The Death And Return Of Superman
You knew this was coming.
With Man Of Steel out soon, I was bound to go all DC and celebrate the film’s release with some Superman-themed retro game reviews. To start with, let’s look at a little Genesis gem (and SNES gem) called The Death And Return Of Superman.
And yes, before you ask, it’s better than Superman Returns.
The game is an arcade-style beat ’em up where you play as Superman and fight off a bunch of bad guys called The Underworlders who are plotting to take over the Metropolis power plant. Right off the bat, we are introduced to some awesome characters including:
Is Superman broken? I thought he was dead…
Oh well, robot Superman can only be badass, who else is in the game?
Woah that costume is tight…
(note to The Eradicator: Nicolas Cage wants his super-suit back)
You’ve also got:
Sorry, wrong picture.
Who looks much more intimidating than his Shaq Fu-ed movie version.
Then you have the Bart Simpson of superheroes:
Superior only to Bartman.
If, like me, you used to watch those old, wimpy Superboy TV series growing up then you know how lame Superboy is but your nostalgia in regards to a show that made Supergirl look like The Dark Knight is clouding your judgement just enough that the very knowledge that Superboy is in this game just gave you a slight brain erection.
So the game shows you all these badass characters but you can’t choose any of them so you’re left wondering if it’s perhaps just advertising random characters from itself, for the hell of it. Then the game actually begins and you get some welcome introductory plot points:
Ok, so far so good.
I could be a real geek and complain that I can’t make out the top of the Daily Planet’s iconic building in the generic silhouetted skyline but I won’t.
What will Metropolis do without fridges?!
Well now Lois Lane’s potato salad is definitely ruined…
It sure does.
You start the game as Superman, going around the streets punching bad guys and throwing them around Batman-style. The alien-looking villains in question look pretty weird and all have silly names, of course.
Somehow, upon hearing the name “Rambeau,” I hadn’t pictured Jar Jar Binks but whatever.
I could be down with Superman punching Jar Jar Binks in the face repeatedly.
And after seeing Frankenstein’s monster drive a coffin around in Street Racer, here we have Eyegor pointing a big gun at Superman’s crotch:
There are obstacles along the way, obstacles that would cripple any superhero.
Obstacles such as…
Easily avoidable… electric… balls?
[ Editor’s Note: I can’t let this one slide, I have to say something… ISN’T THERE A POWER OUTAGE?! — Bailey. ]
I mean, I can see how such an obstacle could be a problem for, say, a tree. But a superhero that can fly and walk around?
Even these punks gave Superman some sort of challenge:
And they suck.
Now when you finally face Doomsday, the game’s first boss, it’s a different story altogether. The dude’s not too hard to beat but when you finally do…
Doomsday wakes up and kicks your super-butt!
This makes for a rather random end to the level:
And in what is the game’s first epic twist, THIS happens:
Yes, Superman, THE Superman… dies.
I don’t know why he’s suddenly topless but he dies nonetheless.
I guess with a game called “The DEATH And Return Of Superman” I shouldn’t really be too surprised when Superman dies and then returns! You’ll notice I’m focusing a lot on the story and really this is the game’s best asset and, ironically, the biggest problem with it. On the one hand, the premise is awesome but it’s actually so awesome that the game itself, in comparison, doesn’t quite live up to it. You’re introduced to some truly dramatic comic-book storylines: Superman dying, all these characters coming together to protect the city, one of them being the key to Superman’s return, one of them being a traitor…
Epic, epic stuff!
It’s like The Avengers if The Avengers were SUPERMAN.
So when you’re just going around punching people, it feels a little underwhelming and anti-climactic. That said, it’s still a really cool game and keeps you glued to your screen for its entirety. Mostly thanks to some nifty whodunit-style second act in which you’re trying to figure out:
Right up there with “Who Shot Mr Burns?” and “Where’s Waldo?”, truly this is one of those immortal conundrums we’ll remember forever.
One of the best things in this game is being able to play as all these other guys. Their fighting styles are not radically different but they each have at least one uniquely cool move to show off.
Take Superboy for example. Remember how inoffensive he looked back in the day?
He looks like if Sylvester Stallone ate Macaulay Culkin then went cosplaying!
Well now he’s ditched the cartoon, not-even-detailed belt and the giant over-undies and he does stuff like this:
Not to mention single-handedly stopping missiles from destroying entire cities:
That last screenshot is from one of the flying levels, by the way.
Every so often, you get to fly and fight enemies in the air and it’s all kinds of awesome. Althemore reason why this game should have ditched the simplistic beat ’em up style and gone for more of a multi-genred, multi-layered adventure game with side-scrolling, mini quests, top-down levels, the whole nine yards!
This game’s epic storyline certainly deserved it.
But I get it, they were going for more of a relentless Captain America And The Avengers-type action game and as that, it does work fine. But that Captain America game was just an incredibly satisfying, mostly brainless twister of pixelated “POWS” and “BLAMS”. It was great but this Superman game could have been much more than just an entertaining wham-bam-thank-you-ma’m affair.
I mean, this is a game which sees a half-robot Superman throw a dude into space: you want to be able to experience that stuff first hand not just have it being written up for you:
Thankfully, the game has enough genuinely epic dramatic content to render even your most valid of complaints towards it null.
Spaceships destroying entire cities…
Superheroes going nuts…
And I haven’t even mentioned the graphics!
This is a fantastic-looking game and it also boasts a terrific soundtrack. Why couldn’t this have been the new Superman movie?!
Did we need another origin story?
(and don’t say Teen Wolf, it’s not the same!)
Hollywood needs to start playing more retro games.
The game ends in as epic a fashion as you’d expect: you’ve got Steel battling a big giant head…
Superboy being captured…
And, of course, the ultimate face-off:
Overall, this is certainly a Superman game I’d recommend: lots of non-stop action, you get to fly around, hammer bad guys in the face, be Superboy… it’s all good. Plus the gameplay is straight-forward enough, the graphics are fab and the music rocks.
What more could you ask for?
Personally, I would love to see an RPG take on this game someday, remade so it looks exactly the same but focuses more on the story and the mystery at the heart of it all than slapping punks around.
Here’s a game that was so close to being…
But instead ends up being just really good.
Which, I think you’ll agree, still makes it well worth checking out.
Take a bow, Supermen.
Take a bow.
Now smile for the picture:
That’s gonna be a good one.