The plan was for the next entry in this series to be an RPG, either the fairly lengthy one I am no halfway through (Lufia) or the relatively brief one I’ve queued up next (Super Mario RPG), but by the two thirds point of the month it was clear that wasn’t going to work out, so instead I switched to another brief game; The Death and Return of Superman.
When I went searching for some SNES deep cuts to help get me to twenty-five games for the year, the one really surprising game I occasionally saw on best of lists was The Death and Return of Superman. Most of the others I was familiar with even if I hadn’t had the chance to play them. This was a licensed title that had completely slipped past me. Usually that sort of thing does bode well, but Death and Return of Superman is a perfectly fine game. It is very much of a product of the 90’s and hasn’t aged particularly well, but there is plenty of interest here and the game plays just fine.
Like the majority of licensed games in this era, Death and Return of Superman is a beat-em-up. Superman goes left to right and punches dudes until he gets to a boss; repeat as necessary. It has some of the usual flaws with this sort of game. The levels aren’t particularly interesting and there simply aren’t enough enemy types. It eventually gets old traveling through similar looking enemies punching the same 5 guys in the face. Still, there is something satisfying about it as well. The best sorts of beat-em-ups don’t overstay their welcome, being both fairly brief and fast paced. The Death and Return of Superman’s levels tend to go on a little too long, but the game itself is about the right length.
In some ways it feels designed with home consoles in mind, in some ways it feels like the worst sort of quarter munching arcade game. One point against it is that it is single player only. Likely a concession to making it play well on the SNES. There isn’t much slowdown and the sprites look good. As I said earlier, the game could do with more enemy types, but the ones here look pretty nice. The game also has five different playable characters, giving some variety to the game. Unfortunately, the different characters all play just about the same. They have the same basic set of moves and there doesn’t appear to be any difference in their strength or speed. It mostly just ends up being different sprites. Another problem is just how repetitive the bosses can be. They can level the player in a few hits and don’t really do anything interesting.
Still, it is an enjoyable experience if a flawed on. I really liked how the game actually tried to tell a story. In fact, I prefer this telling to the comics. While the comic story this is based on is a famous one, it is not a very good one. It is a better idea for a story than an actual story. That is why the player changes character so frequently. You start as Superman, who runs through a couple of levels before fighting Doomsday and dying. Then four replacement Supermen show up to try to take his place: Cyborg Superman, Superboy, The Eradicator and Steel. The comic played it as a mystery of just who was the real Superman, only for none of them to turn out to be. The game runs through the plot in a handful of levels, with the player taking the role over whatever Superman is necessary at the time. It works, and makes for an interesting set up. It also helps that Superman feels like Superman. He may go down like a chump to the bosses, but he flies and punches with power and has his heat vision.
It is a good game. A run through of takes no more than an hour and a half to two hours and it is decently entertaining the whole time. It could really do with a two player mode, but I don’t have a second player to play with anyway. It might be the best Superman game, but that says more about the other games to bear his name than anything about this one. The Death and Return of Superman is a serviceable beat-em-up that at least appears to be trying to do something interesting even if it doesn’t completely succeed.