The other night, I finished a replay of Batman: Arkham Asylum on the hardest difficulty setting. I did this for several reasons. First, because I saw The Dark Knight Rises and felt an incredible urge to pretend to be Batman, and most city police frown on people doing that in real life. Secondly, I wanted to grab a few Xbox 360 Achievements I'd missed the first time around. And finally, because I wanted to receive constant reminders of how much developer Rocksteady had improved on the formula in its second game, Arkham City.
Bonus fourth reason: I apparently hate myself, and I could think of no better way to express that than repeatedly failing at the section in which Batman is stuck in a tiny room with a Titan-enhanced inmate and like 25 other assholes who keep popping out of elevators like clowns at the circus.
But let's stick with Reason Number Three for now, and I'll start shallow.
Do you remember the Riddler trophies in Arkham City? How they had the neon thing and the gears, and they really looked like something you'd want to pick up because they were just so damn cool-looking? And if someone, say, made a full-sized replica, you'd seriously consider buying one, even though it's totally expensive and useless?
Yeah, they didn't inspire any of that in the first game.
In fact, they look like The Riddler went out and stole a bunch of other trophies, and then snapped off the little dudes bowling or playing golf and glued plastic question marks on top.
This isn't a major complaint, but I spent my whole replay wondering what I ever saw in those things.
Oh, right: Achievements.
Another issue I faced this time around was that I lost a lot of fights I shouldn't have. Not because I wasn't getting the on-screen prompts to counter that I received on Normal difficulty, but because I kept trying to pull off moves that Batman wouldn't learn until the second game.
For example, that move where you shoot an enemy with the Batclaw, yank him into the air, and then slam him down to the ground? It's not in there. I never realized how often I did that in Arkham City until I replayed Asylum and noticed it was missing.
I also had a lot of fun in City with the Quickfire function for Batman's Explosive Gel. He'd be like "Flip! Squirt!" and the bad guys would be like, "Squirt? Why's he squirting?" and then I'd explain that that's just how I thought of it and it's kind of complicated, but they couldn't hear me because they were just a collection of polygons in my TV, and I am apparently a crazy person. And then I'd explode the gel and they'd go, "Woah!" and Batman would go "Punch!" And then I'd probably do that Batclaw thing again because that shit was amazing.
Side note: Is it weird that I referred to the Quickfire Explosive Gel as a "Guano Bomb"? I don't know; it just seemed appropriate. That's not really relevant, though.
The third major thing I found missing in Arkham Asylum was all the fun I had getting around the world. Granted, Arkham Island is way smaller than Arkham City, and it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense for Batman to use the bad-ass glide moves he does in the second one. At the same time, however, I really noticed how much time I spent running, which reminded me how little time I spent on foot in City.
Quick: Picture Batman in your head, right now. Is he crouched on a rooftop? Maybe he's gliding through the air with his glorious cape. He's probably even punching a guy; mofo loves punching guys. Is he running? Probably not, especially with the animation he's sporting in Arkham Asylum.
That's not to say that I didn't have a lot of fun with my replay, but it raises a question: Can you go back to a game once the developer has improved upon it in every way with a sequel? In this case, I could, but I couldn't ignore everything that was missing.