Retro Achiever Game #59: Batman (Game Boy)

It’s been nearly six months since I’ve been back to live streaming content, but I have yet to return to the Retro Achiever concept. It does cross my mind every now and again, but I’m waiting until I have more time to dedicate to the show format … and available time to stream is something I am sorely void of at the moment.

But I am reminded that the Retro Achiever concept does carry over to the GemuBaka website, as I feature the games I’ve completed through the course of the Retro Achiever shows. We last left off with Clockwork Tortoise’s amazing The Adventures of Batman & Robin on the SEGA Genesis as game #58 (although I didn’t start writing about the games until #50), and coincidentally enough, game #59 is another Batman game that marks the fifth played as a Retro Achiever title. The playthrough of the game was another spurred by the Yokoi Kids website, but it might be surprising to know that Batman: The Video Game for Game Boy was the Batman game I spent the most time playing as a kid.


I suppose the magic behind Batman is that the premise has been able to be portrayed in a variety of different ways, and by the time I found out about the character, the mainstream idea of the hero was his Adam West rendition that played more into comic scenes of fisticuffs against the villains. This completely flipped when Tim Burton directed the 1989 movie and solidified the new mainstream idea of what Batman was.

For someone who wasn’t there, it’s probably hard to fathom how huge this movie was, and its success led to promotions, toys and video games. Sunsoft got its chance with Batman on the NES and Game Boy. While a company like Atari leaned full force into the movie’s scenes, Sunsoft’s Batman iterations very loosely sprinkle a few of the movie elements into cutscenes and take a lot of liberties along the way.

And for the Game Boy version of the game, “liberties” might be an understatement.


Again, this movie was HUGE – I can’t stress enough how successful this move was for its time. My parents enjoyed the movie, and my sister would watch the VHS tape we had repeatedly in a phase, because she thought certain scenes with The Joker were hilarious. With its notoriety and knowing I enjoyed superheroes, my parents got this for me as a random gift for a Christmas the year after I got the system. This means it was among the first 10 games I owned for the Game Boy, possibly even among the first five.

I ended up playing this one quite a bit. Much like other Batman games, I found this to be extremely challenging as a kid, but these days I can clear them in a modest sitting. Still, this served me quite well on my trips to see extended family, and my attempts to clear the game found me playing at random times even in my own home. My portable gaming situation was basically the reverse as it is now when I was a kid – As a kid I hardly ever played my Game Boy at home, but as an adult I never have much of a chance to play games on the go.

One odd memory I have of this game is taking it to the dentist’s office when I had an appointment. This specific office had a habit of scheduling way too many appointments at one time, so if your appointment was at 3:30, it was a miracle if you were called in by 4:00. I remember being in a groove with Batman on this playthrough, and I had finally made my way to the final stage. This stage was giving me the business, and I ended up being called in for my appointment. I left the system on all the way through my appointment so I wouldn’t lose my progress, but the batteries didn’t hold up and I got swept back to the beginning of the game anyway.

I would imagine it was the easiest way to squeak out a portable version of the game on the system in time to capitalize on the movie, but this Game Boy version goes the route of Return of the Joker and makes Batman’s main offensive move a gun. This gun can be upgraded in a couple of different ways by picking up powerups, but the majority of the game has players running, jumping and shooting through the stages.

Oddly, this game gives me very powerful Super Mario Land vibes, with short character sprites and bricks that are broken open to obtain the game’s items. The tiny character sprite works, but I always make the joke that the character is a kid in a Halloween costume since the presentation kind of makes Batman look like a child. In fact, when Batman finally squares off against The Joker, the villain appears to be twice as tall as the hero.


Still, Sunsoft makes all of it work to create a satisfying action game on the Game Boy.

Again, just like in Super Mario Land, Sunsoft is able to make the most of the smaller screen afforded by the Game Boy. The stages are varied and have nicely done tile sets, with soft graphics that are able to put a backdrop to all of the action with buildings in the city and architecture in the cathedral. Admittedly, the indoor levels have a little bit more charm to them, as they feature all of the machinery in the factory and the marble in the museum, but this game looks good all-around considering Sunsoft was trying to use as much of a small screen as the developers possibly could. I could maybe nag on how there isn’t a lot of enemy variety in the game, but it has satisfying control and gameplay, so the stage is over and moving on to a different enemy type before you know it.

I also suppose you need a lot of game space on a small screen when the system’s display has motion blurring. I never recall the motion being much of an issue, and I do think that is another benefit of the stout character sprite.

Also, as expected of Sunsoft, you get great gameplay that ramps up in difficulty over time and you get amazing music. Most of the gameplay is extremely straightforward, but you do get a bit of variety in a stage where you control the Batwing and the most challenging final stage, which is an autoscroller through the cathedral. The game also sprinkles in two boss fights centered around The Joker.


While Batman: The Video game is very light on the story elements that tie the game to the movie, it makes those couple of moments count. The stretch of games between the different formats greatly varies in how closely they follow the film, but each one at least touches on two main scenes: Batman confronting Jack Napier at the Axis Chemical Factory in the sequence of events that transform him into The Joker, and then Batman confronting The Joker at the Gotham Cathedral in the conclusion.

Funny enough, all of the games end with Batman actively knocking The Joker off the top of the cathedral like he was uppercutting him into the Mortal Kombat pit. In reality, the movie has The Joker falling from a helicopter ladder while trying to escape as Batman uses his grappling hook in a desperate act of self-preservation. I suppose it just makes for a better gaming moment?

Most of the cutscene time features an image of Batman looking at a computer screen in the Batcave while another character speaks, but these segments look great. The segment of The Joker speaking to Batman also features a comic-style lettering of his laughter, which is a nice touch. Another scene plays out after the birth of The Joker, and his animated hands always creeped me out. The end of the game also shows the end-of-movie scene where The Joker is part of the pavement, and then you get the credits sequence of an up-close Batman posing on a rooftop. The story segments are short and simple, but I’ve always found them to be memorable.


I suppose as far as the Sunsoft Batman games go, the Game Boy version leans easier than the others, but it definitely still has a few rough spots toward the end of the game. It’s a game I recommend as a casual romp through the Tim Burton Batman movie universe, and one I have a lot of memories with. Sure, you get the “Halloween costume Batman,” but Sunsoft successfully nails down so many of the other elements of the game, it deserves its place among the much-revered Batman on NES.

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Categories: GemuBaka Feature, GemuBaka Retro Achiever


Arcade enthusiast and game collector. Affiliate Twitch retro streamer and games archive writer at Gemubaka ( For business only: gemubaka at gmail


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