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Throwback Thursday - Batman: Before Arkham
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 06:50pm 09/07/15 | Comments
Throwback Thursday is a weekly column here on AusGamers where Kosta opens up the proverbial gaming industry attic, has a poke around, finds dusty copies of games from a different time – and plays them!

Watch the caped crusader evolve from 8-bit pixels to a digitized Christian Bale

In terms of Batman games, judging by the sheer number of caped-crusader titles released over the years, success was never measured in terms of sales. Critical and cultural acceptance was the key. The Arkham series of games from developer Rocksteady and Warner Bros. Interactive not only proved that you could take a popular comic book character and create a successful video game series, but also, create something that could be revered on the same level as the source material.

Batman is a bit of a tricky one though. The character has gone through so many cosmetic and thematic changes over the years that you’d think he was the star of The Real Housewives of Gotham City. So you’re kind of left to wonder what exactly Batman should look like, let alone what sort of story or version of Gotham City he should inhabit. Does it have to be a dark and grim rendition featuring a voice so gravelly that even gravel be like “Yo Bales, have a Soothers bro”? Can it be bright and tight like the ‘60s television series? Or even, a mixture of the two?

When it comes to the Batman games, before Rocksteady’s Arkham series, for the most part they were either based off of existing movies, animated series’, or comics. So, the following video games are in some ways the antithesis of trying to get into the nitty gritty of who exactly the Batman is. They’re more concerned with making Batman look and feel like the star of Every Game Released Ever. A generic game that presents the sort of gameplay we’ve seen many times before. But with the added sheen of a popular licensed character. Like Batman.

Even so, some of them are a lot of fun to play. But they all share the dreaded odour of ‘inferior licensed product’. A musky stale smell that people who grew up during the 8-bit and 16-bit era are no doubt all too familiar with.

These are the game that make up, Batman: Before Arkham. Graded on a scale of George Clooney to Adam West.

"Where did he get that wonderful belt?"

The Game: Batman: The Video Game
The Year: 1989
The Developer: Sunsoft
The System: NES

With a title screen using both the likeness and logo from the 1989 Tim Burton film, Batman: The Video Game doesn’t really have much to do with the flawed if entertaining movie it’s supposedly based on. Instead we get a blue Batman (due to the limited colour spectrum of the NES the night sky takes up the black colour quota) running around non-descript industrial areas, beating up bad guys, and trying not to die. As another difficult to play action game in a long line of difficult to play NES action games, Batman is as difficult as you can imagine, and features the same punishing obstacles to avoid as its brethren.

But it does get one thing right, and that is the implementation of Bat-gadgetry. A long standing tradition in Batman games, being able to Batarang foes dates all the way back here to the 8-bit era. And rings true to the non-lethal nature of the character himself. Assuming of course, you can look past Batman shooting missiles at bad guys and making them explode.

"You wanna get nuts? Come on! Lets get nuts."

Throwback Rating:

George Clooney / Val Kilmer / Michael Keaton / Christian Bale / Adam West

No developer can resist having the Joker as the bad guy. And then doing that again.

The Game: Batman: Revenge of the Joker
The Year: 1992
The Developer: Sunsoft
The System: Sega Mega Drive (Genesis)

Developer Sunsoft pretty much had a monopoly on the early 8-bit and 16-bit Batman games, most of which were based on the movies of the era. Batman: Revenge of the Joker is a little different, in that it’s not based on any of the Tim Burton films. Instead it aims to capture the look and feel of the comic books, even though for some reason Batman drives the Batmobile from the 1989 Burton film.

In terms of game, this is not dissimilar to the first Sunsoft Batman for the NES, but this time with a vibrant colour scheme (this time around Batman is blue on purpose) and a style of play similar to the Contra series. One where your projectile weapons change based on the lettered power-up you decide to collect, ranging from powerful fireball-style single attacks to the weaker but easier to aim scattershot style bullet sprays. Batman fans need not worry though, these are fired from a device attached to his wrist. So, totally not a gun.

For Halloween Batman decides to go cheap and dress up as Dracula.

Throwback Rating:

George Clooney / Val Kilmer / Michael Keaton / Christian Bale / Adam West

Not to be confused with the film version, Hard Plastic Nipples starring The Terminator

The Game: The Adventures of Batman & Robin
The Year: 1994
The Developer: Konami
The System: Super Nintendo

In terms of 16-bit action games, those from developer Konami usually fared better than others. Especially those based around arcade-style beat-em up mechanics. The Adventures of Batman & Robin, based on the animated series, is very much in-line with other 16-bit action games from the studio and is generally fun to play. It’s also the best looking Batman game so far, with an art style that captures the look and feel of the animated series, and Batman himself moving in a manner that is far less robotic. Even if it’s still kind of robotic. Like when you try to use the grapple hook.

Gadget and action heavy, The Adventures of Batman & Robin differs in that it’s not that difficult to get into. Plus it integrates the story directly into the action, making it the best Batman game of the ‘90s.

Dancing with the devil in the pale moon light.

Throwback Rating:

George Clooney / Val Kilmer / Michael Keaton / Christian Bale / Adam West

Built using the Mortal Kombat engine? Apocalyptic signs don't get more obscure than this.

The Game: Batman Forever
The Year: 1995
The Developer: Acclaim
The System: Super Nintendo

Throughout the early part of the ‘90s, a movie-licensed game from publisher Acclaim was usually seen as a sign of mediocrity. Batman Forever isn’t exactly an exception to this rule, but it’s still an exception. For one very strange design choice. And that is, an attempt to mimic the look and feel of Mortal Kombat. This means the in-game animations for Batman are the result of filming an actor in a clearly uncomfortable and restrictive rubber suit, posing and performing various punches and kicks.

Now, on a piece of ‘90s paper this approach makes some sense. But the problem here lies with the source material, in particular the Batman suit from Batman Forever. It looks silly in the film, and is laughable here. But, the game does open at Arkham Asylum and feature Riddler icons to pick-up. So who knows, maybe we wouldn’t have Batman: Arkham Knight if this didn’t pave the way.

"Finish Him!" "I can't, I have a code." "Then do a Friendship or something."

Throwback Rating:

George Clooney / Val Kilmer / Michael Keaton / Christian Bale / Adam West

Trademarked, to stop anyone else coming up with an equally boring futuristic version of Batman

The Game: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
The Year: 2000
The Developer: Kemco
The System: Nintendo 64

One of the first 3D Batman titles, Batman Beyond doesn’t stray too far from the formula already established with its focus on action and light platform/puzzling. The setting though, the distant future, is a little jarring. The sleek futuristic suit just doesn’t translate well, and Batman-sans cape doesn’t really feel like Batman. As one of the later titles for the Nintendo 64, Batman Beyond controls more like a launch title than something born from a few years of 3D gaming experience.

And with a group of villains going by the name of “The Jokerz” (in case you missed it that’s with a ‘z’), Batman Beyond feels just about as dated as Batman Forever. Okay, maybe not. But still, dated none the less.

Check out old Bones McBatbones over here. No wonder he wore a cape.

Throwback Rating:

George Clooney / Val Kilmer / Michael Keaton / Christian Bale / Adam West

"The name? Well, I was rich enough to grow up on an estate with its very own bat cave."

The Game: Batman Begins
The Year: 2005
The Developer: Eurocom
The System: GameCube

One of the last Batman games to be released before 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum was Batman Begins. The game based on the dark and gritty Christopher Nolan cinematic reboot of the Batman franchise. This means a realistic look and feel to the world, violent thugs to beat-up, and Michael Caine as your personal slave-friend. Coming from developer Eurocom, who became one of the licensed game go-to studios throughout in the 2000s, Batman Begins: The Game is actually pretty good.

Sure it’s linear to a fault, and the combat doesn’t allow for much experimentation or variation, but it’s paced extremely well. It’s the sort of game we see very little of today, and probably something we should see more of. The fact that a digitised Liam Neeson as Ra's al Ghul is the closest we’ll probably get to Taken: The Game is a shame. Of biblical proportions.

Gotham: Where breaking necks is preferred to a bullet.

Throwback Rating:

George Clooney / Val Kilmer / Michael Keaton / Christian Bale / Adam West

Previous Throwbacks:

Kosta Andreadis remembers a time when in order to get the best out of a console game you had to blow gently into it and whisper sweet nothings like "please work, I’m up to World 8-3, for fudgcicles sake". Situated in Melbourne, Kosta is a freelancer who enjoys playing RPGs, strategy, adventure, and action games. Apart from investing well over 200 hours into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim he’s also an electronic musician with an album recently released.

Find him or follow him on Twitter - @toadovsky, Steam - toadovsky and Xbox Live - Toadovsky.

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