When we first learned that Kevin Conroy wouldn't be returning to reprise his best known role as Gotham's iconic vigilante for Batman: Arkham Origins, I was one of the many to question exactly what the team at developer Warner Bros. Montreal had been drinking. Not that I had something against newcomer to the cowl, Roger Craig Smith. After all, the man had proven his abilities as the Florentine assassin Ezio in numerous Creed titles, and as Resident Evil's Chris Redfield. But like so many others, I had become so used to Conroy, that the idea of someone else playing substitute was unfathomable.
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Just like Metal Gear guru Hideo Kojima had done for the fifth MGS game, swapping long time Solid Snake voice actor David Hayter for Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin was out, and Roger was in. I had the opportunity to talk with Roger about how it felt to play the iconic role, and he revealed he was just as nervous about it as the rest of us.
"As far as Kevin Conroy goes, he was my Batman growing up. A lot of people are like 'filling those shoes...' No, no, no, there is no filling of those shoes," he acknowledged. But Roger and the rest of the team was positive that they could still put a positive spin on things.
"The fact that we had an origin approach to it, and we were telling it from a different perspective, a different time, allowed for us to feel a little bit of confidence going in, thinking, 'OK, I think fans will understand why they're doing this and the approach for it,'" explained Roger.
"But that being said, I still get that Kevin Conroy has been everyone's Batman for the last 20 years, so it was one of those situations where, Troy [Baker] and I were both looking at each other going, 'Man, we got it!...Uh-oh, we got it...'"
"We walked in feeling pretty good about what we were trying to do, but it was definitely not lost on us, the legacy left by Kevin and Mark Hamill to boot. As Troy Baker said, there was a point on the horizon that we knew our performances had to keep in mind so that it would be believable so that fans playing this game would understand how Roger Craig Smith Batman could turn into Kevin Conroy Batman, or Troy Baker's Joker could turn into what we knew as Mark Hamill's Joker. It was in the back of our minds, but it wasn't as if we were going, 'Do it exactly the way Mark would do it, do it exactly the way Kevin would do it.'"
Smith did just that, and his portrayal of Batman and the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne was spot on. However, there's far more to a game than just vocal talents.
Origins received mostly positive reviews, but compared to the other two Arkham games from Rocksteady...well...Origins claims an average score of 73 (between all platforms) from aggregate score site Metacritic, while Arkham City and Asylum stand with a respective 92 and 91.
To the criticisms, Roger counters, "So much is made of trying to compare all the games together. I think if you take Origins, even 'Cold, Cold Heart,' as just understanding the story they're trying to tell, you're going to really enjoy what's going on."
"That's what I think is so exciting about Origins and with the introduction of Mr. Freeze in the 'Cold Cold Heart' DLC, it's these stories. There's an emotional attachment to these characters that I think fans all feel, and hopefully that's what we're delivering with all of these performances. It's one of the reasons why I think Batman is such a compelling character. There's always this heart to this character that I think is why he's such a beloved character, and why it's such an unbelievable honor for me add my name to the list of guys that have gotten to voice that character."
Batman: Arkham Origins and the Cold, Cold Heart DLC are out now for Windows PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
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