Welcome to Level 1. Every Thursday we are going to look at a random game's very first level. It doesn't matter what kind of game it is or what system it's for, we're here to dissect the game's first level and see what it tells us about the rest of the game. I promise you an eye-opening experience in each episode! This week we rush to the cave and put on our rubber suits, because we're talking about Batman! But this isn't just any Batman, it's Batman on the NES ... also known as the first good Batman game. What could this game teach us about love and life? Not much, but we do figure out what's going on in the first level in this brand new episode of Level 1!
[ Release: 1990 - Console: Nintendo Entertainment System ]
Last year Eidos Interactive wowed skeptical comic book fans by releasing the first must-own Batman game in more than a decade. Batman: Arkham Asylum was not only one of last year's very best games, but it also set a new high water mark for what a comic-based video game should strive to be. Of course, Arkham Asylum was hardly the first Batman game to hit the home consoles. In the past 25 years we've seen dozens of terrible Caped Crusader titles, from Dark Tomorrow to Rise of Sin Tzu to the dreadful Batman Begins game.
For this week's episode of Level 1 we wanted to take you back to the very first must-own Batman game, an NES game that still holds up as a great playing 2D action game. Loosely based on the movie, this Sunsoft game has you tracking down the Joker and saving Gotham City ... for now. Although some of the levels are reminiscent of the hugely popular Tim Burton film, Sunsoft took so many liberties with the story (and bosses) that this might as well be based on a comic book. Join us as we see just how different this game is from the blockbuster movie when we play Level 1 of Batman!
TheLevel 1-1 - City Streets:
Who am I, you ask? You really want to know who I am? Well, I'm Cyril Lachel ... also known as Batman! I patrol the nights in a giant rubbery suit looking for criminals and giving children the world over good ideas for Halloween costumes. Today I'm
Batman - Level 1 Cinema
going to ignore that Batman was played by Weakling McWimpy (Michael Keaton) and focus on the fact that I'm Batman. How can I tell? Simple, because I hate criminals and I stay up all night. Granted, usually I'm staying up at night playing video games in my underwear, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm Batman!
As I enter the first half of the first level I'm reminded about this memorable location straight out of the movie. No wait ... that's not right. I don't actually recognize this specific street from the movie. There's a movie theater, I guess that's something
Batman - City Streets
from the movie. And the overall tone seems somewhat similar to what we saw in the motion picture. But this could be any street, there's nothing about this level that screams "GOTHAM CITY!!" Well, there are the rushing bad guys, but this could be Detroit as far as I'm concerned.
I'm not sure where I'm going, but I walk by the movie theater and take on some crouching bad guys with flame throwers. Then I punch a couple of guys getting ready to shoot me with their handguns. And then ... hey, is this ANOTHER theater? How many theaters does one street need? I know this Batman movie is popular, but we don't need two theaters showing it
Batman - City Streets
mere feet from one another. Instead of a place to watch movies, perhaps it could have been a community stage where teenagers stumble through half-assed versions of A Christmas Carol. On second thought, it's probably best that we have a second theater to show such cinema gems as Lethal Weapon 2, Licensed to Kill and Star Trek V.
Level 1-2 - The Factory:
Somehow I stumble my way into the second part of the level, an indoor factory with the same group of nameless thugs. As I fight off the near infinite enemy assault, I spend a few minutes getting used to my wonderful toys. I may not get to drive the Batmobile, but at least I have
Batman - The Factory
a choice of several weapons (which I awkwardly select via the start button). One of my attacks allows me to throw baterangs, while another weapon throws three large discs at the enemy thugs. Both seem to take down my point meter, so I'm constantly trying to find items to pick up so I don't run out of ammo. Don't ask me out it works; I'm Batman, not a game developer.
This factory level is important for two reasons. The first is a flying gunman, foreshadowing for what is to come. The other is because we are introduced to the coolest villain in this entire game. He's a ninja that comes late in the level. While all of these other bad guys throw caution to the wind and run straight at me, this ninja is staying cool leaning up against the background. It's as if he's finishing his cigarette before he
Batman - The Factory
decides whether he wants to kill me or not. Except for the part where he tried to kill me and cut me with his sword, he seemed like a perfectly nice guy. It's a shame this guy wasn't in the Batman movie, he could have carried the whole picture. After sending him to Ninja Heaven, I exit the factory door and come face to face with the first level boss.
Boss - Flying Beetle Man:
Hey ... who the hell is this guy? Not only do I not recognize him from the comic books (hence my guessing at his name), but he's also nowhere to be found in the Tim Burton movie. What he is seems to be a flying man in armor that resembles
Batman - Boss - Flying Beetle Man
a beetle. It's hardly the most flattering shape, but I suppose that second of vanity is outweighed by the fact that he can fly and throw fireballs. I'm sure that I would give up vanity for the ability to fly about and turn random strangers into charcoals. I can't imagine anything going wrong with that kind of power.
What we have here is some protestor flying around outside the City Hall. Despite being only one man in a dorky suit, it's up to Batman to finish the fight. What, City Hall couldn't come up with a half dozen guards with a really big net to take this guy down? If you can't protect City Hall, then what can you do? Thankfully this boss is new to a life of crime, something that is demonstrated by the fact that he flies in a predictable pattern and
Batman - Level 2
throws fireballs that are easily avoidable. After only a few minutes I take down the Flying Beetle Man and move on to the next questionably relevant level. I find myself troubled by the fact that I wasted my time fighting a guy who isn't even mentioned in a comic book. Batman sure has let his standards slip.
What Have We Learned Today?
Today we learned that it doesn't matter if they use locations from the movie, just as long as I'm playing as Batman I'm happy. That also goes for brand new characters, original moves, flying bad guys, a boss we've never heard of and anything else that has absolutely nothing to do with the Tim Burton blockbuster. If you were to strip away every element that has nothing to do with the movie, you would find a shell of a batsuit standing in front of a black background with the sounds of the Joker cackling somewhere in the distance. You may get a cinema that explains the link to the movie, but what you're doing is playing a game based on the spirit of
Hey Joker, look out for the street below ... never mind!
this superhero movie. Thankfully that's enough to sustain this game, our hero won't be so lucky the next time around.
What Did We Miss?
Eventually this NES game merges with the basic plot of the movie, ultimately taking us to the top of a bell tower where you must kill the Joker. It's here that we learn that the Joker is killed by falling to his death, which seems to be a popular way to go in this kind of film. That's
exactly how Two Face was taken out in The Dark Knight and countless other superhero films use this cliche to off their villains. This is ideal, since it keeps the blood off of the hero's hands. Pushing the guy off a building isn't the same as sticking your hand in some poor dude's chest and ripping out his still-beating heart. Boy, that's the kind of death I would have liked to have seen in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Anyway, the point is that by only playing the first level we missed the point where the game and the movie start to line up.
What Dick Grayson Says:
"Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods, Batman! I hate how this game makes you look like a robot from the future sent to kill a clone army. You deserve so much more. Forget this Michael Keaton character, the only good Batman was played by Adam West. It's a shame this game doesn't even attempt to be realistic. If they wanted to show it how it really is they would add colorful words like "POW" and "OOF" when Batman is punching these thugs. This isn't the Batman I remember, and I think each and every one of you should be disappointed in yourself for encouraging this sort of thing!"