Man Of Steel, Part III

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 n64 cover

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.

superman n64 screen

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 Xbox

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.

Superman Xbox image

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 360 cover

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”.

Superman 360 screen

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?


Man Of Steel, Part II

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, its just part II of my retrospective look at Superman in games.
The Man Of Steel next appears in his very own arcade game.

Superman arcade

Superman: Developed and published by Taito Corporation and released into arcades in 1988. A classic arcade style scrolling beat em’ up with a bit of shooting thrown in for good measure.

With you playing as Superman having to battle his way through five differing levels which include Metropolis, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and finally the main boss’ spaceship.
There is no real plot to speak of, just Superman punching, kicking and shooting his way through the various levels until he comes face to face with Emperor Zaas.
Superman can use his flying ability to get around the stages all while beating the crap out of the many, many henchmen sent by Emperor Zaas. You can also use a projectile attack called “sonic blast” by holding and releasing the attack button. There are various objects you can throw and even break open to find bonus crystals. These crystals offer various power ups depending on their colour; blue restore any lost health, yellow allow the use of the sonic blast without having to charge and red crystals destroy all enemies on screen during the shooting stages.

The first four stages are split into three sections with horizontal scrolling then vertical scrolling and finally a side scrolling shooter section with a boss fight at the end. The final stage is a little different as it adds an extra scrolling shooting section at the start and another boss fight at the end.

The game featured a 2 player co-op option so two Supermen can fight side by side…yes two Supermen. The first player controls the original Superman in his classic blue and red outfit while the second player controls an alternate Superman in a red and grey outfit (see screen below). It is never revealed who this other Superman is or how he even exists.
Also of note, some unused sprites in the game’s code show a female character not seen in the final game who is dressed in a similar costume and even colours to Superman. Many think she was possibly going to be the original second controllable player and was intended to be Supergirl, which would have made more sense than two Supermen.

Superman arcade screen

Superman arcade was simple enough stuff and standard arcade fare. Designed to eat your spare change as fast as it could. The game was okay at best and while it didn’t really offer anything amazing in terms of game play, it didn’t really do much wrong either. Just a very substandard game. It did feature pretty good renditions of the main Superman theme and even the; Can You Read My Mind tune from the original Superman film.

After his pretty average jaunt in the arcades, Superman returns to the home market next.

Superman MoS cover

Superman: The Man of Steel: This one was relased in 1989 on the Acorn Electron, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, MSX, PC and ZX Spectrum. Developed and published by software company Tynesoft.

This one offered several different game play styles including 3D flying, overhead vertical scrolling and classic side scrolling sections.
Playing as Superman you have to battle Lex Luthor as well as Darkseid through a total of eight different sections, though some of the sections are similar to others in all but some graphical changes.
With you partaking in some pseudo-3D flying and shooting, side scrolling fighting and even a bit of overhead shooting too. The main objective of the game is to destroy a geo-disruptor you find at the end of the eighth and final level.

Superman MoS screen

This game received some above average reviews when it was released…depending on which version you had. The 8-bit versions met with pretty poor reviews overall as the game was a bit too advanced for the then ageing technology of the day. However, the 16-bit versions for the Amiga and Atari ST had much better reception as the advanced hardware could handle the game as was originally intended.
It was a pretty decent game with some variety to the game play with the Amiga version being the best of the lot.

Superman still has not really had a game worthy of the word “super”. Maybe the 16-bit consoles could do better on a “super” console?

Superman death cover

The Death and Return of Superman: Developed by Blizzard Entertainment and Sunsoft, published by Sunsoft in 1994 for the Super Nintendo. A port for the Sega Mega Drive was relased in 1995.
Based on the 1992 comic book story; The Death of Superman.

The game was the classic and standard beat em’ up style game play you have seen countless times before. Enemies appear on screen and you beat the crap out of them and move onto the next area where more enemies appear and you beat the crap out of them, rinse and repeat for the entire game.
Of note, Superman is not the only playable character in the game as Superboy, Steel, Cyborg and The Eradicator are all playable through the game too. All of the characters play pretty much the same way and have the same abilities with standard punches and kicks, grapple attacks, throws and even the ability to fly. You can’t choose which of the characters to play as, the game just follows a set story and each of the characters become playable as the story follows its set script.

The game’s plot follows on from the previously mentioned comic book; The Death of Superman as a kind of pseudo sequel to that story featuring Doomsday.

Superman death screen

This one was another bare basic beat em’ up of which there were dozens of around this time that offering nothing really of any merit. The dynamic of the different playable characters was bare bones as each of the characters were pretty much all the same anyway besides the cosmetics. The fighting itself was rather dull and didn’t really utilize any of Superman’s powers and the levels all felt the same aside from a handful of shooting sections.
The Death and Return of Superman received pretty mediocre reviews at the time and for good reason.

Well that just about wraps up part II, but in part III will Superman finally get a great game to star in? Well no as the next one is often regarded as one of the worst games ever made…