Licensed games have had a bad reputation in the industry since… well, since forever. Sure, there is the odd CAPCOM Disney title or the Batman Arkham series, but generally they don’t receive positive receptions. Licensed games that are worth our time do exist, however, and these two classic Batman games are perfect examples: Batman (Sunsoft, NES) and The Adventures of Batman & Robin (Clockwork Tortoise, Genesis). Both these games are fun to play and pushed their respective consoles to new hardware heights. For the references' sake, I’ll refer to the NES game as Batman and the Genesis one as Batman & Robin.

First of all, in keeping with the trend of our Retrolog column, these are not easy games in any way, shape, or form. Batman specifically takes its cues from other games of its time like Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania, Mega Man, and even Super Mario Bros. The Ninja Gaiden influence is most apparent in the game because of a wall jump mechanic that, like Ninja Gaiden, is crucial to the player’s success. Story-wise, it is a side-scrolling platformer based off the Tim Burton film. Plenty of Batman’s enemies appear in the game, such as Deadshot and KGBeast, as well as the more obscure ones, like Shakedown and Killer Moth. Even now, it really is a fun game to play.

It is a solid and well-designed title with some killer presentation. Sunsoft games are legendary for what they have achieved on the NES sound hardware. After reading this, I urge you to get on YouTube and check out some tunes from this game. You will not regret it. Graphically, it is dark and atmospheric just like the Burton film, with some quality pixel art. Sunsoft was one of the most fun and consistent developers of the 8 and 16-bit eras, and their titles demand a larger presence on digital distribution platforms.

Moving on to Batman & Robin. This game does not mess around. Less of a platformer, its closest comparison would be Contra combined with elements from Streets of Rage; essentially a run-and-gun brawler. You throw batarangs as your main weapon for long range attacks and hit enemies with melee attacks at close range. Unlike Batman, it is not based on a movie, but rather the popular animated series of the same name. The usual suspects appear as bosses and the best sections of the game are the boss fights.

Remember what I said about difficulty? This game will punish you. Arguably one of the hardest titles on the Genesis, it will test anyone’s dexterity and reflexes, while at the same time feeling very fun and rewarding. Since the title is The Adventures of Batman & Robin, it is naturally meant to be played in a two-player mode, which was easily my preferred mode of play. The feeling of successfully clearing a difficult game gets even better when you factor in the camaraderie of doing it with someone else.

Presentation is once again a strong point. Batman & Robin pushes the Genesis’s graphics and audio chips at every corner. Take for instance the boss battle against The Mad Hatter – there is a very a slick 3D effect used in the battle that adds a new dimension and dynamic to the game. At the same time, you're running at full speed with The Mad Hatter as the screen fills up with projectiles and other hazards. As far as the music is concerned, it is once again fantastic. The score was composed by a young Jesper Kyd, the composer behind the Assassin’s Creed and Hitman series. I never expected to enjoy techno with my Batman media. Clockwork Tortoise managed to pump out some serious tunes from of the Genesis and the game is acclaimed in the retro scene because of what the developer achieved with the sound hardware.

So, there you have it; two really good Batman titles that you might not have been aware of from two rather obscure developers (Clockwork Tortoise only made two games; this one and the SEGA CD version).  A remake or a digital re-release is something I would really like to see in the future.

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System & SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive
Release: 1990 (NA) & 1995 (NA)
Publisher: Sunsoft/SEGA

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