Transcending Comics: 10 Years Of Arkham Asylum
An Editorial From Rafael Encinas
It is September 2019, and this means it is the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest videogames that has ever come out, and that is “Batman: Arkham Asylum.” I write this having just finished beating the game for the fifth time in my life, and in good timing because it is officially Batman Day on Saturday, Sept. 21st. But none of this was planned. it all happened unexpectedly.
It all started like three weeks ago when I decided to purchase an Xbox One. PlayStation has always been my preferred platform, but I needed a new entertainment system for my living room, so I got an Xbox One, ultimately, so I can play Halo because I haven’t played the Halo series in many many years. Well, as I was setting up the Xbox One, the machine asked me if I wanted to subscribe to Xbox’s Game Pass. Being a weak-willed person, I was like: two dollars!? Hell Yeah! I’ll do that to play all of the Master Chief Collection and try out Gears of War 5. But, that didn’t happen. I actually ended up downloading and replaying “Arkham Asylum”. It is just that good!
There are few words to describe the feelings of empowerment you feel when in control of the Dark Knight. He feels strong; there is weight to his footsteps, which can be further attributed to the fact that he does not have a jump function in the game (after all, Batman does not jump). The free flow combat style feels so cool as you cash checks and break necks in slow motion. The detective mode is optimal for solving puzzles, collecting riddler trophies, and creatively taking down bad guys! This game makes you feel like Batman, and this is very important!
What makes this game stand the test of time, besides the excellent voice acting by two titans of industry who are already so ingrained into the Batman mythos, is the artful storytelling combined with the stylistic visuals and game mechanics. Moments where Batman’s world unravels as Scarecrow’s toxins change the environment still hold up and are both cinematically and visually astounding. It is a visual movie that you are in control of. And this is why it is so loved by both gamers and comic readers alike. It is a rewarding action adventure game that is respectful of the source material and which has endless replay value. I mean there is something truly satisfying in beating up criminals as the Batman!
Moreover, I recently read through Judd Winick’s epic, Batman: Under The Red Hood (2004) on a school trip to Arizona State University, and as I read through each issue, I forgot that I was sitting in a bus alongside my students. I was completely engrossed by Winick’s cheeky humor and thematic plot points, and I was blown away by Doug Mahnke’s visceral art!
As I read through this story, I was able to appreciate the care and detail in the Batman mythos, and it made me think that there is a reason why there are so many fantastic Batman stories. Batman is a character that people want to write. His stories are rich in thematic narratives of justice, grit, corruption, good vs. evil, family, and hope.
As a comic reader, you can find amazing Superman stories. You can find quintessential Wonder Woman stories; however, there is a much bigger number of amazing Batman stories and that is because he is an icon of his craft, and people connect with the character on a whole other level. Reading through the Under the Red Hood storyline made me appreciate the Bat family that much more. It reminded me about the true aspects of heroism and how Batman always ascribes to be better than the criminals he takes down.
It is just one story in an ocean of amazing Batman writing. And this is why the videogame is so important; it is just another mode of fantastic storytelling that is pushed forward through gaming and that is special because you take command of the Dark Knight. You get the same beautiful artistic and visual storytelling, but now you are an active participant as you walk around in Batman’s suit and take on the Joker.
Batman storytelling is a feat of greatness and is only that much better because it has transcended beyond popular shows and films. It has created a vast interactive world through the Arkham games. Visiting Joker in the visitor center in between missions is exciting and feels meaningful . Using the different gadgets to dodge Bane, escape Croc, and side-step Ivy feels immersive. Speaking with Oracle as you try to traverse the complex areas on the asylum feels like you are not alone. And finally putting on some of that explosive gel and punching Titan Joker in the face in the finale is oh so satisfying. This game feels just as fun as the first time I played it. Hell, finding bits of lore and creating a comprehensive listing of Batman villains in your archives as you go into detective mode or pick up trophies still feels fun and exciting, exactly what every great Batman story should have you feeling during the adventure! Happy anniversary to “Batman: Arkham Asylum!”