Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum drops in just two days across North America and those who have played it are already hailing it as the best Batman game ever released. I’d like to take this time to have a look back at some of the finer Batman games that have preceded Arkham Asylum. So sit back, put on your nostalgia glasses and utility belt, and enjoy.
Batman: The Video Game (NES, 1989) – Not only one of the best Batman games, but one of the best superhero games in the entire NES catalogue, Batman: The Video Game offered a platforming experience that could rival any of the greats from it’s era. Players would go through 5 stages (all locations from the Tim Burton film released earlier in the year) with cinematics akin to Ninja Gaiden seperating each one. The game’s dark graphics were praised upon it’s release, as well as the detail and fluid movements that Batman himself possessed. Aside from regular physical attacks, players could use batarangs, batdisks, a speargun, and a handy wall jump (another resemblance with Ninja Gaiden) to get themselves to the final battle against, you guessed it, the Joker.
The Adventures of Batman & Robin (SNES, 1994) – Konami were never known to be slouches when it came to beautiful looking games, and The Adventure of Batman & Robin was no exception. Reflections in the floor? Check. Mode 7? Check. This game was stunning. However, we all know looks aren’t everything, and the team behind The Adventures of Batman & Robin knew that as well. The game was based on the critically acclaimed animated series Batman: The Animated Series, and featured a wide range of familiar villains such as The Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler, Two-Face, and many others. Gameplay consisted of your typical platformer features, 8 stages with a boss fight at the end of each one. As expected Batman can equip a plethora of different gadgets throughout the game (bombs, x-ray lenses) to help him complete some of the more difficult stages and take care of the evil-doers. Players were also given the option to return to the Batcave in order to set-up their equipment and restart stages. Unfortunately, despite being in the very title of the game, Robin doesn’t really do much of anything throughout the game. That being said, when has Robin really done much of anything anyway?
Batman Vengeance (PS2, 2001) – I’ll admit, Batman Vengeance is probably the worst of the best in this case, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the best games the Batman franchise has to offer. Ubisoft made a game that any Batman fan would fall in love with, but which may not be for every gamer. Batman Vengeance kicks off with The Joker’s apparent death after a botched attempt on Batman’s life. Following his death, the city’s criminals rise up in an attempt to become the new crown prince of crime. Batman must put a stop to this crimewave using standard 3rd person platforming and some batmobile gameplay, as well as clear his name after being framed, all at the same time. Can he do it? Tune in next week, same bat-time, same bat-cha-…actually, just rent or buy the game and see for yourself. Batman Vengeance also featured some pretty impressive voice-acting, I have 3 syllables for you. Mark Hamill. I’ve always loved Hamill’s rendition of The Joker and even prefer his over Heath Ledger’s. I am in no way knocking the late-great Ledger though, he also did an excellent job and made The Dark Knight that much better.
Lego Batman: The Video Game (360/PS3/PC, 2008) – The Lego series has been used numerous times to revitalize interest for a series in the minds of the youth, but that doesn’t mean it’s limited to children. This game will definitely please any Batman fan out there, as it presents a splendid blend of heroes, villains, and that certain kind of comedic relief that is only possible in Lego games. Sick of playing as the Caped Crusader? No problem, simply fire up the villain missions instead and wreak some havoc. Don’t want to play as anybody from the Batman canon? No problem, create your own character using parts from the others (did I mention there was a whopping 30 characters in all?). The game did not feature any voice acting, but it did contain quite possibly the best soundtrack in a Batman video up until that point, scored by the legendary Danny Elfman himself (Batman: The Movie, The Simpsons, Fable, The Nightmare Before Christmas). Graphics you say? Well just look that screen shot, bask in the badassery of Batman and The Boy Wonder.
So there you have it, there may not be a goldmine of classics in the franchise’s resume, but there are some unforgettable experiences. Can Arkham Asylum out-do all previous efforts and be crowned the king of Batman games? We’ll just have to wait until Tuesday to find out.