The site has become a bit Capcom heavy, so I am going to try upping the Konami output for the month with Konami Month.
I had been working on the assumption that all Batman games were a bag of wank until the Arkham series, but after having the game suggested to me on Reddit and Twitter as a decent beat ’em up, I thought I’d don the cape, and pretend I know what is happening in Gotham.
Well, Batman Returns is a beat ’em up, you walk left to right, and punch things till they’re dead. It lacks co-op mode, which makes sense, as you can’t have two Batmen (and there was no Robin in the film), so Batman Returns plays like the Final Fight SNES port. HUGE detailed sprites, a tonne of detail from the film , and with a combat system that is surprisingly deep for 16bit beat ’em up.
Combat is fairly simple, in that you press “Y” to do your attacks, but if you press “A”you will throw a batarang at the enemies, allowing you to restart your standard 3 punch combo. Like other games such as Streets of Rage, you can grab, punch and throw in order to string longer, more powerful combos together. As well as a special attack that drains your health.
Each Scene (level) will feature your standard beat ’em up plane with psuedo-3d movement, but it will mix things up by throwing in a fixed plane standard mario jobby partway through the level. It doesn’t sound like much, but it allows for some decent platforming sections.
A few other beat ’em ups such as Double Dragon 2 tried Platforming, but sucked balls at it. Batman Returns does a great job on the platforming, and never over does it. The switch to a standard 2d plane means you’re not missing platforms due to poor depth perception, and feels more natural for the plauer. Although, it can be a bit fiddly the first time you do the grappling hook section.
On top of all that, you get a level in the Batmobile, using a vertical shoot ’em up style gameplay. Again, this offers a nice variety to the gameplay, and it plays better than other dedicated shooters such as Starwing.
All this means Batman Returns packs a lot into the game, there is more going on here than in “better” games such as Turtles in Time.
The game follows the film so if you know the film, you know the game. If you haven’t seen the film; you’re attacked by members of the Red Triangle Circus Gang, the enemies losely resemble the henchmen in the game and you’ll be treated to an abridged Shreck/Salena Kyle, Catwoman/Penguin storylines.
Fans of the film may even notice that a lot of the game scenes have been lined up to the movie footage. This doesn’t happen in every scene, but most of the key scenes are replicated in game, as well as cutscene renders from the film into the game..
The difficulty does feel a little bit off. The standard level enemies are all fair, you’ll take some damage, but it is usually when you have been a bit slack or not timed your attack well enough. But the bosses are weird. Both Catwoman fights on level 3 and 4 are insanely hard the first few times you play, and are the hardest fights in the game. Level 4 sees you fight Catwoman, and then the Penguin, which kind of fits the movie, but means the hardest fight is halfway through the game. The easiest boss fights are level 5 and 6, and the final showdown with Penguin is easier than the first Penguin fight.
So it is very strange to have a beat ’em up peak that early in the game. If you can get passed the level 4 boss, you’ll be in cruise control until the end, meaning the last 15-20 minutes can drag on subsequent playthroughs.
The music is bad ass.
Go listen to it. [YouTube link]
Batman Returns is a fairly solid beat ’em up. It doesn’t quite scale the heights of Turtles in Time, but the variety in gameplay, and the depth of the combat makes it one of the better games in the genre. It does lack multiplayer, and it does lack some replayability due to the bizarre difficulty curve. But overall, it is worth a play. At around 50 minutes for a run and less than £20 on eBay it is fairly accessible to anyone interested.
Pros: Music is pretty badass, solid fighting, I’M BATMAN! Punching a rubber duck, straight up murdering people as the Batman!
Cons: Game peaks halfway through, no two player