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?
No cheats were used during the recording of this video.
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