Batman: The Video Game is very loosely based on 1989's hit Tim Burton film, starring Michael Keaton. While the game features cut scenes derived from the film itself, many of the elements are taken from the comic book, such as boss fights. On the other hand, there are plenty of elements that are completely created for the video game such as the many mechanical enemies Batman faces off with. The video game saw much critical acclaim as being a quality title based off of a popular license, something that is still hard to find to this day.
The player uses the standard D-Pad controls to move Batman around from left to right whereas down makes Batman duck, a very useful ability when fighting enemies with projectiles. The B button is used to punch, Batman's most useful ability, or use his equipped weapon. The A button is used to jump and Batman does a lot of it in this game. Batman will often times use the wall jump ability to bypass many of the platforming elements within the game or to find hidden shortcuts around powerful enemies. Strangely enough, the Start Button allows Batman to switch weapons whereas the Select Button pauses the game.
Fisticuffs - Batman's primary default attack is punching, which turns out to be rather helpful. In fact, it's Batman's most useful attack. It conserves ammo, it destroys most enemies in only a few hits if less, and it stays true to his martial roots. Batman would go on to punch goons throughout video games.
Batarang - Batman's boomerang weapon consumes one unit of ammo per shot but would hit enemies multiple times. This is the weapon Batman should use when trying to hit enemies from a limited range but too far to punch in the face.
Spear Gun - This gun shoots spears! This trademark Batman weapon fires projectiles that can hit an enemy across the screen and consumes two units of ammo. Useful when trying to kill an enemy standing on a platform that Batman is jumping to with no room to punch it.
Dirk - This special, powerful attack forms three discs that shoot towards an enemy. While it has limited range, the attack is useful against enemies that are proving a nuisance from a step below. The attack uses three units of ammo per shot, but is meant to be used sparingly.
Bonus Item - Gives Batman 1000 points. Even in 1990, points were still relevant.
Pellet Item - Gives Batman 10 units of ammo, used in all of his weapons.
Heart Item - Fills up one of Batman's eight hit points.
Shakedown and Maxiezeus (Standard Goon) - The very first enemy Batman faces is the standard, suicidal henchman who runs up to the caped crusader, dying instantly against a pummeling fist from Bats. The standard fodder that will appear at least once per stage.
Mobile Tracker (Spike Bot) - A little robot that skims across the ground quickly when in sight of Batman. Two spikes alternate on top of its frame, threatening to stab Batman's tender little feet if he were to land on it after attempting to jump over.
Heatwave (Flamethrower Goon) - This stationary henchman kneels down while firing his flamethrower every few moments. The orange cone eventually shuts off, allowing Batman to swoop in and land a few punches into his face. One of the primary enemies in the game, meant to challenge the player through difficult wall jumping elements.
Deadshot (Gun Goon) - Another stationary henchman who would rather stand still while shooting every once in a while at the Batman. Easy enough to evade and rather weak in combat. These goons don't show up very often in the game.
Mobile Home Mine (Mine Bot) - A little mine that skitters across the ground within the proximity of Batman. Easy enough to evade and never truly becomes a threat.
The Enforcer (Jetpack Goon) - A rare enemy that only shows up in the first stage, firing his machine gun at Batman while flying above him in his jetpack. A few well-placed batarangs can make short work of him.
K.G.Beast (Ninja) - Only one appearance throughout the entire game within the first stage and he is a total let down. Batman can easily dispatch this ninja by walking up to his side and throwing a few batarangs at him before he even notices Batman's presence.
Nightslayer (Claw Goon) - Introduced in the second stage, these guys are slow moving henchmen equipped with massive claws on their hand. Powerful and hard to evade, but swift to dispatch.
Javelin (Drill Bot) - Introduced in the second stage, this stationary robot extends its javelin-like head in a pattern of thrusts. Play more of a challenging role in wall jumping areas, but is otherwise easy to dispatch.
Drop Claw - Also introduced in the second stage is a ceiling-mounted dispenser of claw bots, little claws that run along the ground to harm the Batman.
Jader (Mutant Goon) - Batman runs across these biological weapons in the third stage. They are very hard to evade as their large bodies jump around swiftly as they try to attack Batman. There are not many of them around, but they do make platforming elements much more difficult.
EEV (Tank Goon) - Introduced in the caverns of stage three, this goon-controlled mini-tank shoots powerful projectiles at Batman.
Rail Runner (Rail Bot) - This robot makes a brief appearance through stage four. Moving on a horizontal rail, it moves left to right trying to bash Batman.
This stage is split up between three sub-stages. In Main Street (1-1), Batman fights off standard goons and spike bots. In the first area, Batman passes by a Don't Walk sign post and a Theater (presumably the same theater outside of which his parents were gunned down) twice in an unfortunate sign of recycled content. In High-Rise Buildings (1-2), Batman is forced to practice his wall jump abilities, one of the trademark abilities within the video game. This is the stage in which players pit Batman against jetpack goons and a very laid back ninja.
The Front of City Hall (1-3) is Batman's first boss fight, Killer Moth. Ripped straight from the comics, Killer Moth fires up the jetpack within his metallic "wings" and flies around from side to side, swooping down to ram Batman. Killer Moth will also fire several blue firebolts across the screen from above. In the cutscene proceeding the boss' defeat, Batman hops into the batmobile and blasts through a metal door, blowing open a path to drive through.
Axis Chemical Factory
The second stage is split up into four sub-stages. In the Liquid Waste Floor sub-stage (2-1), Batman encounters claw goons and his first true platforming challenge, jumping across small platforms suspended above a massive vat of toxic chemicals (Gluk) while the green sludge also drips from above. In the Spark Floor sub-stage (2-2), Batman faces even more platforming challenges against deadly high voltage wires and drill bots, including plenty of wall jumping. The Conveyer-Belt Floor (2-3) introduces the claw bots, which yield plenty of power-ups upon the simple, continuous defeats. Unfortunately for Batman, this also marks the appearance of moving treads, guiding Batman towards deadly spinning blades while he fights off more flamethrower and gun goons.
In the Nerve Center (2-4), Batman is locked in with the Machine Intelligence System, forming a three-part boss fight. The first section is straight across from where Batman starts out, firing two projectiles in rapid succession. After the wall-mounted turrets are destroyed, the second section is accessed just above. The electric current controller across from Batman is protected by four ceiling-mounted chemical dispensers dripping onto a moving tread. After the orb is destroyed, the high voltage wire guarding the Nerve Center blows up, revealing a larger glowing orb that shifts into a three-way spread turret before shifting back into the weak point. Batman swiftly destroys the blue glowing orb before cutting to the next scene, showing Joker with a pistol, speaking his catchphrase "Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? Ha ha ha. . . . . ." before firing his gun.
In Underground Conduit I (3-1), Batman immediately faces off against the mutant goon for the first time. Blue water flows down, making the scene similar to a sewer level, popular among st comic book games. There are more platforming and wall jumping elements that test Batman here, but also throw in deadly grinding fans within the waist-deep water. In Underground Conduit II (3-2), the scenery is immediately changed as the water becomes a bright green. While wading through the viscus sewer water, Batman fights off against more Heatwaves and spike bots. After a brief wall-jumping section, Batman climbs up to the Underground Cavern (3-3). This large, cavernous area introduces the goon-driven tank, the EEV. After facing off with those, Batman faces a more difficult challenge in strategically placed flamethrower goons and mine bots as he wall jumps across more grinding fans whilst scaling the caverns. Perhaps the introduction of vertical combat?
Stage 3-4. Defeat the Electrocutioner. Taken straight from the DC comic, Electrocutioner is equipped with a massive claw on his left hand while his right hand is replaced with a massive 10 Mega-Giga volt beam called the Moon Attacker. This sword-like beam creates a devistating attack that fills the bottom half of the screen with a large electric arc and jumps back and forth from left to right. After this monstrousity is destroyed, the Joker shows up again.
Joker: "Welcome, Batman, why don't you look at my latest work of art?"
In the Research Laboratory (4-1), Batman starts out in a futuristic backdrop where flashing conduits are seen against the metallic floors. While traversing the lab, Batman is attacked by se veral mechanical enemies and the mutant Jader creatures. In the foreground, there are strange cylinders filled with green liquid and three television screens with the Joker's laughing face broadcasting. The Storage Room (4-2) is marked by the Joker's trademark greens and purples. Batman starts out platform jumping over several grinding gears from below. Soon, the same gears are cranking from all sides.
Once Batman enters the Thermal Processing Plant (4-3), Batman starts out across from the Exit door he must reach, but the jump is too far. In this area, he jumps down several floors evading the dangerous track bots and live circuits. There's also a large pool of flames that Batman must avoid at all cost. Part of the laboratory here is starting to deteriorate. Eventually, Batman comes to several tiny moving treads that he must use to platform and wall jump while evading Mobile Units and live circuits. Finally, he accends the stairs, fighting off several enemies to reach the Exit door.
The Dual-Container Alarm (4-4) are two large cubes that move opposite each other across the room's walls. Both of these containers fire projectiles at Batman to the left and to the right. These containers are very slow moving and can be evaded easily if Batman fights in the proper area. After the first container is destroyed, the remaining cube enters a state of emergency, opening from the top and erupting with several fire bombs. These six projectiles move across the screen and can be hard to avoid as the container skims across the bottom of the room.
After the boss is defeated, Batman hops into his Batwing and flies towards the Cathedral where the Joker has escaped to.
Gotham City Cathedral
When Batman enters the Stairway (5-1), he's immediately faced with more grinding gears and more flamethrower goons. After scaling the stairway, Batman then begins to scale the Belltower itself. This involves an epic wall jump scenario wherein Batman must avoid several javelin bots, grinding gears, flamethrowers, Mobile Units and Drop Claws. Perhaps this was the implimentation of today's Vertical Combat concept?
Batman is thrust immediately into a boss fight (5-2) against Firebug. Working as Joker's bodyguard, Firebug wants revenge against the Batman for defeating his brother. This horned villain from the comic books conjures six-hundred million degree fireballs, tossing them at Batman while he jumps around the stage rapidly. Firebug is easy enough to defeat, but leads into the final battle with The Joker.
Joker: "Greetings Batbrain - Are you ready to meet your destiny?"
The final confrontation (5-3) pits Batman against The Joker himself. Wearing the trademark purple suit and green hair, The Joker fires powerful bullets from the massive, long pistol he uses in the film before, of course, summoning three lightning bolts. They have to make a boss fight against a mastermind like The Joker more interesting, right? After a tough, strategic battle, Batman knocks The Joker out. He tries to stand, but only manages to fall back down in defeat. Cue the next cutscene.
Batman: "I know you murdered my parents. Now you will dance with the devil in the pale moonlight."
Then throws him off the very top of the belltower. We see The Joker fall from the belltower then a shot of his body alone, underneath a streetlamp before a close up on his smiling face fades to black. Roll credits.
While Batman: The Video Game was ported to numerous systems (including the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive - which is often considered the best version of the game), the NES and Game Boy versions were the only versions released in North America. This was because of Nintendo's strict policies for third-party publishers during the this era. In addition to limiting the number of games a publisher could release per year and heavily moderating the level of questionable content allowed in these games, Nintendo also demanded console exclusivity for released games; a game released on their system was not allowed to be released on a competitor's system. Many publishers got around this by exploiting a loophole that allowed them to license their properties to competing companies to create their own ports of the games (which is why games such as Ninja Gaiden, R-Type and Double Dragon were able to appear on Sega's competing 8-bit system, the Master System - Sega was granted the licenses for these properties and developed these versions themselves), but Batman was already ported and reprogrammed for a Genesis release. With no way to release the game for both systems in North America, Sunsoft chose to release the NES version, most likely because of the system's continued success and install base (the Genesis was not even a year old at the time of Batman's release). However, Mega Drive versions were released in Europe and Japan where Nintendo had no such third-party policies.