Archive for August, 2009

We finally got the Batman game we’ve always wanted, with the superb Arkham Asylum from Rocksteady dropping this week.  The reviews are glowing, with some lofty comparisons and even “Game of the Year” buzz surfacing.  Going back to last summer with the The Dark Knight movie, we’ve seen two projects take on the Batman license and absolutely nail it.  Great!  The only hiccup is DC’s completely missing the opportunity for comics sales.

Anyone that picks up and plays Arkham Asylum this week would be completely and hopelessly lost if they were to read any of the flagship Batman books on the shelf of their local comic shop this week.  For the love of God, Bruce Wayne’s not even Batman right now*!

Dick Grayson and... Damian Wayne are Batman and Robin

Dick Grayson and... Damian Wayne are Batman and Robin

I’m not saying they should retcon all the events of Infinite Crisis just for the sake of Rocksteady’s game, but would it have killed DC Comics to align the current story arc in the ongoing monthly bat-books with something that resembled Arkham Asylum’s continuity?  I suppose it’s a bit of the tail wagging the dog, but last time I checked COMICS were facing some serious readership issues, while games have an abundance of players.

Marvel took a lot of flack for a similar issue with the core X-Men books around the release window for the first Bryan Singer X-Men movie in 2000.  Only a few characters from the movie were active in the books at that time, and the ones that were looked nothing like their silver screen counterparts.  The House of M has since learned their lesson, and got Spidey back in black just in time for Spider-Man 3.  They even got the last few occurrences of Free Comic Book Day to coincide with the release date of tentpole summer blockbusters starring a Marvel character.

I can’t wait to see the NPD numbers on Arkham Asylum next month.  I’m willing to bet at least the Xbox 360 SKU charts in the top 3.  Too bad none of those buyers could sustain their Batman fix with a nice, tidy jumping-on point into monthly Batman comics.

*For all the lapsed comic book nerds reading this, Bruce Wayne is dead.  In the comic book sense.  As in ‘nobody every really dies in comics**’.

**The REALLY lapsed comic book nerds will recall that this phrase use to read ‘nobody ever really dies in comics except Bucky.’  But he actually came back in 2008.  So, really, NOBODY dies in comics now.

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License to Ill

Along with the usual batch of marginally interesting WiiWare titles and DSi crap, last week’s Wii Virtual Console release is a rare gem: Super Star Wars. If you missed this one back in the Super Nintendo’s heyday, be sure and give it a download.  It’s completely worth the 800 Wii Points.Super_Star_Wars_box_art

As with most SNES games, there may be some nostalgia clouding my memories.   But as I recall, Super Star Wars is a brilliant sidescrolling action game with (believe it or not) some very well-done vehicle levels mixed in, and a finely tuned level of difficulty.  The SNES certainly had its share of crappy platformers and cart racers based on less-than-stellar licenses (did somebody say Shaq Fu?) but this one is a gem.

The release of Super Star Wars comes at an interesting time for licensed IP in games.  Eidos and Rocksteady Games dropped the demo for their eagerly anticipated Batman: Arkham Asylum last week, as well.  In case you’ve been away for the last… 15 years or so, Batman’s historically been a poster child for terrible games based on a great license.  It rose to the top of Xbox LIVE downloads immediately.  Surprisingly enough, it plays exactly like a Batman game should, and is awesome.  It makes you wonder how all these other development teams have gotten it so wrong on so many occasions.

Batman's a terrific character, but he's been in some truly awful games

Batman's a terrific character, but he's been in some truly awful games

Last week also saw Swedish develolper GRIN announce they were closing their offices and filing for bankruptcy.  It was a short trip from the stars to the gutter for GRIN – they toiled in relative obscurity handling racing games  and a few PC ports until they became critical and commercial darlings in 2008 with their faithful Bionic Commando re-imagining, Bionic Commando Rearmed.

Unfortunately for GRIN, their 2009 slate consisted solely of the true 3D Bionic Commando sequel (an iffy concept at best), and two movie licenses: Wanted: Weapons of Fate and Terminator Salvation. It’s not GRIN’s fault that both movies fell short of expectations, but it certainly didn’t help that Wanted missed its release date, launching a full 6 months after the movie left theaters.  And Terminator? It might have helped GRIN’s cause had it been more, y’know… good.

Based on the strength of their licensed game, we’ll all be waiting with bated breath for what comes out of Rocksteady next.  Based in large part on the weakness of their licensed games, the guys from GRIN will be looking for employment.

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