Friday, December 18, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Batman (NES)

Retro Game of the Day! Batman (NES)

I've not been very secretive of my love for Sunsoft and their brilliant work on the NES. Batman, released in 1989 to coincide with the Tim Burton film, is among the highlights of their portfolio of games.

A very straightforward action-platformer, Batman NES fell right in line with other titles of that mold of the day - Strider (NES version), Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden. You had a basic punch attack, and several secondary weapons (batarang, rocket gun, and "dirk" - a 3-way spread weapon). To employ any of these weapons you'd need to acquire MP, but usually a good player could make it through much of the game with only his brains and fists - very appropriate for a game based on The Dark Knight, eh?

This was an absolutely gorgeously rendered game, among the best looking on the NES. The sprites, though minute, were exceptionally detailed and well-animated. Each level had extremely lively backgrounds that were carefully and exquisitely constructed. Sunsoft were absolutely at the top of their game here. It's not for everyone (this is a very dark and moody game, steeped in the underbelly of the criminal underworld - no happy Super Mario bushes here!) but I think most seasoned gamers would have to admit that they completely nailed the feeling of a dark, grim Batman theme perfectly.

Likewise, the music is outstanding. Not very Batman-ny, true, but quite catchy and lively. Even all these years later I will still boot up the old .NSF files from this game, once in awhile. It's remarkable to see such thought and care into what could otherwise have been a pretty easy sale (it is a licensed game, after all, based on a very prominent property).

Gameplay-wise, I notice quite a divide in the opinions of people. The average gamer will often refer to this game as being quite difficult - in fact, I'd say quite the opposite. After wrestling with games such as Ninja Gaiden, Batman was really quite a cakewalk - though still much less so than it's 16-Bit counterpart (a visually superior, though gameplay-wise, inferior effort - still a great title!) I breezed through the game fairly quickly, finding it's control butter-smooth with very easy-to-perform wall-jump maneuvering.

That will wrap it up for Batman on the NES then - one of the top games for the system in my book, it was unfortunate to see the IP become so sullied down the road (Batman games deteriorated in quality as the years went on - until recently, of course!) This old NES cart might draw some skepticism, though most will consider it a timeless classic which ranks among the best in the Nintendo catalog.

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