With Michael Keaton set to reprise the role of Batman in films, and new stories in comic form, the time is right for a new Burtonverse Batman game.
With Michael Keaton poised for a cinematic return to the role of Batman in the movies The Flash and Batigrl, now is the perfect time for a new Tim Burton-style Batman game. Keaton played the role of Bruce Wayne in the two films directed by Burton, and his likeness was used in a number of tie-in Batman video games. Upcoming movies will bring this iteration of the Dark Knight into the modern DC cinematic universe, but other projects have already brought the “Burtonverse” version of Batman back into the limelight. The six-issue comic series Batman ’89 became the official continuation of Burton’s films, picking up after the events of Batman Returns with a story written by screenwriter Sam Hamm with art by Joe Quinones. A recent Unreal engine fan game demo from Osmany Gomez also drew attention to Burton’s vision of Batman. Though this demo was solely an exhibition of Gomez’ skills for his portfolio, the imagery was enough to get fans excited. With nostalgia for the Tim Burton films at a new high, the time is again right for an official Burtonverse Batman game.
There have been numerous DC Comics games where Batman is playable, including a slew of different adaptations of the two Tim Burton Batman films. The gaming landscape was drastically different at the time of those films’ original releases, in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. With more competing platforms for gaming in circulation, different developers would often make their own game adaptations of the same movie. The majority of the era’s movie-licensed games were rushed products, making the handful of competently designed titles stand out, like the SNES Batman Returns beat ‘em up, or the Sega Genesis game based on the 1989 Tim Burton original Batman movie. The last console game based on a Batman film was the 2005 Batman Begins video game, which received mediocre reviews.
Though the idea of a game based on a decades-old movie license may sound odd, there is already a precedent for older films seeing such video game adaptations long after their original theatrical run. The 2006 Scarface video game (which altered the movie’s ending) released 23 years after the 1983 film. The Warriors, a 2005-released beat ‘em up from Rockstar, had an even larger gap of 26 years from the 1979 cult classic movie. This year marks the 30-year anniversary of Batman Returns’ release, but these examples have proven that the passage of time is not a hindrance for quality game adaptations of classic films.
DC’s Batman ’89 Comic Could Inspire A Modern Game Adaptation
Tim Burton’s movies are timeless classics for genre fans, but their one-of-a-kind aesthetic was never adequately represented in video game form – until recently. The impressive fidelity of the 2021 fan-produced Unreal engine tech demo showed graphics that would have been impossible in the era of 8-bit and 16-bit consoles. Gomez’ portfolio features character models of Keaton’s Batman and Danny DeVito’s Penguin, along with iconic locations from Burton’s first Batman movie. Based on the positive responses to Gomez’s demo, there is clearly an audience for a current-gen Burtonverse Batman game.
The most successful modern comic book-based games have created their own continuities, independent from existing comic book, film, or animated universes. Batman: Arkham Asylum referenced Batman & Robin, the final Joel Schumacher-directed Batman movie, in an amusing gag, but that series thrived on its ability to tell original, dynamic stories. Games directly based on movies have few surprises in store for players. Those that tell original stories, but are part of an existing continuity, are unable to feature the dramatic stakes with lasting consequences, as that might damage the status quo. Batman: The Telltale Series was able to surprise its players with twists most players did not see coming, like casting a longtime Batman ally as a villain. This makes a Batman game set in Tim Burton’s version of Gotham a more challenging concept. A modern game directly adapting the original movies might be an entertaining prospect, but one that offers little room for the unexpected.
The video game universe of Batman: Arkham has built its own continuity, and the in-universe follow-up Suicide Squad game can answer unresolved Arkham questions. Instead of producing another game based on Burton’s 1989 movie, or an eighth video game version of Batman Returns, the Batman ’89 comic series offers the best template for a modern Burtonverse Batman game. Staying true to the style and canonical storytelling of the movies, while introducing new antagonists interpreted in the Tim Burton style, could produce a truly unique Batman game for diehard fans, as well as those who are just discovering Keaton’s take on Batman thanks to his return to the role. Whether such a game directly adapts the Batman ’89 comic series, which was written by the first two films’ screenwriter, Sam Hamm, or pushes the continuity even further forward, this approach has more potential than yet another take on Batman’s battles with the Joker and the Penguin.
A New Burton Batman Game Could Make Up For Lackluster Adaptations
Nostalgia is prevalent in the gaming world, despite the current rarity of direct movie and television series-based titles (outside of mobile games). A Gotham Knights Easter egg referenced Batman’s ‘90s animated series in the game’s most recent trailer, and many modern games feature callbacks to older movies and comics. The abundance of rushed, mediocre licensed games in earlier generations gave movie and comic-based games a bad reputation, although recent comic book-adapted games like Guardians of the Galaxy have shown this does not have to be the case. The Tim Burton Batman movies held a unique tone that could certainly make for a good game, given the right developers. These films were a far cry from both the gritty pathos of Matt Reeves’ The Batman and the self-aware quips of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The gothic surrealism of Burton’s aesthetics, alongside the director’s outlandish takes on comic heroes and villains, produced a vision of Batman that reshaped the character forever.
The time is right for a video game that leverages the power of modern hardware to let players explore Tim Burton’s take on Batman. Some would argue that other characters, like DC Comics’ John Constantine, need a game more than Batman,who already boasts a significant number of gaming appearances. Returning to Burton’s films, which already have close to a dozen game adaptations between them, might seem redundant. However, a quality current gen game offers the chance to finally get it right. A Burtonverse Batman game made without the rushed deadlines of trying to coincide with a movie release, or the limitations of 8-bit and 16-bit consoles, could fulfill a decades-old dream for some. As Michael Keaton steps back into the Batman costume on film, a gaming version could finally let fans experience Burton’s quirky vision of Gotham in a way that would have been unfathomable in the 1990s.
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Source: Osmany Gomez
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