Batman: Return of the Joker, the Dark Knight’s definitive video game in 8 bits
Batman’s video game legacy is as overwhelming as it is extraordinary. The DC Comics Batman not only has a long history on PC and consoles, but also spectacular depth. It’s not a perfect path, of course, but it’s powerful enough to establish a chair. And among all the great Dark Knight games, Batman: Return of the Joker on NES marks a before and after. His way of filling the screen with pure action is still masterful three decades later.
A really late game in Nintendo’s bountiful 8-bit catalog with a SNES and a Mega Drive, already running at full capacity around the world. Of course, Sunsoft not only wanted to compete with the 16-bit consoles from the NES, but also managed to make Batman: Return of the Joker a timeless game. Mischievously exploiting the slipstream of Tim Burton’s films and ’90s Batmanism, but also finding its own identity as a video game from the get-go. Capture the player from level 1-1.
Because unlike the equally outstanding adaptation of the Batman film from 1989, which Sunsoft released on the NES a few years earlier, Batman: Return of the Joker was neither based on Warner’s success nor did it have any ties to the sequel that was being filmed appear a year later. And yet he knew how to bring the best of each Dark Knight adaptation to his field to create something extraordinary.
And there’s no denying that Batman: Return of the Joker is one of the graphic blankets of the NES, with huge and very detailed sprites for the hardware that moved them, challenging scenarios, full of life and with finishes rare in this one Almost released console can be seen a decade earlier. And despite the previous two factors, which are no small feat, an absolute respect for the DC Comics character’s aesthetic signature.
Batman: Return of the Joker happily picked what interested him from movies, comics, classic animated series and Batman’s previous adventures on the NES (the official video game of Tim Burton’s film) to create a hard-hitting action title that’s fun and utterly faithful to the original Character. With lots of good ideas and an unforgettable soundtrack. Elements that combine to create one of the best games released on the iconic Nintendo desktop.
In fact, of course, no great action game can excel without a final boss to match. And that of Batman: Return of the Joker is not only exceptional, but also features exclusively in the main image of the game itself.
The Joker puts Gotham City on the ropes again
The bat signal lights up the Gotham skies again. After investigating the disappearance of minerals containing a highly toxic and explosive composition, the city police are paralyzed when they discover the identity of the person responsible: the Joker, the clown prince of crime, has returned.
The Joker’s new plan, as only the Batman: Return of the Joker instruction manual suggests, is to coat a series of rockets with this dangerous mineral and finally destroy Gotham and its denizens. A Machiavellian revenge committed by a sick mind.
Luckily, the preventative treatment to prevent the debacle has its own name: Batman.
Compared to the Joker’s twisted vendetta, the Caped Crusader’s plan is simple enough, but even more effective: smash his way through the city until he finds his nemesis’ base of operations, and knuckle his face before you do anything stupid . And while the journey that awaits him is quite eventful, it will also be the perfect excuse to test out the new repertoire of projectiles he carries in his forearm.
If you’ve played Batman: Return of the Joker dozens of times and didn’t know that there was a twisted rocket storyline in the background, it’s normal: throughout the game there’s little to no indication of what’s happening, and unless you know By Heart what he wrote in his instruction booklet, the events that occur on screen obey only the action called for by each section of its seven chapters. On the other hand, and to be fair, the pretense of facing Joker is irrelevant.
Batman: Return of the Joker is divided into seven scenarios, each divided into two levels and a showdown with a final boss. All of them have been worked out with an excellent detail for the time extracting everything that the 8 bits of the Nes can give, including different levels of scrolling, topping off a setting of ten and a really amazing pixel art.
As a caped crusader, we must master the dangers of a total of 13 zones, starting at Gotham Cathedral, soiling our capes in underground conduits, sneaking into refineries and armed bases uninvited, crossing the icy peak of the Ice Valley on foot and finally confronting it Joker himself on the not-so-paradise island of Ha-Hacienda. Now there will be sections where we will have to climb and others that we will literally fly through.
Batman: Return of the Joker is a full-fledged action game. An exceptionally good one, given its very meticulous gameplay and great presentation. But he also knows how to alternate the most platform-rich sections, giving the player an extra incentive with some scenarios that inherit arcade mechanics in the form of shoot ’em up, in which our hero, armed with a strange cannon, explores vast corridors of powered enemies cleans with a kind of jetpack. Everything a kick.
Although unlike other NES games in Batman: Return of the Joker there is no sequel limit, the truth is that Sunsoft understood the players of the time very well and allowed them to jump straight to their favorite levels and scenarios -letters- password system. It might be possible to save your game in Super Mario World, but as good as the game looked, it was an NES title with its own limitations.
In fact, and as an added curiosity, it has its own password until level 1-1 of Batman: Return of the Joker: LPRZ.
All in all, one of the strangest elements of the game is how Batman: Return of the Joker presents the inevitable final boss fights: with few exceptions and after progressing through the second section of each chapter, a Vs. screen appears. Street Fighter style, driving a closed environment confrontation against some of the Joker’s most powerful lieutenants.
After Batman is struck by lightning for dramatic reasons, the fight begins. Our health bars become a kind of gauge that quantifies power – basically the number of attacks it can receive – and the same goes for our on-screen enemy. Maybe it didn’t turn out to be a fighting game, but it’s these details that give the final section of each chapter a special and distinctive meaning.
At the end of the game, of course, the Joker himself awaits us. Despite the fact that Ha-Hacienda Island has only one level inspired by the classic jungle, a cliche scenario that couldn’t be missing in NES action titles. If we manage to survive its dangers, Batman’s greatest enemy awaits us in the depths aboard some sort of armored super gunship. A true 8-bit style final boss that’s also up to the task.
Like all good NES highlights, Joker’s confrontation has two parts that put everything you’ve learned and the skills you’ve acquired in the previous levels to the test. Yes, with the right weapon that leaves us with the right thumb, by pressing the attack button and positioning ourselves from the corner, it is possible to cheat and win without having to do somersaults. Which makes a lot of sense: Batman has the agility of a cat, but he’s usually more efficient and subtle in his actions.
Batman: Return of the Joker – One of the best NES games
So far we have dealt with the spectacular presentation of the game and more or less its content. But if there’s something that really makes you fall in love with Batman: Return of the Joker, it’s its playable character and level design. Because, as said, it came late to the NES but far from being a problem, it served to add nuance to games that seemed exclusive to 16-bit systems.
Let’s start with the basics and put ourselves in context: The Batman: Return of the Joker video game isn’t based on any Batman film, animated series, or comic book, but it inherits a little bit of everything. However, Sunsoft designed it as a direct sequel to Batman, the NES video game based on Tim Burton’s film. In addition, at the end of certain stages or after completing the game, it is possible to see the Batmobile or Batwing on the big screen.
Although Konami has taken over Sunsoft on Nintendo consoles through its own Batman Returns, the film’s official video game…
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