|Developer:||Sunsoft|||||Release Date:||1991|||||Systems:||NES, Genesis|
Today on Super Adventures I'm taking a look at Batman: Return of the Joker, the sort-of sequel to Sunsoft's Batman: The Video Game, which was released for the NES two years earlier.
Batman: The Video Game was a tie-in with Tim Burton's 1989 'Batman' movie (thoughtfully given a subtitle so that people wouldn't get them confused and end up shoving the cartridge into their VCR), and this also shares the movie's shiny golden 'BATMAN' text so I'm presuming they're part of the same continuity. But ~SPOILERS~ The Joker didn't just get locked away in Arkham or go into hiding at the end of the movie, he got dropped off a giant gothic church tower to his very definite pavement-assisted demise. In fact in the end of the NES game Batman punches him off the church roof, which is kind of hardcore for a man that never kills, but the end result is much the same. So if The Joker really has returned here, then he's come back from the dead.
Incidentally this has nothing to do with the 'Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker' animated movie, as that came out about a decade later and has its own set of games. Though it's still about The Joker coming back from the dead.
The guy is like... weeds or something.
It's just the Bat-signal mate, calm down. You see it at least once a week, it's not a big deal, quit cowering behind your cape and go see what Commissioner Gordon wants already! He'll be standing on the Gotham PD roof freezing his ass off waiting for you.
Oh damn, this song is amazing. I don't remember playing the game before, but I feel like I've heard this tune a thousand times before because it's so instantly catchy. Here have a link to enrich your article reading experience: Stage 1 theme.
The graphics aren't bad either, with the roof tiles and all those levels of parallax scrolling going on across the top. The NES shouldn't be doing that! They've used that flickering trick again to make the L and B letters up there look transparent, so I've cheated again to replicate the effect. I'm going to stop doing that now though, as a guy could drive himself mad trying to fix all the flickering in a NES game.
You know what else had fantastic music and graphics on Stage 1 though? Sunsoft's other Batman platformer on the NES.
Mega Man I suppose. Doesn't the guy remember what happened the last time a Batman went around shooting people with his belt-fed wrist-mounted blade launcher? Oh hang on, that famous 'Knightfall' arc was published in 1993, so grittier darker Azrael Batman hadn't actually turned up yet.
I guess 'S' stands for 'shurikens' then, or maybe 'spread shot'. It said 'N' there for a moment, but my stray plasma bolts switched it, so it seems I've got other weapon types to look forward to as well!
Though he did drop a flashing orb so I suppose it's possible he just fainted and went back into his pokéball. Picking it doesn't seem to have done anything, but I'll keep collecting the things anyway. With his crappy jump it'll be more effort to avoid them.
MEANWHILE, ON THE SEGA GENESIS.
Well the Sega version seems to have the same level layout and gameplay (more or less), but aside from that fantastic looking gargoyle statue on the left, the art isn't as impressive to me. The Genesis isn't as limited as the NES, but the developers haven't done as much to overcome their limitations.
There are two big changes I've noticed though: I have a kick button now, making me 50% more 'Batman' in a fight, and the game has a different title!
So which one's more accurate to the original Japanese title, the NES game or the Genesis game? Out of curiosity I ran the original katakana through Google Translate and it turns out that it's none of them. In Japan the game is actually called... Dynamite Batman. I could've just looked that fact up on Wikipedia like anyone else would've, but sometimes I like to fool myself into believing that all the trivia I'm coming up with isn't trivially easy to search for.
Sunsoft did actually end up making a game called Batman: Return of the Joker the following year, for the Game Boy...
|Batman: Return of the Joker (Game Boy)|
This one brings back the Ninja Gaiden-style wall jumping from the original NES Batman, throws in a grappling hook like in Adventures of Batman & Robin (I love grappling hooks I do), and is absolutely shit as far as I can tell. I didn't play it long though, so pay no attention to my opinion.
Nice Mega Man transition at the end there though. Seems that I'll be scrolling upwards for the next bit.
Well it's nice of the developers to bring back lesser-known Batman villain 'Invulnerable Psychic Stone Gargoyle Man', but he's kind of in my way and he's kicking my ass. Fortunately fellow superhero The Atom was passing by at the time and was able to rush over at the last minute to shrink Batman down and get him to safety! Or maybe our hero just imploded. Yeah, I'm thinking it was probably implosion.
Back to the start of the stage then.
LATER, AFTER REPLAYING THE WHOLE LEVEL.
I can't switch weapons on the fly like I could in the first Batman, but this gun I've got now seems to do the job against gargoyles, and there's more weapon pick ups around than there are enemies. All this infinite ammo is nice to have too.
At least this weapon I've got now kills enemies in one shot, which makes it roughly 100% more likely I'll ever see the end of the level.
Passwords are cool though, as they basically give me infinite continues. Wait, the game gives me infinite continues anyway! I'm stuck replaying this forever!
You know what would be cool though? If enemies dropped health occasionally like they did in the first game, instead of useless orbs that do nothing but add an extra point to my 'B' meter... which itself does nothing. I don't know, maybe if I max it out my character will turn into Batman or something.
It doesn't seem to have done his structural integrity any good though as he's phasing in and out of existence worse than Marty McFly right now. The poor NES can't actually display these two huge characters in a row at once as they're built from multiple sprites, so whenever they're on the floor together parts of them have to flicker as they share the limited number of sprites between them (and the bullets). It's less noticeable at the proper frame rate though.
I'm not sure I'm meant to defeat this boss by standing in one place and tapping the button, but I don't much like boss fights so I'm mostly just relieved it's working. This could have just as easily dragged on forever and I kind of want to see Stage 2 before I turn this off.
MEANWHILE, ON THE GENESIS.
|Batman: Revenge of the Joker (Genesis)|
I was attacking him with homing batarangs at first, which was working well except for the fact that they took off just 200 HP each. It took 25 seconds of squatting in one place and firing non-stop to get him down to 27,200.
A minute later my hands were aching, but he had under 9000 health, so I decided to switch tactics to finish him off with a series of sliding kicks which hit him for a devastating 400 HP each time. So the fucker started bouncing on me, jumping up and down until all my health was gone. I was just 9 more hits away from beating him! 9 hits.
Next time around I spawned without my weapon power up, so my half-strength batarang launcher was hitting for only 100 HP each time. So that didn't work out.
He kind looks like Mario on the run from Nintendo because they tried to stick him in Mario Xtreme Skateboarding or something. A spin-off too far. Damn, now I'm thinking about Batman going up against Mario in a Smash Bros. sequel and I'm sad because it'll never happen.
Hang on, is that Val Kilmer? 'Batman Forever' is still four years away mate, wait your turn.
I'm not sure I like the way some of these moving platforms follow their wavy rails right down into a bottomless pit though. I mean they seem like a sensible enough thing to put in a platformer, but Batman freezes when he's hit, and by the time he shakes it off he's dropped too low to be able to jump to safety. The guy seriously needs one of those grapnel guns or something.
There's no cutscene to explain where Batman whips out a jetpack and a rifle from, but then I don't know where this sci-fi tunnel came from either, so that figures. In fact I don't know anything about what's going on in this, except that presumably The Joker was the one who set it up.
By the way, check out how the 'C' power up gives me exploding shots that shoot out extra bullets diagonally when they hit a target. That's kind of interesting, right? I can charge the weapon up as well by holding the button, but in regular levels I only see one enemy at a time and it kills them in one hit anyway, so I never have much reason to bother.
I've also got these sorcerers flinging magic whirlwinds at me from the very moment they appear on screen, so I either have to keep firing all the time or slowly edge forwards. Though it's a bit tricky to edge forwards when I have to leap across a broken bridge. Seriously, I don't think it's even possible to get across here without taking damage. It's slippery slidey ice world too, so if they hit me there's a chance I'll go sliding backwards down a hole and have to replay the stage. There's a fair chance I'll do that anyway though because I suck at this.
It'd be helpful if the screen would give me a little more space up front to see what's coming. The scrolling airship stage at least let me hang out at the back so I had time to react to things. I do get a very nice view of Gotham's mountains in the background though, which is cool... I didn't even know Gotham had mountains! Plus this place is all so snowy that it's like I'm playing the Return of the Joker: Christmas Demo.
It's funny, Sunsoft could've held onto the game for six months or so and then slapped the 'Batman Returns' licence on it instead to tie in with the movie. They've got snow, inexplicable missiles, generic goons in generic levels, all the 'stage clear' screens match... just swap out the Joker art for Penguin and it's ready to go!
And I'm about ready to stop.
Oh I see, I don't slide off if I'm crouching when the knife hits me. I still end up losing health, but I don't fall down the pit so now it's only mostly bullshit.
A FEW RETRIES LATER.
Yeah I know the solution is to move a step back and wait for the power up to disappear before I fight him, but... okay that actually seems kind of fair now that I think about it for a bit, even if the developers are being tricksy fucks. But every enemy on this stage has been a trap and I'm starting to wonder if they were just compensating for the fact that the gameplay on its own isn't much fun.
Okay I have to admit something here... I'm actually enjoying this stage more than the rest of them, because at least the bad game design feels deliberate here. I feel like I'm solving things rather than suffering through them. Though I'm also grateful that the stages are really short so I'll been done with this sooner rather than later.
You know what really sucks about this? The Gotham lava caves apparently count as Stage 3-2 Part 2, so I've been kicked right back to the start of the mine stage! I don't want to do the mine stage again.
LATER, ON STAGE 3-3.
I've played far worse games than Batman: Return of the Joker on the NES, but don't mistake that for a stamp of approval. I found it kind of awkward and simple, and not all that engaging. Though there's definitely challenge there if that's your thing. It's a 'memorise the level' trial and error kind of challenge, but thankfully the stages are short and you can retry them as often as you like. Those infinite continues are a strong encouragement to stick with it.
It looks like you'd want a NES game to look and sounds like you'd want it to sound, but you could tell me the game was originally called Killblaster Z and I'd believe you. There's been nothing 'Batman' about it so far except for the player sprite and the art between stages, and I don't expect that's going to change until The Joker shows up as the last boss. Probably in some kind of mech.
If you're being forced to play one of them, I'd say go with the original NES version, as it it has some of the most impressive sound and visuals on the system, and the Genesis port doesn't, but I wouldn't really recommend it either way. Arkham Asylum though, now there's a Batman game that manages to look fantastic and play well at the same time, and I'm not just saying that because it's shiny and (relatively) new. I'm saying it because I'm trying to pad this conclusion out so it looks like I've given Return of the Joker more thought that I have.
Nope, can't think of anything else to say about it.