"Boo! Funny thing Halloween in Arkham. It seems redundant here. Within these walls the monsters are on display year 'round. Of course, there was that one year Joker lead a breakout on All Hallows' Eve. What a wonderful night. Costumed revelers innocently partying alongside killers and fiends. Of course, the real screams came when it was time to unmask. Trick or treat."
-Calendar Man, Batman: Arkham City
For those of you who have already played Batman: Arkham City, you probably ran in to Calendar Man, at least once during your playtime. While you can visit his cell in Arkham Asylum, you actually meet him in person in Arkham City, albeit while he is locked up in his jail cell underneath the courthouse. The thing about Calendar Man is exactly what made Arkham City such an awesome game, and how much further they took the ideas from the first Arkham game and implemented them into full effect for City. The attention to detail, and how much of the Batman universe they wanted to include into the game, instead of just hints, easter eggs and subtle nods to the characters of Gotham.
You see, in Arkham City, when you go and talk to Calendar Man, he will ramble on about how many days are in each month, and pretty much insignificant babble. However, when you visit him on real-world holidays, he will break into various monologues about the crimes he committed on each of the holidays. It's a phenomenal little detail that most people wouldn't even know about if they didn't make a trophy/achievement for visiting him on each one of the 12 holidays (one per month) and listening to his stories of madness. Again, it's all the details when it comes to City.
The amount of characters in this game is mind-blowing, as well. Sure, Asylum had a lot, but City took that game and made it seem small in scope of the amount of characters it added to it. Even if the characters weren't involved in the main story line, you would encounter one after another in smaller story arcs and completely optional side missions. Even if you know which characters to expect, when you finally encounter them, there is a sense of wonderment when you finally go face to face with them.
Oh, and let's talk about the Riddler, and his plethora of trophies he has hidden all over Gotham. You run in to them all the time, as you traverse the city skyline back and forth, but most of them you can't get to because you haven't gotten that upgrade to your suit yet. This means that after you finish the game, there is still a lot more to do, if you're into that sort of thing, of course. And of course, I was, as I spent hours trying to find and collect every single Riddler trophy in the game, which I eventually did. But by doing so, I also go to see and experience a larger portion Gotham City, exploring every nook and cranny and really appreciating how much attention to detail went in to recreating a fictional city, brick by brick.
Another thing that made this game memorable for me, and easily one of my favorite games of this generation without question, was the DLC for it, which I actually went back and played through again. First, there is the Catwoman DLC, which you get to play as Selena, with her own story arcs, side missions and Riddler trophies to pursue. While that DLC was awesome, and made the world seem even bigger, it wasn't until the last piece of DLC to come out for it that I realized how special this game was. It was the Harley Quinn DLC, which takes place a couple of weeks after the end of the game, which depicts Harley taking over the thrown of madness. Even better, you get to play as the Boy Wonder, searching for Batman who has gone missing while searching for Harley, which is even more troubling given his mental state after the events of the game. Playing as Robin gives you an entirely different feel of the game, just as Catwoman does, and its nice seeing the secondary sidekicks getting a chance to shine.
Overall, if there is a distinctive Batman game, Arkham City has to be it. Never before has Gotham been placed under such a spotlight as in this game, and it's refreshing to see so much care and love placed into not only the characters, but the world in which they live in, also.
And speaking of cities, below is a link to an article everyone should read. It is exactly the reason why Batman is such an important figure in our culture, for everything he represents and stands for. And if you don't get a little choked up reading the last line of the article, well, something is wrong with you.
San Francisco to be transformed into Gotham City for a day
Back when this game came out, I was completely unsure about the game as a whole. Sure, I've been a Batman fan for as long as I could remember, but for some reason, when this game was announced and eventually released, I just didn't care much about it. I can't exactly remember exactly why I wasn't hot on the game, but something kept me from being super interested in it, even after the reviews came out and everyone was quite smitten about it.
Everything about the game screamed my name, but I didn't bite. Well, that wasn't until I was out doing some shopping on Black Friday, and at one of the stores they had some awesome deals on games. Usually the games go pretty quick for the big sales, but I was in the right place at the right time, and just happened to stumble upon them without much chaos around me, which actually allowed me to look through and pick out games I wanted to buy, a rarity for Black Friday shopping, for sure. Anyway, one of the games I decided to pick up was Batman: Arkham Asylum, which I actually bought for my oldest son, in hopes of finding a game he would actually really enjoy.
He hadn't fully discovered Call of Duty yet, which is his go-to game/series now for sure. Before COD, however, he just wasn't into games very much, not due to lack of trying on my part. Sure, he would play games here and there, but nothing ever really grabbed him. For some reason, however, I thought Arkham Asylum would enlighten his gaming senses. Well, after he opened it up, later on in the day that Christmas, we sat down together to play it, him actually playing it and me watching it, out of sheer curiosity. He got frustrated with it quickly, but I, on the other hand, fell in love with it.
And the love affair for the Arkham series has been in effect ever since.
For one, the game was gorgeous looking. Best looking Batman game ever, hands down. Then you have the open world feeling while still being quite confined in space and exploration, as you are stuck on the Island harboring Arkham Asylum, where all of Gotham's criminally insane are held for treatment. Never before have you explored the Batman universe quite like this, and it was glorious from start to finish. You are equipped with all kinds of Bat gadgets that you acquire and upgrade along the way. The combat system felt almost revolutionary at the time, as it was so fluid, smooth and effective.
But the characters. Man oh man, the characters of this game sold it for me. With Christopher Nolan's movies, we as fans started to get familiar with the more realistic spin on the the universe, most notably, the villains. But back in this game, the villains and all other characters bring you right back to the comic book world, where everyone is exaggerated and somewhat unrealistic, but simply fantastic, fascinating and imagination captivating.
Another key thing about this game is the Detective mode, where you can see objects you can interact with, see enemies through walls and essentially drown yourself with the sonar technology Batman uses. Playing this game again specifically made me realize just how much I use Detective mode, as I don't ever want to miss anything. I'm guessing I probably play the game in Detective mode about 2/3 of the time, which is fine if you like everything drenched in blue saturation, but unfortunately you miss out on all the great details in the graphics.
This game was revolutionary for its time, both in terms of Batman games having a new gold standard to live up to going forward, but also in the type of game this is. Also, at the time, this was easily one of if not the best comic book video game ever, and still remains near the top of the list today. Also, never before has this insane, crazy and frightful part of Gotham been showcased so brilliantly, which just goes to show how deep and rich this fabulous city is with personality.
When Arkham Origins was released, it wasn't exactly the only Batman game to be released that day. Truth is, there was another Arkham game in development at the same time, designed to be an additional experience to go hand-in-hand with Origins, meant to continue the story and essentially just give more Batman to the fans.
This other game, however, isn't a console game, but rather handheld game for the 3DS and the Vita. It is made in the same vein as the other Arkham games, especially in spirit and feel, despite the gameplay and style being very different than what fans have come to know and love.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is a sequel to Origins, but is still a prequel to the other Arkham games. It takes place a few months after the events of Origins, which isn't a spoiler as they both take place before the older Arkham games. Surprise! The villains you had to deal with in Origins got put away in the most notoriously dangerous prison in fictional history, and of course, the story of this game revolves around them taking over the prison and attempting a full-fledged escape. Black Mask, Penguin and Joker are all back in action, leading the charge of the villainous takeover in the prison, of course. In this game, however, you meet Catwoman for the the first time, establishing the very beginning of her relationship with the Bats. This happens right at the beginning of the game, so anyone freaking out about spoilers ... chill.
This game is different in the fact that it is not open world exploration, or even 3D for that matter. It is, what we call it in the industry, a dynamic 2.5D game, where you can only really move left and right, up and down, but the camera and game will automatically swivel you around corners and turns, and also in and out of the background and foreground. So while it is a 2D platformer, it still makes you feel immersed into the environment enough to make you feel free of the 2D constraints.
Batman has the usual arsenal of gadgets, and he has to find them in locked crates throughout the prison. When it comes to gadgets and stuff, Blackgate uses the MetroidVania blueprint, where you can obtain a gadget in one part of the map, but can and have to go back to previous portions of the map you already went to in order to open up new areas, collect secrets and advance the story. A lot of backtracking, but it goes fairly quick to where it's not too annoying.
The combat system is pretty much the same, you can pull grates off walls and of course, detective mode is utilized as well. For the Vita, all you have to do is tap on the touchscreen to activate the mode, and when you hold your finger on the screen, you can scan around the room and analyze objects, secrets and clues for crime scenes that act as mini-side missions, although you just find them along your travels so they don't ever take you away from your current objective. If anything, you just waste a bunch of time scanning every room from top to bottom, if you're like me at all.
Also, the cutscenes are animated in comic book style, and the remind me a lot of the Batman Beyond animated series. They are well done and fit the feel of the game perfectly. For a handheld Batman game, I couldn't ask for anything more, to be honest.
This whole week of Batman games and my journey through the gritty streets of Gotham was inspired and brought upon by the release of this game. Yes, usually I save the newest addition to the franchise for the last day in my "Week Of..." series that I have done before, but hey, I can't always be that predictable. Besides, this game is special and different than other newest games to franchises, in the sense that this is actually an official prequel to all other games before it.
So instead of playing and writing about the Arkham games in the order they were released, as I normally would have, I decided to switch it up a bit and try to tell a comprehensive story with these last four blogs of the Gotham week.
Batman: Arkham Origins was released, which technically is the newest addition to the Arkham series of Batman games, but at the same time, it is a prequel to all other Arkham games. Despite it being an addition to an existing series, it was actually developed by a completely different studio than the previous two Arkham games. Instead of Rocksteady continuing the amazing franchise they created, they passed it off to WB Montreal, which pretty much set the Internet in a tailspin when it was announced. With how loved the Arkham games were, nobody wanted to see the franchise fall into the wrong hands who might not carry on the pedigree of excellence already established.
If that controversy wasn't enough, Mark Hamill, who previously voiced the Joker in the Arkham games, retired from the character, passing the torch to long-time voice actor Troy Baker, who's done some pretty phenomenal characters over the last few years in the video game industry. Nobody thought he could even come close to portraying the Joker as well as Hamill did, but last month at New York Comic Con, he was on a panel discussing the game when he broke into a monologue in the voice of the Joker, and without overstating, brought the entire room into elation, excitement and admiration for his portrayal.
Crazy to think that the Internet overreacted, huh?
Well, they overreacted about the game itself, too. The new studio did a fantastic job recreating the fantastic Arkham series, and without knowing any better, you wouldn't even know someone else did it. It feels and plays like the previous games, and that's a very good thing. Honestly, I wouldn't want any drastic changes for the sake of trying to reinvent the wheel or improve on a good thing already. Why fix something that isn't broke?
This game takes place only a couple years after Batman officially becomes Batman, back when he was still a masked vigilante trying to do good for the streets of Gotham, despite the displeasure and constant grief from the police and Detective Gordon. It plays out over one night, Christmas Eve, and criminal boss Black Mask has put out a substantial reward for the assassination of Batman,which of course brings in trained killers from all over to go after the same bounty. You're goal is to take down Black Mask, and all those who stand in your way. While there is still lots of exploration and story to play out, the game almost feels like it is one boss battle after another, as you try to take down the opposing assassins and other villains. It's not a bad thing, it's just a thing.
Long story short, the Internet once again judged something before it knew better, and once again, the Arkham franchise produced another awesome game, despite who made it or voice acted for it. Gotham has never been a colder place, dangerous place then Christmas Eve.
Sure, Gotham City is an awesome fictional city. In my humble opinion, it is one of the most robust, dynamic and iconic cities in all of the comic book universes, and definitely adds as much character to the Batman franchise as many of the characters- especially the villains - themselves. But while it plays host to dozens of memorable and instantly recognizable characters, it is big enough to hold many, many more DC comics characters within its city limits, and Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is proof of that.
Given the overall success of the first Lego Batman game, in sales, reviews and general reception from the fans, it was a given that they had to explore the Batman universe, and Gotham, some more. This time, however, they decided they needed to spice up the Batman storyline a bit, and introduce one of the most iconic and beloved storylines from DC Comics.
Yes, the Batman versus Superman story arch would be on full display, but of course with the quirky and humorous spin on it that only a Lego game could deliver. And what better place for this epic collision and eventual tag-team of super heroes than Gotham City?
Lego Batman 2 had everything the first game had, but multiplied it tenfold by adding all of the beloved characters from the DC universe into one game, as the heroes band together (reluctantly in the case of Batman with Superman) to foil the evil plan of the treacherous tandem of the Joker and Lex Luthor. The actual plot of the game takes a lot of actual cannon from the comics and mixes it together to make a coherent story in order to involve all the characters, but many basic story elements are familiar to fans.
When it comes down to it, the game depicts Batman in a way most fans aren't used to seeing him. He is, essentially, jealous of the Man of Steel, for good reasons, as Superman is quite cocky, whether it is intentional or not. Regardless, Batman doesn't take to kindly of this situation, with a new and flashy super hero is taking the spotlight in Gotham, despite Batman not wanting it in the first place. Without spoiling more, it's a great story arch that goes back and forth, but ultimately results in what every fan loves to see, the formation of the true dynamic duo.
I actually beat this game twice on two different systems, and while I got the Platinum trophy for the Vita version, the console version was just so massive and open that collecting and doing everything for all the trophies was way more of a grind than I could handle. Going back and playing it though, it was fun to see just how big the game is and how it allowed huge open world games from Lego, like Lego City Undercover, to exist.
With Batman playing such an odd role, it is easy to see Superman as the superstar of this game. Sure, all the other characters are great additions, but the writing and depiction of Superman is far and above any other character. With no good Superman video game to speak of, it would fair to label Lego Batman 2 as the best Superman game ever.
Only in Gotham.
Whoever said you couldn't make a Batman game without Batman was dead wrong. Sure, Batman is an amazing character, and one of the most iconic and recognizable characters and symbols in the world of comic books and pop culture. It's because he such an icon, however, that allows for an entire game to be developed about him and his legend without featuring him at all.
I mean seriously, who didn't want to be Batman as a kid? Or even so, who wouldn't mind being Batman right now? The dude has it all, and it's clear even from early ages for kids that he is different from all other superheroes, as it almost seems possible that under the right circumstances, anyone could be Batman. By day, he is a playboy, philanthropist billionaire, living it up as only billionaires can do. By night, however, he utilizes all the resources he has inherited and grown by his own personal investments, including the amazing gadgets and technologies that his corporation's R&D department has created for him, and becomes a masked vigilante, cleaning up the filthy streets of Gotham and being the savior that the city needs. He does all this despite the efforts of law enforcement to try and prevent him from doing so, and without ever expecting fanfare or recognition for his service. He was wronged as a child by evil, and is on a personal crusade to prevent any others from suffering the pain and agony he was forced to.
Whew. I'm pretty sure I didn't need to explain who and what Batman was all about, but I did want to give some context as to why people would want to be him.
In Gotham City Impostors, the concept of people wanting to be Batman is reproduced in-game, which was a fantastic and novel idea. The game takes place in Gotham, but instead of playing as the Dark Knight or actual characters from the story, you play as either someone pretending to be Batman in hopes of doing the Bat Man proud as you run around in your homemade costume, trying to bring your own brand of personal justice to the streets. Of course, what good would pretending to be Batman be if you didn't have bad guys to battle with? Well, don't worry, as you could also play as a deranged lunatic who looks up and inspires to be just as insane as Batman's arch-nemesis, the Joker.
Confused? Don't be. This game is a first-person shooter multiplayer-only game, featuring 6-vs-6 gameplay. One squad is a group of vigilantes who look up to Batman and proclaim that their mission is nothing but for what's best for the city, while the opposing squad is a group bent on anarchy in the spirit of their inspiration, the Joker. Because they don't have the resources of Batman or Joker, however, they are forced to don handmade costumes and sketchy weapons, which describing them as rough versions of real gadgets would be the understatement of the year.
Just like in any good multiplayer FPS game, there are a few different modes to choose from, and while the blueprint for the game and the modes remain true to the genre they reside in, the game plays and feels differently than any of the typical FPS multiplayer games. Whether it be because of the cartoonish yet all too real violence, or the array of gadgets and weapons made from scraps of parts, the game has a certain charm that sets it apart from the rest.
Sure, you never really feel like Batman or the Joker, but you definitely feel like someone trying pretending to be them, and that's what makes it fun. It reminds you that no, you can't be exactly like Batman, but with enough ingenuity and determination, you could take care of the smaller jobs around the city that he just doesn't have the time to worry about.
Several months ago, I put together a list of possible franchises I would like to a "Week Of..." series about, in hopes of having some planing going forward with the blog. I know I've been pretty spontaneous and unpredictable when it comes to which game I would be playing each day, although I still contest that there are some patterns and subtle hints I give every so often than can aid in guessing which games to look forward to seeing me write about. The thing is, with the popularity of my week-long series, I wanted to ensure that I was ready for each month, and I could make the each week something special, something of an event.
I shared this list of franchises with a few of my closest friends to get feedback on what they wanted to see, what they thought the readers would like to see, and what kind of stories or experiences I could share with each franchise, as all the ones I picked not only fit my criteria for having an entire week dedicated to it, but also had special meanings to me and my gaming history in one way or another. After spitballing and brainstorming the list, I was pretty set on the franchises I would be writing about for the rest of the year, even going as far as to decide which months each franchise would be spotlighted in.
Long story short, I put more planning into the "Week Of..." series for the rest of the year than I had put into the entire blog all year. And as they say, the best plans always look good on paper. Going into October, I had pretty much stuck to my plans, but as the month started to get underway, I realized how excited I was for the new Batman games to be released. I started doing some research and realized I could easily do seven days of Batman games, even though one of my favorite ones I had already written about. In hindsight, I'm glad that I made a post about the NES classic Batman game, as that blog was one of my favorite one's I've written all year, so I'm not regretting it. I just wish I could have incorporated it into this week.
But alas, c'est la vie.
With that, I want to kick off my Seven Days in Gotham with the game that actually completely reformed my opinion of the Lego games overall, as before this one, I didn't care for them at all. Sure, they were serviceable, and my kids like them, but I guess I just didn't see the overall broad appeal of popular franchises being redesigned in the Lego universe. But then, Lego Batman: The Videgame came along, and I not only fell in love with the game, but I finally understood what all the hubbub was about.
I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that this was the first Lego game to replicate a well-known franchise that didn't follow the plot or story of the movies those franchises had. For Lego Batman, they created their own storyline and plot for the Caped Crusader, not forcing him to follow movie plots, but simply creating their own story within the Batman universe. And they did a fantastic job of it, also.
Being as long as it has been since I played this game, I forgot how much it truly captivated my fascination. The ability to play as all the characters from the Batman universe than I knew and loved, both heroes and villains, was an awesome feeling. I can't ever remember playing as Batman's villains before, and if I did, it obviously wasn't a very memorable experience. This time, with the combination of all the iconic characters combined with the whimsical charm of the Lego series, and it was a match made in heaven.
It was clear from right then and there that Lego games were meant to feature comic book characters.
And sure, Gotham city has always meant to be dark, seedy and little sketchy, but sometimes it's okay to step back and just enjoy Gotham in a different light, and laugh a little about what all makes it the best fictional city in the world. There is no way a Lego game could replicate the grim state of the city properly, so instead, they just went the other way with it. In the end, it's an exceptional Batman game, and one that truly depicts how great the franchise is.
Every month for a while now, IGN.com has done something extremely cool for its readers. They have partnered with different publishers of mobile games to give away download codes for free copies of their games, sometimes running all month, sometimes while supplies last. Regardless, there is no catch, nothing you have to sign up for or participate in. Just hit the "get free code" button on the article posting, and it will generate a download code that you type in to the iTunes store or the Android Marketplace, and VIOLA! Free games right to your phone or tablet.
It's actually pretty awesome, as they have yielded some legit, good games, not just any run of the mill games that show up free every other month on their own. Some of them I have already used and wrote about for this blog, but this month, the game came out with perfect timing, as I was able to download it and put it on my iPad just before I left to the beach for the weekend, where any sort of cell service or Wi-Fi was hard to come by. Despite having games on my Vita to play, and since my 3DS is still being held hostage (although it was along for the ride), I planned on playing two games on my iPad specifically for this blog. Both are relatively big games, but both I got for free. Nothing wrong with free, good games, right?
The first game was Batman: Arkham City Lockdown, which I honestly didn't even know existed until I saw it being given away for free by IGN. Anything associated with Batman, however, should be on my radar, especially anything having to do with the Arkham franchise. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are two superb games that completely redefined how comic books or superheros can make the transition to video games successfully, and are no considered the gold standard for that genre.
I obviously didn't expect Arkham City Lockdown to be as good as those games, or like those games as far as open world exploration goes, but I knew they wouldn't associate the Arkham franchise with this game if it didn't do a serviceable job of upholding the brand that's already established. Well, it definitely isn't like the Arkham games at all, other than it is a prequel to "City", I guess, and the character models are spot-on. There is no exploration, no storyline really. You're just Batman, and you go from mission to mission, beating up different groups of thugs using the touch controls. Taping, swiping and trying combos gets you from enemy to enemy. Pretty straight forward.
Sure, you can unlock different costumes and gadgets to make the fights more interesting, but stripped down and it is just a generic touch-controlled fighter. It looks amazing, and because it's Batman, I have no real complaints. However, this type of game, while impressive on the iPad, is very telling as to why I don't ever foresee tablet or mobile gaming completely eliminating the need for handheld consoles. The inclusion of buttons on handhelds will always keep them relevant to gamers, as they just add so much more functionality and possibilities to games. Sure, touch screen controls can enhance a game, but they can't carry a game as far as gamers would like.
Even if it is Batman.
Today was one of those days where inspiration for the game I chose came from outside influences. Actually, it was the culmination of several days worth of influences, both in real life on the video game universe. Today, I chose to play the original Batman, on the NES of course.
For starters, I have been emailing back and forth with my favorite pizza delivery guy in a point/counterpoint type of discussion thread, talking about what we thought about The Dark Knight Rises movie, and why it does or doesn't hold up to scrutiny. That was my first of many inspirations for Batman.
This morning, on twitter, their was chatter about the new Arkham game announced for later this year, and the corresponding handheld (Vita and 3DS) game that is going to be a completely new and different Arkham experience in its own right. The handheld game is supposed to be a Metroidvania 2D style platformer, which sounds awesome, and immediately elicited memories of the original NES Batman from someone on twitter, going as far as to post a screen shot from the original game.
Well played, sir.
Then, this afternoon, while I was taking my seven year old to baseball practice, we had a discussion about superheroes, and he pointed out that Batman was the only one he could think of that didn't have any powers, and then asked if he could be real. This, of course, made me happy as all getup, as that is the exact reason I have always been fond of the caped crusader in comparison to his superhuman friends and counterparts. By then, I still hadn't decided what game to play, but that discussion cemented the notion that Batman was going to be lucky number 105.
As I started playing it, however, I suddenly felt a different connection to Batman and why playing it was important today. In light of the Boston Marathon tragedy, it's times like these where I wish there was someone like Batman to help make rights all the wrongs in the world, especially this great country of ours. Someone who is willing to fight for what's right, fight for notion of safety and not feeling fear constantly, and fight for the greater good. Amidst the tragedy of the horrific events today, one thing was crystal clear and not nearly talked about enough. Despite the chaos, panic, confusion and horror of what took place, there were HUNDREDS of people responding at the scene, running towards the destruction despite the uncertainty of what was unfolding, and putting their own lives on the line to help and try to save as many people as possible.
These were all normal people - workers, volunteers, police officers, fireman, EMTs and anyone else nearby that was brave enough to run towards the crime scene, not away from it. These people weren't superheroes with super powers, but average citizens doing what was right for the greater good. Each and every single person there helping in whatever way they could was essentially Batman. And essentially, Batman is in all of us. He is the good side, the caring side and the protective side of each one use. We are Batman, and Batman is us.
I did play the game, however. It is still fun. It's a tough side-scrolling platformer, where you have the ability to wall jump like Ninja Gaiden, and you have a selection of projectiles in your arsenal at your disposal. I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be based around the Batman movie, but it turned out to be very loosely based on it, for the sake of making an interesting and fun video game. It still remains one of my favorite NES games (top 10, perhaps?) and remains fun and frustrating to this day.
Thank you, Batman, for keeping me entertained for all these years. And thank you to everyone in Boston today helping to make a horrible and terrible situation just a little easier to cope with. Thank you all for not only being what we needed, but what we deserved as a society,
XBLA = The Noyse
PSN = the_noyse
NNID = The Noyse
3DS F.C. = 3007-8109-2329
STEAM = TheNoyse
FEEL FREE TO FRIEND ME!
Games played for project : 365