Batman: The Video Game is a platforming game based on the 1989 Tim Burton-directed superhero movie of the same name. The plot loosely follows that of the film and stars titular protagonist Batman as he fights to rescue photojournalist Vicki Vale and liberate Gotham City from the Joker and his army of villainous henchmen. Sunsoft developed and published three distinct versions of the game between 1989 and 1992 for NES, Game Boy and Genesis; a common practice for licensed games of the era. While all three versions of Batman share some similarities in terms of story and basic platforming, each iteration features unique graphics, sound, gameplay mechanics and level designs.
The Nintendo Entertainment System saw Sunsoft's initial release of Batman: The Video Game in late December 1989 in Japan, with North American and European releases the following year.
A prototype version of the NES release was featured in the September/October 1989 issue of Nintendo Power magazine. The unreleased prototype included cutscenes drawn in a style reminiscent of the Batman comic books of the era, whereas the game's retail release added redrawn scenes and characters that more closely resemble those of the film. The Nintendo Power preview also depicts 1-Up items which are not present in the final NES version.
The player uses the directional pad to move Batman through each stage. Pressing Down makes Batman duck, which is useful for avoiding projectiles or attacking low-lying enemies. The B button causes Batman to throw a basic punch or fire his equipped weapon, and the A button is used to jump. Tapping A performs a short hop, while holding the button down allows players to jump much higher. Batman can also use his wall jump ability to reach even greater heights or bypass sections of certain stages; mastering this ability becomes critical in the game's later stages in order to progress. Pressing the Start button allows Batman to switch between his selected weapons, whereas the Select button pauses the game.
Batman begins the game with three lives and eight units of health per life. Touching an enemy or its projectiles causes Batman to lose a single unit of health. When players deplete their entire stock of lives, they receive a game over and are prompted to either continue from the beginning of the current sub-stage or end their game.
- Fists: Batman throws punches as his default method of attack, which can destroy most enemies in only a few hits. Unlike Batman's other selectable weapons, punching does not consume ammunition, but his melee range is severely limited.
- Batarang: A mid-range boomerang weapon thrown straight ahead that quickly returns to Batman's location. It consumes one unit of ammo per throw and is capable of multiple strikes against a single enemy with proper use.
- Spear Gun: This weapon consumes two units of ammo per shot. It fires projectiles straight ahead that can travel across the full length of the screen, making the Spear Gun well-suited for long-range attacks.
- Dirk: An unusual weapon that fires three disc-shaped projectiles that travel straight ahead across the screen. The Dirk consumes three units of ammo per shot and is useful against enemies that stay low to the ground, such as sliding mines.
- Bonus Item: Adds 1,000 points to the player's high score.
- Pellet Item: Replenishes ten units of ammo, which is shared between all weapons.
- Heart Item: Restores one of Batman's eight hit points.
- Shakedown and Maxiezeus: Standard fodder enemies that run straight towards Batman and appear at least once per stage.
- Mobile Tracker: A small robot fitted with spikes that slowly patrols in certain areas. Its speed increases while Batman stands nearby on the same platform.
- Heatwave: Stationary henchmen that attack intermittently with flamethrowers. They're often encountered on narrow platforms or vertically-oriented passages.
- Deadshot: Another stationary enemy that occasionally takes a single shot at Batman with his pistol.
- Mobile Home Mine: A mobile proximity mine that quickly slides across the ground when Batman gets close. It can be evaded by jumping; players can also destroy these mines from a distance with Dirks.
- The Enforcer: A jetpack-equipped enemy that guards the rooftops in Stage 1-2. He fires a machine gun at Batman while hovering around, but a few well-placed Batarangs can make short work of him.
- K.G. Beast: A unique ninja enemy that only appears once at the end of Stage 1-2. When first encountered, this enemy is reclining against a wall, giving Batman a chance to defeat the ninja quickly before he reacts.
- Nightslayer: Slow-moving henchmen equipped with massive claws on their arms that appear in Stages 2 and 4. By striking quickly, Batman can eliminate them at close range.
- Javelin: Introduced in the second stage, this stationary device repeatedly extends its long, spear-like arm toward players. While relatively easy to destroy, these can become a serious obstacle in jumping-focused areas.
- Drop Claw: Another stationary enemy mounted on ceilings. It regularly dispenses small mines that drop to the floor and track towards Batman.
- Jader: These large mutant enemies are biological weapons developed by Joker with impressive leaping abilities. Fast and difficult to dodge, they can also absorb significant damage from Batman's weapons.
- EEV: Encountered in Stages 3 and 5, these goon-controlled mini-tanks fire large projectiles at players from long range.
- Rail Runner: Robotic enemies appearing briefly in Stage 4. Mounted on a horizontal rail, it travels left-to-right while trying to crash into Batman.
The NES version of Batman: The Video Game consists of five total Stages, each of which is split into two or more sub-stages. Batman must defeat the boss at the end of each Stage to proceed.
Stage 1: Gotham City
After the game's opening cutscene featuring the Batmobile, Batman hits the mean streets of Gotham City, fighting the Joker's low-level goons as he passes through Gotham's deserted downtown district. The Stage's second area takes place among several high-rise buildings and introduces players to the concept of wall jumping. A crafty ninja called K.G. Beast waits for Batman near the end of this area to challenge the Caped Crusader before he can proceed to Stage 1's boss fight.
Batman encounters the first boss, Killer Moth, at the front steps of Gotham City Hall. This flying foe swoops around the screen and fires blue projectiles in a fan-shaped pattern. Following his defeat, another cutscene plays showing the Batmobile shooting its way through a metal shutter with mounted machine guns.
Stage 2: Axis Chemical Factory
Batman enters the Joker's hideout at Axis Chemicals, the source of the poison gas that Joker plans to unleash during Gotham's bicentennial parade. According to the game's instruction manual, the factory's first section is filled with toxic green "gluk," an acidic substance that quickly saps Batman's health upon contact. A series of small platforms above the hazardous slime serves as the means to cross safely, provided players can also dodge the gluk droplets falling from above. Electrified walls and floors are positioned throughout the factory's second area, many of which require carefully-timed wall jumps in order to prevent a nasty shock. In the final area, Batman has to cross a series of several conveyor belts while also avoiding Drop Claw mines and dangerous spinning gears.
At the end of Stage 2, Batman faces off with the "Machine Intelligence System," a completely mechanical boss consisting of four separate weak points that must be destroyed in succession while dealing with additional conveyor belts. Once the machine's core is destroyed, a short cutscene depicting Joker firing his pistol at the screen is shown.
Stage 3: Underground Conduit
After shutting down Axis Chemicals, the Dark Knight drops into a series of sewer tunnels where he is ambushed by several dangerous Jader enemies. Much of the first section of this Stage is half-flooded and contains exposed spinning turbines that must be avoided. In the second area, the flowing water changes to a bright green color as it spills down into a large chamber. Batman must make his way to the bottom of this room, dealing with additional enemies and turbines before wall-jumping up a narrow passage leading to the third sub-stage, a reddish-colored cavern. The large cavern area contains a few armored EEV mini-tanks that can strike at players from long range. After dismantling the tanks, players must scale a very cramped vertical shaft filled with Heatwave enemies and wall-mounted shredders before finally reaching Stage 3's boss.
Electrocutioner is equipped with a massive claw capable of generating large crescent-shaped blasts of energy. During their battle, Batman must utilize his wall-jump to reach higher ground; he can't avoid Electrocutioner's devastating energy attacks otherwise. Unfortunately, this boss is also very agile and will leap up to strike while players stand on the upper platforms. Defeating the electrified terror leads to another short cutscene where the Joker invites Batman to view his "latest work of art".
Stage 4: Laboratory Ruins
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 several 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.
Stage 5: 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.