Meditations on the Musicks of Batman, Part II (Batman Returns, Part 2)

This is a follow-up post in my series of articles about music from console video-games featuring Batman. You can read the previous post in the series here.

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I didn’t post this follow-up for a while because I was beseiged by either illness or obsession. Indeed, I were privy to a borderline catatonic state arisen of witnessing the musical ecstasy that is the Batman Returns soundtrack for Sega CD.

Okay, perhaps that is a slight exaggeration; sometimes I exaggerate things in my writing, believe it or not. I’ve actually been doing a whole lot of other things…like waking up late, playing music, practicing my Halford vox, seeing badass movies like The Changeling — productive stuff.

But one thing I rarely do is lie. Particularly about video game music being profoundly brilliant. So take a gander at these tunes* and see for yourself!

Batman Returns (Sega CD) – Gotham City Streets
Batman Returns (Sega CD) – Gotham City Skyscrapers
Batman Returns (Sega CD) – Shreck’s Wonderland
Batman Returns (Sega CD) – The Red Triangle Circus
Batman Returns (Sega CD) – The Sewers
Batman Returns (Sega CD) – Main Theme

Note the ridiculously slick clean guitar sound with slight delay and reverberation on tracks like “The Sewers”. Gorgeous stuff, reminiscent of the Sonic CD soundtrack of course, and while not acoustically similar, the composition and gothic undertones here remind me even a little bit of classic Castlevania stuff! Excellent!

Also, how dead-on perfect is the music in tracks like “The Red Triangle Circus” or “Shreck’s Wonderland”? Notably the former: it is just so damn melancholy. It sounds exactly like snow falling on a city-in-peril at the dead of night. Perhaps it can be partially attributed to the keyboard patches being used. You know the ones I love, that ’80s “crystal” sound. The lighter, less percussive, harpsichordal tone – it’s used in every movie score that knows what it’s doing, as far as I’m concerned.

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Since you’re probably begging to know more about the game itself, I’ll give you a rundown.

As you all probably know, Batman Returns for Sega CD was given a moderate amount of praise in the early ’90s video-game press for its solid soundtrack and difficult, fast action-racing levels in the Batmobile. And to clarify, the Sega CD version had the entire Genesis platform action-game on the disc in addition to the racing levels.

    Now, the annoying thing is that Sega’s Batman Returns was almost a really great game!

    To improve it, they could have tweaked some of the controls. I mean, it really would have been nice to be able to jump kick or use a special weapon in the air. I guess you might attribute that to the 3-button control pad, but I think it would have been possible. Have look at a competing contemporary side-scrolling Genesis action game of the time, Shinobi III: the controls are decent, despite the fact that the protagonist, Joe Musashi, has a serious arsenal of moves and weapons at his disposal.

    Another thing is the collision detection. The collision detection in the Sega Batman Returns games are a bit too tight. Batman gets hurt by any contact he has with enemies and of course, not vice-versa. This is strange, because it makes Batman seem like a wimp. It almost feels like Batman and his enemies are programmed to be in different games. Some of these guys will jump and fly and shoot all over the place every second, and Batman moves in some kind of slow-motion funk with like two fighting moves, which have awful range and are often not powerful enough for him to take care of business without getting a thrashing himself.

    On the flip side, there is a decent sense of accomplishment to be had by finding the massive amount of hidden power-ups scattered throughout the 5 stages. There are power-ups hidden everywhere, and you really need them. And like I said last time, using the grappling hook kinda kicks ass. There should’ve been more stages which had slick grappling segments, but I’m afraid it might’ve been overdone and become frustrating.

    I can see why these things were made somewhat difficult considering the short length of the side-scrolling quest. The game itself isn’t that hard, you’ll just find yourself losing a lot of life because of excessively sensitive collision detection and the inability to attack below you or long-range while in the air. Considering this is a platformer, and you’re hitting the jump button more than anything else, it’s rather ridiculous that it proves to be a problem. There are so many times where enemies are below you, and you can’t hit them with a punch/kick, nor can you use your special weapons in the air. Batman has the eye-hand coordination of an anime nerd.

    But this is certainly forgivable in the Sega CD version, which is much longer thanks to the crazy and hard driving stages. Those play like a cross between Cruisin’ USA/Rad Racer and Wipeout/Megarace/Mario Kart type games. And this version has heavenly music and the driving stages were kind of innovative for the time.

    ******

    As it stands, Batman Returns for Sega CD is an enjoyable game with a very nice soundtrack. However, I did own this one and thus spent more hours than anyone today would ever be willing to. I generally find it difficult to really get too deep into less-than-stellar old games (or even decent new ones) and Batman Returns might fall under that category for some.

    But play it for the brilliant soundtrack. It’s worth it!

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    *I named all the songs above, because they don’t have official song titles. I might be a little off determining which tracks go with which levels. Sorry!

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    ~ by chaosrexmachinae on January 22, 2008.

    2 Responses to “Meditations on the Musicks of Batman, Part II (Batman Returns, Part 2)”

    1. I think “The Red Triangle Circus” actually plays on the (platforming) Penguin’s Lair stage.

    2. The music is wonderful, I agree. I used to have this game and lost it many, many years ago… You have no idea how beautiful it was to listen to this soundtrack again. Would it be possible for you to send me all the songs, or tell me where I can download them?

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