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Retro Game of the Week: Batman Returns

On 08/01/2015 at 09:43 AM by The Last Ninja

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An example of a mediocre movie that had a great game

August is Super Hero Month for Retro Game of the Week. Join us each week as we look at different oldschool super hero games, good and bad alike.

The month starts out with a bang as we look at a Konami classic. In 1992, Tim Burton released his second Batman movie, Batman Returns. Say what you will about the movie, but the game that came out the following year was pretty great. Now here's the thing: there are nine different versions of this game! For this review, we're focusing on the SNES one, which is probably the best because Konami developed it. By this point, Konami had made all kinds of great games on the NES and SNES alike. Thus we get a great Ninja Turtles-like beat 'em up with Batman.

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The game loosely follows the plot of the movie, even showing pixelated images from the movie between levels and explaining what's happening. They even drop lines right from the movie a few times. Danny Elfman's score engulfs the game throughout, making it feel like you stepped right into the movie itself. Character sprites are big and detailed. Throughout the game's seven levels, you'll mostly fight the Red Triangle Circus Gang, which appears at the beginning of the movie. You'll fight clowns, stilt walkers, sword swallowers, fire-breathers, knife throwers, etc.

As Batman, you can pummel enemies in classic Konami style. Not only can Batman do a basic punch-kick combo, but he can also block, throw batarangs, and do a cape attack (which uses a little life). He can also pick up enemies with one hand and slam them into the ground, throw them against the back wall, and if two enemies are on each side, smash their heads together. POW! So the combat is great. The one drawback is the fact that Batman moves pretty slow, making fast enemies difficult.

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Each level is distinct because of unique settings and gameplay. Usually a level will start out on the streets, where you can move around freely; the second section will then be a guantlet of enemies which you must defeat only using your batarangs. The levels take you from the streets to the rooftops to a circus train to Penguin's lair. The detail is impressive, such as in one level in which Batman is in a dark cellar; Batman moves in and out of the shadows, which is perfect for this game.

Boss battles can be difficult because Batman is so slow. Expect to lose a few lives when fighting a boss. You'll fight a few circus freaks, but you'll also fight Catwoman and Penguin each twice throughout the course of the game. The Catwoman battle is especially tough because she moves around very fast and can knock you right out of the air with her high kicks. Catwoman may have nine lives, but you don't, so beating her is a huge relief.

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There's also a mode 7 Batmobile level! Actually, this level is quite simple. All you can do is move back and forth and shoot bullets. It plays a little bit like a shooter, but it can also be disorienting at times since you're moving so fast. I'm sure it was impressive back in the day, but it doesn't hold up well now. Still, it's cool to have a Batmobile level in the game.

The game is short, but it does have some replayabilitiy. If you go to Options, you can set the difficulty, choose the number of lives, configure the controls, and listen to the sound test (if you love those Danny Elfman tunes). Batman Returns is a hard game. Even on Easy Mode, you'll find it challenging to best the tricky Catwoman and defeat the umbrella-hording Penguin. But Konami does deserve credit for crafting a classic beat 'em up within Tim Burton's world of Batman Returns, an impressive feat indeed.

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Final Verdict--4 Stars: Recommended

Batman Returns on SNES has great levels, fun gameplay, challenging bosses, and a strong presentation. Some parts may be a little ridiculous, such as when you fight Penguin in his giant duckie tank, but it IS a game after all. It's impressive how much stuff they were able to put in the game that came from the movie. Today we have the Arkham games, but back in 1993, Batman Returns was as good as it got when it came to awesome Batman action games. Tim Burton would be proud.

Join me all month long as we continue to look at retro super hero games, good and bad.



Super Step Contributing Writer

08/01/2015 at 11:18 AM

I actually found the movie great and the game mediocre. Probably because I loved how dark the movie was  mixed with that cartoony Tim Burton style. It had an eerie feel to it because of all that. But I was never that into beat-em-ups and always thought the game was just ok. Different strokes. 

Batman Forever though, that game sucked and while I liked the movie as a kid, it doesn't hold up for me. Damn I loved Jim Carey back then.

The Last Ninja

08/02/2015 at 12:56 AM

The 90s Batman movies just got worse as they went along. Returns is okay and I can enjoy it, but Penguin is just gross, the complete opposite of the gentleman he's supposed to be from the comics.

Cary Woodham

08/01/2015 at 12:40 PM

I love beat 'em ups, but back then I avoided a lot of them becaue there were just SO MANY of them and lots of them were not very good.  Plus, back then I was way more into RPGs on the SNES, so I mostly focused on that.

I do know more about Batman than any other super hero thanks to the Batman: The Animated Series cartoon that I watched a lot of in the 90's.  But nowadays I just stick to the LEGO Batman games.

The Last Ninja

08/02/2015 at 12:58 AM

I can understand the "so many beat 'em ups" thing, but this game was made by Konami, the same team that did Ninja Turtles! That should warrant a look.


08/02/2015 at 08:09 PM

There were nine different versions of this game?! Yikes. I'm surprised any of them were good but you gotta give '90s-era Konami props. They knew they're stuff.

The Last Ninja

08/03/2015 at 12:19 AM

Seriously. These were the nine versions: NES, SNES, Genesis, Mega-CD, Master System, Game Gear, Lynx, Amiga, and DOS. Crazy, right?


08/03/2015 at 02:44 AM

Love 'em brawlers. Goin' on the list.

The Last Ninja

08/03/2015 at 01:45 PM

Especially brawlers with Batman!

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/03/2015 at 08:59 PM

I like the movie,  but damn KEaton looks terrible in that shot on the box.  I don't remember the costume looking so bad, but I guess it does.  

I never had this, but I love the genre.  I always wish games like this would be great, but when I actually play them I'm disappointed.  

The Last Ninja

08/04/2015 at 04:24 PM

I personally love beat em ups, but there's a lot of terrible ones out there. Thankfully, this one is good, so you'll probably like it.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/04/2015 at 04:42 PM

yeah I've heard of this one before but never played it.  Be good on a handheld.  

Remy LeBeau

08/04/2015 at 11:18 PM

I played through this not that long ago. It's not bad! Way better than I was expecting! While It kind of felt like a Final Fight clone, there were a lot of nice little touches. Like using the grappling hook to pull that brick off the wall and smash the random goon holding Vicky Vale hostage. I also thought it was kind of ridiculous how many thin clowns lived in Gotham City.

The Last Ninja

08/05/2015 at 08:06 PM

Yes, you can use the grappling hook in certain parts of the game.

Good point. Gothan City has a LOT of clowns!

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