Today is Batman Day, and I knew I wanted to do something to celebrate here but couldn’t decide exactly what. I thought I would do something maybe like a top ten best Batman games but prior to the release of Batman: Arkham Knight I did a top ten non-Arkham Batman games list which I still stand by today (we’ll have to wait and see where Batman: The Telltale Series will rank once it’s done). If I threw the Arkham series into the mix it would probably just take over most of the charts because lets face it, they’re the pinnacle of Batman in the interactive medium, even at their worst. On days like these, people often reflect about what a character like Batman means to them and how they first got interested in the iconic hero in the first place, so instead of doing something like a top ten, I thought it would be interesting to share a few of my own personal stories as they relate to Batman video games throughout the years. In particular, I want to talk about five games spanning many consoles starting with…
1) BATMAN: THE VIDEO GAME (NES)
This was, like many people I’m sure, the first time I ever played a Batman video game. I don’t remember exactly the first time I played it, but I do vividly recall renting it from a local mom and pop video store across the street from my grandparents house called Dexter’s Video. I really love the game now, as I did back then, but I was really, really bad at it. The few times I rented the game I never could get farther than the stage two boss where you have to destroy a bunch of death traps within a room. It wasn’t until many years later, I’m talking 2011 or 2012 that I got farther than level two, and even more recent, as in maybe two years ago, that I actually managed to beat the Joker and finish the game. More so than anything though, what I’ll always remember the most about Sunsoft’s Batman: The Video Game is the amazing soundtrack which sticks with you even within the games first two stages.
2) THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN (SNES)
Growing up, my parents loved to take the family camping. We would pack up our trailer almost every weekend and tow it to a place called Backside Pond Park where we would spend the weekend sitting in front of a fire, roasting marshmallows and wieners, swimming, and ridding bikes around the park among other things. As I grew older, my interest in this activity started to wane (see what I did there) considerably, as I wanted to stay home on the weekend and play video games or watch cartoons. A compromise of sorts came when a new park opened close to Backside called Golden Arm which allowed you to plug in your trailer to have power, something you couldn’t get at Backside. Though it totally defeated the purpose of getting away from it all, I was allowed to bring a small TV, my SNES and a game that I would rent out for the weekend. One of those games I frequently rented was Konami’s The Adventures of Batman and Robin for the SNES, which even today is one of my all time favourite Batman video games.
As I’ve written in other articles, including my review of the game, I’ll always remember getting to the second to last level of this pretty short overall game, and not knowing how to answer the Riddler’s final riddle. The first riddle in the stage you can fumble through because you have a choice, same with the second, but the third you have to select two letters, creating a pretty large list of possible combinations. The answer is H.B, short for human brain, but I had no idea how to answer this. Remember, I was playing this when there wasn’t really any internet, and even if I did have it, it’s not like I had access to it while camping. I’m not sure how we ended up solving it, but it was more than likely after seeing the episode it took inspiration from and then deducing it with my older brother. Unlike Batman: The Video Game, I did manage to finish The Adventures of Batman and Robin close to its release, and I did so while on a weekend camping trip.
3 BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (GAME BOY)
In Christmas of 1997, my Uncle and his family came to visit which was a rare thing as they lived across the country in the province of Alberta. When they arrived my Uncle started talking to me and asked if I had a Game Boy, to which I replied yes, and he handed me a game that he found during his travels that someone must have simply left in an air port. That game was Batman: The Animated Series. I had seen ads for the game in magazines, but never actually played it myself, but either way it was a new game which was a big deal for me back in 1997, and on top of that it was free! Besides, it was from Konami who even today have made some of my favourite Batman games so how bad could it be, right?
Batman: The Animated Series on the Game Boy is not a bad game, but it’s not exactly great either. It has a great look and controls pretty well, even having the same wall jumping mechanics like in Batman: The Video Game and The Adventures of Batman and Robin. The problem with Batman: The Animated Series that I found out pretty quickly is that it’s a brutally difficult game. The first stage is pretty simple to get through, but it was only be luck that I could get past the second stage. You only have a few lives and zero continues in which to complete the entire game and the hidden option menu I managed to find only allowed you to make the game harder. I’ve returned to this a few times and thought that maybe my skills have gotten better and I could see this through to the end, but I still get stuck at the start of level three, the same way I did back then.
Well, I guess you get what you paid for, right?
4) BATMAN: THE RISE OF SIN TZU (PLAYSTATION 2)
2003 was a weird time to release a Batman game, especially one based on the animated series. At that time the animated series was off the air for a few years and was replaced by Justice League as well as the upcoming The Batman. The character wasn’t exactly big outside of comics like he is today, as there at that time hadn’t been a Batman movie since the 1997 disaster Batman and Robin and Batman Beings was only starting to be filmed. It was probably for those reasons, and the fact that it was a pretty average game overall, that Batman: The Rise of Sin Tzu dropped price pretty quickly. It came out in the fall of 2003 in the month of October and it couldn’t have been more than a month later when it had dropped to $29.99. As a second year university student at the time with not that much money, the price point made it a pretty good Christmas gift idea for my brother who has always been big into comics.
In 1999 my brother went away to go to university in the country’s capital, Ottawa, and I only ever really got to see him around Christmas time. During Christmas break that year, we both played through this game together, him playing as Batman with myself playing as Nightwing, and it was a great co-op gaming experience. At the end of every level, you have to walk onto a shining part of the stage to conclude it, but we always timed it such that we would launch our grappling hooks into the air and swing into the spot. Because I had such a good time playing Sin Tzu with my brother, I picked up a copy for myself when I came back to university in January as well as the tie-in novelization. It wasn’t ever quite as fun either playing with myself or someone else cooperatively though.
Batman: The Rise of Sin Tzu will never be the best Batman game nor one of the standouts in Ubisoft’s portfolio, but I’ll always be grateful that of the time I got to play through it with my brother over a few days off on Christmas break over a decade ago.
5) BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM (PS3)
2009 was not a year I’ll remember overly fondly, at least the first three-quarters of it anyway. Early in the year I left a call centre job I wasn’t very happy in and hoped that I would find better employment elsewhere. Long story short, I spent many months unemployed and felt pretty worthless. Things started to look up towards the end of the summer when I very nearly landed a job at a local video game store, but through some mis-communication I ended up losing the job…and landed back at another call centre. As much as I didn’t want to get back into that type of work, it was nice to at least have a job again and to have some money coming in, though I wish it would’ve been a bit sooner. During my second day of training, Batman: Arkham Asylum came out, and through some error it was being sold at $39.99 but would go up before I got my first pay cheque as part of training. My training went from 4PM in the afternoon until 12AM in the evening, and before work one day, my mom was in town and graciously agreed to buy Batman: Arkham Asylum for me.
Training was pretty gruelling to get through, and I was still very upset that I lost the video game store job, but I took great comfort knowing that once I took the bus home after training, I could come home and play Arkham Asylum until I was too tired to continue, and then pick it up once I work up before I went to work. The mid-to-late 2000’s was when my love of all things video game was at its highest, and I steered away from most licensed games in favour of titles that were original IP’s. On top of being something to look forward to after a long, monotonous day of work, Batman: Arkham Asylum taught me that it was okay to get excited about a game based on a license, leading to a future love of comic book games and the creation of the website you’re reading this on today.
In running this website, I of course have played, finished, and talked about many more Batman games, but these are the ones that really stand out to me. Do you have any special stories relating to Batman video games? I’d love to hear some in the comments below, and of course, Happy Batman Day!