The past decade has seen WayForward Technologies make a name for themselves not only with sleeper hit titles like Shantae and Sigma Star Saga, but also reintroducing classic properties with Contra 4 and A Boy and His Blob. They also had many opportunities to work with licenses that originated outside of video games, their latest being the just-released adaptation of Batman: The Brave and The Bold. Examiner had a chance to pose a few questions to WayForward designer and director Adam Tierney on Batman’s latest gaming adventure.
While WayForward has delved into all sorts of gameplay styles and level designs, most of your successes have been due to your 2D releases. Does that say anything about WayForward’s direction in the coming years and what projects you’ll take on?
WayForward has a pretty rich history working in both 2D and 3D. However, we do tend to receive the most attention with our throwback games that build off classic, established game mechanics. And any game with a retro feel typically makes the most sense visually in 2D. In the case of Batman: The Brave and the Bold the Videogame, the goal was to make the game look, feel, and play just like the TV show it was based on. We wanted to create interactive episodes that felt like an extension of the series, not just your typical videogame adaptation. So creating the characters and much of the background in 2D allowed us to perfectly match the show’s style.
Looking forward, we’ve always got our eyes on a mix of both 2D and 3D projects, as well as hybrids of the two. But our love of classic gameplay and 2D animation will probably ensure we’ve always got at least one foot in the 2D world.
How did DC approach you to take on The Brave and the Bold? Were there any challenges in pitching your wares to convince DC your studio was right for the job?
Batman is a major brand, especially following the tremendous success of The Dark Knight and Batman: Arkham Asylum. Our concept for the game, which we pitched to Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, was that gamers would be able to “play the show.” That seemed to resonate with both Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Comics, which is why we were offered the project. WayForward has a long history with creating traditional, feature-style animation, as many of our directors and art leads hail from CalArts (one of the nation’s most prestigious animation schools). The approach we took with the game’s art style, storytelling, and structure is completely unlike any other games on the market, and I’m not sure any studio other than WayForward could have done exactly what we did with this game.
What was the collaborative process like with DC?
We would receive notes from DC Comics throughout the project, specifically in regard to choices we were making with characters, story, environments, and gadgets. But the key relationship was between WayForward and Warner Bros. Animation (WBA), which produces Batman: The Brave and Bold TV show. WayForward and WBA worked very closely together throughout the project to ensure everything we designed, wrote, animated, and illustrated felt authentic to the TV show. WBA provided us with abundant character models, environmental reference, and the show’s entire voice cast when it was time to record our dialogue. WBA also produced 5 minutes worth of original animation for the game’s cinematics, which bookend each game episode. It was an incredible experience working with them on this game.
To what extent was WayForward given creative freedom with this DC property?
One of the great things about the TV show is that it pulls in heroes from all over the DC Universe. On a typical superhero game, you’re very limited in regard to which heroes and villains you can feature. But with Batman: The Brave and the Bold, there were literally hundreds to choose from! The heroes we settled on were a mix of WayForward’s preferences, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s preferences, and obvious fan expectations. And even characters that weren’t initially available to us for the project sometimes became available, because the show is constantly debuting new characters. I was particularly happy to get The Rogues in there as a boss battle, since I was a big fan of Geoff Johns’ run on The Flash comics.
What was challenging was not letting our inner fanboys drive the selection process, and selecting characters that worked best from a gameplay perspective. Ultimately I think we got a great mix of characters in the game, with many characters that had only made a cameo in the TV show really taking the spotlight in this game (such as Catman and Copperhead).
Often there’s this sense of lowered expectation when it comes to these licensed properties and a challenge for studios like you to rise above that. Aside from the WayForward name, what is it about The Brave and The Bold that long time side-scrolling should take notice?
The game is a return to the classic brawler of yesterday, which doesn’t really exist much anymore. We took several of the brawler games we grew up loving – Double Dragon, Final Fight, Streets of Rage – and applied the combat basic principles of those games to these characters. On top of that, we have a pretty robust grabbing, throwing, and air-juggling system that works similarly to fighting games like Guilty Gear or Street Fighter. The broad combat is brawling, but each time the hero encounters an enemy, it’s an epic little one-on-one battle.
In the end, we just want players to have fun. There’s plenty of challenge in this game, and opportunity to develop your gadgets and abilities, but we wanted to focus on the pure joy of being a superhero rather than frustrating the player with an obnoxious difficulty level.
Batman: The Brave and The Bold is out now for both the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS.