50. Batman: The Video Game

Batman: The Video Game (1990, NES) by Sunsoft

Current Any% Leaderboard (speedrun.com)

Batman: The Video Game (NES)
-Batman: The Caped Crusader (Commodore 64)
-Batman Returns (SNES)
-Batman Returns (Sega CD) (also seen in this episode, but it was not chosen)
-Batman Returns (Atari Lynx)
-The Adventures of Batman and Robin (SNES)
-Batman Forever (SNES)
-Batman: Return of the Joker (NES)

When the Big 20 #13 took place in August-September 2020, one of the 20 games selected in the “Viewer’s Choice” event was Batman: The Video Game, a classic Sunsoft platformer for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  At least… that’s what I was told.  I didn’t have a ton of experience with this game as a kid, though I had played it at least once or twice.  But my nostalgic factor here was basically a big, fat zero.  So I had no idea what to expect coming into that event… and I wasn’t prepared for the learning curve that comes with this title; speedrunning or casual, it didn’t matter.  This is a HARD video game, and this was easily the game that caused me the most grief in an event that included “easy” games like Zelda 2, Castlevania, Metroid, Ninja Gaiden, beating freaking Mike Tyson in Punch-Out!!, and Mega Man 1 and 2.

None of them were even close.

5 levels, all of which include something trolly and difficult to get past.  Stage 3 is infamous for the jumpers, these frog-like creatures that leap and read your inputs and position to wreck your game.  Although casually, this game is rather forgiving, with 3 lives and infinite continues, a speedrunner can barely afford a death at all, let alone a continue.  This was a theme for this trial as far as I was concerned; I was never able to achieve a deathless run, although in my eventual PB I was able to get to the boss rush at the end of the game before taking an intentional death to the Firebug, and then accidentally dying just moments away from a sub-13 to the Joker.

This game has controls that are best described as “heavy”.  Batman has momentum, jumps and platforms slowly, and has limited air control.  I refuse to say these are BAD controls, but they are very difficult to master, and the only reason they’re rated as low as they are here is the ultimate sin: this game drops inputs.  A lot.  I had many attempts die to wall jumps that failed because Batman didn’t want to jump right now, or walking right off a ledge and into the lava or a gear.  Having a demanding platform game full of tough enemies AND dropping inputs is bad enough, but at least the gameplay makes up for it a lot.

This is a satisfying and fun game, when it cooperates.  I can say this for sure: this is not a game you’ll regret learning the speedrun for.  And even though it’s horribly hard for a casual player to beat, you can do it if you stick with it.  This is indeed a classic NES platformer, and earns its notoriety as one of the hardest games ever made, even if it is rather short.  But despite its’ few flaws, this is a classic gem and an above-average speedrun.

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