I’m more of a Marvel guy, but even I read The Death of Superman back in high school, and seeing that there was a video game based off of it definitely caught my attention. Back then though I was only able to rent it and I feel like the game is still taunting me a bit, because I still don’t have it in my collection and rarely see it out in the wild. I’m not sure it is worth the fifty plus dollars it goes for now, but finding out that the game was published by Sunsoft and developed by Blizzard of all companies, made me give this one another look. I’m a huge fan of beat ‘em ups, and this one really caught my attention, but not for the reason you think.
This game is absolutely fine—serviceable, but there are a lot better titles in the genre out there. The controls were smooth for the most part, once I got used to the flying at least, which felt different at the time. There are several side-scrolling levels that act like SHMUP gameplay that are easy, which is good because the rest of the game gets pretty difficult and some bosses can feel cheap. Falling down might be the worst part though, as it is easy to get swarmed and bounced back and forth for large chunks of life. There are some cheats that can help, offering refilled energy or even the ability to skip entire levels. Some people don’t like the fact that Superman can be so easily hurt, but they had to balance it out for the game, even if a chainsaw would barely annoy him in the comics. It also seemed pretty neat at the time to play as the different characters from the pages of that infamous story, even if only their animations and stage clearing moves were different. We might take it for granted now, with how many different characters are in games like Injustice, but this was cool at the time and sounded great on paper.
One of the coolest parts was that the game was close to the actual source material, closer than a lot of games have gotten respectively, and this one used some images from the comics, but not quite as well as something like Maximum Carnage did, making me wish they had done more. It is quite story driven for the time, but I said it sticks close to the source material, however, it doesn’t explain much, so those who haven’t read the book or are up on their DC lore may get lost quickly. Superman’s actual death and return scenes are almost non-existent and needed some actual time, but that may have slowed down the gameplay too much to the developers, if they didn’t care for it being a tearjerker. In between that, four characters, that may seem pretty random to those not in the know, show up to try to lay claim to the throne or just protect Metropolis: Cyborg Superman, Eradicator, Steel, and Superboy. With all of those characters, I was amazed this game didn’t have any type of co-op or multiplayer functionality, which was the first thing that got me contemplating the need for a modern remake.
I have been finding a lot of games I think need to be remade lately, but this one really stuck with me for a while. There are very few fans that actually liked when Kal-El came back in the comics, at least not with the reasons the writers gave, but his actual death and the fallout from that is a great tragic story that could be turned into an emotional ride for fans. The 16-bit version of the story wasn’t bad, but full of missed opportunities to me, so I need Superman to die for our entertainment one more time, because now I want to take this same story, some modern elements, and craft a new good Superman game. Because let’s face it, he could use another win in the form of a good game.
It wasn’t that long ago that Rocksteady, the team behind all of the good Arkham games, was rumored to be working on a game for the Man of Steel, and those rumors resurfaced recently, so maybe there is hope. Whoever gets it though needs to focus on the story, keeping the project close to the source material again, so that the hardcore fans are there, as they gave the SNES one—there is a Genesis version that isn’t much different, but I think it is slightly weaker in a few areas—more of a chance because it tried to do the comic justice. I actually liked the art on the original game, having bold colors, large sprites, and a comic book style that did the hero justice. Superman sounds fine beating wholesale ass, with good audio effects for the combat, but some subpar tracks in the background—so that will need to be fixed.
The new game will succeed by learning what the original did right and filling in the gaps it didn’t touch on that fans wanted, allowing players to take part in as many of the classic scenes as possible, and maybe a few extra moments to flesh parts out might be interesting. Beware though, that going too far off the path may turn away some of those exact same hardcore fans. It seems so simplistic, but we should be able to pick which character to play at certain points in the game, and they should all have different move sets and goals. Playing as Cyborg Superman and Eradicator should allow for more destruction, maybe even the ability to kill, while Steel and Superboy do more to try and be superman with menial tasks, like rescuing a cat out of a tree. I sense a similar problem though, finding comparable enemies that can hurt Superman and his squad, but keeping it fun and focusing on the gameplay, which is a primarily fist heavy combat system—balancing is key. The end result should be something like an Arkham game mixed with The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and a story / cutscenes as good as Injustice—which I feel like is asking a lot. I want it though and it should be possible for Superman to return.