Before the Arkham series of games, Batman had made many appearances on the computer and TV screens of fans. Unfortunately, the majority of them were awful. From mobile games to racing games to bland movie tie-ins, the Caped Crusader tried his hand at every possible genre. There was a shining needle in that horrible licensed haystack, however, and that needle was Batman for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Loosely inspired by the 1989 Tim Burton film, the game takes place in Gotham City just after the evil Joker has released a poisonous gas and wreaked havoc upon the citizens. The player takes control of Batman on his quest through the streets of Gotham, defeating enemies and squaring up against some of the Dark Knight’s most iconic enemies, including Deadshot, Killer Moth, Firebug, and the big man himself, the Joker.
Utilizing a wall-jump technique that was rarely seen in the early days of the NES, the game creates difficult platforming obstacles and perfectly integrates them with the action and combat. As Batman, the player can use fists, the Batarang, Batdisks, and the Bat Speargun to take down foes. The layout of the platforms and the positions of the enemies creates a hair-pulling difficulty that doesn’t take away from the gameplay, but only enhances it.
It truly is one of the first movie-to-videogame transitions that worked, and it worked in a huge way. From actual gameplay to the between-stage cutscenes, everything flows very well. Although very difficult, Batman never overwhelms the player.
When Batman came out very few expected much from it. Even though the Caped Crusader was a beloved character and everyone wanted him to flourish in the video game industry, the handful of games that preceded it painted a very clear picture of failure. So when this game hit the shelves, not only were players pleasantly surprised, but they were downright flabbergasted.
After multiple failings, after all the doubt began creeping in, Batman finally showed his true colors. Batman is still a great gaming experience, being one of the few NES games to age very well. It’s still fun, it’s still challenging, it’s still one of the greatest video game versions of Gotham’s masked hero.
Presently we have Ben Affleck taking up the mantle of the dark knight, but back in 1989 we had Michael Keaton, and we had him in glorious 8-bit wonder. Looking back, it’s hard to believe this game was ever doubted after how fun it turned out to be.
What are your favorite Batman games and where do you feel this one fits on your list? Let us know in the comments.