Retro Review: Batman Returns (1993)

Thanks to the folks at RetroAchivements I’ve been inspired to relive some of the classic games of my childhood and this modern day reviewing of the classic SNES/Sega is hopefully the first in a long series.

I remembered Batman Returns being extremely difficult for my young thumbs and becoming one of the first games that gave me thought of throwing a controller straight threw my TV screen. Although in the early-to-mid-90’s the cheap plastic of a NES controller would bounce right off the tube. After 20 years of gaming under my belt I thought I could jump straight into “Mania Mode” (the hardest difficulty setting). Boy was I wrong. With 7 lives per continue, and 3 continues; I barely made it to the end of the third stage. Catwoman would be my downfall.

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See what I mean? Such a bitch.

I dropped the difficulty setting to Normal thinking I could at least make it through the game and it shouldn’t be much of a challenge. In the modern generation of gaming I excel where most gamers fail. Halo SLASO is a breeze for me but I often forget the rewarding feeling of just finishing a game on the earlier consoles. Times were simpler then.

While playing the game for review purposes; I stayed away from save states and cheating is for pathetic slobs. So forgive me for harping on the difficulty but seriously, it’s effing insane! Even on normal I made it the end of the third stage to be turned into mince meat by The Penguin and his onslaught of umbrellas. Granted, this review is just a first assumption. Now that I’ve learned the first three stages I will revisit them in the near future, hopefully making it to the end of the forth stage. If I’m lucky.

Besides the difficulty, this was a great game when it was released but I really don’t think it stands to the test of time. Being the third console Batman game; I remember this one standing out on several levels. The graphics were good for the SNES, and they’re good now. Beyond the 16bit sprites, this game could easily be ported to a more a recent console and I doubt anyone would complain.

The soundtrack is where this game really shines. Stuck to midi sounds, it’s dark, intense, and downright amazing. So good I had to embed it in this review. Let the music speak for itself:

As good as the graphics and soundtrack are, and how frustrating the difficulty can be; the originality and story of this game are where the game feels like a Super Nintendo game. The story line is as follows; You’re Batman. You’re trying to stop basic Gotham villains (Catwoman & The Penguin primarily) and there’s 100+ generic thugs in your way. I know for 1993, you can’t expect much beyond generic thugs in a beat ’em up game but it’s hard to believe they put any thought in it. It’s normal for Bruce Wayne to beat up clowns but that’s usually only when they’re following commands of The Joker. The game does feature other enemies such as the Sword Swallower (Sword S.) and other goons from the movie of the same name. What I don’t remember from the 1992 film is the amount of clowns Batman has to face. They’re the primarily enemies here. Thin Clowns, Fat Clowns, Fire Clowns, and Tall Clowns all stand in your way of the real challenge which is the spammy bosses. Not only are the bosses spamming the same 2 moves over and over, but with more than 4 thugs on the screen it’s a piece of cake to get trapped in a corner between a Fat Clown teabagging your face midair, and Thin Clown throwing a cheap punch when you stand up. This takes me back the days when friends’ other brothers had Mortal Kombat “mastered” by leg-sweeping you into the corner until they preformed the only Fatality they knew. Cheap bastards.

All in all, Batman Returns really does live up to the modern age. Granted the difficulty will offend new generations to come, and the jump-down-kick move that made any beat ’em up easy doesn’t work here; which will make older generations stutter in their cocky boots. With the soundtrack pumping you up, it won’t feel so bad when Catwoman rushes off screen to spam with unblockable spin kicks. At least until you realized you’ve ran out of all 21 lives in the 30 seconds.