Friday, July 27, 2012

Blasts from the Past: Batman Returns

Final Fight fight knockoff? Or slightly unoriginal, but good licensed game?

Until very recently (starting with the Dark Knight) every Batman movie that came out always had a video game tie-in follow it up, however UNLIKE recent examples of movie tie-ins, most of these games were slightly above average or even...good. Now it also seems that each game's quality is relative to the critical reception of movie its based on, so its pretty easy to tell which games are worth owning and which ones should join E.T. in that New Mexico landfill. But for arguement's sake lets take a look at them.

Watch the movie...seriously this game pretty much just follows the movie's plot word for word...oh okay I'll provide a brief synopsis. After being abandoned by his parents as a child and left for dead, Oswald Cobblepot AKA The Penguin has decided to take revenge on the city of Gotham, and is wrecking havoc with his army of circus performers and its up to Batman to stop him. There thats all you need to know, GO WATCH THE MOVIE!

Art Design

The graphics are nicely detailed, and have that same early Tim Burton darkness to them that we loved in the Batman films. However the locations are unvaried and rather boring as most levels are just different streets and alley-ways, with the occasional indoor stage. Danny Elfman's musical score from the movie also appears in this game and makes the transition flawlessly into 16-bit, but the main bit of audio you'll be remembering is the impact sounds from Batman's punches, especially from knocking an enemy down, or slamming them with a throw; it sounds weird and incredibly bass heavy, but its also oddly satisfying as it makes each of Batman's attacks sound incredibly painful.

From the second you begin the game it looks and plays EXACTLY like Final Fight, however once you get to the second part of Scene 1 then you'll see that the game is not a complete "ripoff". The game is comprised of two major gameplay segments; Beat-em-up, and Run-n-Gun, with a one scene driving sequence near the end of the game.

The beat-em-up parts will feel very familiar to fans of Final Fight as it has the same basic layout as Final Fight with Batman able to move in eight directions, and battling waves of enemies to advance throughout the level. You've got your basic punch combo, jump attack, a grab move to slam your enemies into the ground (producing that oh-so satisfying impact sound), a blocking move to reduce damage and prevent knockback, and of a course a useless spin move that costs a fraction of your health to use. However the twist here is that Batman has brought along his arsonal of gadgetry (okay three things) to aid him in combat. You can swap between the Batarang which stuns enemies Legend of Zelda style, and his grappling hook which can be used to delivera powerful crowd-clearing kick at the cost of some health as well (meaning you'll never use it either). And finally Batman also has a stash of test tubes filled with an explosive chemical that can be thrown to clear the entire screen of enemies and heavily damage bosses, and the best part is that you start every level with three of these babies!

 The second gameplay focus is the 2D Run n Gun/platforming segments in which you can only throw Batman's batarang in semi-rapid succession to defeat enemies, however the grappling hook is used in this mode to cross chasms thus earning it quite a bit more use than in the Beat-em-up segments. The platforming can be a bit wonky though and often lead to some frustrating moments (like the burning mall) Test tubes can also still be used in this mode (and you'll be burning quite a lot). And finally there is the driving sequence near the end of the game. All you do is shoot/dodge enemies and is really easy, nuff said!

Boss fights are encountered in both modes, but are relatively similar in practice. Most are just an age-old gaming strategy of attack pattern recognition and waiting for the right moment to strike, you will definitely die quite a few times initially as you learn each boss' patterns (especially on Catwoman)  but with patience and careful timing you can pull through rather easily (EXCEPT ON CATWOMAN!).

As with any other beat-em-up/run-n-gun you gain points as you defeat enemies, and after acquiring a certain amount you will gain an extra life, however should you lose them all you only have three continues before getting sent back to Stage 1-1. Fortunately this game is rather fair in its difficulty without being excessively frustrating, in fact I'd say that this game is far more forgiving than other games like Final Fight, Streets of Rage, or Maximum Carnage. In short, this game IS beatable, it just takes a little mastery to do so.


While some may call foul on the similarties to the other dime-a-dozen Final Fight knock-offs I genuinely believe this to be a great licensed game. Sure its a little unoriginal as it takes elements from these games, but it manages to give the player a fun experience without making them pull their hair out trying to win (EXCEPT FOR CATWOMAN!). It is definitely part of a long line of great Batman games and of course it gets my seal of approval. If you still have an SNES, definitely pick this game up from a used game-store or online store.

A bit unoriginal, but still a dang good licensed game.

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