If you were anywhere from the age of 7-15 when this game came out (’94), you know you rented it. You rented it because you had somehow convinced your parents to buy you the “black bag” issue of the comic book it was named after, Superman #75, Death of Superman. And when you rented it, you probably wanted it to be better.
“The Death of Superman” to a comic book fan was an event you were all in for; it drew attention from the world to the innocent page of nerdy heroes with super-muscles and women with massive…..well, let’s just say these books were written for nerdy nerds. When Death of Superman happened, comic book fans were like the staff at the Playboy Mansion; we stood off to the side and said “Yes, come see what you have been missing.”
Granted, I just re-read this whole storyline a couple years ago and it does not hold up; but at that point, killing Superman, only for him to never really die, only enter a “regeneration matrix” was almost just as good; a lot of people focused on the dying, but when you’re a impatient teenage boy, all you want to see is him come back. And come back he did….with long hair.
“How you doin’?”
As with the comic, I just recently went back and replayed this title from the beloved Super NES. It was also cashing in, on the rash of addictive long form beat em ups that had invaded the market. You get to play as Superman, starting off, in a few perfunctory levels. He’s kinda fun to control, because he can fly! And you can flow right into a downward punch with it, and you get a cool 3-D type throw where you fling a guy into the background of the game. I gotta be honest, there are some unique enough moves to help you navigate the endless sea of generic idiots you always fight in these games; I thought to myself, with more practice, this could be a fun time; Well, I practiced and it really wasn’t much better.
As the game progresses, it goes through the stages of the comic, sort of; you get to play as all 4 alternate Supermen: Superboy, Steel, Eradicator and Cyborg. They all pretty much do the same moves as Superman, but a sprite change is always welcome. I wasn’t a fan of the flying shooting levels; it’s a trumped up version of Gradius basically. Storyboards in between levels tries to tie the story together cohesively but it’s as central to enjoying this game as broccoli would be to a PB & J sandwhich.
Don’t get me wrong; a beat em up is inherently fun, while at the same time, so frustrating you want to rip your game system from it’s warm cubby against your TV and throw it into a snowbank just about to be driven through by a salt truck, but punching stuff as Superman? There may not be a more base human-male desire, besides just eating a steak, which I could easily do 7 nights a week.
This game though, doesn’t encapsulate this story as whole; we keep going back to that well and it’s legacy continues to expand, year after year. My only question is, did we ever need to go here?