“WTF, there’s a Batman game on the NES?”
“Yeah, of course there is. What are you, some kind of idiot?”
“No, I’m a cat,” I said for him as I petted his belly. “Yes you are, aren’t you! Little fuzzy kitty.”
I had beaten Batman: The Video Game for NES and there was literally no one there to witness it except my cat. In the past I’ve written about my time with an obscure title like Palamedes, my triumph of Paperboy and Contra, acting like a child playing Duck Tales, and even my acquirement of the dreadful Action 52 – but here was a game I had beaten all alone – in the dark – like a bat. cough…
A friend had come over who always trusted me in picking a game off my shelf we would both enjoy. I had always been intrigued by the Batman game for NES but had never given it a go. We started playing it, swapping off at deaths, and got the first three levels down pretty easily before he had to go. I decided I would come back to it soon and see if I could beat it on my own. I had no idea the task that awaited me.
Days later in my fun dungeon I pull the game back out and gave it a run. It’s all fun and games until you get to the Jader enemy. I didn’t know its name either until I gave it a Google but if you’ve played the game you know them as the one who jumps up and down in the air on all fours quickly and assaults you over and over. It’s among the most frustrating enemies I’ve ever encountered in a game. The best thing is to shoot them with your triple-shot weapon three times from a distance but the thing you usually do is fuck up, get too close, and whine about how it won’t let you do anything while it molests you to death. It’s super no fun.
Other than that, the game is really no problem until stage 5, the final stage. I’m not trying to spoil anything out there for anyone thinking they might one day try their mettle against one of the NES’s tougher games but the fifth stage of this game will put hair on your chest and dents in your wall. If you’ve ever played Super Meat Boy, a platforming wonder with super fluid and responsive controls that makes precise wall jumping feel like your fingers were born for it, then you’re going to hate yourself at this part. Precise wall jumping and enemies placed on ledges make this stanza grueling despite the fact this game controls well for the NES. In the end, it’s not going to measure up to modern games with similar precise expectations.
If you make it through that nightmare (it took me a couple dozen tries if not more, it’s all a blur of cursing and flailing), then you’re rewarded with a boss… or two, actually. The bosses are much harder than any previous ones and can kill you in a few hits so you will die before you learn their patterns, their attacks, or what you can do to avoid or hurt them. So once they kill you, and they will, you must replay the fifth stage again. Infinite continues are nice but that stage five gauntlet is brutal. If you’re like me, and you make it to the bosses and die a lot, then eventually the fifth stage becomes second nature. I still dream about it actually and it’s been over a week.
I usually only curse at games if someone else is around. It’s like my way of making an excuse for myself. If I overreact like an idiot when things don’t go my way, onlookers will think my failures are rare. So it was strange that I overreacted by cursing and yelling things like “GREAT SON OF A FAT WALRUS”, something I resorted to yelling by myself in a lonely basement during the fifth stage because I had exhausted all combinations of more traditional curse words like shit, hell, damn, and of course the age-old favorite, fuck. But that’s what was different about playing Batman, I was cursing aloud BY MYSELF. Usually I just sigh, fight off the urge to punch a pillow, and replay whatever section gave me grief. But Batman had me so frustrated at times, I was yelling insults like I was reading Dr. Seuss. I was becoming crazy. Psychotic even. “Who’s a good kitty?” I asked, rubbing the pillow beside me. The cat wasn't even there anymore. Did I ever even own a cat? I was losing it.
If I were handing out difficulty ratings, I would say the original Mega Man and Metroid are 9 out of 10’s for first time players (to me personally, don’t get uppity) and Batman sans stage five would be a 6 or even a 5. But that fifth level shoots it up to a 9 of 10 with the others. But like I said, that’s just me. I’m just some guy. Someone out there might say they can ace this section in the first few tries and I would call those people liars or savants.
I left the game paused for parts of the day and kept coming back to it hoping for that magic video game rejuvenation you get when you leave a hard part for a while and return to it. Lo-and-behold, it finally worked and I beat Joker with just one life bar left. It felt good, let me tell you. I leaned back in the recliner, put my arms up in a victory “V”, and let the euphoria wash over me. The cat looked on at the final cut-scene and then gave me a head boop as if to say “Good job” and then swiftly turned around to show me his asshole. I think that means “You’re awesome” in cat.
What's your NES Batman moment?