Video games and superhero comics are two mediums that seem to be inextricably linked. It makes sense, after a fashion, that two entertainment avenues initially intended as quick ‘n easy entertainment for children that evolved into so much more would be similar on more than a surface level. While I’m pretty sure we’re still a few decades out from Mario: The Dark Plumber Returns, you can currently see a similarity in intentions from both factions. The WiiU is a system built for kids and adults, with entire functions that seem designed for “sure, the kids have the TV, but you’ve got the gamepad”. Comics available right now are about heady subjects like the meaning of family and devotion (see Tim King’s Vision run), trying to find your way after leaving an abusive relationship (Harley Quinn), and the ever popular topic of power and responsibility in modern society (let’s say… Squirrel Girl). Now, more than ever, video games and comics are doing their best to appeal to the “grown up” demographic.
But, hey, some people remember that whole “for kids” thing.
Batman is a great example of a character that can be anything (and often has been). At his core, Batman is nothing more than a child’s fantasy of fighting crime: put on a costume, fly around the city with crazy personal cars, jets, or grappling hooks, and then stop crime as it happens with the dual hammers of justice. There is basically no part of that scenario that could work in the real world, right down to Batman’s seemingly precognitive ability to be literally on top of all relevant crimes at all times. But it’s a fun story, and who doesn’t like the idea of a dracula busting up the bad guys? Of course, that “silly” concept of Batman has grown up over the years, and now we have very serious stories for a very serious Earth and…
Alright, I have to stop for a moment because I don’t like my own tone.
Let me make something clear: I accept Batman in all things. I like dark and gritty Batman. I like Morrison Batman. I like Batman that zooms around in purple gloves gunning down criminals. There are some stories that are better than others, but, yeah, if I’m being honest, I like Scuba Whale Fighting Batman as much as Deathly Serious Batman, and, as noted Batmanologists have pointed out, Batman really can fit into any story’s blank space. Pride and Prejudice and Batman might be a hard sell, but if you need a smart guy on your team, he’s there. Strong guy? Dude can toss around an engine block like it’s nothing. He’s stealthy, agile, and even has more money than most bats, so he can buy a pinball machine for your new youth center. Batman works, period.
And we’ve seen how Batman can work and adapt to different mediums. Just within my lifetime, we’ve had animated Batman in a stellar pseudo-noir series, a more “hip” and “fresh” animated series where the Joker is a Rastafarian for some reason, that one show that had Professor Pyg, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a “silly” show that seemed to be an excuse for Batman to hang out with Aquaman and actually make fish dude outrageous. That’s just listing the animated appearances I can think of off the top of my head (I know there’s a robo dinosaur in there somewhere, too), we’re not even going to get into live action Bruce fighting cyborg luchadores or being inexplicably twelve. While there always seems to be that drive to make Batman grim ‘n gritty, we’re not exactly lacking for fun new excuses to roll out the Bat Sub.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Videogame is based on that previously mentioned animated series that leans pretty heavily on the puerile. A scant year after the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum’s roid rage Joker battling a Dark Knight that, let’s face it, just killed an entire asylum full of people (they’ve been knocked really unconscious), we received this game for the Wii, which features Batman battling a gorilla with a Bat Robot before shooting off into space to pal around with Guy Gardner. This Batman has a lightsaber belt, jetpack, and a magical imp (that only he can see) voiced by Paul Reubens. This Batman bickers with Robin over (cat) girls, mentors a teenage protégé in a cybernetic super suit, and puts up with the existence of Hawkman. This Batman, in more ways than one, is completely incompatible with many other Batman interpretations (you know Arkham Batman would “reincarnate” Hawkman as soon as their eyes crossed), but that’s the thing about Batman, he can be gritty just as easily as he can be fun.
And this game is a lot of fun! It’s pretty much a beat ‘em up, but it also contains a doctor’s recommended dosage of platforming, shoot ‘em up, and (light) puzzle based gameplay. And, what’s more, it’s continuously two player action, so a second player can drop in and out at will. Actually, on a lot of levels, complete with the general “death is meaningless” rule, this game is a lot like the Lego game series. This means there aren’t many challenges that stop you from progressing, but there are a number of “mini” challenges (like finding Starros or racking up an absurd combo count) that can hold a more experienced player’s interest. And for anyone that’s a fan of the show, B:TBATB:TVG contains a number of clear references to its source material, so this isn’t the random licensed game that borrows a few graphical cues and goes off in another direction. Heck, this game is probably the most faithful “play the cartoon at home” game on the Wii, and that’s saying something.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Videogame is a blast, and it’s for reasons that are entirely separate from why the Arkham games are fun. Both games feature Bruce Wayne, and derive their joy from “play as Batman”, but are effectively night and day. And that’s fine! In fact, that’s better than fine, it’s a damn breakthrough. Batman is, for obvious reasons, a carefully curated license, and someone over at WB/DC/whatever said, “You know what? Batman can be equal parts somber and goofy, let’s make some video games that show both sides.” And, for those of us with multiple gaming systems, there was Vanilla Batman, and Rooty Tooty Batman, and both were attached to great play experiences.
And I’d like to see gaming take another page from comics’ book and start allowing its franchises to branch out a little more. I don’t need Hyrule’s Link to occupy a scary Dark World of real consequences all the time, but it might be fun for one game. Conversely, a more… gentle take on Kratos might lead to some entertaining (and probably hilarious) times. Killer Pokémon? Uncharted Babiez? The possibilities are endless, and I won’t rest until we see a realistic Elseworld of Tetris!
Okay, yes, I know these ideas are terrible, but the concept still stands. The gaming world was once big enough for two Batmen, and you don’t see anarchy in the streets or confused children that can’t understand why Ben Affleck doesn’t summon Bat-Mite more often. We can use a little variety with our franchises, and “Mario, but now he can’t jump as well” doesn’t cut it anymore. You can do it, our nation’s copyright holders! You can do it!
Do it for comics. Do it for video games. Do it… for Batman.
FGC #134 Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Videogame
- System: Nintendo Wii is the only version I ever played, but there is a DS version as well.
- Number of players: Two, whether you want two players or not. In the event you have no friends, a computer friend will be assigned to you.
- Port ‘o Call: The DS version is effectively another game, with only one player available at a time and completely different villains to trounce. The DS version has both a playable Aquaman and a fightable Joker… so I feel like maybe the console version was cheated.
- Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na: Batman.
- Favorite Playable Hero: I’m not sure when we’ll ever see Jaime Reyes, second generation Blue Beetle, in a video game again, but I’ll be happy with this version for right now. … What? He’s in Lego Batman 3? Well… that’s good, too.
- Favorite Assist Hero: Black Canary is the lone female hero featured in this game, and that’s a shame, as she was the star of one of Batman: The Brave and the Bold’s best episodes with a few other Gotham sirens. Bird can sing.
- Did you know? Proto (Bat) Bot was voiced by Adam West in the animated series, but he (it) is voiced by Jeff Bennett doing a remarkable imitation for the game. Jeff Bennett has been in a million and a half animated shows, but you would probably recognize his roles in Johnny Bravo (title character) and Legend of Korra (that narrator dude at the top of every episode). He also played Batman!… on Tiny Toon Adventures.
- Would I play again: Unfortunately, like a lot of Wayforward games, this is all killer, no filler… which makes for very little reason to replay the game. It’s a fun game! Just kind of short and limited, so I’m not certain if I’ll give it a go again. Doesn’t mean I don’t have fond memories, though.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Amagon for the NES! Abadox, Amagon, A Boy and his Blob… were producers trying to exploit alphabetical order during the NES generation? No matter, let’s see what Amagon is all about. Please look forward to it!