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When it comes to video games, Batman fans have never had that much to worry about. The dark knight has had some digital stinkers, to be sure... but for the most part, any game starring the caped crusader has a certain assurance of quality about it.
From 1989's NES Batman to 2015's Arkham Knight, there's been a little something for everyone over the years, whether you're into arcade-style platformers or open-world epics. And with 2021 promising to bring Batman's sidekicks to the fore in the excellent-looking Gotham Knights, it's safe to say that this Bat-fan is incredibly excited for the future of Bat-games.
Still, I'm left wanting. For the past 21 years, there's been one particular corner of Bat-lore that has been absolutely begging to be explored in a video game, but has consistently been ignored in favour of a more contemporary take on Gotham City. I'm talking, of course, about Batman Beyond.
First airing in 1999, Batman Beyond - or Batman Of The Future as our more obvious friends in America called it - was an outstanding animated series that depicted a dystopian Gotham City in the year 2039.
Set decades after the events of Batman: The Animated Series, Beyond follows troubled teenager Terry McGiniss as he pinches a high-tech Batman suit from a much older, much lonelier Bruce Wayne and attempts to make it as a hero. With the eldery Wayne his reluctant mentor, the two set about trying to right wrongs in a Gotham that has long given up on justice, instead allowing itself to be controlled by corporate greed. It's a lot like I imagine 2039 will be like IRL if we live that long.
Anyway, Batman Beyond was fantastic. It combined classic Batman villains with brand-new ideas and sci-fi concepts, all set in a beautifully dilapidated cyberpunk-esque city. And everything about the show lends itself to a modern AAA game perfectly.
Before we go any further, I should acknowledge the existence of the one Batman Beyond game out there. Based on the terrific 2000 movie Return Of The Joker, the game of the same name released for PlayStation, N64, and Game Boy. It was awful. So when I say we need a Batman Beyond game, I'm aware of what came before. What I mean is we need a good Batman Beyond game. Okay? Okay.
Arkham City, Arkham Origins, and Arkham Knight all take place in a modern-day Gotham City. You can keep expanding and adding to that setting, but eventually you need to do something drastically new with the world to keep it fresh, right? Gotham Knights is changing up the formula by giving us multiple sidekicks to play around as, but it's still just a modern Gotham.
A Batman Beyond game would give us the chance to explore an entirely fresh version of Gotham, one that combines long-abandoned neighbourhoods with neon-drenched skyscrapers that stretch high up above the clouds. The disparity between the poorer areas of Gotham that haven't been touched since Bruce Wayne's day and the richer areas that are full of high security and shiny new buildings would be fascinating - not just visually, but as part of the game's narrative and wider commentary. And if you try to tell me you don't want that kind of commentary in your games I will come over to your house and feed you your copy of Final Fantasy VII.
Besides the world itself, there's so much a developer could do with the Batman aspect of a Batman Beyond game. This is a futuristic Batman capable of so much more, which would allow a studio to completely disregard any notion of keeping things grounded and get their sci-fi juices flowing. Invisibility, jet boots, a Batmobile that doesn't turn into a tank for boring gameplay sections - the possibilities are endless. Given just how truly intoxicating the classic Arkham combat is, a Batman Beyond game could keep that expertly made combo-based gameplay while adding in enough futuristic gizmos, doodads, and mods to make the old feel new.
Just imagine flying through Gotham City like some kind of emo Iron Man, dropping out of the sky to lay the smackdown on some corporate stooge that you've been tracking for funneling funds to and from criminal gangs before rocketing off again to kick ass somewhere across town. I haven't thought about this almost every day for most of my adult life, as you can probably tell.
Finally, there's a ton of interesting things a developer could do with the story. Right off the bat (pun intended), having an older Bruce Wayne as a mentor to a new, younger Batman opens up a whole world of new directions. That was one of the reasons Batman Beyond worked so brilliantly, and I'd love a game that digs into why Bruce ultimately ended up alone in a dusty old cave with nothing but memories.
Whether a Batman Beyond game picked up after the events of the Rocksteady Arkham games, straight-up adapted the animated series (my vote), or did its own thing completely, I really do think it's time to bring the caped crusader into the future. There's a lot more to Gotham and Batman than we've seen in the last few games, and Batman Beyond is the perfect candidate to show the rest of the world what they've been missing.
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