Batman: The Game Needed More Joker

By: D.C. Cutler, U.S.A.

The Joker is one of the most fascinating and colourful characters in fiction. Moviegoers and gamers have a strong curiosity when it comes to the Crown Prince of Crime.

Nintendo’s Batman: The Game, released in 1989, was ground breaking for its graphics, its music score and dark tone. But something that has always bothered me about the game is the lack of The Joker.

The objective of the game is Batman fighting The Joker’s henchmen as you make your way to the Dark Knight’s popular nemesis. You get a little of The Joker sprinkled in throughout the game with quick shots from the film. Sunsoft was smart to put those Joker shots in, because if they hadn’t included them, you wouldn’t even know The Joker had anything to do with the game.

When The Joker finally appears at the final level of the game, he’s unusually massive. The Joker is tall, but he’s not supposed to look like a giant. I admire that the creators of the game made it so difficult to defeat The Joker. It took me awhile to figure out how to kill the villain; I can’t count how many times I died before I finally accomplished the task. The number was high.

Perhaps The Joker’s absence is so noticeable in Batman: The Game because every Batman game since has featured The Joker prominently. Some games, like Batman: Return of The Joker, and the more recent games, has exploited The Joker. They feel more like a Joker game than a Batman game. And with Harley Quinn probably being the most popular comic book character on the planet at the moment, recent games have played her up more as well. And with a “Suicide Squad 2” in the works, expect to see even more Harley in upcoming video games.

I know back in the 1980’s game play was a bigger priority for developers than story. However, Batman: The Game could’ve used a few more sinister Joker scenes. But with the technology at the time, they could’ve turned out clunky; unlike today, where you have the pale villain appearing too lifelike.

The graphics are brilliant for 1989. Each stage, from the chemical plant to the cathedral, has graphics that were above any other NES releases at the time. Double Dragon II maybe being the one exception.

Jumping is one of the best options in the game. Batman, when he jumps, has the ability to latch on to a wall and push himself off of it. Pressing the A button in a rhythm is all you have to do. You don’t even have to point Batman in any particular direction for him to jump to the adjacent wall. That was a unique move for its time.

I grew up playing countless Batman games. Batman: The Game is still one of my favourites based on the Dark Knight property; even if The Joker has very limited screen time.