For the Love of: Batman (VIDEO)

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chris-littlechild - October 18, 2016

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Do any of you Ego-dudes remember Spider-Man 2? I have some pretty damn fond memories of playing this one on the GameCube back in the day. For me, it was what a licensed superhero game should be: A free-roaming deal that lets you do whatever the hell you want with your character’s powers. The New York we cruised through in the game was vast (for the time), Spidey’s webswinging abilities worked perfectly, and it was an all-round solid title.

So few games like this manage to get their shit together and do their iconic characters justice. A couple decades on, Superman 64 is still the yardstick by which all horrible ballaching terrible is measured. More recently, only one name really stands out as bucking that trend, and that name is Bruce mothereffin’ Wayne.

 But let’s not get ahead of our asses. Before we arrive at Rocksteady’s much acclaimed Arkham games, there’s a lot of Bat-crap to wade through. Hold your noses, gents, and we’ll take a look at the history of Batman video games.

The very first title featuring the Bat hit in 1986, just over 50 years after Batman himself was introduced. The game was available for ancient dusty-ass systems like the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC; it was a simple action adventure that saw you trying to rescue Robin by collecting assorted gewgaws and dookickeys.

Sure, it looks like hell today, but this was the mid-eighties. Our primitive planet didn’t even have Hot Pockets, Internet memes (dank or otherwise) or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air yet, so we can’t expect any better. The point is, it was a big ol’ success critically and commercially. Right from the off, our ol’ buddy Bruce proved he could pull off a video game pretty darn well.

Where did we go from there? The sequel, 1988’s Batman: The Caped Crusader, did things a little differently. Rather than the crush-criminals’-scrotes-into-spam beat ‘em up approach to the Bat, this game’s focus was on puzzles, mazes and that sort of deal. I guess it was a nod to the detective side of the character. It looked sexy (again, for the time), it changed things up, and it was still well received. It looked as though Bruce could do no wrong in the gaming world.

 The third in the trilogy, Batman: The Movie, was based on the 1989 film by the always batshit Tim Burton. You played through levels inspired by the movie; beating Napier’s ass in Ace Chemicals and creating the Joker in the process, all of that sort of good stuff. Again, it was seen as a top-drawer actioner and an all-round good time.

We’ve seen all kinds of titles from the Bat down the years. 1991’s Batman: Return of the Joker was a run-and-shoot-seven-shades-of-shite-out-of-everything sidestory inspired by Mega Man, while 97’s Batman: The Arcade Game was a simple scrolling beat ‘em up. Y’know, like the eight billion other scrolling beat ‘em ups arcades were full of back then.

In the space of six months back in 2001, Brucey baby had both a racing game (PS1’s Gotham City Racer) and a TPS/platformer (Batman Vengeance) to his name. In 2003, he broke into the craptastic ‘edutainment’ market with Batman: Justice Unbalanced, an odd release from The Learning Company which aimed to teach preteen kids problem solving skills. Which is kinda funny, as Batman generally solves his problems by growling I’M BATMAN and shattering the fibulas of mobsters. I’m not sure what kind of message that sent to 7-10 year olds, but I won’t argue.

As you can see by this point, this guy’s video game repertoire has been pretty goddamn varied. There were missteps along the way, of course, and a fair amount of suckage, but there always will be. The important thing is that the Bat’s reputation as an iconic mothereffer, coupled with developers who were actually assed about the camp-caped vigilante, gave him a chance in an industry where licensed releases are generally terrible.

 Then, in mid-2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum happened. Rocksteady’s free-roaming action adventure became massive, much like The Dark Knight. Like the movie, it proved to not only be a good slice of licensed superhero action (let’s not get into the nerdly Batman has no superpowers thing, comic book geeks, I don’t have three years to spare), but a good slice of action in its own right. That’s a rare thing, right there, being able to get those who aren’t really fans of the character themselves on board too.

The Arkham games were a hell of a thing. Some of the best licensed games ever made, this was definitely the highlight of Batman’s gaming career. They became a whole series of their own, and there are HD re-releases and spangly new VR versions on their way to our eyeballs as we speak. If Rocksteady are done with pumping out new titles, that’s no bad thing. It’s left the Bat with the kind of legacy that all Bruce Wayne’s daddy’s cashtacular couldn’t buy.

All in all, Batman, you’ve had a better history in video games than just about any other DC or Marvel hero has ever managed. Good job with that, you gravelly-voiced bastard.



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