Batman on the NES, an unsung classic

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In 1989 the first good Batman movie was in theatres and I had a full blown case of Batman fever. Along with my Batman breakfast cereal, Batman piggy bank and my Batman frisbee, I had the Batman game on original Nintendo. Like many NES games of the time, it was a blind leap of faith when I bought the game, but it turned out great.

Beautiful cut scenes and great gameplay, Batman delivered.

Quick, to the Batcave!

New Nintendo games were a rare occurrence growing up. Fifty dollars was a lot for your average 10-year-old, so when it came to buying new release games, you had to try and choose wisely. I figured I couldn’t go wrong with Batman. I remember getting the game for Christmas at Toys R Us, back when you had to take the ticket up to the front of the store. I had never played Batman before but it looked great and hey, it was Batman!

Thankfully, Batman turned out to be a great game. It looked good, sounded great and played well. The soundtrack has to be one of the best from the NES era and is one I still listen to today. The game also had awesome looking cut scenes based on the Tim Burton movie, but otherwise shared little from the film. In the game, Batman came equipped with a trio of weapons and the ability to to do wall jumps; what more do you need?

Well, whether you wanted it or not, this game was a challenge. Despite there being only five levels, each one came with its own unique difficulties and bosses. Like many games of the time, Batman was a play-and-repeat platformer. You play, you die, you try again…and again. It was all about memorizing patterns and levels but even then it was a challenge. Your jumps had to be perfect and you had to do a decent amount of ammo management.

The Joker to my Batman, The Firebug.

Getting professional help

I had Batman for a couple years before I completed it, and even then I needed some help. There was no real internet to speak of at this point in 1992 and I didn’t even have a computer yet. This was still prime time for Nintendo Power magazine and if you wanted answers, you had to go direct to the source. Out of pure frustration, I fired up the old typewriter and asked The Big N for some tips. I managed to make it to the boss that was right before the Joker and just couldn’t figure it out. His pattern was simple enough but I kept getting stopped and wasting all my lives.

Nintendo’s reply was short and sweet and pretty much told me you had to have full ammo to beat the boss, The Firebug, to then move on to the Joker. However, just because I knew how to beat the boss doesn’t mean it was easy to accomplish. You still had to make it there and then hit the guy without missing. Eventually I got it and made it to the Joker, only to get wiped out pretty quick, but I had finally beaten the Firebug and the end of the game was in sight. After more numerous attempts I defeated the Joker and there was much rejoicing.

Holy cut scenes, Batman!

It’s funny how momentous finishing a game was on the NES. Especially in a game like Batman where there were cut scenes rather than just a “Congratulations” message. Once I beat the Joker I remember putting my controller on the ground so I wouldn’t accidentally hit a button and skip the ending. I knew I might never be able to accomplish this again so I wasn’t going to miss it for anything. I watched as another movie-inspired cut scene showed the Joker fall from Gotham Cathedral, followed by your standard issue staff credits, all to the awesome 8-bit soundtrack.

Even today, I’m not sure if I’ve ever completed Batman again. I’ve gone back to play it a few times since then and never even made it to the last level to take another shot at the Joker. I still have my Batman game cartridge and even though I can play the game on any number of emulators, nothing beats throwing it in my NES and giving the game another run…I just have to make sure I have my Nintendo Power letters handy.

Want more recommendations for Games You Should Have Played? Check these out:

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Brian is a staff writer at TMA. He races Hot Wheels at RedlineDerby.com while watching cartoons with his kid. You can follow @morningtoast on Twitter.

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