Blog Games Genesis Sega

Batman (MD/GEN, 1990-91)

C’mon, let’s get nuts.

Simple, clean, effective.
This is the video game, not a misshapen VHS cartridge.
S’up Mike?


PUBLISHER: Sunsoft (Sega – EU)


GENRE: Beat-em-up, with shoot-em-up sections

RELEASE DATE: 07/27/90 – (JP), 06/91 – (US), 07/92 – (EU)

Sunsoft knew they struck gold when they acquired the Batman license. The company took complete advantage of it and developed four different games based on the 1989 Tim Burton film – for the NES, Game Boy, Genesis, and PC Engine respectively. The NES and Game Boy versions were developed and released first in early 1990, followed shortly after by the Genesis and PC Engine.

I believe this qualifies as “rubbing another man’s rhubarb.”

Batman’s presence on the Genesis should have been a huge win for the then-underdog console. Sega’s typical licensed games were limited to greasy Stallone vehicles and the occasional anime title, system sellers none. Ghostbusters was a solid effort in bringing more attention to the Genesis, but Batman was based on one of the highest grossing films of all time. The game was poised to be a system seller, regardless of its quality.

Visual trickery, sure, but still impressive!

Unfortunately, Batman showed up too late to make much of an impact. In June 1991 – two years after the film hit theaters – the game was finally released in the States. How did this happen? Why did Sunsoft wait so long to release one of the Genesis’ most anticipated games?

Perhaps the man with the gun knows why Batman took so long to come out?

When the NES game shipped in early 1990, Nintendo’s two-year exclusivity clause was still in effect. This meant that Sunsoft wouldn’t be able to release Batman for the Genesis until early 1992, despite the Genesis game being completely different from the NES version. Its inability to come to American shores made gamers desire it all the more. Many desperate Genesis owners imported the Mega Drive version to satiate their Bat-lust, only for Nintendo to lift the exclusivity clause in late 1990/early 1991. Six months later, Batman finally flew its way to the Genesis.

Joker’s military budget must be astronomical.

If all you’ve played is the NES version, you might be surprised to find that Batman on the Genesis focuses more on brawling and less on platforming. The Dark Knight feels weightier than his more acrobatic 8-bit counterpart; no wall jumps here. He’s also equipped with everything he’ll need at the start of the game. In addition to a punch and sweeping kick (neither of which hit as hard as they should), Batman has a limited supply of Batarangs and a grappling hook which lifts him up to higher platforms. His one special move is an awkward aerial somersault that looks goofy, but is effective for avoiding boss lunges.

Lawrence is here to broaden Batman’s mind.

For some unknown reason, Batman begins the game with only half of his life bar filled. If you find a Heart icon, it will replenish Batman’s life bar in full. Once he dies and reappears, however, his life shoots back down to four bars. This is the only game I’ve ever seen where your character begins each life with half health. I’m not sure whether this was to make the game more difficult or to imply that Batman’s body is always slightly bruised from fighting the darkness every night. Either way, it’s a perplexing and stupid decision.

The mimes’ lovely performance brought Batman to tears.

The game’s six stages are all taken directly from the film. In “Gotham City Streets,” Batman is surrounded by claustrophobic alleys and thugs out for Bat-blood. “The Axis Chemical Plant” introduces exploding pipe walkways, rocket-launching goons, and Jack Napier, who only takes one punch to fall into a vat of acid. “Flugelheim Museum” is not soundtracked by Prince’s “Partyman,” but it does feature fine art and you do fight Lawrence, the bald party maniac from the film. “Gotham City Streets Redux” is the first shooting section where you control the Batmobile through all-out street warfare. “In the Sky Over Gotham City” has you piloting the Batwing to rid Gotham of Joker’s poisonous balloons and dangerous helicopters. Finally, in “Gotham Cathedral,” you climb your way up over loose cobblestone and dynamite-throwing henchmen to take out Joker’s loony buns once and for all.

This game needs an enema.

The beat-em-up was never a “deep” genre, but it’s still surprising how vanilla Batman feels, especially when compared to the propulsive NES game. Thugs emerge from the right or left, Batman punches them, and then moves forward. Nothing more, nothing less. Boss battles involve little to no technique, especially if you have a lot of batarangs (I killed at least three bosses with Batarangs). In certain areas like the Cathedral, Batman has to somersault from platform to platform and use his grappling hook to avoid stone dragons that breathe fire. Otherwise, Batman‘s beat-em-up stages are too repetitive and shallow.

The Joker’s got a bit of junk in the trunk.

The shooting stages break up the monotony, at least at first. Both the Batmobile and the Batwing look and control fantastic, and it’s nice to drive/soar majestically through the Gotham City streets/skies after plodding along slowly as Batman. But once you blast your fiftieth armored tank and shoot down Joker’s entire purple-and-green helicopter brigade, you might wonder why the levels haven’t ended. What initially seems like a respite from punching countless thugs are actually endurance runs, designed to weed out lesser Batman fans from finishing the game.

When Joker said he wanted to “paint the town red,” this isn’t what he meant.

Worse than Batman‘s poor timing is how the game failed to live up to the hype. For months prior to its release, fans pored over detailed screenshots that put the NES version to shame. Batman was back in his black suit (as opposed to the questionable purple number he wore in the NES version), and the level design matched the film’s sweeping Gothic architecture. It’s only the gorgeous sprites, lovingly rendered backdrops, and an overall faithfulness to the film that save Batman from being a complete flop. Without the inspired art direction, the game’s tedious brawling and exhausting shooting portions sink it into the depths of licensed game mediocrity.


12 replies on “Batman (MD/GEN, 1990-91)”

Still fun to run through once in awhile. Much better than the goofy PC Engine game and most definitely the best Batman game on the Genny. If you think these shooter stages are long, wait til you get to the Adventures of Batman and Robin.

The soundtrack is great. Not alot of tracks but what’s there is nice.

This was another favorite of mine growing up, and I used to play it all the time. I loved that it mixed things up every so often with vehicle levels, and to a kid that had no real sense of time, it never occurred to me that the game came out so long after the movie.

It’s also funny that you mention people importing this one, because that’s exactly what my dad did back in the day. He was really big into Sega stuff back then and even sawed off the sides of the MegaDrive cartridge to get it to fit in a Genesis (since I guess he couldn’t find a converter or didn’t know those existed).

He also put electrical tape on the sides so they would look a little nicer, and so for years I thought Japanese games had weird, soft vinyl-y sides.

He’s mostly out of them now, he says they got too complicated for him, but he still enjoys digging out the Genesis and a few other old systems (mostly 8-Bit Atari and the like) and playing with them from time to time.

He’s even still got his chopped up Mega Drive Batman too.

I still have fondness for this game. Sure I went to my friends house and played the NES game, and man it had the platfroming down. I felt this game was just adequate. Nothing groundbreaking in the gameplay dept. but it sure did look good and I’d argue which soundtrack was better but Sunsoft did them both. I feel the Genesis FM sound was very good for what Sunsoft was going for. So if you were like me and saw those EGM preview shots and then the ads for this game. You ordered the Mega Drive version on line. I believe I paid 80.00 with a Mega Drive to Genesis converter. It was impressive looking for the time it came out, but when it finally did get here it had pretty much been surpassed. And I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed years later seeing it on the shelf thinking I could have saved some money. It was a game for its time and place. However short that time was. I think I mainly used it as a tool for showing how much better graphics the Genesis had than the NES. But even in the back of my mind then, I knew NES Batman was a better game. It really shouldn’t matter now anyway. So judged by itself C+ seems pretty fair. It’s not a very long game. So maybe people might want to give it a go. That was probrably my main complaint is it was all over so quickly. As far as the beat em up quality , it certainly was on par with what was in the arcades of the day. This is pre Final Fight.

Yeah, sometimes it’s easy to forget how important graphics were during that time. Even more than they are now. The leap from 8 to 16-bit seemed enormous.

And I thought Final Fight came out in 1989? Either way, beat-em-ups were still in their infancy.

Well at least for home console. Goldenn Axe was probrably the most advanced game in the genre on home consoles. Mostly stuff like Vigilante on TG-16 etc were contemporary. Which I think this is a step above.

I think I echo the other comments here – I played and liked Mega Drive Batman as a kid, but looking back now, it wasn’t any thing special. C+ is spot on.

I’ve never played NES Batman, but wish I had – it looks an excellent (if inaccurate!) game with a superb soundtrack, much better than the Mega Drive effort. Sadly, because of the licence, it’s lost to time…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.