In 1992, Warner Bros.’s resurging animation department introduced perhaps one of the seminal animated shows of the last twenty-five years. Batman: The Animated Series debuted shortly after Batman Returns appeared in theaters, and took its inspiration from Tim Burton’s blockbuster films, as well as the classic Max Fleisher Superman cartoons of the 1940s. This unorthodox mixture of classic animation styles with modern storytelling made the series a hit on both the Fox network and Warner’s own fledgling WB, and the original series ran for a full eighty-five episodes. Afterward, it received a “sequel” series (The New Batman Adventures), in addition to a theatrical release (Mask of the Phantasm) and several direct-to-video DVD movies. The entire original series is also making a splash on DVD, with the final volume slated for release next month.
Amidst all this popularity and hoopla, several games were released using the title adapted by the cartoon in its second season. The Adventures of Batman & Robin appeared on both the Genesis and SNES, and the controversy rages to this day as to which version is superior. Many fans are very fond of the Sega release, featuring its incredible level effects and soundtrack by Jesper Kyd (Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, the upcoming Gears of War), but the SNES rendition – a totally different game, mind you – is also an excellent play.
A Different Route for the Sega CD Version
Batman already had a history on the Genesis, with several games having already been released. This third installment featured animation done by the show’s creators themselves, something greatly appreciated by the Caped Crusader’s fans. Sega was lucky enough to contract the series animators, TMS, for the Sega CD version. Although they had little to do with the actual gameplay, their original cut scenes are largely considered to create a “lost episode” of the series, and it features an original story that boasted all the voice actors and writers from the cartoon. All of the platforming elements of the cartridge game were eliminated, and the game instead focused on the elements most praised in Batman’s previous CD outing, Batman Returns: the driving levels.
The game mixed stages using both the Batmobile and Batwing, and though sometimes excessively long (something which afflicted the cartridge version as well), the levels were both smooth and fun for the most part. Furthermore, the game’s use of the same driving engine as Batman Returns ensured that the scaling was more fluid than anything that could be done in cartridge form. It’s quite stunning actually, and it’s lamentable that more developers never made use of this excellent engine.
Between stages, players were treated to over sixteen minutes of exclusive animation that developed the plot and introduced the characters. Both Robin and Commissioner Gordon are missing, and Batman must find and rescue them by driving through levels related to Poison Ivy, The Riddler, and the Joker. Now, I knew our hero was good, but to dispatch three of the most notorious members of his rogue’s gallery without even getting out of his car? Now that is badass.
Well, he does get out of the car, actually. The only thing is that he does it in the cut scenes and not during gameplay. Bad news for platforming and action lovers, unimportant to Batman fans. Most of those who follow the Dark Knight are drawn to Adventures for the story sequences, not the actual game itself. See, the footage was done exclusively for the Sega CD by TMS Entertainment. The company has enjoyed a long relationship with Sega, having done animation for both their Virtua Fighter animated series, as well as the Saturday morning hit Sonic X. Anime fans might know them from their work on several cartoons, like Hamtaro, and films such as Fist of the Northstar. Recently, Sega/Sammy acquired a majority share in TMS, making it a subsidiary.
The interesting thing about TMS’s work here is that it has never been made available anywhere else. Not even the new DVD releases included it, which puts the Sega CD version in that special circle of Batman games boasting exclusive content; a distinction shared by later installments such as Batman: Rise of Sin Tsu and Batman: Vengeance. Fans have long been calling for Warner Bros. to clean up and release the footage, something the company has never cared enough to do. For this reason, the only way to view the whole sequence was to play the game all the way through, or use the level skip code. Recently, however, Toonami Digital Arsenal was able to acquire the entire seven-part sequence, thanks to the diligent work of fellow called maxnugget. For the first time, all of the game’s scenes could be seen, without having to own both the CD unit and a copy of Adventures. Now, Sega-16 joins them as the providers of this much sought-after bit of Sega CD history.
The quality of the video is about what you’d expect from the Sega CD, and its limited color palate and poor compression tend to make things appear washed out and grainy. Yet even with these limitations, the classic Animated Series quality shines through. The story may not be as deep as those found in other episodes, but we must remember that this wasn’t an official chapter, and was meant only to fill in the holes between levels of play. It is also shorter than your standard television episode.
So here, for your viewing pleasure, are all seven scenes in order. All are Windows Media Files and require DivX to run.
An Exclusive of Historical Importance
It’s arguable just how good the actual gameplay of Adventures really is. It pales in comparison to the cartridge release, and most fans tend to rank it pretty low among games which feature the license. While this is unfortunate for those looking for a another great Batman adventure, the historical significance that it holds is undeniable for Sega fans. It’s not every day that an animation house on the level of TMS goes out and creates almost an entire episode of a hit cartoon just for a game. We hardly see it now, and back in 1995 it was a treat to be savored.
It’s a shame no one has given this more attention, and most gamers today seem more inclined to write off the Sega CD as a failure, without ever taking into account the strides it made during its short life span. Perhaps if more people looked at what was there, as opposed to what wasn’t, the public’s impression of the add-on would change. Who knows? Maybe a larger fan base would have moved Warner Bros. to actually get off their butts and make this footage available in some form.
- Batman: The Lost Episode. Toonami Digital Arsenal.
- Fahey, Rob. Sega Buys Japanese Animation Studio TMS. GameIndustry. Oct. 21, 2005.
- King, Kevin. Merchandising: Where the Real Bat-Cash is Made. Toon Zone. 2005.
I would also like to thank Nick Gibson, for providing the inspiration for this article.