When this game hit the home console market, it represented many things- most importantly of which was that it was breaking the trend of “licensed crap” that had been plagueing systems at the time. Batman on the Nintendo Entertainment System was also quite a bit different than the movie it was based on, which probably lent to it succeeding where other licensed games failed.
Sunsoft were on a licensing role around this time with games such as Fester’s Quest and Gremlins 2 are also noteworthy good licensed games (not stellar, but better than the norm). Batman was loosely based on the movie, you won’t be watching cut scenes of a dinner, you won’t see many enemies from the movie in any recognizable fashion and Batman doesn’t act like he did in the movie. For the most part the only thing this movie has in common with the movie is Batman himself, some of the weapons, the Joker and what happened to the pasty baddie at the end. The rest if gaming interpretation and that is probably why it was better than say, Total Recall from Acclaim which tried to follow the movie scene for scene (big mistake).
Gameplay wise, Batman was more reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden (NES, not the arcade, version). Batman can wall jump. Graphically, Sunsoft got around the NES limitations with clever shading and abundant use of black areas for the background. You get the idea of what is supposed to be there and are shown just what you need to see to progress and not much more. The effect is quite cool and holds up very well even today.
You are going to have to do it old school if you want to enjoy this classic. Digital distribution on this one is non-existent at the moment (probably hell to license it all).