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Batman: Return of the Joker Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Rating: 71%
  1. 1988
  2. 1989
  3. 1990
  4. 1991
  5. 1992
Batman: Return of the Joker
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Batman: Return of the Joker Batman: Return of the Joker Batman: Return of the Joker
  • Review Score:

  • B
The Joker is back and this time it's going to take a bigger, stronger and tougher Batman to send him scurrying to Arkham Asylum. Good thing that's what you get in Batman: Return of the Joker, SunSoft's pseudo-sequel to their 1989 classic. Without a movie license to worry about, SunSoft is able to provide a more ambitious adventure full of brutal action. But is it more fun? That's certainly up for debate.

Batman: Return of the Joker is SunSoft telling the world they've mastered the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. Using every trick they can think of (including parallax scrolling backgrounds, transparent foregrounds, large sprites, etc.), this 1991 game is SunSoft showing off. This is a company ready for a new challenge; ready for 16-bit consoles.

Batman: Return of the Joker (NES)

Early on this "sequel" looks more like a Castlevania game than a Batman outing. You're fighting through what looks like a time-worn castle, the type that may rise out of the ground every one hundred years. Before long you're whisked away to a zeppelin, then a 2D shoot-em-up stage, a frozen wonderland, a speeding train, elevators, the sewer and so on so forth. Batman has a full trip ahead of him as he tracks down the Joker.

Return of the Joker strives to be a bigger and more ambitious Batman game, much to the sacrifice of the tone and atmosphere. I may see Batman on screen, but that doesn't mean that this feels like a Batman game. There are multiple moments that feel complete detached from the source material, such as Bats fighting a tank. Worse yet, the game concludes with our hero fighting the Joker in a giant mech suit. Sure giant mech suits are great in video games, but I have a hunch that's not what Bob Kane envisioned when creating Batman.

While it has little to nothing to do with the overall quality of the game, I am a little disappointed SunSoft rehired the Joker. Although he's a great villain, much of what makes him so memorable is lost on the video game screen. Plus, this was their time to use one of the countless other villains in Batman's library. This would have been a much more interesting game had it featured the Scarecrow, Two Face, the Riddler, Poison Ivy or Calendar Man. Okay, maybe not Calendar Man.

The graphics are incredible, some of the best 8-bit graphics you'll ever see. As I said, this is SunSoft showing off. The bosses are enormous, the levels are full of the smallest details, there are special effects in nearly every screen and the animation is a sight to behold. It's no wonder SunSoft bragged that it looked as good as a 16-bit game, because in 1991 it looked exactly like your average Genesis cartridge.

Batman: Return of the Joker (NES)

While the visuals are sharp, I found the gameplay to be a little loose. I love the wide assortment of new weapons, but at times this felt more like a shooter than a Batman game. Plus, the homing attacks take some of the challenge out of the product. Even with a dozen stages to play through, a dedicated player can see the ending in around twenty minutes. It may be brief, but it looks good the whole way through.

Batman: Return of the Joker is a fun action game, but a mismatched Batman experience. SunSoft could have just as easily turned this into a G.I Joe game, all it would take is removing the main character and one or two bosses. It's a visual tour de force and an adventure worth going on, even if it is all too brief. Don't let the Joker get away with using a mech suit. That's lame on so many different levels.
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