Batman: The Video Game - Sega Mega Drive
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Some fans will tell you that superhero movies are practically the only thing keeping the lights on in Hollywood these days, but it's easy to forget that, once upon a time, such films were almost considered box office poison. In the years following the commercial success (and decline) of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, few studios would go near comic book heroes, fearful that the man from Krypton was nothing more than a flash in the pan.

1989's Batman changed all of that. Tim Burton's dark and foreboding take on Bob Kane and Bill Finger's hero was nothing like any other comic book adaptation up to that point, and it changed how Hollywood viewed this kind of movie forever. Fast-forward to the present day, and studios such as Marvel and DC are pumping out these films on what feels like a monthly basis.

Taking all of this into account, it's interesting to look at how the world of video games handled the '89 Batman flick. On home computers, Ocean's titles were insanely popular and retained the grim black-and-gold visual design of the film itself. On consoles, however, it was down to Japanese company Sunsoft to produce the goods ā€“ and the Mega Drive version of Batman proved to be a notable early hit on Sega's console.

Released in Japan on July 27th, 1990 and in North America almost a year later (Europe had to wait until 1992, 3 years after the film had hit cinemas), Batman: The Video Game mixes side-scrolling action sections with segments where you're driving the famous Batmobile (again, from a side-on perspective). Even by the standards of later Mega Drive / Genesis games, it looks fantastic; the console's graphical muscle is clear to see, and, when compared to the NES and Game Boy titles (also by Sunsoft) the gulf in power is abundantly clear. It's worth noting, too, that all three games are totally different from each other.

Batman: The Video Game - Sega Mega Drive
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

What makes the Japanese version of Batman unique is that, like Sunsoft's other games on the console, it was released in a smaller box than was typical for the Mega Drive. The cartridge, too, is also a unique shape that is exclusive to Sunsoft's games. Today, Sunsoft's games are sought-after in this form, as the cases are notoriously hard to track down due to their unique nature.

If you've got this one in your collection, it's a keeper for sure.