torstai 1. joulukuuta 2011

REVIEW - Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu (2003)

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: October 2003

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and master strategist who (probably) wrote The Art of War. Sin Tzu was a new DC Comics supervillain obsessed with The Art of War, who DC attempted to push by pitting him against Batman in another Ubisoft game based on The New Batman Adventures. This game was promptly named Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu. DC had introduced many new characters and revamped old ones to great success in the last decade, including Hush, Harley Quinn and Mr. Freeze, so Sin Tzu was expected to rule and join the central rogues' gallery upon his introduction. However, Sin Tzu never made one single appearance again. What does that say about the game? Everything or nothing?

Know your controls and know your enemy

On the anniversary of Bruce Wayne's parents' death, a mysterious warmonger calling himself Sin Tzu plunges Gotham City into total chaos, seemingly assisted by the local trio of Batman's most formidable foes - Clayface, Scarecrow and Bane.

"I'm not going to kill you. I want you to tell
all your friends about me."
People who know me well know that I don't take kindly to new tricks in an old book very easily. For example, I'm always skeptical of new characters in a previously established franchise, especially a franchise like Batman, which has been around for 70 years. In Batman's case, my skepticism has usually been all for nothing; Bane is a great example of a character that didn't quite get my attention when he was first brought in, but he has become one of the most popular villains in the franchise in record time, and for good reasons. Having him, Scarecrow and Clayface buttering up the (failed) launch of Sin Tzu prompted me to try this game. I'm disappointed with the character, he's so faceless, but I can't say I'm disappointed with the game, and I also can't claim Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu to be a totally lost cause. There are good qualities in it - it just gets so damn boring so damn quick.

Although Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu is based on The New Batman Adventures just like Ubisoft's previous Batman game Batman: Vengeance, it's not really a sequel. The two games have very little in common. This is a consistent beat 'em up, stirred up with elements from cinematic platformers and some mild puzzles based on timing. It reminds me - very strongly - of a Game Boy Advance game I reviewed months ago, called Star Wars Trilogy: Apprentice of the Force, which was also made by Ubisoft and, in turn, based on the handheld version of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. The game has almost the exact same qualities, in better and worse.

The graphics are better than in Star Wars: Apprentice of the Force, though, which is funny because Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu was released almost a year prior to it. Well, I suppose it's also because DC Comics - who apparently were monitoring the game's development for each platform very carefully - wanted Batman to retain a certain, authentic outline. The game does look the part. However, once again I have to criticize the music. It's closer to home than what I've grown used to hearing in earlier Batman games in the last few weeks, but it's still not even near the threshold. Electronica and Batman just do not mix.

"I'm Monkeyman."
The game is quite easy to explain. You need to beat up everyone you see and pull levers to open distant doors, which you need to reach before a narrow time limit expires. Sometimes, enemies leave keycards behind, which you can also use to open doors. There are ten levels with up to an enormous total of 15 stages each. Don't let the numbers fool you, the level design is all about quantity over quality. I know I use the word "repetitive" a lot; after seeing Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu, I swear I will tone down my use of the word, because this game's level design is the very culmination of repetition. Too bad, 'cause it was off to a good start.

The controls are quite good, and it's actually quite amazing how much Ubi managed to improve from the lacking controls of Batman: Vengeance and generally squeeze out of the limited Game Boy Advance scheme, such as the rare supercombo you can build up by finding combo boost power-ups and use whenever you wish by the prolonged press of a single button. The combat's physical enough, it's just too bad that most of the millions of enemies in this game take something like a dozen kicks to the head to go down - I usually push them towards edges, throw a Batarang at 'em, pick 'em up and throw 'em off the edge. Not a very Batman-ly stunt, but hell, anything for comfort.

Thanks to sufficient controls, the handheld version of Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu is good for fans to have along on their travels, but it is not suitable for long, serious game sessions due to how boring it gets after you've learned the basic, surprisingly complex but fun controls and completed the first few stages. Serious DC buffs will surely want this game in their collection due to the one-off storyline.

SOUND : 6.0


GameRankings: 58.80% (GBA), 61.68% (GCN), 59.42% (PS2), 61.28% (Xbox)

The character of Sin Tzu was created by the Korean-born Jim Lee, a long-time illustrator for DC Comics, as well as Marvel Comics.

The game was substantially promoted. The Xbox and PlayStation 2 Special Editions of the game came complete with action figures, while the Nintendo GameCube Special Edition came with a lithograph. A novel based on the game, written by Devin Grayson and Flint Dille, was also released.

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