Tag Archives: hush

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #06: Mickey Mouse

SIGHQ. So what’s Mickey Mouse been up to?

A. Let’s talk about mice, baby, let’s talk about King Mickey.

Mickey Mouse is a real anomaly in the Kingdom Hearts mythology. To touch on it briefly, approximately 90% of the Disney characters in Kingdom Hearts are amazingly flat, as if some random guy listened to any given character’s introduction jingle and then made that the entire basis for every action the character performs. Aladdin is a street rat. Belle is a funny girl. Ariel ain’t got no legs. Etc. Meanwhile, Mickey Mouse has nearly a century of history, has appeared in over 100 films, constant random television shows, is the mascot for one of the largest corporations in the known universe, and has been consumed as ice cream on a stick more times than every super hero combined. Despite all of this real life and fictional history, Mickey Mouse is not pigeonholed into some easy story telling slot, and may actually be the character in Kingdom Hearts with the most development.

He also might be an immortal trickster god.

First of all, two of Mickey’s most famous films, Steamboat Willie and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, officially happened in the past of the Kingdom Hearts Universe. According to some light time traveling in Kingdom Hearts 2, it appears most of the old black and white Mickey shorts occurred in one fashion or another, which is relevant, because it means Mickey was kind of a giant dick. Go watch Steamboat Willie, right now, and marvel at how Mickey doesn’t even make it to the two minute mark before brutally abusing some defenseless bird. And then the cat? Copyright Disney 1930 or soOh God, the poor cat. Then, of course, there’s the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, where it is revealed that Mickey is so lazy, he may destroy us all. Also part of Mickey’s past is a general version of The Three Musketeers, where Mickey, Donald, and Goofy all rescue Princess Minnie from the clutches of Pete the Cat and The Beagle Boys (not the cool Beagle Boys, though, sadly).

Princess Minnie, eh? Huh. I guess “King Mickey” married in to royalty as opposed to earning his crown in any real political or aggressive way. Suppose that’s just as well, most of his subjects in Disney Castle kind of outrank him on the food chain…

Also worth noting: the actual years involved in the “Kingdom Hearts Past” are really nebulous. No numbers are given for how long Mickey has been a “sorcerer’s apprentice”, and, while there was a time before Disney Castle was an actual castle, nobody is talking about how many years it took to build the place, left alone how long it has been occupied. That gorgeous pastFun fact! In Kingdom Hearts, Birth by Sleep, Huey, Duey and Louie all appear to be ducklings helping out at Disney Castle, and Sora, Riku, and Kairi appear to be five year olds. Ten years later, in Kingdom Hearts 1, Sora Riku, and Kairi are all approximately 15 years old (and look like teenagers), while Huey, Duey, and Louie are all… ducklings. I realize this all may simply be a way for the universe to forestall the prophecy of the Quack Pack, but still, kind of unsettling.

By the time of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep there are three significant keyblade masters. The first is Xehanort, who I am contractually obliged to mention at least once a post. The second is Xehanort’s metaphorical brother, named Eraqus (rearrange the letters in his name and it spells “devoured by Enix”). Eraqus has three apprentices, and they all equally contribute to unwittingly destroying the whole of existence. Good job, Eraqus. The third keyblade master, who has officially stepped down as a keyblade master, but can’t retire from meddling, is Yen Sid (which sure isn’t backwards for Ub Iwerks). Yen Sid you may recognize as the fairly generic wizard from Fantasia, and pretty much has a place in the Kingdom Hearts canon because Merlin had already been used by the time “Sid” made his introduction in KH2. There are only so many Disney wizards to go around! Mickey is the apprentice of Yen Sid (the sorcerer), and, despite already being a married man (mouse) and ruling monarch, Mickey is trying to learn how to use a keyblade to protect not only his own world, but every last living creature.

Except that cat from that steamboat that one time. Fuck that cat.

Look out for that mouseMickey has good intentions, but a short attention span. When Yen Sid mentions that he senses a disturbance in the Force, Mickey grabs a random magic rock called the Star Shard, and bounces around the universe like a ping pong ball, going wherever the deus ex machina plot Star Shard takes him. He successfully saves the life of Ventus on one occasion, then tries to do it again, and gets his little mouse ass kicked. Aqua saves him, the he saves Aqua and Ventus again, sorta, and then Mickey’s involvement ends just as everyone’s lives get much worse. Mickey thinks he’s a big fat failure for saving a couple of kids that then wind up either comatose or completely missing, so he hands in his Star Shard and keyblade to Yen Sid. Yen Sid, showing that ol’ Yen Sid compassion he’s known for in all his many appearances through the years, returns Mickey’s keyblade, and declares that Mickey is now a keyblade master. Yen Sid probably didn’t promote Mickey because every other keyblade master is effectively dead at this point. Probably.

Most Kingdom Hearts characters get some time off between Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts 1, but not Mickey. This leads to the first event where I can ask the question: King Mickey, most caring creature in the universe or dangerous lunatic? King Mickey meets Ansem the Wise. This is not a random occurrence, as King Mickey has to distinctly travel to an entirely different world to pull off this maneuver. Damn rodentBy all accounts, King Mickey visits Ansem the Wise on multiple occasions, and they talk about being philosopher kings, the multiple worlds that exist in their universe, and their shared mutual hatred of river-faring cats. Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that at some point not long after this meeting of the minds, Xehanort performs his coup, shoves Ansem the Wise into a blackhole, replaces all of Ansem the Wise’s staff with a bunch of Nobodies, goes the extra mile by stealing Ansem’s name, and then signs the deed to the whole planet over to noted wicked witch, Maleficent. By the time of Kingdom Hearts 2, Mickey speaks fondly of his “old friend” Ansem the Wise, but doesn’t mention at all why he never bothered to check in on his “old friend” around the time his whole planet started radiating evil like a KISS Karneval. Not like Mickey could do anything, he’s just the only active keyblade master in the universe and commander of an entire planet’s armies.

Kingdom Hearts 1 doesn’t have much Mickey Mouse, but what’s there adds a few more ticks to the “dangerous lunatic” column. First, Mickey leaves a note that Donald and Goofy are supposed to strike out into the universe and “find the key”. Mickey’s most trusted companions must know Mickey already has a keyblade, right? They probably spent a solid week trying to parse out if Mickey had just found some new, weird way to refer to his royal self. Also, according to later materials, Mickey is IN Traverse Town at the same time as Sora (“the key”). Just as a reminder, Sora has lost his entire planet along with everyone he has ever known, and has a brand new weapon that he has no idea how to use, and, oh yeah, Mickey is a literal master of said weapon. But, no, Mickey just waves his hand (paw?) and moves along, presumably deciding that he has his best men on the job, Belligerent Bird and Dopey Dog, or whatever their names are. At least he didn’t send Horace Horsecollar to help, that dimwit has been wearing a toilet seat on his neck for eighty years.

King Arthur got nothing on thisTurns out the reason Mickey couldn’t be bothered with the trifles of the kid who is saving the universe is that the diminutive mouse had to venture into the realm of darkness to retrieve the Kingdom Key D, the dark counterpart to Sora’s Kingdom Key (of light). This little story factoid has only made less and less sense as the Kingdom Hearts plot has spiraled out of control, but with all the talk of the χ-blade in BBS, and the fact that the χ-blade in question looks like two crossed Kingdom Keys, well, that plot point is kind of due for a comeback. Or maybe it’ll be ignored so Xehanort will have time to start his own boy band (proposed name: Skyboxes Tet Crab). Hard to say.

So King Mickey uses that Kingdom Key D in conjunction with Sora’s Kingdom Key, and the duo seals the Door to Darkness, with the only issue being that King Mickey (and Riku) are stuck on the darkness side of the door. The problem is quickly solved, however when… well, something happens.

After that undefined something, Mickey becomes Riku’s cheerleader for Chain of Memories. Riku is grappling with his new dark powers, and begs Mickey to kill him should he fall back into the darkness. Mickey, who practically just met Riku, claims he cannot make that promise, because Mickey values Riku’s life far too much. Days earlier, Sora, Riku’s best friend, beat Riku to death like three consecutive times. Riku and Mickey march out of Chain of Memories, and even make a new friend who wears bandages all over his face and isn’t suspicious at all.

Fabulous gameboy graphicsMickey identified Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days as a big steaming turd well before it even was released, so he basically takes those 358 days off. At one point he almost killed Riku? It’s not worth mentioning. Oh, wait! This is where Riku infamously makes Mickey promise not to reveal what happened to himself to Sora. This will be important in a moment (40 hours of game time).

Kingdom Hearts 2 is really where Mickey comes into his own. First of all, Mickey is working closely with Riku (currently looks like Ansem, Seeker of Darkness) and bandage freak DiZ (Dude, it’s Ziggy!). These three know the plot, and while Riku and Dizzle Dawg have their own reasons for keeping Team Sora in the dark, Mickey has no such hang-up, and will explain everything just as soon as he feels like it, which is at approximately the half way point of the entire game. Prior to that he was… doing his laundry? He’s only recently gotten into wearing shirts, and his whites are very important to him. Mickey basically does weird, shadowy-but-ultimately-good things in the background of the first half of the game, then explains the plot, helps out for like an hour, and then ducks out until the big finale. Also, during this time, because he’s keeping that promise to Riku, Mickey refuses to tell Sora anything about Riku’s whereabouts. While it’s never outright stated, given Sora’s reaction to Riku upon their reunion, and his general concern prior to that, Sora pretty much assumes Riku is dead. Sora assumes Mickey is holding back some brutal truth to spare his feelings, so Sora wanders from planet to planet, probably crying into his gummi chair, mourning his imagined-dead friend. Dammit, Mickey.

That’s the general gist of Mickey’s involvement in Kingdom Hearts 2, but we’ll circle back to that in a moment, as I know some of you are throwing up your hands right now with, “But you didn’t mention…” We’re getting to that.

Also, the mouse is highAnyway, Kingdom Hearts 2 eventually gives way to Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, an upgraded cell phone game where, technically, Mickey is the main protagonist, as the Sora of that game is a virtual Sora avatar with Mickey playing the role of the player/controller. Long (stupid) story short: Mickey hooks up Jimminy’s Journal to a scanner, and all hell breaks loose, but at the end the day is saved, and Willow learns a very valuable lesson about mixing technology and magic, which will be completely ignored come Season 6. Wait, may be some bugs in this paragraph…

Now, an interesting thing happens in Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance. By Kingdom Hearts chronology, KH3D comes immediately after Kingdom Hearts 2 (or Re:Coded if you’re nasty), but in real world, how these games are produced chronology, KH3D was released on the heels of Birth by Sleep, aka the game where Mickey inadvertently lets three fellow keyblade apprentices die (or close to it). Just prior to the events of 3D, Yen Sid informs Mickey that, excellent work everyone, you just paved the way for Xehanort returning, and the last time we saw that guy, you nearly got killed twice, you silly mouse. While Mickey barely actively does anything during KH3D (he does rush in and save everybody with a well timed Stop spell at one point), he spends the majority of KH3D in a perpetual state of concern, as the last time he saw some teenagers go up against Xehanort, they kind of got wiped off the face of the universe. Eventually, Riku and Sora prove they can hold their own (because of course they can), and that seems to cheer up the mouse in the end.

Which brings me to a crazy game design theory section.

Not very strong...Video games are important. You’re reading this on a video game blog, so you likely agree with this to at least some point. One thing that I feel video games can do more than any other medium is grant the player some level of control over the “mood” of the cast in any given story. Yes, it’s all fake, and no, no matter what you do, you can never save Aeris just the same as you can’t “save” Sephiroth. But, you can feel responsible. When you complete every last sidequest in Colony 9, and see the “happy meter” for the entire town has skyrocketed, yes, it’s all fake and the gauge is no different than your experience bar, but it likely will convey a sense of accomplishment that you’re just not going to get from booing Hans Gruber in Die Hard, no matter how hard you yell at the screen.

And then there’s Mickey Mouse, and Mickey Mouse should be happy.

Mickey Mouse is Mickey Mouse in Kingdom Hearts. This isn’t a case of “Leon” or Cloud or Aeris where “here’s your beloved character… but with bat wings!” Kingdom Hearts even goes out of its own way to confirm that, yes, that short you saw with Mickey Mouse happened in this universe, it was just a while back. My grandfather, my father, and myself all saw the same Mickey Mouse cartoons, at one time or another in the last century, and we all think well of the rodent, and the same goes for much of the planet. Three generations of this world, all with the same shared good vibes. Say what you will about Disney the corporation, but Mickey Mouse is gold.

One of the absolute dumbest moments in Kingdom Hearts 2 is the “death” of Goofy. For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this scene, Goofy is hit by a large rock lobbed by some random heartless (not even a named villain, just some arbitrary debris), and Goofy falls over, apparently dead. Obviously, there’s no blood. There’s no real effort put forth by the game or direction to convince the player that “Goofy isn’t coming back” whether it be a party member switch (think Galuf to Krile) or even a cutscene with anything approaching an Aeris level of effort. Though Goofy’s equipment is returned to your inventory, which seems to suggest Donald looted his best friend’s corpse. In maybe 15 minutes of game time, Goofy will return to the party, no worse for wear, and the event is never spoken of again.

But all of that doesn’t matter, because the bad guys just killed Mickey Mouse’s friend.

He gonna killMickey is there for Goofy’s death. Mickey can be interpreted as a capricious jerk for a lot of Kingdom Hearts’ run time, and he seems to act this way simply because he can, and he knows it. But there, in that moment, Mickey is reminded that there is a cost to this war, it’s not just some game, and it’s time to beat some heartless like a cat on a boat.

And it’s a silly little cartoon mouse with a silly little key sword and it should be just as ridiculous as it sounds, but it’s not. It’s a beloved childhood icon who should be all smiles and happiness who cannot be happy right now because his friend is dead. Mickey Mouse is going to kick ass, and you, player, are going to help him.

And it’s God damn exhilarating.

So you, Sora, go on to slay over 1,000 heartless (the game counts, you must kill, at least, without hyperbole, one thousand) with the blessing of Mickey Mouse. A century old symbol of joy cheering you on to slaughter an army of pure evil bugs? There’s nothing more simple and clean than that.

I could make a giant post about how Kingdom Hearts (1) is one of the most important games I’ve ever played, how it hit at just the right time in my life, and, while none of the sequels have lived up to it, KH1 will always hold a place in my heart and my brain, and thus these posts; but the real thing that makes the Kingdom Hearts series so amazing, and something that I would argue makes KH important even to the entire of medium of video games and storytelling in general, is how it can “take” a fictional character, one well known the world over, and use him and his motivations to enable the player to do and feel things that would be impossible in any other medium or situation. When Kingdom Hearts does it, and does it right, it is awe-inspiring.

COMING UP NEXT KH FAQ: Donald and Goofy, or when Kingdom Hearts completely fails.

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #01: Ansem

A man to be laughed atQ. Who is Ansem?
A. That’s a very simple question! Here’s a succinct, 1,200 or so word answer on “Ansem”, in chronological, Kingdom Hearts history order.

In the beginning, “Ansem” started out as Xehanort, a terribly named young man who became a keyblade master. Fun fact: Xehanort is from Destiny Islands, the same home planet/island as the KH protagonist, Sora, and I’m sure the series will never use this fact as a last minute plot “twist”. Anyway, Xehanort was granted time travel powers by his future self, in a lovely predestination paradox that seems to be the only crossover with Gargoyles that KH is going to commit to. More about Young Man Xehanort will be covered later, but suffice it to say he somehow fails (despite having time travel powers and seeming control over, basically, the universe), and grows up into…

Portrait of a keyblade master as an old manOld Man Xehanort, as voiced by Leonard Nimoy. Since the entirely of Birth by Sleep is basically the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy (obviously foreshadowing Disney’s eventual acquisition of the Star Wars Universe) Old Man X is basically Emperor Palpatine. OMX spends the entire game as a “kindly old keyblade master” who is so dripping with evil he is literally followed by unimaginable monsters, though the heroes of the tale kind of don’t notice. Over the course of the game, the mysterious Mr. X first tried to pull Keyblade Apprentice Ventus (the original Sora) over to the darkside, but failed, and simply created a bizarro clone of Ventus named Vanitas (the first clone of Sora). Vanitas was a bust for some reason, so then Darth Xehanort moved on to tempting Keyblade Apprentice Terra over to the world of evil. This actually succeeded because Terra loved his friends so much he just had to kill Obi-Wan (as played by Mark Hamill).

Why don't you cry about it?Now this is where it gets complicated: Old Man Xehanort was using Terra the entire time so the old man could gain a young man’s body. Wait, phrasing, Xehanort wanted to literally possess the body of Terra, and did so. So Terra’s soul got suppressed, and Old Man Xehanort became Terra-Xehanort for a hot minute. This led to Keyblade Apprentice Aqua beating Terra-Xehanort so hard he literally could not remember who he was. Amnesiac-Terra-Xehanort is then discovered by Ansem the Wise, who immediately disproves his own name and hires Amnesiac-Terra-Xehanort as his assistant, thus transforming the villain into Lab Coat Xehanort.

Looking scienceyLab Coat Xehanort basically becomes the magical Dr. Mengele of the Square universe. In an act that can only occur in backstory and must never be seriously analyzed, Lab Coat Xehanort turns Ansem the Wise’s entire staff into a bunch of crazy monsters, tosses Ansem the Wise into the Realm of Darkness, steals Ansem’s name despite the fact that he is surrounded by people who knew the original Ansem, and then “unlocks the darkness in his own heart” or whatever and splits himself into two separate beings, Heartless Ansem and Nobody Xemnas. Then he went out for smokes for a decade.

By the era of Kingdom Hearts 1, Heartless Ansem, calling himself Ansem, orchestrates the entirety of Kingdom Hearts I, attempting to swallow the total KH universe into darkness, because that’s what you do when you’re the pure darkside of an already bad guy. Heartless Ansem clashes with the newest keyblade wielder, Sora, who has the sleeping soul of Ventus in there for whatever reason. Sora’s rival is another keyblade wielder, Riku, who once received the key-blessing of Terra. Riku is eventually totally possessed by Heartless Ansem, because Ansem-Xehanort can’t seem to get enough of this whole You recognize this one“possessing random teenagers” bit. At around that point, Sora is transformed into a Heartless by Heartless Ansem-Riku, but Sora recovers; however this random bit leads to the creation of Nobody Roxas, which will be important (sorta) later. Anyway, Sora beats Heartless Ansem senseless with his keyblade, Riku is freed of Ansem’s control, and Heartless Ansem is evaporated by the light that is Kingdom Hearts. Heartless Ansem is dead and gone forever.

Meanwhile, toward the end of KHI, Nobody Xemnas (the seventh “Ansem”) grabs Nobody Roxas (the fourth Sora) for his own nefarious purposes. Xemnas has this whole group of Ansem the Wise’s former trainees, called Organization XIII, and they’re all interested in turning the moon into a heart or something, because they’re Nobodies without emotions, and that makes them sad and angry. Sad lil dudeSo Sora is led into Castle Oblivion, where he must fight another Sora clone, about half of Organization 13, and then have his memory erased, because amnesia is the grease that keeps the Kingdom Hearts wheels rolling. Riku is thrust into the basement of the castle, and finds that he now has the ability to transform into Heartless Ansem. So, to be clear, Riku is another Ansem. Riku also meets DiZ, which stands for… seriously? Okay… Darkness in Zero. DiZ is secretly Ansem the Wise, now cosplaying as Batman’s lesser (least) nemesis, Hush.

But while this is all happening, Xemnas has inducted Roxas into Organization 13. Roxas is, ya know, doing whatever, chilling, eating ice cream, hanging with his buddy Xion, that kind of thing, for about a year. Then all heck breaks loose when it turns out that Xion was secretly a failed clone of Roxas (so, Sora #5, #6 if you count that other clone). Because you can only photocopy a photocopy so many times, Xion kind of breaks down into nonexistence so hard no one even remembers she was ever alive, and Roxas has a giant freak-out that leads to Riku going full Dark Ansem just in time to make the opening of Kingdom Hearts 2 really confusing.

Air Boat?Roxas is now trapped in The Matrix by DiZ and Dark Ansem-Riku. Roxas realizes he’s The One after a very exciting essay on “what I did on my Summer vacation”, and then pretty much ceases to exist just in time for Sora to come back to be the hero. The remaining members of Organization XIII go stomping around the universe, generally stirring up trouble, and Sora beats them down in turn. Finally, Nobody Xemnas reveals himself as being behind everything, and it’s all another ploy to create Kingdom Hearts, or find Kingdom Hearts, or something or other. What’s important is that DiZ, aka Ansem the Wise, sacrifices himself to transform Dark Ansem-Riku back into Shadow the Hedgehog Regular-Riku, and then Riku and Sora just straight up murder Nobody Xemnas, because he didn’t have a heart anyway, so it’s okay. This means that, finally, the last Ansem is dead, and the galaxy is at peace.

You're gonna be eternal, all rightExcept not so much. Death in the Kingdom Hearts universe is kind of confused: If someone is split into a heartless and a nobody, and then the heartless and nobody are killed, it becomes some kind of double negative thing, so the original “person” comes back to life. In Xehanort’s case the whole of the universe had a compile error or something, and it spat out another twelve or so Xehanorts. Seriously, Old Man Xehanort came back to life, and then used previously-never-mentioned time travel abilities to stock his all-new, all-better Organization 13 with at least four other versions of himself (“himself” now being a word that has absolutely no meaning). Two other Org XIII members are hangers on from the last Org, and the other six are mysteries because we’ve gotta have something to speculate on before the release of Kingdom Hearts 3. Xehanort (the young one, I think) tried to possess Sora and make him member #13, thus joining the great line of Too Many Soras with The Ansems All The Way Down, but he failed, as Xehanorts are want to do.

And now we’re all gearing up for the final KH chapter as the forces of light (Soras) battle the forces of darkness (Ansems) for the final fate of… wait… there are Disney characters in this franchise?


FGC #006 Batman: Arkham City

Shway viewThere are many things that I want to do, but know will never happen, and one of those things is be cryogenically frozen.

Hey, you’re gonna dream, dream big.

I am, and have always been, someone who believes the future is only getting better. I don’t believe the apocalypse is just around the corner, and I don’t believe we are experiencing some low point in human history due to the propagation of violence, low morals, and Taco Bell. I am about thirty years old, and I look at what the world was at my childhood, and where we are now, and I am blown away by the simple fact that myself, my children, and my children’s children will never have to waste their entire lives trying to remember who played the wife in Beetlejuice (Geena Davis). I would love nothing more than a guaranteed, one way ticket to the future, if only to see where this whole humanity thing is going, and experience the inevitable leaps in technology and information and maybe jetpacks.

And while the “technology” of the future (would someone from the early 1900’s even identify social media as “technology”?) would be more than worth the price of admission, I would be genuinely fascinated by what culture from today has survived or even thrived in the hearts and minds of future generations. I just recently discovered that the novel The Giver was published in 1993. I read The Giver in, I believe, 1995 or 1996 or thereabouts, as part of the grade school curriculum, and assumed, at the time, that it was an ancient tome on par with most of our reading assignments, some of which were written well before this century. Well, that century, at least. It is intriguing as an adult to learn that something you assumed to be classical literature as a child was, in fact, contemporary, but has now become classical literature. I would love to see what comes in the future, whether Harry Potter or (God help us all) Twilight grows to be promoted to the same “whaddya mean we have to read this now” echelon as Shakespeare and Mark Twain.

I got people to saveThen we have the sick, sad world of pop culture, and what will survive for generations, seemingly in spite of itself. Detective Comics #27, featuring the Batman, was published in May of 1939. At the time, no one, not even creators Bill Finger and Roger Meyers, could have predicted Batman would still be a cultural juggernaut seventy-six or so years later. Despite my letter writing campaign, Batman is not taught at schools or universities, he is not the popular mascot for a local sports team, nor is he ever in a tv show that lasts for more than four seasons. Batman perseveres, for some peculiar reason, despite being just a dude in a Halloween costume in the funny papers.

Everything about Batman is depressing. From the macro, like the fact that kid Batman can’t even go to the movies without acquiring a lifetime bout of PTSD, to the micro, like how even just a year into his one man battle against crime, Bruce Wayne is just riddled with scars and injuries that will guarantee a very cranky retirement (sorry Terry!). Even peripheral Batman characters are left without a bottle of bat-prozak: Batman has a virtual army of fellow orphans at his disposal, and Barbara Gordon, either as Batgirl, Oracle, or Battumblr, lives in an eternal state of lying to her doting father.

And Sad Man lives in Sad Town. Clowns are supposed to make people happy, not make people fleshless. Penguins are adorable flightless birds, not notorious gangsters. And crocodiles… okay, I guess crocodiles in the sewers are always bad for property values. Depending on what continuity we’re subscribing to this week, the entire city of Gotham was founded around the prison of an evil warlock that radiated bad vibes, and that barely even cracks the top 20 of horrible crap to befall Gotham City before it was even founded.

Don’t even get me started on The Clench.

All this adds up to a hero that is the darkest pile of dark in the darkest pit of darkness that, somehow, perseveres to the modern day.

Remember when he used to hench for Pharoah Man?Batman: Arkham City is the apex of that darkness. This is the story of Batman, Dark Knight, venturing into Arkham City. What’s Arkham City, you ask? Well, Gotham City had such a criminal problem, that it decided to wall off an entire section of the city, a section including homes, highrises, a historical district, and an entire museum, and just give it over to the criminal element, and call it a jail. This idea was contributed by little Sally Stemberger, age 6, who invented the idea while playing with one of her father’s snowglobes. She was asked for further details about how this would work, but, unfortunately, she had already moved on to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by that point, so her contributions to the project were minimal.

We’ve got Batman in Criminal Freak City trying to save the world in the middle of a snow storm during an eternal night. Folks, this is using your onyx crayon on a piece of taupe construction paper.

But it’s here, smack dab in the heart of darkness, that you realize exactly why Batman has persisted all these years. Despite theoretically being the most depressing concept for a depressing ongoing story in the most depressing setting against horridly depressing villains, the reason Batman has captured the hearts and minds of generations shines through.

The strange secret of Bruce Wayne?

About ten minutes into Batman: Arkham City, you’re going to shout, and that shout will sound like this: “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”


It’s fun to be Batman. No one wants to be an orphan. No one wants to fight an unending war against a concept that has existed, according to nearly every major religion, since the dawn of humanity. No one wants to actually wade through a sewer to fight a murder clown. But I can tell you what everyone does want, and that’s a grappling hook that denies any and all laws of physics and launches you into the air whereupon you release your crazy batcape and gently glide to another rooftop, or, if you spy criminals, slam down to the ground like an avenging, one-man earthquake.
Batman Arkham City is wall-to-wall violence, misogyny, and depression (There’s a point in the game where it’s strongly implied that Batman beats a pregnant woman into submission where it’s all three at once!), but that’s not what we (want to) remember about the experience. Ask your average gamer about Batman: AC, and they’ll describe gliding over the city, sliding down from gargoyles to surprise brutes, or just playing with all of Batman’s magnificent toys in crazy combinations until Thug #4,621 explodes just from Batcontact.

And you better believe that’s what keeps Batman eternal. In the end, it’s never about the rogues gallery, or the pathos, or whatever the hell Gotham starring Ben McKenzie is about, it’s about that simple joy of freedom, that while Batman is a man that is trapped by his compulsions, he lives his life as a man who isn’t even bound by gravity. Batman’s villains have a body count approaching the population of French Guiana, but Bats is never going to be among that number, because, despite chasing a completely deadly hobby every night, he just dances through bullets like you or I survive a light rain. Batman is freedom incarnate, and that’s going to appeal to anyone who happens to be a human being, no matter the epoch.

This makes zero senseSo if I ever get that voucher to the future, when I wake up in another five hundred years, I have no doubt there’ll be an officially licensed ComDisney-Mart Batman comic waiting for me in Dr. Belthasar’s waiting room. And, as the children of the future hook their holovids into my datastream, I’ll tell them all of the time I was The Batman, and flew through Arkham City on wings I controlled with the press of a button.

I won’t mention the bits about Hugo Strange, though. That never went anywhere.

FGC #6 Batman Arkham City

  • System: PS3 for me, Xbox 360 for you? Maybe PC if you’re some kind of weirdo
  • Number of Players: 1. 2+ if you count the inevitable audience this game accrues.
  • Longest Combo Chain: Does the game log this anywhere? I can see I got that 50+ combo trophy, and I remember being pretty proud of that.
  • Get all those Riddler Trophies? I didn’t get all of them, but I got enough to punch that dork straight in his dorky face. Punchin’ knowitalls: another Batman staple.
  • Did You Know? This should be the last time we ever hear Batman The Animated Series’ Mark Hamill’s The Joker. Mr. Hamill has claimed this is was his last stint as the character, and that should remain accurate until a mob of nerds take over the Hamill Compound and force the poor guy to record audio for appalling fanfic scripts. If you would like to participate in this event, please contact Debbie at her usual email address.
  • Would I Play Again? This is one of those weird “being an adult sucks” things. I absolutely would love to play this game again, but I would feel like I’m re-wasting the hours I poured into the game in the first place, just to experience a plot that I know is only going to drive me further insane, and rediscover/solve riddles that I know I already solved once. If only there were a way to experience the same joy of playing the game, but with a new plot and environment to explore. And maybe I can drive the Batmobile, too? Well, a man can dream.

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Rygar for the NES. Set shields to deadly! Please look forward to it!