torstai 1. joulukuuta 2011

REVIEW - Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)

GENRE(S): Action / Fighting
RELEASED: November 2000

A follow-up to Batman - The Animated Series called Batman Beyond premiered in early 1999. Instead of being yet another reboot of the Batman franchise, the show - mainly written by Batman stalwarts Paul Dini and Bruce Timm - featured a whole new Batman named Terry McGinnis, who, under the tutelage of an aging Bruce Wayne, protected a dystopian Gotham City in the year 2039. Initially, critics were very skeptic towards the show's concept, but the very dark Batman Beyond turned out to be a great critical success, as it was nominated for a total of four Emmy Awards, of which it won one in 2001. In December 2000, a full-length, direct-to-video animated film named Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker premiered. A game of the same name had already been released to extremely poor reception on the Game Boy Color and Sony PlayStation a month prior, while the Nintendo 64 version was released on the same day as the movie. The reception wasn't any better, but the sales apparently were, a little. The game is widely regarded as one of the worst Batman games ever made, and that isn't too far from the truth.

Return of the Joker III: The Curse Gets Worse

The Joker returns to Neo-Gotham 40 years after he mysteriously disappeared, and takes control of the Jokerz, the Neo-Gotham gang formed in his honour. Convinced that this Joker is an impostor, but still worried sick about his protegée's well-being, Bruce demands Terry to give up his Batsuit and the search for "Joker". After Joker makes an attempt on Bruce's life - knowing of Bruce's former secret identity - Terry dons the Batsuit again and vows to hunt down the clown prince of crime.

I'm somehow reminded of the Batman Forever
video game. And no, that is NOT a good thing.
While a lot of critics LOVED the show, I tried very hard to merely LIKE Batman Beyond, but it just didn't work. Batman Beyond was a very ironic show; I didn't like it 'cause I grew up with Bruce Wayne being the one and only Batman. Whatever he was made to look like in the Batsuit, whether he was portrayed by Adam West or Michael Keaton, there was always a common thread telling you "that's Batman, all right". Then they spawned this skinny teenager who didn't even have a cape, the logo was all fucked up and his character design was all-around ugly. The future schtick did not work. The show began with Bruce Wayne having a heart attack in the heat of battle, and what's worst, he resorted to a gun as a result. I know that Bruce breaking his lifelong vow and thus ending his career as Batman was written for dramatic effect, but it just didn't work for me. Nothing about the show did. As I was saying, the show was very ironic. People of my generation dissed it for totally renewing something that never needed to be totally renewed, perhaps just rebooted. In turn, the show was so dark - its only good quality on my account - that it wasn't suitable for a new generation of Batman fans to watch. Even after all the critical acclaim that the show got, not to mention the four Emmy nominations, I stand by these words. Joker calls Terry "Batfake" in the game, and that pretty much sums up what I think about Batman Beyond.

Even though I didn't like the show, I was very intrigued by the movie, just because it had Joker in it. Joker's my favourite comic book villain of all time, and just imagining a dark, animated movie that centers around Joker and the truth behind his disappearance decades ago - the highest mark of the Batman Beyond storyline - gives me the chills. Mark Hamill reprised his voiceover role as Joker from the original animated series, the movie was bound to be a winner - but it failed. Once again, critics were raving about it, how it was one of the best animated superhero features ever, yada-yada-yada. I just didn't get it, and the storyline's conclusion was a disappointment. In a nutshell, Batman Beyond never gave me anything. Not even a good game to rave about.

The graphics are from the cheapest end of the 64-bit era, the level design is dull, and even the cutscenes are totally devoid of any actual animation. The game follows the movie's plot quite faithfully, but very vaguely; the cutscenes are random clips from here and there, and they never really explain - in orderly fashion, at least - what's happening in the plot. Also, the dialogue progresses so fast that you can't keep up with it at all. The music is badly mixed, and there's not a half of a tune to get excited about, since the soundtrack fails to capture any Batman spirit, be it of the classic Batman spirit or the Batfake spirit of Batman Beyond.

Riddle me this: Terry wearing a girdle?
The game is disguised as a fruitful experience in which you have access to gadgets and several different types of Batsuits, all of which have traits, such as good offensive or defensive qualities, or the advantage of stealth. In truth, though, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is a very simple side-scrolling beat 'em up game in which you can beat EVERY enemy, from a common thug to a robot to Joker himself by kicking their legs to shit or sticking to another strategy just as simple. Throw in a couple of really bad, unbelonging platforming sequences and utterly undemanding "fetchquests", and you've got this whole game - this whole game of FIVE levels, each of which takes five to ten minutes to complete. It's God damn easy to complete them, too. This game is easily beaten in under an hour, with a coffee cup in one hand and the controller in the other - you need that coffee to bear the bore.

It's like a pure promotional item for the movie, there's nothing that would make Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker half of a true game. Equipment change has close to no meaning at all, even though the game offers moderate, artificial variety in equipment, the controls aren't very good, and there's no challenge to the game at all. It's like running through a vague cut of the movie in a matter of minutes. The game lacks so much content it should've never been released as a full-priced retail, it should've come as a freebie on the DVD's side instead.

What can we learn of this game? Never trust a game that has "Return" or "Revenge" ...of the Joker for a subtitle. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is not a truly God-awful game to its very rotten core like Batman: Revenge of the Joker on the Sega Genesis, it's just an utterly useless game based on what I perceive as an utterly useless piece of the Batman timeline. Make no mistake, though: the game is not recommendable even for die-hard fans of Batman Beyond. 

SOUND : 4.3


a.k.a. Batman of the Future: Return of the Joker (EU / JAP)

GameRankings: 60.00% (GB), 30.50% (N64), 22.12% (PS1)

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