The Retro Critic


And now for something completely different.

Let’s take a break from Superman and talk about Sunman, a little known superhero who, despite what people say, is nothing like Superman.

Oh sure he has a red cape, flies, shoots lasers from his eyes, has super-strength and a bald arch-enemy but he is nothing like…

Waaaait a minute…

Superman Symbol

That’ll teach me to trust Sunsoft.

Sunman was in fact meant to be the NES’s take on Superman II but due to, I’m guessing, licensing issues, they were made to change the game in order to not make it look like Superman. In the end, the game’s release was cancelled and no-one at the time cared since it hadn’t even been advertised. Made in 1992, this Superman clone was nearly fully completed and can actually be played from start to finish which begs the question: why was it never released?

I guess maybe it was too obvious as a Super-ripoff or it would have cost too much to risk advertising for a non-Superman game? I’m only speculating.

The game itself, shockingly, is not bad!

It’s far better than that unfinished Star Trek V game, anyway.

It actually plays a lot like the NES’s own Batman games except you don’t hang onto walls or throw Batarangs, instead you can fly so that’s something at least. The premise is as straight-forward as you’d expect: you’re side-scrolling around the city of Metrop…

Megaro City Sunman

… Megaro punching robots and flying dudes sent by this guy:

Green Head Sunman

Cyborg Lex Luthor.


One of Kevin Spacey’s best roles, right up there with Superman Returns and Goldmember.

What is it with retro games and big giant heads, anyway?

The game has about 5 levels, one of them sees Sunman flying to the top of a building and randomly leaving the screen.

Building Sunman

And since this is an unreleased game, there is a delightful typo to make fun of:

Grate Sunman

Grate stuff.

There are other flying levels, one of them set in the Grand Canyon of all places, where you can really go all-out with those eye-lasers of yours. This is when the game starts getting glitchy as hell.

Punch enemies and they half-disappear:

Glitch Sunman

Get hit and you turn white:

White Sunman

There’s a lot of that stuff in this game so strap yourselves in, the glitch-gremlins are comin’. Maybe this is due to the game attempting 16-bit-style graphics and it struggling to handle it? Or maybe that one copy of the game that still exists is dusty as hell.

Who knows?

Other levels include this tricky Emerald City-style level:

Crystals Sunman

An underground level where you’re destroying  phallic nuclear weapons by punching them:

Missile Sunman


Check this obstacle out: you’re made to literally punch about a million rocks to pierce through to the other side:

Rock Wall Sunman

Come on!!!

Sunman isn’t Sonic, this is gonna take forever!

I gotta give the game credit, though: there’s variety there. You’ve got a level on a boat, on a train, on top of buildings, in space, underground, it’s pretty epic. All you need is a picture of Michael Shannon screaming his head off and it’s basically Man Of Steel!

The boss battles are pretty fun if not particularly memorable. The final boss battle is a long one, though, so expect a worthy fight. This guy sure likes teleporting around the room and messing with your head:

Sunman Boss

The game ends with you flying off and the credits rolling. Oh, and apparently you’ve saved the world FOREVER:

End Words Sunman

Time to announce your retirement?

It’s honestly a shame that Sunman never became a Superman II game because it was actually ok. Not amazing or anything but playable and entertaining. I mean, one second you’re digging a hole through the Earth by spinning:

Rock Piercing Sunman

The next you’re single-handedly stopping a runaway train:

Train Stop Sunman

Non-stop action all the way.

Zod knows how good the game would have been if it hadn’t been changed and had its graphics polished up for a wide release.

Zod only knows…

As it stands, the game is glitched as hell and that can get distracting. The controls are mostly fine despite you flying up if you press the “up” button by mistake. The gameplay is otherwise simple enough though. Like Superman: The Man Of Steel, there’s a lot of tapping to get as close to something as possible and punching it before it hits you. This slows down the pace of the game a little but, as a whole, it works. There are tons and tons of projectiles, moving platforms and enemies in your way but if you focus you can get through the mostly short levels without too much difficulty.

Worst case scenario: PAUSE + SELECT to skip level :P

I think you can probably find a Superman-ed version of the game somewhere deep in the rotten chasms of the interwebs but it would be cool to somehow get the game the right license and finally get it released but hey, that’s what Kickstarter’s for. Someone’s bound to get to that, I’m sure.

In the meantime, Sunman will remain an oddity, a Superman game that never was.

No Head Sunman