Still no really great Superman starring game as we approach the space year of 1999. Maybe things will only get better from this point on…or maybe we will get what is known as one of the worst games ever made.
Superman: The New Adventures: Developed and published by Titus Software an unleashed onto the market in 1999 for the Nintendo 64. The game is more commonly known as Superman 64 as many N64 games of the time slapped the 64 at the end of them.
Based on the popular Superman: The Animated Series and even featured sound bites and samples taken directly from the show using the original cast.
So, on to the plot. Lex Luthor has trapped several of Clark/Superman’s friends, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Professor Emil Hamilton in a virtual version of Metropolis. Lex puts Superman through various tasks within this virtual Metropolis. As Superman makes his way through Lex’s realm, he comes face to face with several other villains including Parasite, Darkseid, Brainiac, Mala and Metallo. Superman battles his way through the virtual Metropolis eventually freeing his friends while Lex manages to escape at the end.
This game is infamous for just how terrible it really is. The controls were horrendous,the game play was tedious with you having to fly trough rings for the most part. Occasionally you got to punch criminals and throw cars and the time constraints you were put under to complete the tasks made things even worse. Superman 64 has become one of the most hated games ever made.
Eric Caen, the game’s producer once stated that “We wanted to create the first super hero based video game where players really behave as a super hero.” in an interview with IGN back in 1998. What they managed to create was a game where you are forced to fly trough rings…not something super heroes are really known for.
The game was universally panned by critics at the time and holds a score of only 23% at GameRankings. IGN eventually rated the game 3.4 out of 10 while GameSpot gave the game a score of 1.3 out of 10.
Yet even with such backlash and terrible but deserved scores, the game was a top seller in North America during June 1999 and even became the third best selling game for the N64 of 1999. Shit sells I guess?
Well, lets leave that mess behind and look at what the 2000’s can offer in terms of a Superman game.
Superman: The Man of Steel: Released exclusively for the Xbox in 2002, developed by Circus Freak and published by Atari. The game was inspired by the Superman: Y2K comic book series.
A futuristic version of Brainiac, Brainiac 13 has unleashed a technological virus on Metropolis that causes the city to unnaturally grow into a futuristic “City of Tomorrow”. Brainiac 13 plans to harvest Metropolis for its now super advanced technology which causes massive disruption and chaos which Superman must put an end to.
There are various locales in the game including Metropolis, Earth’s orbit, an asteroid field in space, and even the infamous Phantom Zone.
The villain roll call, aside from Brainiac 13 include; Lex Luthor, Mongul, Metallo, Bizarro and Cyborg Superman.
The game featured a wide array of Superman’s powers like flight, strength, heat vision, super speed, x-ray vision and even his freeze breath. All of which could be used for the various tasks and problems Superman would have to solve.
While a slight improvement over Superman 64…all be it a very slight improvement. The game met with bellow average reviews. Many reviewers would highlight the overtly repetitive gameplay and sluggish controls.
For the next and final game in this retrospective, we have a game based directly on the newest Superman film of the time.
Superman Returns: Released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS and PSP. Developed and published by Electronic Arts and based on the film of the same name.
While based on the movie, the game also uses creative licence to add more villains and plot points from Superman’s comic book history.
The game begins with a huge meteor shower that threatens to devastate Metropolis. Superman uses his powers to end the meteor shower. Afterwards, astronomers discovered the remains of the dead planet Krypton. Superman leaves Earth to investigative the ruins of his home planet. Mongul intercepts Superman and forces him to partake in gladiatorial combat on Warworld.
Superman fights his way though the challenge until he comes face to face with Mongul himself and after the fight, Superman heads back to Earth and back to Metropolis. This is where the film and game meld together in their plots as “Superman Returns”.
With the game being based on the movie, they were able to secure the rights to use the likeness and voices of the actors including; Brandon Routh (Superman/Clark Kent), Kevin Spacey (Lex Luthor), Kate Bosworth (Lois Lane), Parker Posey (Kitty Kowalski) and Sam Huntington (Jimmy Olsen).
Just as with pretty much every Superman game so far, this one was also not met with high praise and met with average to poor reviews and scores. As the game was ridiculed for its dull gameplay, terrible controls and redundant story. I mean the final boss in the game is a tornado…not Lex Luthor, a tornado.
Well that just about wraps up my look back at Superman in games over the years, and it really does speak volumes when the best Superman game made so far is the original 1979 Atari one.
There were a few other Superman games I didn’t cover like; Superman (1992) for the Mega Drive, Superman: The Man of Steel (1993) for the Master System, Superman (1997) for the Gameboy, Superman: Shadow of Apokolips (2002) for the Playstation 2 and Superman: Countdown to Apokolips (2003) for the Gameboy Advance. But as I said earlier, I only wanted to cover the games I remember and played. I don’t know of any of those games are any good or not.
Still, Superman sure has not had such a great career in games really. There have been a few appearances from him in other better games like the LEGO Batman series and Injustice: Gods Among Us.
But for Superman centric games, I can’t think of a game that has been anything but average at best. I honestly do think that the Atari 1979 game is the best of the ones I have played and that was what, 37 years ago?
Why can nobody make a good Superman game?
There have been rumours that Rocksteady, the studio behind the Batman: Arkham series may be working on a Superman game…but nothing confirmed and it could all be bullshit. There were a few Superman/Metropolis Easter Eggs in the last Arkham game, Arkham Knight; there are LexCorp advertisements littered around Gotham City and even an answering machine message from Luthor himself left for Bruce Wayne. There was even a tourism poster for Metropolis that you could find in the game.
Rocksteady and Superman, could it break the “Superman curse” or is Superman destined to be in bad games for ever?