Reviewed: December 13, 2003
Released: October 27, 2003
Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu is just one of several GBA games to release alongside their console cousins this year. As with most GBA ports something is invariably lost in the translation whether it be graphics or gameplay, or in this case both. I had been playing Rise of Sin Tzu on the GBA for several weeks before I started playing it on the GameCube and that was probably my biggest mistake. After seeing how much better the console version is itís hard to objectively review this title but Iíll do my best.
The biggest cut for the GBA is the removal of the additional playable characters. The GameCube version allows you or a friend to take control of Robin, Nightwing, or Batgirl either alone or for simultaneous cooperative play. The GBA pretty much puts you in the boots and cape of Batman and there you go.
Rise of Sin Tzu never attempts to hide its Street Fighter style of gameplay. This is a brawler through and through and while the console versions basically stick to this formula as well at least there are some more advanced combat moves and combos at your disposal on the larger systems. The limitations of the GBA will have you running through multiple levels bashing countless bad guys with comic book flair and repetitive button mashing. As exciting as this might sound on paper it just never comes through on the screen.
Much of the issues with the gameplay are a direct result of some awkward controls and stiff fighting engine that never feels quite natural. Moving around is easy enough and you have your modest library of kick and punch moves, but with the entire game revolving around fighting there just isnít enough variety to keep you interested for as long as the game lasts. Even the ďsuper comboĒ move is an automated event where you fill a power meter, press a button and watch the results.
One would think with the concept of Batmanís utility belt there would be endless possibilities for puzzles and level interaction, but aside from a few scripted locations you really donít get to play with ďall those marvelous toysĒ the caped crusaders is known for. You donít even get to drive the batmobile.
To its credit there is a surprising amount of levels in Batman and if you connect this version to the GameCube with the link cable you can unlock a few more. This gives the game some additional longevity but also introduces a few new problems. Batman has no cartridge save feature so you are required to record a lengthy password each time you need to take a break. Additionally, you must also reconnect to the GameCube each time you want to access the bonus material. After recently praising Ubisoft for its connectivity functions in Prince of Persia and Splinter Cell itís odd to see such an easily implemented feature overlooked.
The GBA is perfectly suited and capable of delivering the quality comic book graphics necessary to bring Batman and his army of foes to life. I was totally impressed with the level of detail in the characters and the backgrounds and when these characters started to move I was even more stunned at the fluid animation with all sorts of subtle touches. Youíd swear this game was mo-capped.
As good as all these movements look independently there are some issues when they start connecting the various combat moves together. Unless you have impeccable timing there is a certain jerkiness to the combat that is unsettling. And even when you do get the timing down you will inevitably start seeing the same sequences over and over again.
Outside of the combat the running, jumping, and rolling animations are some of the best you will find on the GBA. This goes for the enemies as well as our hero.
The music is surprisingly good and fits the theme of the game even though I didnít recognize any tunes from the animated series. Sound effects are all in place and work well enough to bring the game to life but there was a disturbing lack of any speech or digitized audio from the actual show. Itís a shame to get the DC license then wimp out in the sound department.
Youíll finish Batman in a couple of sittings assuming you remember to write down that password. Casual gamers will get 4-6 hours of gameplay and perhaps another 1-3 hours of fun if you link up to the GameCube and access the time trial levels.
In the end the endless combat is pretty repetitive and the nice animation isnít enough to compensate for unimaginative gameplay. The console versions arenít that much better but at least they give you some variation in characters, combos, and simultaneous combat.
Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu has all the makings of a great game if only the designers had put more effort into the combat and perhaps mixed up the action with some puzzles and utility belt access. When I finally put Batman away I felt as if I had just finished a game of Double Dragon, only playing by myself. Itís fun, only not that much fun, so unless you are a dedicated batfan that doesnít own a console system, you will either want to skip or perhaps rent this title.