Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Batman Video Game Retropsective (Part 1)

Batman, the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader, the World’s greatest detective. No matter what you call him, he’s awesome. He’s has a plethora of great stories, villains, writers, artists, movies and even cartoons all that where great. Though I doubt that when you think of Batman the first thing that comes to mind are video games. Batman has had a fairly mixed bag of great, and awful video games.

His latest adventure as a game character is Batman: Arkham Asylum a game that looks to put all other Batman games to shame. With all start writer Paul Dini handling the story plus Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill onboard voice acting as their characters from the much beloved Batman: the animated series expectations couldn’t be higher for Arkham Asylum.

Now I’ve already made my opinion known on the upcoming game but I’d like to go one step further. Before we look at the current generation f Batman gaming lets look back over the last 20 years of Batman in video games. Now sadly I can’t cover every single video game, most of this is going off of the Wikipedia and any other sources I can find on these games but I have played a few of them myself. I won’t be able to say a lot on every game but some games, even if I know very little, I still feel should be spotlighted.

This is also a 2 part post, part 1 is this week, check back next week for part 2.

Batman: the Caped Crusader (1988)

While it was the second game made, I know and couldn’t find too much on the first game. I do know enough about this one though. Made on the Commodore 64 and pitting Batman up against Penguin and the Joker this game had an interesting twist to it. Rather than moving from room to room traditionally, every time you entered a new room it appeared as a panel on the page. A nice idea if not flawed for how it could be disjointing to the players.

While praised at the time I can’t honestly see why. It doesn’t look too bad from what I’ve seen but it also doesn’t look too good. From what I’ve seen from videos it seems like a rather stiff and bland sidescroller. While I love sidescrollers, and as it turns out Batman works well with them this seems to be the prototype for the later better games that doesn’t really excuse a mediocre game.

Batman (1989-1990)

Now this is the game that most fans remember. This is a game I have a lot to say on as this is not only heralded as one of the best Batman games but one of the best NES games of all time. Consider Caped Crusader a prelude to this game, all the bugs out of that lead to his incredible video game.

Sadly it isn’t yet available on the Wii’s virtual console so if you want to experience the greatness of this game you’ve got to bust out the old grey box to go to town on the Joker. Though despite being based around the hit movie by Tim Burton it only barely resembled the movie with things like the Batmobile and having the Joker but really it felt like an entirely different entity.

I’ve seen several top NES lists and more then often this game is high up on that list. While the NES had tons of classic games that made it a worthwhile system, for longtime fans of the Dark Knight this game made the system a must own just for this experience.

While this game utilized fairly simple ideas for platforming, such as a similar engine to what Ninja Giaden used with wall jumps and increased difficulty. While there where quite a few cool moments, the most legendary moment had to be the final clash with the Joker. Sure he somehow had the power of lightning, but it was a great fight either way.

While it’s a tough call, I’m going to have to say that for now this has been the best Batman game ever. It’s a tough decision from what I know but so far this is the biggest competition that Arkham Asylum has to deal with. It may be silly that 20 year old game is competition for a game in today’s generation of gaming but there’s the old saying that just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s broken.

While there are quite a few versions of this game, as well as a more heavy beat ‘em up game I’m going to count the NES game as the main game for the Batman movie since it’s the most beloved.

Batman: Return(Revenge) of the Joker (1991-1992)

Another game on several consoles, the most well known was the one for the Sega Genesis. Too eager to cash in on the success of the prior Batman game, a sequel was created before Batman Returns and this was a sequel to the video game, not the movie though.

While the game clearly was a step up visually, in terms of difficulty it was panned for just plain unfair level design. This (along with a few other games on the list) has been covered by the Angry Video Game Nerd already and I doubt I could really go as well in depth as he did during his videos.

While the game had some fans and plenty of haters I can’t really call it an awful game. Even with the incredible challenge it still had some good moments at least though I can’t really recommend it. It’s like the inferior younger brother trying to play off his big brother’s respect.

Batman Returns (1993)

Obviously based off the sequel to the first Batman film, Batman Returns however took a different approach from the NES classic and was a beat ‘em up. Now the version I’m talking about is the Super Nintendo version that was easily the most popular of them all. As someone who grew up loving games like Turtles in Time and Spawn, this game was perfect for me.

Gameplay was simple as you moved from point A to point B, beating the hell out of everything in your way. Villains varied from Joker Wannabes to the infamous Catwoman. Though sadly I can’t really ever say this game had as many memorable moments as the NES game did.

While really this didn’t feel as much like a Batman adventure it did still give you control over a badass hero and at the time that was all we could really ask for. You got cool bosses, great graphics and an entertaining experience that indulged on our more violent fantasies of how we’d beat the hell out of Gotham’s criminals.

Batman: The Animated Series (1993)

Much to my surprise and disappointment this game was only for the Gameboy. Developed by the great company Konami, it sounds like something I should really check out as someone who loved that series. Though really I can’t comment much since I can’t really find anything on it.

The Adventures of Batman and Robin (1994)

Obviously the game Batman: the Animated Series would have been with a design clearly influenced by the series. Hell the cartridge alone should tell you that. Like so many games before it this is a multi-platform game, though my only history is with the Super Nintendo version.

I rented this game a few times from a local grocery store (anyone remember when regular stores used to actually rent games?) and it was a ton of fun .Sadly as a child the idea of just going out and buying the game never clicked with me. Though I still have enough memories to say that I loved this game.

Sadly the supporting cast where more like background characters that had little to nothing important to really do. As a fan of characters like Batgirl I was a little disappointed I must admit. Still the game was great for adapting Bruce Timm’s stylish animation into a video game and capturing some of the magic from that great cartoon.

Not surprisingly it was more of a Beat ‘Em Up with some action adventure platforming in the mix. There where some great boss fights with the most memorable being fighting the Joker on a rollercoaster ride.

While it still didn’t achieve what Batman on the NES had achieved it was a great Batman game for the Super Nintendo and definitely the best Batman game of that generation of consoles.

Batman Forever (1996)

Based on the mediocre 3rd film in the 90’s Batman series, this game tried to mix digitized effects in games like Mortal Kombat with another Beat ‘em up style. While an interesting idea, it failed miserably as it was a poor game that had stiff controls, pathetic fight physics and stupid ways of getting through a level.

This game has been panned by a lot of people and it’s easy to see why. Basing a game off of a bad movie is one thing as Batman Forever was, while not the worst, a poor follow up to the Burton films and Animated Series so it’s not surprising that the game adapted for it was weak as well.

With the poor graphics, weak controls and just all around bad design this game is probably the worst Batman game ever.

Batman and Robin ( 1997)
I can’t say very much on this game. It’s based off the worst Batman move so I wouldn’t even want to try and play it but form what I’ve seen it looks like a mediocre game for it’s generation that could be outclassed by damn near any other game on the Playstation.

The game suffers from boring driving stages, stiff controls and far too many loading screens. I guess some games are better off to be avoided.

So that’s it for now, check back next Tuesday as I cover all the Batman games from 2000 to 2009. Same battime, same batblog.


ChrisP_comicnerd said...

Dude, I remember that game, "Batman & Robin" for the PS1. It was awesome when I was little!!

I haven't had enough money to get the new Arkham Asylum game, but it looks great! And they have come out with a download for the 360 that is kind of like an expansion pack, and features more gadgets, and some new henchmen and levels to roam around in. (so I have heard)

I loved the Batman: Arkham Asylum novel, it was really scary when you where reading it when your only 11, and at night. LOL. The art work was fantastic too! It gave it a great feel to the novel.

Andrenn said...

@ChrisP: Doesn't look too good to me, but eh, maybe you're reight.

I did love the Arkham Asylum Graphic Novel even if it was a little too out there at times. Freaky stuff.

Black Bat Inc. said...

Love it! thanks for the history lesson. Arkham Asylum is going to blow these outta the water!

ChrisP_comicnerd said...

I thought the Graphic Novel was a good addition to the Batman stories, and you have to admit, a lot, A LOT, of the stories they come out with are pretty much, "out there" nowa days with comics/graphic novels.

So Arkham Asylum wasn't much of a change. What really got me interested was the art work, and the story, I liked it.

Andrenn said...

@Black Bat Inc.: Thanks, part 2 is a bit more extensive luckily.

@ChrisP: Agreed that the art was the big selling point to Arkham Asylum.