Where were you when Superman died? Which time you ask? Shut up nerd, you know which time I meant. The time where everyone thought DC finally killed off a much loved character for real instead of the cop outs and bullshit resurrections (did you cry when they killed off the New 52 Supes? Of course not! It was a reboot so who cares?!?)
I remember where I was…I was reading a Batman comic book. I knew that the Superman/Doomsday storyline was going on (my brother got the Superman comics), but who the hell cared since Batman is clearly the better hero? Then Superman died and the world mourned (at least the people who never read a fucking comic in their life were pissed), so I figured I might as well pick up my brother’s wrecked copies of the Death of Superman storyline (the boy never took care of his comics, which pained me as a child) and finally read it.
It was okay.
For a storyline that revolved around two characters throwing punches, it was entertaining enough. I read it a few times over the years, but mostly when there was nothing else around. I don’t think I’ve actually read it since I was a pre-teen, which is probably why my memory of the exact events are as fuzzy as the game itself. I remember more about the four others vying for the mantle of Superman over the death of the man himself.
Speaking of fuzzy remembering…
HERE’S WHAT I REMEMBER:
What I remember the most was that compared to most beat em’ ups at the time, this one wasn’t nearly as hard. Later levels still kicked my ass, but I always came back because to my little brain this game seemed beatable compared to the sadomasochistic games in my library at the time. It’s my current opinion that any game I remember whose first and second stages could be beaten without throwing the controller are considered “easy”. That doesn’t explain why I gave ‘Zero Tolerance’ a pass considering that I found it a little fun but damn near unplayable.
Since I was able to progress to later levels, that meant I was actually able to see the variety of gameplay ‘The Death and Return of Superman’ had to offer them. I didn’t see all the game had to offer due to clearly being terrible at video games, but I saw enough to know that the game was more than simple moving from bad guy A to bad guy B with only punching in between. There was a shooter section, and…uh…Superboy did something, and…Steel…
Look, I can’t remember what variety was there, I just remember that the game changed up each time you played as a different character. There were four main characters vying for the mantle of Superman and I remember the game did a good job of representing each of these character through the gameplay. Sure, it’s not hard to represent truth, justice, and the American way by beating the everloving shit out of presumed criminals before they’re officially arrested and tried, but the way it’s done tells a lot about a man.
I also remember the game being colorful because this was before Zack Snyder came along and desaturated everything comic book related.
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
Want to know what stuck out the most for me? It’s something that meant absolutely nothing to me in 1994, but it surprised the hell out of my future self. This game was developed by Blizzard. The same guys who got me through college with ‘Diablo 2’ (read: failed biology twice) and outed my inner weeaboo with ‘Overwatch’ (I main D.Va) made the video game version of one of the biggest moments in comic book history! It’s a legend taking on a legend! How glorious is this game since it’s pedigree can only be matched by Hercules eating Jesus and shitting out Gandhi?!?
‘The Death and Return of Superman’ has the big detailed sprites and vivid colors I remember, but it seems to have dropped a few frames between 1994 and now. I remember it being far more fluid than it actually is. The smoothest movement I saw was when an enemy was picked up and thrown. But this looked more like early 2000 flash animation rather than an impressive display of animation (I guess it’s still impressive considering that it was 1994).
Despite the look not living up to the expectations of a young mind and 23 years of time, what I played of ‘The Death and Return of Superman’ was fun. The screen wasn’t constantly filled with overpowered enemies getting in cheap shots and I could simply fly away to buy myself some time, so there wasn’t much to rage about. I would have enjoyed the combat more if I could hit multiple enemies with one attack, but I didn’t have a problem juggling enemies, eliminating the need for it.
As with every game I play, I looked up a full runthrough video since I wouldn’t be able to play the game all the way through. It’s a good thing too, because I can guaran-damn-tee you that I wouldn’t be speaking so positively about it if I did. Like a sadist locked in a Cambodian prison attempting to take a shower, I don’t like to be ganged up on, but a little variety is nice. Every brawl was the same: one projectile guy, one melee guy. Knock them out, you fight two melee guys and a projectile guy. Sometimes that’s reversed for variety’s sake. Then they throw in a vehicle guy who becomes a melee guy. Repeat until a boss with a larger hitbox than you beats you to death. It’s the kind of fun that can only be had if you either REALLY love Superman, or really hate yourself.
I don’t think I’d recommend going back and playing the full game, but I certainly recommend playing the first few levels. Kill Doomsday, play the first shooter stage (which I didn’t play, but I’m reminiscing not reviewing, so fuck off) to get a sense of what the entire game is about, then shut it off and read the comics. That should give you the complete Death and Return of Superman experience. It may not be perfect, but it beats going to see a bunch of shitty movies to see the same story.