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Review by The Every Gamer (October 2016)
Score: C- (3/5)
NANANANANANANANANANANANANANANANA BLACK PANTHEEEEEEEER…oh wait, I meant BATMAAAAAAAAN! Let’s talk about Batman: The Dark Knight, probably one of my favourite superheroes when done right, he is so awesome he made Batman vs. Superman worth the watch (almost). I would talk a-many about the Bat Crusader, but you all know who he is, so let’s talk about Batman in the late 80’s.
After the success of the comic book The Dark Knight Returns, I guess Warner Bros. felt comfortable making a dark superhero movie starring Batman, and Tim Burton was in charge of directing it. When it came to the marketing of the movie, it was astonishing for the time, something that would be done today for superhero movies. I mean, it’s Batman, coming in from the campy days of the 60’s and getting a new life of breath for the mainstream audience by making a much darker movie. The movie was and still is pretty good…though it’s been awhile since I watched it, but when I was a child, it would always be on. All right, enough nostalgia, back to the subject. When it came to merchandising, the cash was flowing and Jack Nicholson made gangbusters by making a darn good deal and of course, games were made.
But which one shall I review, eh? The NES version? Nah! The Sega Mega Drive version? Already reviewed that one. The Game Boy version where he shoots his enemies with a gun? Nah! I know! How about the one port that most people have barely even heard of, and for good reason; Batman for the PC Engine, developed by Sunsoft, published by NEC, and released in 1990 in Japan only. So the game was not worth releasing outside of Japan, not even in the US for the Turbografx-16. Strange considering that Batman was a worldwide hit so I don’t know why it wasn’t released in the west (minus Europe because the console wasn’t really an official thing here).
So the plot is basically the movie, highly summarised since it really doesn’t matter so long as you’re playing as Batman.
The objective of the game is for Batman to…collect things in a maze similar to Pac-Man, whilst defeating enemies with Batarangs. You can also collect power-ups to make you faster, better, stronger but unfortunately not smarter. There are five sets of worlds, Gotham City, Fluegelheim Museum, Axis Chemical Factory, Gotham City (again) and The Cathedral. In Gotham City, you collect Joker’s dangerous chemicals. In Fluegelheim Museum, you clean paintings. In Gotham City (again), you cut the cords of Joker’s balloons. And The Cathedral…YOU FIGHT TWO HENCHMEN BEFORE FINALLY BEATING THE JOKER IN A BEAT ‘EM UP TYPE GAME WHERE YOU ONLY USE YOUR BATARANGS FOR ATTACKS!!! I mean, why couldn’t the entire game be like that? I think that was the best part of the game. Instead, you have to slog through the entire title to get there.
Power-ups include the…Bat Boots, which will let you walk faster. Bat Logos will let you throw Batarangs rapidly. Multiple-Bats will let you throw more Batarangs. The Clock will extend time. Bomb will wipe out all the enemies on-screen. Star will make you invincible for a short period of time. Joker will cause you to lose all the power-ups you collected so far. And the L icon…erm…what does that do again?
The rest of the game is OK, but it gets highly repetitive, even when you do different objectives in different worlds, the gameplay remains the same, and the only difficulty is that some enemies run fast, even to the point where they’re near you and you just did something and you don’t have the time to use your Batarang and you die. You only have 2 lives in the game, and after that, it’s Game Over, but thankfully, you can continue from the level you died in, so YES to infinite continues and YES to putting this down after 30 minutes because you just played the entire game on loop, but that’s how I feel.
The graphics are good, but it doesn’t feel like the movie; in fact, it feels like a darker version of the 60’s TV series with a goofy-looking Batman and goofy-looking villains. The level design is OK at best; because what can you do with a maze game? …as in the entire game is a maze game, an amalgamation of Pac-Man and Bomberman. The music is eh…though there are some tracks from the NES port of Batman, borrowing from the best, eh? Then again, the NES port was also developed by Sunsoft.
Overall, Batman for the PC Engine is below average for me, if you’re looking for high-octane Bat-action, look elsewhere. The game is fun for a very short time before it gets dull very fast, but the difficulty can creep up on you so if you’re looking for that. I guess you could try it out. I don’t know, but I think I know why this wasn’t released outside of Japan, because any child with a Turbografx-16 who had this game would have been sorely disappointed compared to someone with even an NES having the much better game.
You can get it on the PC Engine.