NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON COMICBOOKMOVIE.COM 06/21/2013
I LIKE Superman 64. Bet you didn’t see that as an opening statement, huh?
I’m not here to argue that Superman 64 is misunderstood, or good even, I know that it’s a bad game. It has horrid draw distance, stiff animation, odd character models, repetitive music, countless glitches, the notorious “ride” stages and it’s one of those games that you have to play on hard mode in order to see every level. After ALL that you say, how can you possibly like this game? Well, I guess I look at this game the same way you would look at something like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, a baffling mess where you’re simply mesmerized as to how it exists at all
For the purposes of this review, I didn’t simply go by popular opinion of this game or try to fly through a few rings and then start typing, I finished this game from start to finish on hard. Let me tell you, some of the things in this game just simply have to be experienced for yourself. In one level for example, you have to return Darkseid to his cell in the Metropolis police department as he’s managed to escape. Yes, Darkseid, overload of the plant Apokolips has escaped his jail cell, only in Superman 64. In the final level of the game, you have to escort Jimmy and Lois through an electrified bridge in Brainaic’s ship and you know how this is accomplished? By encasing them in a block of ice, done by freezing them with your super powers.
One thing I will give this game credit for is that at the time of its release, it was the only game to provide a story reason as to why Superman can take damage. The entirety of the game takes place in a virtual reality simulation of Metropolis using technology from Brainaic. Now, I didn’t say it was a GOOD reason, but at least they tried.
The controls of this game are, loose, to put it nicely but they do have their own twisted set of logic. First up I’ll discuss flying which is pretty easy once you wrap your head around the idea that flying Superman is the equivalent of driving a car. In flight you have to constantly be tapping the break button to slow your movement just slightly. Once I mastered this, it made the ring levels easy to get through and it put me in a rather zen like state.
Next up is the combat in the game. The key to taking out enemies in Superman 64 is not by using your powers or fists, but flying into enemies. Most of the enemies can be taken out in one hit by this method, or in the case of drone type enemies you’ll pick them up and a simple throw will take care of them after that.
I would like to give credit to these discoveries on my own, but I have to give credit to the youtube Let’s Play series from Proton Jon for these tactics. Normally I don’t watch these series, but it’s an incredibly interesting set of videos that not only discuss how to play the game, but also facts about the development and creation of the game.
In one chapter he talks about an interview he had with one of the former designers of the game from the now defunct Titus, who states that WB put a lot of restrictions on what could be done with the character. The game was not initially supposed to be set in a virtual reality world, but had to be changed fairly late because Warner Bros. would not allow Superman to punch actual people. They also tried to fix the game in a promising looking PSOne port but lost the license before the game could be completed.
Superman 64 is a bad game, no doubt about it but this review is my personal take on the game so I’m not going to recommend anyone run out to eBay or their local used game shop to score a copy. However, at the very least I think for those who are daring enough should try this piece of gaming history, as for better or for worse that’s what it is. It could be just me, but there’s a certain sense of accomplishment to seeing something through to the end that few probably have.
Or maybe I’m just a masochist.