“There must be something half-way playable on the Sega Master System,” I thought aloud with no one around to hear. Well, lookie here: Batman Returns. Now I know Batman on the NES by Sunsoft was just awesome with its side-scrolling action, amazing soundtrack, beautiful environments and cutscenes. How bad could Batman Returns on the Master System be?
Batman Returns SMS is a side-scrolling adventure game. You have a grappling hook and you get around by jumping, swinging, and pulling yourself up onto platforms with the grappling hook. You have the ability to glide with the cape, but this kicks in a bit too late to be altogether practical. Your only weapon is the Batarang, but you get power ups to make it travel faster and farther. The controls are responsive and the physics are exactly what you would expect from a well-made side-scrolling action game. The levels are somewhat large and it is fun to explore them. The graphics are very nice and the music is adequate.
That was nearly a year ago, and the only Master System game I have been playing of late is Fantasy Zone to broaden my shmup horizons since I did not play many of those growing up. Now, the contrast is but a distant memory. I played this game again, and it really can barely be called mediocre.
Enemies just stand still and wait for Batman to approach. The level design is done just well enough that the stages are not overly linear. The environments are stale and while colorful, nothing more thana series of platforms that vaguely resemble buildings. As my friend who was visiting while I played said, “Now we see what was being built in Donkey Kong.” I think that says it better than anything I was going to come up with.
I could make an extensive list of how this game could have been made better using only other games of the day and earlier as a guide. If only the designers at Aspect had done the same. This could have been the best Spiderman game on an 8-bit console! I don’t think it could have been the best Batman game at the time. Sunsoft already did that.