For so many years, the thought of a good movie licensed video game created some great laughs. Technology wasn’t as powerful as it is today, but some of those games were inexcusable (Predator on the NES comes to mind) In fact, the most memorable movie licensed game before Batman Returns….was Batman on the NES. In retrospect, both Batman titles shared a few key elements that helped them both become so successful and beloved – mood appropriate visuals, two of the best soundtracks of their respective eras, and a load of entertainment.
While Batman on the NES did not have any music based off the first movie, Batman Returns is filled with some incredibly impressive music based off the movie. Naturally, the Super Nintendo was never capable of fully digitized soundtracks, but the replication of the movie music they provided makes this one of the best 16 bit soundtracks bar none. In fact, the audio in general is very well done. Nothing sounds out of place, and the clarity and ability to distinguish each sound you hear really helps. I’m blown away with how well this sounds not only as a 16 bit title, but as a video game in general.
Batman Returns is also a success visually. With a diverse enough cast of enemies, well detailed and good looking backdrops and adequate animation, your eyes will be nearly as pleased as your ears. Each stage has its own distinct look, with foreground items popping up every so often. Enemies of the same classification usually have no color variation, leading to fighting three of the same colored enemies. While it does seem monotonous on occasions, there are enough enemy variations to offset that.
Like any Final Fight clone, the controls are as basic as they get, while still being quite functional. One addition Batman Returns makes to the control scheme is a button dedicated to throwing baterangs or using your grapple gun. Kind of like how Spider Man and Venom in Maximum Carnage can shoot out their web and trap an enemy for a couple of seconds, Batman can stun his enemy. The grappling hook allows for swinging fly kicks out of spots where you’re surrounded. Everything feels natural and fully functional.
Unfortunately, with all that’s going for Batman Returns, there’s a few things going against it. First has to do with the bosses. Some of them are pushovers, like the second level boss, while other are a huge pain in the neck. Catwoman should not take half my health in one hit. If you don’t have a lot of lives, you will die and use a continue. Also, with no weapon pick ups, you’re relying on Batman’s attacks, baterangs and grappling hook for damage, with the rare screen clearing test tube. Towards the end of the game, you do notice and feel the monotony of it all. It’s still entertaining and a lot of fun, but towards the end, it catches up, and subsequently, hurts the replay value. Finally, while there’s absolutely no good way of doing this, co-op play would add even more entertainment to the package. As it is, it’s one of, if not the best single player only game if the genre, despite feeling worn down towards the end. Some kind of co-op would definitely add an incentive to come back soon after defeating the game.
While successful movie licensed video game are still the butt of many jokes to gamers, there are still the very few that stand tall. Batman Returns might lack the incentive to come back for more right after you beat the game, but between the outstanding soundtrack, detailed graphics and entertaining gameplay, it still remains one of the best Super Nintendo games to be released, and one you will eventually revisit.