Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu – GC – Review

Sin Tzu is bored. It was just too easy conquering Asia, so he starts casting about for a little excitement to give his life meaning, something other than the usual evil take-over-the-world daily grind. Aaah, who is this dark dude in Gotham City? Sin Tzu smells a challenge, and takes along a few evil cohorts, just in case it gets a bit sticky.

Renowned comic artist Jim Lee has designed a new Batman character, Sin Tzu. Debuting on video games and also a graphic novel, Sin Tzu is a formidable opponent and one whom Batman will need help defeating.

In the video game world, Batman has become synonymous with banal and less than average games. Fortunately, this latest effort by Ubi Soft takes a different tack and ditches all platforming aspects in favor of a fist ‘n feet fest. A straight beat’em up game, this game offers plenty of action for those who are just looking to kick some butt in a beautiful environment for a couple of hours, and who aren’t too picky about little details like diversity of enemies, fighting combos or strategy.

It’s all about fighting. Playing as either Batman, Robin, Batgirl or Nightwing, gamers will jump right into the action immediately as they battle their way through scads of enemies in order to rescue civilians. Fight lots of bad guys in each level under a timer, then fight a boss, then more bad guys in timed levels, then another boss, then the ultimate bad boy, Sin Tzu. And that’s basically it, folks.

Each level plays about the same, with enemies that fight about the same, despite being drawn differently. While the four choices of characters have different strengths and weaknesses, they each will play essentially the same, with most players ending up opting for the basic punch/kick combo as the easiest way to battle their way through the levels. As play progresses, more varied combos become available, but they really don’t add much kick to the game besides flashiness and sore fingers. These complicated combos aren’t much more effective in beating enemies than the basic beginning combo and are more difficult to implement, so many gamers won’t bother unless they’re really into the way they look, which is admittedly spectacular. However, using these more difficult combos can help earn points for style, which said points players can use to purchase combos, gadgets and trophy room access. Also, using the more rare combos results in being able to implement short-lived but deadly special attacks by powering up the health meter.

One fun aspect of this game is the ability to earn points for use in the virtual “store”, where players can upgrade their fighting abilities, buy powerups and special trophy room tokens, which can be redeemed for bat toys, Batman art and information about Batman comic books. This type of simulation feature is always enjoyable. Some of the gadgets that can be purchased for use during fighting are the bat grapple, which allows for in-close fighting by swinging and kicking at enemies or the ability to swing around locations; smoke pellets, which help in temporarily hiding from enemies; and the batarang, which is used to throw at enemies for long-distance fighting. The batarang and the smoke pellets can be upgraded.

The look of this game on the GameCube is the strongest appeal. The environments are stunning, and capture the essence of Gotham City fabulously. Batman and friends move fluidly and are a joy to watch as they battle their way across the streets.

The sound is adequate, but isn’t designed as well as the animation. Gotham City demands intense, deep music and eerie sound effects, and they ain’t here. Oh well, at least it’s not annoying.

There is a two-player mode, which is more fun overall than the single-player mode. Playing singly can become boring after awhile through the levels, but playing with a friend adds to the complexity, and there are also a few mini-games where friends can go head-to-head in a punch/kick fest.

Ultimately, this is an average game that offers sporadic thrills during the endless fighting, but doesn’t rise above the myriad other fighting games on the market. There is a sameness about all the levels, despite the different locations and appearance. Punch, kick, kick, punch, that’s about it. The ability to upgrade in the virtual store is cool, and the Batman paraphernalia in the Trophy room is fun to look at, but these things alone don’t raise this game above the crowd. A good enough game for the family that doesn’t offer graphic blood and does offer plenty of action, but probably best for avid Batman fans who like to punch it out.

Gameplay: 6
While offering some challenge and involvement, ultimately the sameness begins to pall after about the second or third level. The virtual store with the upgrades is the most fun aspect, but that alone can’t make this game engrossing.

Graphics: 8.5 
Beautiful cartoon style animation that captures the look of Batman and friends very nicely. Easily the best feature of this game.

Sound: 6
Wholly average sound and music.

Difficulty: Medium
Using the combos is the hardest part, and getting through the levels in time is also sometimes difficult. It would have been better to allow for completion of a level with a certain percentage of civilians rescued, with higher points awarded for the rescue of all.

Concept: 6 
This Batman is much-much better than previous renditions, but it doesn’t have to be that good to be a better game than those. The fighting versus platforming was a step in the right direction, but more should have been done to make the game experience varied.

Multiplayer: 7
Fighting with a friend is definitely the better way to play, and the mini-games are fun, too, with a friend going head-to-head.

Overall: 7
Not a bad game, but not a particularly exciting game either. Certain aspects such as the graphics and the virtual simulated store have merit, but the gameplay itself doesn’t push this game ahead of the pack. However, Batman fans and people who just want to punch it out with lots of baddies will have a decently good time.