After the success of Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman, scores of people had Bat on the brain. Interest in the character increased, and popular culture embraced him with open arms and wallets. Batman themed merchandise hit the market with a fury, and later the film received a sequel, 1992’s Batman Returns. Directed again by Burton with Michael Keaton reprising his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, the film follows the exploits of the Caped Crusader as he deals with the villainous Penguin (Danny DeVito) and vixen Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer). Christopher Walken also starred in the film as himself. Nah, I’m just kidding. He played the devious businessman Max Shreck.
Batman Returns wasn’t the only major release for the Dark Knight in 1992. In September of that year, the character starred in a new feature for the small screen, one that is often considered among the finest animated programs ever made, and paved the way for what we know as the DC animated universe. Yes, I’m talking about the award-winning Batman: The Animated Series.
Developed by then first-time producers Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, Batman: The Animated Series tales stories of the Dark Knight as he attempts to keep the peace in Gotham City. Running until 1995, the show follows the dark tone of the Burton films and is set in a Gotham seemingly inspired by the architecture and clothing style of the 1940s. The show’s score, composed by Shirley Walker, includes an opening theme based on the one Danny Elfman created for the Burton films. It’s a great theme, and plays especially well with the show’s tone. A video of the show’s intro is available below (respect to YouTube user DraftMasterJohn for the upload).
B:TAS featured some of the best voice acting ever in an animated show, leading to classic portrayals of many DC characters. Kevin Conroy was incredible as Bruce Wayne and Batman, giving both halves of the Wayne/Batman persona their own separate sound. Mark Hamill (yes, that Mark Hamill) was fantastic as the Joker, providing the delightfully demented character with a voice that made him as charming as he was menacing. Some more notable performances include: Loren Lester as Dick Grayson/Robin; Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred; Michael Ansara as the tragically crestfallen Mr. Freeze (watch the episode “Heart of Ice”; you’re welcome); Arleen Sorkin as the delightfully demented Harley Quinn (Joker’s assistant; created just for the show) and Ron Perlman as the unfortunate and villainous Clayface.
Upon its release, the show was an instant hit, and received universal acclaim. Praised for its excellent animation, sound editing, and mature tone, the latter a product of the fantastic writing by scribes such as Michael Reeves, Byrnne Stephens, and the redoubtable Paul Dini. The show won four Emmys throughout its run– including one for Outstanding Animated Program– and recognized by many publications, among them IGN, Complex, and TV Guide Magazine for being one of the greatest cartoons ever made.
If for any reason you have not seen this show, please, please find a way to see it, I beg you. I highly doubt it will disappoint you.
I’ve done a lot of gushing about stuff that isn’t video games, but yes, this indeed is still a video game blog. In 1994, B:TAS became known as The Adventures of Batman & Robin, a title it held until the show went off the air. The game we’ll be focusing on in this post (as the title suggests) is the video game adaptation of the show.
The game appeared on four different systems– Super Nintendo, Sega CD, Sega Genesis, and Sega Gear– and were all released between 1994 and 1995, with the Super Nintendo version being released first. Each version of the game has its own unique features, giving each one a different gameplay experience. The Super Nintendo and Game Gear versions of the game are both one player side-scrolling beat-em-ups; the Sega CD version is an action racer featuring the Batmobile and Batwing; and the Genesis version is a side-scrolling beat-em-up for up two players. For this post, we’ll look at the version of the game I actually played, the one for the Genesis.
Developed by Clockwork Tortoise and published by Sega, B&R released in 1995. A one or two player game, players can select either Batman or Robin as they attempt to save Gotham City from the evil clutches of supervillains Joker, Mad Hatter, Two-Face and Mr. Freeze. Each villain has his own level which also includes three sub-areas. Batman and Robin can fight enemies with punches, kicks, and weapons like Batarangs, bolas, and the invaluable screen-clearing bomb, a non-standard item which can occasionally be picked up.
I rented this game a few times when I was a kid, and it was quite fun to play. The graphics were great for their time, providing some of the best visuals a Genesis game could offer. The soundtrack, an electronica piece composed by Jesper Kyd, is especially enjoyable to listen to even now. It’s definitely a switch from the orchestral arrangements by Walker and Elfman associated with the Batman franchise at the time, but it complements the chaotic nature of the game well.
Speaking of chaos, B&R is a difficult game due to its fast pace and abundance of enemies. You’ll definitely need great reflexes because when you get attacked, enemies come in waves and from both sides. That was a little overwhelming for me at first, and definitely a change of experience from the Batman games I had played before. The game’s pace is actually similar to something like Contra, Konami’s action/adventure platformer. At least in B&R, you can get hit by an enemy more than once before losing a life.
Actually, I never made it past the game’s first level, so this is yet another title YouTube helped me see the rest of. If you’re curious to see how the game looks, footage of it is available below (respect to YouTube user TheKeeshu for the upload).
That about does it for this segment. Batman month ends tomorrow, but it’s been fun researching some of these old games to see how far back the Dark Knight’s history in video gaming reaches. If you’re curious about the other versions of today’s game, here are links to gameplay footage from the Super Nintendo, Game Gear, and Sega CD iterations of it. Until next time.
Peace & Pixels