Genre : Action
Release Date: October 27, 2003
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for old-school influence in video games of today's age. I absolutely thought Viewtiful Joe was marvelous, and Contra: Shattered Soldier didn't disappoint me one bit. But you know what was great about those games? Aside from the fact that they looked and played great, that is. They made you say "Damn, this reminds me of the good old days." You know something's wrong when a game reminds you of all the bad elements of some games from the "good old days," though. Unfortunately, Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu is that reminder in spades.
First off, there's passwords. Not just passwords to give you a chance to skip ahead to later levels, but required passwords in order to save your progress. While this is a bearable facet, it seems like the publisher is simply trying to save a buck by not including a battery and making it harder on the gamer.
Now that that's out of the way, I'll explain why you most likely won't want to play this game in the first place, let alone carry around a pad and pen to remind you of it's presence. In a nutshell, it's a simplistic beat-'em-up with some platforming elements. That's it, really. You'll go from pointless level to pointless level, punching guys and jumping from platform to platform, all the while solving intricate "puzzles." Get used to pulling a lever and running to the door it's unlocked before the little timer runs out, because that is essentially all of the skill the game requires from you as far as puzzles go.
Fighting isn't even much fun. While Batman does have a few different button combinations that result in uppercuts and crouching kicks and flying kicks, none are really more powerful than the other, and you'll find yourself just mashing the 'B' button as quickly as possible to pass by the thugs. It's no fun, either, that just about every enemy in the game is a slight variation from another. Everyone can be killed in the same basic fashion. Despite this, the game gives you a few tools for your infamous yet sorely lacking toolbelt: a batarang, some flash pellets, and a grappling hook. The batarang can be used to knock over guys (off of buildings if you're lucky!), and uh, that's about all. Flash pellets can be used for, you guessed it, making flashes and blinding your foes temporarily. The grappling hook can't be used for combat, but it does let you swing across large gaps - but only (!) on designated hooks emblazoned with the Bat-symbol.
That, my friends, is the extent of Batman's capabilities in this game. You say, gee, it might make for some mindless fun, right? Hardly. The generic enemies with ridiculously pathetic AI make fights plain out boring. The level design seals the deal, though. Large groups of levels share what really is the same art. The whole first chunk of the game consists of traveling across the rooftops and balconies of red and grey buildings. There are no interesting variations, just tedious buildings. Eventually, moving platforms are thrown into the mix, but they encourage the frustrating syndrome of falling to your death dozens of times by slighting missing the platform. Fun on a stick, boys and girls!
The graphics in the game are at least decent. Despite being recycled over and over throughout the game, the environments are fairly detailed and are easy on the eyes, and it's usually not hard to associate a platform from the wall. Animation is great, as well. Each little movement of both Batman and his adversaries looks smooth and realistic, from punches to kicks to Batman's flowing cape. Although nothing here is really stunning or exciting, the graphics do get the job done without much hassle.
Sound is decent as well, but not great. Believe it or not, I still remember a lot of the music from the original NES 'Batman' - that game had great original music alongside the classic Batman theme. The music here is okay - it's no reason to turn the volume down - but I guarantee that I'll have forgotten it completely in an hour or so after a session of playing. Sound effects work fine, though they are nothing special. There's no voice-overs or anything, which is probably a good thing (but then again, there wouldn't exactly be much to say in the first place, being there's really no dialogue).
All and all, Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu is a rather mediocre game that doesn't have much going for it. The graphics and sound are solid, but not spectacular. The gameplay is disappointing, though, and isn't even much fun in a mindless, repetitive sort-of way. The level design drags the whole event down even more, and the lack of a real save system makes playing the game that much more frustrating. While this may be an okay gift if you'd like a gift for a little kid who's into Batman and wouldn't mind a simplistic GBA game, it really should be skipped in most other cases. There are far better games to be played.
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