I actually own a copy of Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu for the Nintendo Gamecube. But it’s been a decade since I last played it, so I don’t remember much of it. And I don’t have my Gamecube or Wii with me, so I can’t play it at the moment. What I do remember about it was that I enjoyed it even if it wasn’t received well by audiences.
When I saw that there was a port of the game for the Game Boy Advance, I decided to give it a try. If I liked the Gamecube version, I’d probably like the handheld port. Right? Well, I was wrong. Let’s get into the details.
Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu for the Game Boy Advance is an action platformer developed and published by Ubi Soft. I think someone from DC wanted to have another Harley Quinn; a new character introduced in other media that became so popular, she made it into the comic books as well. Sin Tzu was this new character, created by Jim Lee. He’s a warlord from Asia who was brought over to Arkham Asylum for study. But he managed to take over somehow and has hatched a plot against Batman, who Sin Tzu perceives as Gotham City’s ruler.
This game is based on the DC Animated Universe of Batman and more specifically, happens during The New Batman Adventures run of the series. The Gamecube version included Nightwing, Batgirl, and Robin, but were excluded in this version, possibly because of technology limitations. Otherwise, the Game Boy Advance version is really similar regarding the game’s plot. This game is also supposedly a sequel to Batman: Vengeance, but it never referenced that game.
This game is pretty straightforward, with a main mode, a short tutorial, and a password system. Stages are divided into many, smaller sections. You’ll get a password for a lot of these sections, so you can really save even the smallest of progress. As Batman, you have a health meter which depletes as he takes damage. You die when this runs out completely, or if you fall into pits or get killed by instant death stage hazards. Not to worry though, because this game has unlimited continues. This game is really hard, so you’ll be thankful for this.
In Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu, you’ve got the usual action platformer moves like walking left or right, crouching, and jumping. You can also climb up and down ladders, and pull yourself up from ledges. This game will test Batman’s jumping abilities with various platforming challenges. Thankfully, he’s got a cape glide that allows him to reach farther distances.
He’s also got several attacks at his disposal as well. He’s got a crouching kick, a quick side kick, and a jumping kick. Batman can also punch, and he can string several punches into a combination. One of the things I like to do in this game is alternate between punches and side kicks in quick succession. Doing this strings the attacks into a long combination.
But I think what the developers intended is for us to use Batman’s three hit string, which ends in an uppercut. This uppercut is Batman’s strongest attack because it’s unblockable and knocks down enemies. And when enemies are knocked down, you can pick them up and toss them to the ground.
My problem with Batman’s uppercut is that I struggled to get it to work. The timing for the combo feels like it requires too much precision, so I ended up doing two hit combinations in succession instead. And the uppercut has a shorter range than Batman’s punches, so sometimes he’d do the uppercut animation and whiff completely. That’s the best way to leave Batman open to counter attacks.
Batman has gadgets in Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu. He’s got three, and you can switch to a different gadget using the L button. His Batarang in this game is unlimited, but you can only throw one at a time. This is the easiest way to knock down enemies, and this is my main set up for my favorite method of dispatching enemies – to throw them off of platforms. The Batarang can be blocked, but I just throw it again.
You can also use the Batarang to destroy wooden boxes that could be blocking your way. More importantly, you can use them to unhook ledges that you’ll need in order to proceed. If you’ll need to use the Batarang for a stage obstacle, it’s icon at the upper left will start to flash.
Batman also has his grappling hook here, and it looks the same way as it in the animated series. It only works when there is a spot that the hook can attach to. Similar to the Batarang, the icon will flash when you’re at a spot that you can use it. In other places, trying to use the grappling hook doesn’t work.
With the grappling hook, you can swing across wide gaps. It can also take you straight up so you can access higher areas. If you find yourself at a dead end, with no obvious path forward, try switching to the grappling hook. The last item that Batman has are flash pellets which will stun all the enemies on the screen. These are consumable items, so I advise you not to waste them.
Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu is really heavy on the platforming. The game will test you with several obstacles that will require mastery of Batman’s jumping and gliding. Often, you’ll have to jump across moving platforms. Miss a jump, and you’ll have to redo that section.
Aside from jumping challenges, several of the stages have locked doors or closed paths. These can be unlocked with switches, and some of them will only stay open for a short amount of time. You’ll know that a door or path is closing when you see a yellow timer icon at the upper right.
There are some memorable sections wherein you’re under time pressure for that entire section. There won’t be any timers but you’ll know what’s chasing after you. In one section, a chemical tank is going to burst open and fill the area with toxic fluids. You have to outrun the toxic flood and make it out of that section, because touching the fluid will completely drain your health meter.
There are other stages like this, but I won’t spoil any more details. Just know that your reflexes will be tested by this game.
Dragging and Unfair Experience
At some point, Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu started to feel like a slog because of several issues. First, you need to go through a lot of sections before you can get to a boss fight. Normally, I’d complain about video games being too short but here, these sections feel like they go on and on. There are only a total of four boss fights in the game, and I think a few more would have helped. The developers could have used generic characters as additional bosses.
What makes this experience worse is the lack of enemy variety. Essentially, there are only two kinds of regular enemies in this game. There’s the weak version which may look different from each other but all act the same way. Then there are Sin Tzu’s henchmen.
They come in different colors, and some of them have a move that’s unique to a variant. But all of them have the same annoying characteristics of blocking or dodging your attacks frequently. And it takes such a long time to kill one. It got so tedious, I started to worry about wearing out my device’s attack button.
There are so many of these enemies, and Batman’s move set is so limited. So these fights all go the same way – you just alternate your punches, sweep kicks, and side kicks, hoping that some of your attacks will land. Don’t forget that dying means you’ll have to redo that section from the beginning. So you’ll have to fight all these enemies again. In at least 50% of the game, you’ll fight the same exact weak enemy and henchmen. When I hit that point, I just wanted to get this game over with.
Well Designed Boss Battles
The most enjoyable part of Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu are the boss battles. They’re what I look forward to the most in superhero video games. These are the parts where you pit the superheroes against their deadliest supervillains. And this game didn’t disappoint me.
I love it when there’s a specific method that you have to follow in order to beat a boss, and if that method is laid out like a puzzle. And that’s true for the boss battles in this game. You can’t win these by simply being good; you need to figure out what the enemy’s weakness is. I don’t want to spoil who these villains are, so let me say this. I love their choices for who to feature as the villains in this game. It makes perfect sense that these villains would be working for Sin Tzu.
Visuals, Sound, and Presentation
Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu has really good production quality. I’m glad that the developers went back to traditional sprites instead of trying to make everything look like 3D models. Batman’s sprite is quite detailed and well animated. He moves like how he does in the animated series. The bosses also look great. But there are only a few regular enemy sprites, and I wish there were more.
The game’s stages look awesome. It’s easy to see if you’re in Gotham City proper or in China Town. Locations really look like the actual locations that are being represented. I especially like the central hub of the Batcave, where you can see Batman’s main computer, his large coin, and even the Batmobile.
This game’s music and sound effects are also top notch. All of the game’s stage music is nice to listen to and fits the game well. I would have wanted the themes from the Animated Series, but what this game has did it’s job well. Even sound effects are clear and work well.
This game also has great presentation. It makes use of a lot of cutscenes to help relay the game’s plot, which makes use of a lot of art that uses the Animated Series art style. I did feel that there were some gaps in the storytelling, but nothing too big was missing. I just remember that the Gamecube version had a lot more plot details.
Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu had great looking graphics, really good music, and solid game mechanics. My first impression of the game, after playing a few of the stages, was a good one. But when it started to get repetitive, the game’s flaws started to become more obvious. Playing the game started feeling like a chore.
The game can also be quite difficult. Having unlimited continues meant that you could beat this game with time, effort, and skill. But the repetitiveness made me ask myself if beating this game was worth it. And it’s disappointing because on the surface, the game’s flaws seem minor. But they actually had a huge impact in my experience.
I want to recommend this game because it has good production quality, a decent storyline, and really good boss battles. But I found this game so repetitive. There are better classic Batman games out there, such as Batman Returns or the Adventures of Batman and Robin (both for the SNES). I’d prefer playing even the Game Boy Batman games over this. So Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu isn’t a bad game but a big section of it may feel like a chore to get through.