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A playthrough of Kemco’s 1988 licensed-based action-adventure game for the NES, Superman.

Believe it or not, Superman now has the honor of being my five-hundredth NES playthough! *Big sigh* I thought it would be amusing to celebrate with a… er… somewhat less than spectacular licensed game, for whatever reason. At least it’s better than Superman 64 and there are no rings in sight.

Superman is one of those games that stand tip-toe on the brink of absolute catastrophe, but somehow, no matter how badly designed and programmed it might be, it never dips its toe in the wading pool occupied by Home Alone, Rocky and Bullwinkle, or Wayne’s World. It’s a fully functioning game that can be finished and probably won’t make you break a controller. It’s not particular fun or engaging, but it does enough to prevent it from hitting the bottom tier.

It’s an “action-adventure” game, which means that like most games in the genre on the NES, it’s a platformer with text boxes and a screen that moves in both directions. There’s nothing terribly novel about it – you get to a phone booth so you can change into Superman, follow Lois’s clue to some person or location, and work the chain until you defeat the boss and end the chapter.

The world is a fairly open one – you aren’t restricted to where you can go by much else but your patience (these are some long streets!) and your ability to kill the bad guys before they kill you. You get a number of superpowers that come in handy throughout the adventure, and collecting special powerups over the course of the game will permanently upgrade them. Some of them are completely useless outside of a few contrived circumstances (like using the spin to find Lex underground), but most of them have some reasonable use, doing things like freezing your enemies, shooting eye lasers, and flying across the city.

The ideas behind the game are all pretty sound, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The collision detection is quite visibly a mess, enemies will constantly hone in on you as they land from jumps, and the city map does little but pad out the game’s length. The controls are also pretty wretched: not only are they laggy, but the jump physics are ridiculous touchy and not at all intuitive.

Superman might’ve veered closer to becoming a surprise break-out hit if only it worked harder to be more like Castlevania II and less like a room-temperature vomit salad. It is ultimately playable, and it’s not that hard to beat, but it’s a frustrating-to-play mess. Why bother?
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No cheats were used during the recording of this video.

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41 thoughts on “Superman (NES) Playthrough – NintendoComplete

  1. They could have at least explained that Lex hit him with kryptonite and he needed to spend time rebuilding his powers or something. No, he's just vulnerable to bullets and mortal punches now.

  2. There are a lot of games I look at and think "this would have been better with smaller character sprites." This is the ONLY one I look at and think they should have been bigger.

  3. I always missed the "bonus icon" on top of Government Tower (3:08) until about a year after I got the game and flew to the top of that building. I believe there is only one other building of which you can fly to the top – might be Mercantile Bank in either CBD or Staunton. There's not much you can do up there, though – fight a few enemies and that's about it. No bonus icon up there.

  4. I remember playing this game a lot in my youth. Not knowing what to do, I would spend countless hours going around in circles punching out an army of gun-firing Jack Nicholsons and other weird enemies. Well, I will say that I've always liked the Clark Kent and Superman themes, at least, and would love for either you or some other YouTube video game music remixers to make remixes/covers of them in the near future. Well, great playthrough of it, at least. It's still a better Supes game than Supes N64, though, although that's not saying much. Also, congratulations on reaching 500 videos! By the way, am I the only one that is thinking of crystal meth when I look at those power-up and power-down crystals that the enemies drop and magically come out of nowhere!?

  5. I actually enjoyed this game as a kid. I seriously played it every day after school for months, and loved it. I always look back on this game with fondness, in spite of it’s MANY flaws.

  6. Despite its many flaws, this NES Superman game became one of my favorite Superman video games to play when I got to first try it out as a video rental. The game's title song, Clark Kent's theme, Superman's theme, the end of the level song, and the alternate Daily Planet theme, are my top 5 favorite songs from the video game's soundtrack. With these five songs feeling like they capture the spirit of Superman and his adventures in a very good way. I also found it very funny and strange, that the two FBI agents looked like The Blues Brothers.

  7. I like the graphics and music.
    Also congratulations for the 500 NES playthroughs.

    There is a decent Superman game out there?

  8. I. HATE. This. Game. Seriously, this is one of those weekend ruiners from back in the day. Being a giant fan of Superman back then, I could NOT wait to rent this. What did I get? Super cute tiny deformed Superman, the goddamn actual Statue of Liberty telling me what to do, and no music from the movies. I thought the Atari 2600 game was better, honestly. At least I somewhat felt like the Man of Steel in that one. Fuck YOU Kemco!

  9. Jeez, it must be frustrating to play if you say it should have tried to be more like Castlevania 2, which is a mess in itself.

  10. I rented this one as a kid and couldn't figure it out at all. Probably didn't do much for my opinion of Superman either, even if I am a fan now!

  11. Wait… I am sure in the Japanese version, they used the official Superman theme by John Williams, especially when Clark change into Supes this theme turns up.

  12. Same music appeared in Indra no Hikari, which is a Japan-only RPG (I believe Kemco was involved in production there). This is an interesting choice for your 500th NES playthrough, hahah. Just about 1000 games left or so though, so I bet the next one will be less of a PITA! Also, why are so many Superman games crap compared to Batman-based titles? 😕

  13. Hum…that’s….surprising.
    My god, Superman’s face on the main screen.I know it’s NES design but still…
    This is more unsettling than Mario’s head in Mario Teaches Typing 2.
    I didn’t know the Statue of Liberty can talk. However, she walked in Ghostsbusters 2 so….
    Yes, let’s remember Superman 64 : Lord of the Rings.
    I like the flying sequences. Reminds me the time i played the first GTA.
    That’s all i can say.
    PS : kudos for your 500th NES gameplay😊😊👏👏👍👍.

  14. Ah… This glorious masterpiece. This is truly at the pinnacle of the NES. The sound, graphics, gameplay, this is truly a perfect Superman simulator. LOL. God, I remember renting this as a kid for a weekend, what a sad weekend it was… Well, let's see how my prescience is today. Up next, Sonic 3?

  15. Thank you very much for playing these godawful games so that we don’t have to.

    Congratulations on 500 NES playthroughs! 👏👏👏

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