Batman has shown his darker side over the past few years, courtesy of Christopher Nolan and his movies Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. But The Caped Crusader needs a good laugh every once in awhile, too.
Cartoon Network’s Batman: The Brave and The Bold scratches that comedic itch rather well. And now, the fun of the series will be hitting Nintendo consoles thanks to WayForward and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. We talked to Adam Tierney, director of Batman: The Brave and The Bold for Wii, Sean Valesco, director of Batman: The Brave and The Bold for DS, and Matt Bozon, creative director of WayForward, through an e-mail interview to find out more about Batman’s cartoon-to-game adaption.
Nintendojo: How did WayForward get involved with the “Batman: The Brave and The Bold” license? Are members of the staff big fans of the cartoon show, or did Warner Bros. approach you?
Matt Bozon: We’ve done Batman products before, and have worked extensively with WB, and yes, are big fanboys on top of that. We were honored when WB came to us with one of its most prominent and time-honored brands, confident that we’d craft a quality game for them. At first I thought we were doing another typical Batman installment, or something closer to Batman: The Animated Series. Not the case.
Adam Tierney: My initial reaction to the show is similar to what I think most die-hard Batman fans felt, which is “that’s not my Batman.” It was such a departure from the dark, cold world that Bruce Timm and Chris Nolan had created over the past few decades. But once you’ve seen a few episodes, it’s hard not to love it. The Brave and the Bold is just pure fun. It’s a celebration of the lesser-known heroes, and pulls from all DC Comics (not just the Batman ones).
Sean Velasco: I couldn’t agree more. “Mayhem of the Music Meister” was so epic! I never thought that Batman would sing. I also never thought that Batman singing would make tears of awesome burst out of my face.
ND: How did working with the creators of the cartoon affect your traditional game development process?
Adam: It was pretty incredible. WayForward has done a number of superhero games, but typically we’re just given some pointers and left to our own devices. Since we pitched this game as a “playable cartoon” more than a traditional video game adaptation, it was essential to work with the show’s staff to ensure the game really felt like an extension of the show. We worked closely with WB Animation on the story, character models, environments, and got pretty much the entire cast from the show to do our voice acting. WB Animation also created our animated cutscenes, which bookend each game episode. It was a very hand-in-hand collaboration, and we’re so grateful to have had that level of studio involvement.
ND: Did you create a new engine for this game or were you able to reuse parts of the Boy and His Blob engine?
Sean: Batman: The Brave and The Bold is an extension of the Boy and His Blob engine. Unlike Blob, Batman has a combination of 2D and 3D environments, which makes for some really nice depth in the background art. Also, the 2D art is completely unique and hand-painted… every inch of it! It was a crazy thing to do, eschewing tiled art completely, but we developed an advanced streaming art loader to make sure all the backgrounds could fit into memory.
ND: How did you choose what powers Bat-mite would have in the supported DS multiplayer mode? Did you have any issues with balancing the strength of Bat-Mite’s power-ups and attacks?
Adam: Bat-Mite is the ultimate Batman fanboy, and like any fanboy he sways between dedicated enthusiasm and venomous critique. So it made sense to infuse his gameplay with that balance of positive and negative. If gamers have a copy of The Brave and the Bold on both Nintendo DS and Wii, they can connect the two and use their DS to control Bat-Mite in the Wii game. As Bat-Mite, the player can fly anywhere, and drop health, energy, bombs, and anvils. We wanted to entice the player to alternate between being good and bad, so after each of the four items is used, there’s a ‘cool down time’ before they can use that item again, which makes the other ones start to look awfully tempting. Ultimately, how Bat-Mite is played is a reflection of the gamer — he can be entirely helpful, or he can be a nuisance and grief the heroes; it’s all up to the player.
Regarding balancing, he does unbalance the game somewhat, but it’s on par with what Bat-Mite does in the TV show. When Bat-Mite is brought into the game, it’s because the player wants to screw around and break the fourth wall. And most players we’ve seen spend just as much time being a jerk as being a saint, so in a way it does kind of balance out. “Have an anvil, buddy! BONG!”
ND: What gameplay or design ideas have you tried in this game that you’d like to try expanding or experimenting with in a new game?
Sean: There are two awesome things that I would love to push more in the future: combat and zaniness. The combat engine is really advanced for a DS game: light and heavy attacks, blocking, counterattacks, and other moves round out a complete move set. Additionally, the enemies have interesting AI and move together as a group. For a new game, I would want to develop combat even further, and come screaming to the forefront of the industry with these mechanics!
From an aesthetic standpoint, I love the ridiculousness afforded by The Brave and The Bold. Anyone that knows me knows that I love to ride on top of jet fighters and punch Velociraptors in the face. I’d like to bring these hobbies and more to future games. Some people think that games are already ridiculous enough, but I think being over the top is an art.
Matt: He really does ride on top of jet fighters.
|“I’d go out on a limb and say this is probably the most faithful cartoon-to-game adaptation I’ve seen, at least as far as action games go.”
— Adam Tierney
Adam: In the Wii game, we wanted to take traditional brawler mechanics, like you’d see in Double Dragon or Final Fight, and couple those with more complicated one-on-one fighting mechanics, like you’d see in any modern fighter. I’m pleased with where we landed, and I think the gameplay is something easy enough for young kids, yet deep enough for more advanced gamers. Looking forward, we really evolved our 2D animation style with this game, and I’d like to continue pushing that in future titles.
ND: By Nintendojo’s count, there have been around 25 previous Batman video games. What will set Batman: The Brave and The Bold apart from the previous games?
Sean: Besides having excellent fundamentals (something not all Batman games have had), this game is unique because it’s a marriage of WayForward’s sensibilities with The Brave and The Bold universe. The pixel art, the classic but updated gameplay, the music; it’s a game that I love to play whether it’s Batman or not! When you add in the humor, characters, and situations from the show, it becomes such an awesome package… I don’t think a lot of Batman games have that level of love.
Adam: I’d go out on a limb and say this is probably the most faithful cartoon-to-game adaptation I’ve seen, at least as far as action games go. The SNES Batman game took a similar approach, but not to the extent that we did this time around. The amount of story and dialogue alone (not just in cutscenes, but during actual gameplay) make the game more of an interactive experience than a traditional action game.
Batman: The Brave and The Bold hits Wii and DS on Sept. 7 (North America) for a MSRP of $39.99 and $29.99.