It has been far too long since a game that had the pretension to adorn the infamous name of 'Batman' was true to the franchise's legacy. None of the games since the SNES days has been of any true merit. Nevertheless, we must keep an open mind my fellow bat-friends, what with the introduction of such radically improved video game hardware and all. So does the most recent Batman: Vengeance live up to the legendary legacy? Not exactly, almost. Batman: Vengeance shows considerable improvement over its countless inferior predecessors, with any luck this game will mark the outset of high quality Batman video games for the future.
A lot has been already written about the various versions of Batman: Vengeance, our focus is Batman's presence in the video game scene in general. Of all comic book characters, Batman has had certainly the most games, due perhaps to the characters renewed popularity in the 90's thanks to the film franchise and the Animated Series. Here, we will highlight some of the most notable games that feature the Dark Knight.
1986 - The Beginning
The first ever Batman game, simply titled ''Bat Man'', was released in 1986 by Ocean for the computer formats of that era, heavily inspired by ''Knightlore'', an isometric puzzle-adventure with a 3/4 perspective. Ocean decided to make a bat-game inspired by the coverage of Miller's Dark Knight Returns saga which was published at the time. The funny thing is that the game is a loose adaptation of the 60's show and not the comics themselves. The game received rave reviews and was considered revolutionary for the time.
Nowadays, of course, it looks hilarious, but remember that in 1986 the Nintendo NES console was the pinnacle of video game technology. Ocean also released the second Batman game, 1988's Batman: The Caped Crusader, a side scrolling adventure game.
(Bat Man (1986))
1989 - The Silver Screen Adaptation
By the 1989 came one of the most classic film-ties ever, Ocean's Batman: The Movie. Cashing in on the film's huge popularity, the developer had thebrilliant idea to incorporate various gaming styles into one single game: platform, driving and even a puzzle level inspired by key scenes of the film. The game was released on each and every computer format and was a huge success.
For the consoles, though, a different company made games based on the film: Sunsoft of Japan. They released games for Sega Genesis, Nintendo NES, Game Boy and even PC Engine. All these games were completely different, and the version that stands out is that of the Genesis which had the virtue of having mixed gaming styles, like the Ocean game. At around the same time, there was an arcade game released by Atari which was excellent.
Sunsoft also released a year later a ''sequel'' to their first games, ''Batman: Return of the Joker'' for the Nintendo and Sega consoles. None of these games was of any real merit except the Game Boy version.
(Left and Above: Batman for the Sega Genesis)
1992 - The Return of the Bat
The huge success of the first movie spawned a sequel, and a number of developers lined up for the video game licence. Finally, the rights were reservedby Konami, Sega and Atari and they made games based on Batman Returns, all different. Needless to say, the second batfilm spawned two of the best film-tie games ever, Sega's game for Sega CD which was the best racing game of the 16-bit era and Konami's excellent Final Fight-style actioner
Two years later, Konami also released another excellent Batman game based on the cartoon, 1994's ''The Adventures of Batman & Robin''.
Batman for the Sega CD
..and the SNES
1995 - Batman For... never?
In 1994, Mortal Kombat was a hot Acclaim property thanks to the success of the console versions of the MKII arcade game.
Acclaim was seen as the biggest game publisher at the time, and early reserved the rights for the video game based on the third Batman movie.
It should also be noted that some of the SFX of the movie itself were done in Acclaim studios. Anyway, the game was very anticipated and over-hypedas ''revolutionary'' featuring, according to Acclaim, ''incredibly realistic digitised graphics''. The end result (released for Nintendo SNES, Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, Nintendo Game Boy and PC) was less than heroic. Unintentionally comical characters and dry backgrounds were its features. A usual disappointing adaptation of a movie and not the revolutionary game they promised.
Acclaim also released an arcade game (that was later adapted to Playstation and Saturn) that was even worse than the SNES and Genesis versions of Batman Forever.
1997 - Batman goes 3D
Acclaim's Batman Forever games were very disappointing, but the company still held the rights for the fourth Batman film. The film proved atrocious, but
at the time there were high hopes for the game. Probe (the developer owned by Acclaim which was responsible for Batman Forever) promised a ''revolutionary'' (again...) game that would ''allow players to feel like Batman'' incorporating a vast real-time Gotham City and a plot that closely follows the film (not that this is a good thing anyway). The end result was a tired Tomb Raider clone, pretty good graphics-wise but awfully hard to pick up and play. The game was deemed as yet another disappointment.
(Batman and Robin for the Playstation)
2000 - Cartoon stuff
In 1999, Ubi Soft reserved the Batman rights and released a handful of different games based on ''The New Batman Adventures'' and ''Batman Beyond'' that are of no real merit except for a pretty nice racer for Playstation, ''Batman: Gotham City Racer''.
2002 - The Present and the Future
And now we come to the present with Batman Vengeance for X-BOX, PS2, Game Cube and Game Boy Advance. The game proved (thankfully) pretty good and it is (to my eyes) as a real comeback of Batman to the video game world since the last decent game featuring his name, 1994's Adventures of Batman & Robin by Konami. The future seems promising since with the technology available the developers are capable to create a ''real'' Gotham City adventure. Such is the case with the forthcoming ''Batman: Dark Tomorrow'' by Kemco. Based on Game Cube's high technology and featuring an original story line scripted by DC comics writers it promises to be the definite Batman game. Let's hope that it will deliver.
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