It's no secret that video games and comic books often make for a disappointing combination. It always seems like they'd be good for each other, but games like Superman 64 have taught us to be cautious. And no group of people has experienced this disappointment as consistently as Batman fans. In fact, until Rocksteady released Arkham Asylum in 2009, it was starting to feel like developers were purposefully tormenting us. And while Arkham Asylum was a great little game, we're still understandably nervous about its upcoming sequel: Arkham City.
For those of you who think I'm being ridiculous, here's a little history lesson.
The very first video game featuring the Dark Knight was simply titled "Batman" and was released for the Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, and MSX microcomputers. What? You've never heard of those systems? Weird.
Players controlled a tiny, yellow, 8-bit Batman who looks like he's enjoyed a few too many cheesecakes. In the game, the Joker has kidnapped Robin, our plump little hero's sidekick, and Batman must immediately mount a rescue effort. But before he does that, he'll need to repair his hovercraft.
Seriously. That was the entire plot of this game. Batman spent the whole time repairing a hovercraft. It's a good thing that he'd been honing those detective skills. They certainly didn't go to waste as he hunted for pieces of his own hovercraft inside his own house instead of taking one of his other vehicles to rescue Robin. This plot is so bad that I'm kind of surprised that is hasn't been turned into a Michael Bay movie yet.
(Side note: I actually feel guilty for making fun of this game. It's definitely lame by today's standards, but it feels a bit like picking on a decrepit old man.)
In 1988, Bats had a chance at redeeming himself after his 1986 embarrassment, but unfortunately, the humiliation was only compounded. This time gamers got a simplistic side-scroller with two characters who look remotely similar to the Joker and Penguin, and another who looks vaguely like Batman. Evidently, the Penguin is trying to take over the world with an army of robotic penguins, and the Joker has kidnapped Robin again. I think the guy who looks like Batman is supposed to stop them somehow.
Also, we're only two games into the Batman anthology and the Joker has already kidnapped Robin twice? Isn't Robin a crime-fighter by profession? It's starting to seem like Batman might need to put a want ad on Craigslist for a new sidekick.
Batman's first outing on the NES was less terrible than most of the other early Batman games, but don't let anyone tell you that it didn't suck. The game was essentially a version of Tim Burton's original movie that had been chopped apart and rewritten by children who didn't speak English. For some reason, the writers thought it would be perfectly acceptable for Batman to run around town dropping villains into acid and throwing them off buildings, even though, as every Batman supernerd knows, Batman typically tries to avoid murdering people.
Graphically, the game was on par with the rest of the NES catalogue, but due to Nintendo's draconian licensing policy, it didn't hit shelves until more than a year after Tim Burton's movie was released. So, even though it was well received, it was far too late.
Also, Vicky Vale screams too much. This isn't a criticism of Batman: The Video Game, but of Vicky Vale in general.
The Japanese version of this game was called "Dynamite Batman." Enough said.
By 1993, pretty much everyone on earth wanted a piece of Batman. Tim Burton had turned the franchise into a merchandising typhoon and game developers were desperately trying to get their hooks into the caped crusader. But since it had become obvious that no developer knew how to create a decent Batman title, why not let them all create their own version of the same game? That's exactly what they did.
Batman Returns was released on basically every system that existed at the time. However, each system had its own developer and was therefore its own individual game, but all of them shared the same title: Batman Returns. The entertainment value of these games ranged from "mildly-amusing" to "borderline child abuse."
For instance, the Amiga version was developed by a British company and was a simple platformer, while the Mega-CD version was an adventure game with 3D driving sequences. The Lynx version was an incredibly difficult side-scroller where players only had one life to complete the entire game, while the MS-DOS version featured Batman solving crimes via the video feed in the Batcave.
Eight versions of the game were created and none of them were any fun, but the Lynx version should have come with a coupon for anger management classes.