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Batman Retrospective

Here we are at the latest installment of the Anchor Panel. My name is Alex and, for the benefit of those who regularly follow this article, I will be replacing Daniel (who currently finds himself somewhere in Thailand waking up in a bathtub full of ice with his kidneys missing). Anth, glad to be here.

Well I don't know how things work when you're writing those "Comic Strips" of yours, but here at Anchor Panel we like to keep ourselves relevant... so let's talk old videogames! In anticipation of the Caped Crusader's next grapple with my preferred medium, let's reminisce of the times we took control of Batman in our own living rooms.
Let's begin with the 1989 NES classic, Batman. I remember playing this one as a little kid and having fits and/or conniptions due to its difficulty.

Yup - chucking my controller at the TV elicited many a wooden spoon to the rear end, making the bitter taste of defeat all the more real. Honestly, some of the toughest jump puzzles I have ever experienced.
And that's not to mention the fact that none of the bosses were well-known bat-villains like Two Face or Catwoman. We had to settle for Firefly (who?) and mechanical adversaries.

"Hello? Firefly here. I spent all night working on my costume!"

Yeah the only characters I recognized were Batman and the Joker, so no points for the Bat-Verse on this game. But come on, the music was just amazing, I remember that the most. Also, much love for the Batmobile cutscenes - cruising to the next chapter in style, pumping the NES MIDI beats!
Editor's Note: MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is an industry-standard protocol that enables electronic musical instruments, computers and other electronic equipment to communicate and synchronize with each other. We Google it so you don't have to.

I have to admit that it was a lot of fun just being able to play as Batman. Jumping off walls, throwing batarangs, punching criminals in the dicks. This game made me feel like I was Batman. And the ending! I would have preferred "You killed my parents! NYAAAHH!" but this works too.

What a bastard that Joker was - the atmosphere of the first Batman movies was captured here, and showed how different a platformer could be when not about a cutesy Italian plumber. The bar was set for broody gaming, and introduced my budding palette to something sinister.
With the stage set and the Batman movie franchise as a viable property for cross licensing, the Super Nintendo Entertainment system and Midway (the developers who created the Mortal Kombat franchise) came out with Batman Forever. I remember renting games from Blockbuster was somewhat of a rare deal for me so I always considered it an event to get to play a game for an entire weekend. Imagine my dismay when I took home this piece of shit and wasn't able to get to the second section of THE FIRST LEVEL because of the complicated gameplay mechanics. And all I had to do was go upstairs using the grappling hook. The stupid game forced me to go outdoors and do stuff.

I played Batman Forever to death and could never ever pass that damn game. My bro and I, co-op platforming hot seat - those were the days! Oh, and did I mention this wasn't on the SNES, but on a computer port so we were both playing on the same keyboard? This was intense, close proximity gaming resulting in many bruises (just try to put four hands on your keyboard calmly... now try mashing buttons and avoiding elbows).

Round 1, FIGHT!

The game looked like Midway threw up inside Joel Schumacher's head and poured out the contents all over a cheap film studio that served as the background for this game.

Yeah the game looked pretty bad, but did its best to get the 3D feel with the foreground blocking the action at key moments and usually hiding 1ups / pickups. The computer version had such a choppy frame rate that it was nearly unplayable -- making a game that should have taken a couple of hours stretch to 4-5 hour sessions (gotta pause to eat dinner ya know, no saving here!). All in all, if this wasn't a game where my bro and I could be Batman and Robin, we definitely wouldn't have played it as much. If only there had been a better game for the Dynamic Duo...
As a matter of fact, Anthony...

Editor's Note: Nice segue.

There WAS a better game for the Dynamic Duo and that game was: The Adventures of Batman & Robin for the Super Nintendo. Remember the awesome cartoon show from the ‘90s?

Well, this game captured the look and feel of the show while allowing the player to control the one and only Batman. This SNES classic is just one of the many reasons that the Super Nintendo was the most dominant system of its time and still holds a place in my memory as some of the best times spent in my youth (Oh God).

"And get the hell out of my spotlight."

You wanna rub in the fact I never owned the SNES a bit more?
Also, no sibling to share playtime with. Anyways, the game bosses were top notch. Everyone you expected to see from the cartoon series: Two-Face, Scarecrow, the Riddler, Catwoman, Clayface, Poison Ivy and, of course, the Joker. The same feel was perfectly captured in the 2009 Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Arhkam Asylum, to me, is undeniably the king of Batman (and honestly, all superhero) games. It's got a great array of villains, the combat is so damn satisfying, and use of gadgets is mixed in well too.
The best elements of my favourite games were thrown together to create this amazing game: the stealth mechanics from the Metal Gear series, the weapon usage of the Legend of Zelda franchise and the ass-kickery of, well, almost all video games. Add this smorgasbord to a Paul Dini written story centered around one of the coolest comic book characters of all time and you get what is one of my favourite video games of all time.

"Ten bucks says I bang Poison Ivy by the end of the third stage."

It really hung together well. It provided about 10 hours of great gaming and narrative, but I traded it in maybe a month after having beaten it.
I can't get too critical about it just because it was such a solid game. But I'm with you in that was seriously lacking in replay value. I mean, they could have left a few Asylum inmates running around for Batman to beat up, at the very least.

The scenes are nicely varied, but you get nowhere near the scope of (for example) Ocarina of Time. Despite some 'challenge rooms' that didn't draw much attention from me, the game can't compare to epic single player stories or the solid multiplayer titles (ie Goldeneye, Gears or Halo). What this game did really well is put you behind the cowl and immerse you fully in the Bat-verse for those 10 hours. What has really been lacking is this gameplay applied to the protection of Gotham. When do I get that job?
The awesome sequel, Batman: Arkham City came out on October 18. No longer confined to an Asylum, Batman is free to explore the vast environment of Gotham City. But we won't get into much detail here. Do you know why that is, Anth?

Editor's Note: That sounds like a segue...

Well the guy running this whole lackluster operation tells me that I'll be getting the opportunity to have that discussion soon. Once my better half returns from the other side of the globe, Daniel and I will be doing an Anchor Panel revolving around Arkham City. We are excited about the release, but still need time to play through that bad boy!
Well, after we dunk Daniel in a Lazarus Pit hopefully he'll be in good condition to review it.

It's been a pleasure shooting the retro gaming breeze, let’s do it again sometime Al.