Monday, December 12, 2022

Batman: Return of the Joker (Game Boy, 1992)


This is another of what I know as "Nintendo Power Games". Things I saw in Nintendo Power and was really interested in as a result. Never got to play it...until now.

This did not win Game Of The Year in 1992, probably because it doesn't feature The Reformed Rabbi Beel Clinton.

This is another Sunsoft game. They did well with the other Batman games I played, so hopefully this one measures up. I specifically chose to play this one in particular because Nintendo Power made it look awesome.

This stage select music sounds really familiar...

Yeah, they basically stole this right out of Mega Man 2. Wow.

At the time that I saw Return of the Joker in NP, I was really into stage selects. Mega Man had those! If you can't beat a level, no problem, try a different one. As a kid who couldn't beat any levels, this was a big deal. So there you go, all the reasons why I wanted to play this.

There are 3 levels you can do in any order, then a 4th level to close things out. It gives you zero info about the 3 levels though. It should have at least had names for them to let you know what you're getting into.

The first level I try is level 3, because why not. Immediately I get bum-rushed by this giant Stone Soldier looking guy.

I try fighting him and take a lot of damage in the process. Enemies just repeatedly run into you like maniacs, and your only attack is an extremely short-ranged punch.

Pretty soon, the enemies just swamp Batman and beat him down. They drop hearts when defeated, which restore 1 health bar...except you lose like 2-3 from each fight. It's easier to just jump over them and run like hell from everything. Though at least enemies don't damage you from collision in this game, they have to actually dish out a physical attack. Considering how aggressively they bump into you, collision damage would have made this impossible.

Let's try stage 2 then

This one is some sort of mechanical factory.

The enemies here are just as over-aggressive and furiously pummel Batman. I've never seen any game with enemies that are THIS hell-bent on jumping all over your character. You pretty much have to rapid-spam punches on their approach to have a chance.

Dammit! These crushing pistons fall WAY too fast relative to Batman's slow movement speed.

Lemme jump out of the way, dammit!


Batman has a wall-jump and it works pretty well. Also the music and the animations are terrific. Especially the animations, which look way too good for this system.

Level 1 seems to be the only one I can actually get anywhere with. It's a sewer and the image is all distorted in the water. It looks like it's electrocuting you or something.

ASSSS! Of course, this one has bottomless pits, and the jumping controls / platforming are actually really bad. I'm playing on "Easy" not that it makes any difference.

At this point I was wondering if the game was beatable so I checked GameFAQs:



Man, look at Joker, over here laughing at the player. They knew people were gonna see this screen constantly after getting mauled by these levels.

I give level 1 another try. I hate sewer levels. Why do so many games have them?

The key is to try to avoid enemies entirely, and find as many hearts as possible to heal up after fights.

Batman has a grappling hook that you can swing from the ceiling with. Seems like it only has a few places where it's useful though.

ASS! So many PITS!

I finally reach the stage boss, Iron Claw. It...isn't too bad! Punches knock him back, so you can keep him at a distance by pelting him with well-timed punches.


Oh my God.

I did it.

I beat a level in Return of the Joker.

I should call it a day here and take my win...but I need to try and beat the rest.

"lolololol have another stage"

I hate this face now.

This is the one with the giant crushing death-pillars.

They're not as bad as this one enemy who lurks at the top of a passage and keeps KNOCKING ME BACK DOWN. STOP DOING THIS

The boss here is a really awesome-looking tank. I remember seeing a screenshot of this in Nintendo Power, was one of the things that made me interested.

You need to jump onto it and wail on the guy poking out of it. Have to jump a bit to hit him, which is a real pain since he chucks grenades the whole time.

Wait, what? That wasn't the boss? That's right, it was only the halfway point of the level. My God, this game is ludicrously hard outside of the relatively normal Stage 1. They sucker you in by letting you have a regular level and then they just murder you with the rest.

The actual level boss is the Shogun Warrior, seen here holding his sword like The Schwartz.

The Schwartz isn't with him, as I discover he can be defeated by getting him in a corner and juggling him off the wall. Not too bad.


What am I doing with my life, this game wasn't even in the Game Boy Player's Guide. It's like ten times harder than any of those "hard" Souls games. If I could level grind in this one too I'd do it.

Yeah that's right, none of those Souls games are hard. Any game where you can overlevel doesn't have to be hard. Except that one part in Dark Souls with the archers shooting you off the wall of that giant church, that part is horri- wait what was I talking about, oh yeah, Batman.

Oh yeah, Level 3 is this train with a bunch of linebackers charging at you. These things take way too many hits and just knock off all your health. Better to jump over them and run.

There's a full health powerup right at the beginning when I don't need it. Could this have been, I don't know, like, MIDWAY?

The second half of the stage puts you IN the train where you can't jump or dodge anything. The trick is to wall jump onto the top of it as soon as it gives you an opportunity, then just stay up there and jump over everybody.

The boss here is ::checks notes:: "Foul Ball", a guy who spins a lot.

I unleash batarangs and decimate him from a distance.

Gotta watch out for his slide attacks though. I get into this pattern of jumping over those and then punching his groin. Just absolutely wailing on it.

Just complete testicular devastation, which gets me the win.

Now you get to go to Stage 4, the final stage, the Limestone Cavern. This level design makes no sense. There are a bunch of parts with crumbling blocks that you need to use as stepping stones, and if you fail to make the jumps, you're essentially stuck and can't continue the level until you lose a life and go back to an earlier point.

This stage is full of Vince-sized giant boulders that you can punch, as if the Testicular Destruction in the previous level wasn't bad enough. This is another level with two sections, and you have to repeat the second section every time you lose to the boss. This is an ungodly chore if you're playing on original hardware and not emulation.

After lots of save state loading trial and error, I arrive at the boss! SQUEEE!

Joaquin Phoenix does an extended tapdancing routine before the fight, as if having to repeat a stage wasn't bad enough. They really do waste a bunch of time before this fight, and it's ONE OF THE HARDEST FIGHTS ON THE GAME BOY.

If you duck down and wait, Joker just stands there and does nothing. I think there's a strong possibility that boss actions in this game are completely dictated by what you do, because I noticed bosses repeating the same moves over and over again if I responded to them a certain way.

If you duck down against the left side of the screen, his shots actually ricochet off the wall without damaging Batman, despite going right through him. Super-weird, and this allows you to plink him with Batarangs at will until you run out. This gets his health way down.

From there it's just a lot of JUMP N' PUNCH to get the win.

Except he has a second form that is way more vicious and absolutely pummels Batman. From here it's just a war, and the only hope is to have a lot of health left at the end of Form 1, then make good use of all your invincibility frames after being hit to wail on him.



On like the 8th attempt (glad I'm not replaying the stage every time) I had one tick of health left and thought the fight was over and just mashed the punch button while sighing and looking away, and....HE EXPLODED?

What? Are you sure?

No third form? ARE YOU SURE? How about a fourth form? WHY NOT, SUNSOFT?

I'm glad Gotham City (tm) is back to normal. Also that was the hardest final boss on the entire Game Boy I think. And the bosses in this game REALLY could have used life meters, to at least let you see how well you're doing. I was giving up hope that it was winnable.

Nice credits screen. This game needed more Batarangs. Whenever you got a Batarang powerup you could fire like 12 shots of that and the game was infinitely more playable...until they ran out and you were back to the dinky short-arm punches. The first Batman on Game Boy is much better than this game, but I will say that this one is more advanced. Looks great, animations are great, and it has a place in the Game Boy library.

Mainly as "that game nobody actually finished on the actual system" but a place nonetheless.

1 comment:

  1. Woooow, that really is the MM2 music. Completely agree about how novel a stage select was back then too.

    That IS The Schwartz!

    Wow, I can't believe you managed to finish it, great job!