his parents. Didn't Joker also kill Robin in the original mythology?

We get a close-up on Joker's corpse as he lay dead in the street, in the game's most image-filled cutscene. Well, that's... creepy. Moving on-

-no, no, not yet, here's a closer-up of Joker's dead face. Oooookay.

That does it for this one. I get why this game gets praised the way it does. It's pretty good; it's got that challenge factor going, like Castlevania or Ninja Gaiden. However, the game itself is kind of colorless and boring; the environments are super-mechanical and the whole thing reminds me a lot of the flat Power Blade 2 in that sense. The challenge gives way to frustration more often than not as you battle the jumping controls as much as you're battling the enemies. Also, the abundance of damaging surfaces in the game goes a bit overboard. The fifth level is overly difficult in setup compared to the first four, and it seems like the designers did that in a last-ditch attempt to actively prevent players from finishing the game and moving on. I guess that's one way to extend the life of a game. I can't say I enjoyed this one too much. Had some fun with it, though, so hey.

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3 comments:

  1. I could be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure Joker killing Batman's parents is a 1989 movie only thing.

    This game's visuals look like a downgraded SNES game and not in a particularly good way. Like they were trying to do more than the NES could handle and everything ends up looking pretty bland. Compare that to something like Super Mario Bros 3 or most of the Mega Mans.

    That all aside though, looks like a fun game for challenge-seeking players.

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  2. I found it interesting to look at a game whose base background color was black every single level. Saw a lot of color combinations that I don't normally.

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  3. There's an error in the article, I assume because the writer used savestates. If you die at the Joker and replay the state, you don't have to fight "shredder" again, he's a one-time boss only, even if you use continues. You can see this cinemassacres two-parter where james rolfe and mike play through the game.

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