Wednesday 1 September 2021

Batman Returns (SNES review)

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Released: 1993

Batman Returns is a side-scrolling beat-em-up that's based on the 1992 movie of the same name.

Your job is to stop the Red Triangle Circus Gang from taking over Gotham City and foil the evil plots of The Penguin and Catwoman. There's seven stages and alongside punches and kicks Batman can fling opponents or use special Test Tubes to inflict major damage. The brawling is highly responsive and there's a satisfying thud (complete with screen shake) whenever you hit an enemy. Being able to fling them from the foreground to the background through glass windows is endlessly amusing, and grabbing two opponents at once and smashing their skulls together is hilarious! What makes the gameplay so special is how there's always a myriad of ways to tackle opponents and aside from the typical attacks you can also throw Batarangs to temporarily stun them, or even block using L or R; this affords you a huge amount of freedom which naturally leads to some fun combat-based experimentation. The action and locales are constantly shifting which is an interesting way to mix things up while keeping you guessing as to what's coming up next. This feeds through to the level design which constantly throws new cool scenery and environmental hazards at the player (e.g. falling fireballs and claustrophobic battles on swaying scaffolding lifts). There's even a stage where you control a Batmobile and shoot enemies in your path; the frame-rate is a little choppy here, but it's an entertaining diversion that resembles Batman Returns (1993, Sega CD). Presentation wise, the game is top-notch with great looking cut-scenes and detailed graphics, while the orchestral music does an outstanding job of keeping the tension high.

Batman Returns pushes the beat-em-up genre to new heights by taking an established formula and enhancing it with strategic combat additions, awesome stage design and gripping storytelling. Varying gameplay styles can be tricky to execute correctly, but everything here is fine-tuned to perfection and it's an absolute blast throughout.

Random trivia: A prototype ROM was found in 2003 that includes a few minor differences.

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