There's absolutely no reason why SunSoft's Batman should be good. The game was released only a few months after the Tim Burton movie, had very little to do with the blockbuster and was competing against the amazing visuals of the company's own 16-bit Sega Genesis game. Couple that with the fact that most movie games are utter trash and you have a recipe for a truly awful time. But there's something about this 8-bit Batman game that defies all logic. Not only is this one of the best Batman games ever made, but it's one of the best 8-bit games ever made.
You know the story, Batman is on a mission to defeat the Joker. Our masked superhero travels through sewers, back alleys and art museums in order to track down this cartoon menace. Before long the Joker kidnaps Bruce Wayne's girlfriend (Vicki Vale) and the race is off. The game does a good job of retelling the story of the 1989 movie, even if you're only getting the Crib's Notes version.
The truth is, this Batman game has very little to do with the actual Batman movie. While you fight through locations that resemble things you saw on the silver screen, you're battling a group of bad guys that seem out of place at best. There are weird mutated creatures, guys with flame throwers and other creepy characters that have nothing to do with the movie. The boss battles have you beating up a giant computer for no reason at all. I don't remember that from the movie. In fact, it's not until the very end of the game that you start to see hints of the movie. Even the game's cinemas don't feel like they are out of the movie.
But i don't mind all that. What SunSoft created may not feel like the movie, but it's certainly a lot of fun. The gameplay is straight out of Ninja Gaiden. You have your basic attack (punching) and three extra weapons you can cycle through at any time. These weapons include the batarang, a batdisk and a bat speargun. Each of these weapons costs a certain amount of points, so you will constantly be forced to collect weapon pellets.
It's in the actual gameplay where this game feels the most like Ninja Gaiden. Not only do Batman and Ryu Hayabusa move in similar manner, but both characters can jump off of the walls. This wall jumping is not just a throw-away gimmick, the level designs throw all kinds of traps and perilous situations your way, all of which can be avoided after you've mastered the wall jump. It's the combination of the special attacks and the wall jumping that make this game so much fun to play.
Unfortunately the game isn't as long as I would have wanted. You get a chance to fight through most of the set pieces from the movie, but an experienced player can blast through it in a couple of hours. It's nowhere near as long or involved as some of the other 2D games of the era, specifically Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man. Like all of those games mentioned, Batman is a difficult game that can often times be frustrating beyond belief.
Batman is not a perfect game by any means, but it takes the source material and turns it into a phenomenal action game. Like the movie it's based on, Batman manages to hold up even if it still feels dated. It's hard not to chuckle when the Joker says all of his signature phrases. It may be cheesy, but I still love it.