With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice relased in a few days and the fact I did a multi part retrospective look back at Batman in gaming last year. Starting with the very first official Batman game right up to the release of Batman: Arkham Knight.
I think now would be a good time to give Superman the same treatment and take a look at The Last Son Of Krypton in gaming over the years.
Now, I said in my Batman retrospective that The Dark Knight has been pretty well represented in gaming. Yeah he has been in some terrible games, but he has also had some good and even amazing games too.
Has Superman been as well represented as his DC brother in games?
Same rules as the Batman retrospective. I’ll not cover every Superman game and only the ones I have played and remember. Plus I am sticking to games where Superman is the star and main character and not ones where he is featured in a cameo or secondary character.
Lets start at the very beginning with the first ever Superman game and the first one I ever played.
Superman: Released in 1979 for the Atari 2600. This was the very first ever official Superman game relased. The game has you playing as Clark Kent/Superman trying to repair a bridge destroyed by Lex Luthor…we had very simple plots for games back then.
Playing as Clark, you would have to find a telephone box to change into Superman. Then you could use Superman’s flying power to explore the small and very simple play area. While trying to round up Lex Luthor and his henchmen and having to take them to jail. Kryptonite could be found is some areas and you would have to avoid it, it you did come in contact with any Kryptonite then Superman would lose flying powers and you would have to find Lois Lane who you could kiss and get your powers back.
The aim of the game was to find all pieces of the destroyed bridge, capture Lex and his minions and return to the Daily Planet in the fastest time possible. In fact, the game could be “completed” in just over 1 minute…
And people complain games are too short today?
Interesting tit bit. This game was one of the first (if not the first) games to feature a pause option. Something we take for granted nowadays but unheard of back then. However the pause option had a bug as you could pause the game and the game could be completed without having to fix the bridge or capture Lex and his men.
Using this bug, you could finish the game in literal seconds.
It also featured a strange two player co-op where one person would control Superman with one controller and able to move Superman left and right, while the second player would move him up and down with another controller.
Superman was a very well received game back then and praised for its unique gameplay and (at the time) great graphics.
I have many fond memories of me and my brothers playing this one a lot back then. It was one of the first games to feature and actual goal and and end as most games back then were just about getting a high score.
Next up, Kal-El makes an appearance on one of the most popular computers of the 80s.
Superman: The Game: Developed by First Star Software in 1985 for the Commodore 64 and later ported to the Acorn Electron, Amstrad CPC, Atari 400/800/XL/XE, BBC Micro, Commodore 16/Plus/4 and ZX Spectrum.
This game was designed for 2 players at the same time or 1 player and 1 computer controlled. One player would control Superman and the other (or computer) would play as Darkseid.
The game was set over six sections, three in Metropolis and three set underground. The aim of the game was to collect diamonds and rescue/kidnap citizens all while fighting off either Superman or Darkseid, depending on who you were playing as. There were barriers on each of the levels that could be adjusted to change the direction the citizens would walk in as well as effect the direction Superman’s heat vision or Darkseid’s omega ray. When hit, Superman/Darkseid would lose energy. Lose all your energy and it was game over.
Superman could pick up and carry the citizens while Darkseid could teleport them. One you saved/kidnapped the citizens and collected the diamond, you could move onto the next section. Between each section there were what were called “combat zones”. These areas were kind of mini games. If the player who chose to leave the previous section wins one of these combat zones, the game moves on to their chosen section. If they lose, play returns to the previous section.
The game is completed when there are no more citizens left to save/kidnap or when Superman/Darkseid have no more energy left and the winner is whoever saved/kidnapped the most citizens.
Superman: The Game was an interesting concept as you could play as a villain against another human player in a competitive game mode. The game play itself however was a little dull and repetitive overall and really didn’t offer too much to keep you playing. The six different sections were not that different and the same task of rescuing/kidnapping people became tiresome. The combat zone mini games offered a lot more variety however from simply exchanging hits until one loses, to Superman having to use his super breath to blow projectiles back at Darkseid. Then there was a side scrolling one where Superman would have to activate various traps to harm Darkseid while being shot at and one where Darkseid would try to bomb Metropolis while Superman had to defend it.
Now, Superman makes his début on the NES/Famicom.
Superman: Released of the Famicom in 1987 and then on the NES in 1988. Developed by Kotobuki Systems. This one was loosely…very loosely based on the first two Superman movies.
Using a side scrolling platform concept and even a few puzzle elements thrown in too. Interesting to note that the US/European version featured all new music where as the Japanese version used a synthesized rendition of the classic John Williams Superman theme tune.
Playing as Clark Kent/Superman you are tasked with saving Metropolis from Lex Luthor as well as Zod and his gang. Superman was armed with various powers including; x-ray vision, flight, super spin, heat vision and super breath.
You start out as Clark Kent and have to build your super power before you can change into Superman via a phone booth. If you took too much damage from enemies as Superman, you would turn back into Clark Kent.
The main game play revolved around you taking out various henchmen and helping people that would need it which you could see via the map screen.
The game was split into different chapters with each chapter ending with a boss fight against Lex Luthor and even the exiled criminals from Krypton; Ursa, Non and General Zod himself.
This one met with very mixed reviews and nothing really praising the game at all. It was rather bland to be honest with a lot of back tracking and exploring pointless areas just to have people say mundane and inane things to you. There is even a part where Superman has to get a ticket to ride the subway…why would Superman even need to use the subway when he can fly and even more so, who would charge Superman to use the subway to begin with?
Superman for the NES was not very good at all and just bogged down with loads of filler to pad out a rather dull game, especially the bit where you get to talk to someone about the stock exchange…in a Superman game.
Well that just about does it for part I and Superman’s early appearances in gaming has been pretty poor so far, but there is more from The Kryptonian coming in part II and maybe we will see Superman in a worthy game…but I wouldn’t count on it.