This week I am just going to be unloading a random mess of thoughts about a potential Superman game, as I discussed last time.
Collectibles: seems like all these games have things strewn around the city that you must gather up because it is easy fun. Well, I propose we can do that here as well. I would go with the story that Beppo the Supermonkey ransacked the Fortress of Solitude and hid them around town. You gotta get them back. Easy. And the collectibles would be souvenirs from old missions or Kryptonian artifacts and so on. A good chance to introduce the franchise to players.
Mxyzptlk Missions: As I said last time, I would keep Mxy away from combat missions. Much better if he is used to create crazy side missions. And I would absolutely include one where he makes you fly through rings as in Superman 64, considered one of the worst games ever. And I wouldn’t even feel bad about it.
Fast Travel: I don’t know for sure how super speed could be done in a game. I picture a button that you press and everybody but you slows to a snail’s pace, it uses up your power and all that stuff. That is all well and good, but also it is clear that fast travel in the game could also be presented as super speed in action. As long as your in your guise as Superman (ie, not as Clark Kent) you should be able to instantly get to any location in the city. And if you leave the city boundaries, or just fly up, up, and away, you get to choose locations outside of the city to visit. (The Fortress, Smallville, probably some oil rig, wherever else the game takes you).
Other Playable Characters: If this game is designed to make it feel good to be Superman, don’t take that away by making the player have to be Lois or Jimmy for missions. Instead, have the Other Character missions be other superheroes. I have no idea what kind of canon this game would be shooting for, but if I were in charge we would be seeing a Superman who has been around a while and therefore has allies. Supergirl, Steel, Mon-El, Superboy, Krypto. There are plenty of options.
Plot: As I said among these posts, I’d not want to use either aliens (such as General Zod) or Lex Luthor as the villain of my Superman game. For the first game, I’d keep it lower stakes. You start the game with Lois and Clark investigating someone wrongly accused of murder (which functions both as a reference to the very first person Superman saved in the comics, and as the sort of thing I like to see them doing in general) and that investigation leads them to uncovering corruption in local politics, police, and ties organized crime (The Scarlet Widow would work for that role, of course). These corrupt politicians and mobsters would obviously have supervillains on the payroll, so we’re good to go.
Anyway, I’m gonna stop talking about the game now. I have proven to myself it could work, so now I can sit back and wait until a real Superman game is either made poorly or not made at all.
I have recently been seeing bits of this new Spider-Man game that just came out, and thus my jealousy of other non-Superman superheroes is rising up again. I know I already solved the lack of a good Superman game by saying they should be making a game about Jimmy Olsen, but even I am aware how unrealistic that would be.
If a Superman game ever happens, it would star Superman. And they would probably want it to still be like these Spider-Man and Batman games where the hero fights through armies of crooks. That wouldn’t be great for Superman. It is an iconic image of the Superman mythos: he stands before a crook who empties a gun into his chest and Superman just stands there, unharmed. Just because you have a gun, doesn’t mean you win anymore. Superman is in town. To accurately make a Superman game, you would have to replicate that. He would not be a good fit for the style of gameplay that the recent Spider-Man and Batman games have. This should be solved by making combat against supervillains (Metallo, Parasite, Clawster, and so on) a special event and the rest of the time you’d be doing journalism and saving civilians.
But no. It wouldn’t happen that way. If you only get to taste combat during boss fights, you would never get to enjoy it, right? Superman needs hordes of goons that he can beat up on. Today I will provide some examples of baddie hordes one could use:
Aliens seems like the easiest way to. There is a whole army of Kryptonian criminals waiting in the Phantom Zone to fight. But if it were me making this game, I would be saving most of the aliens for the sequel, so I will focus on Earthly threats.
Robots is a good place to start. I would make it a mandatory requirement of this game that the robots from the Mechanical Monsters short show up. That is a must.
My next thought is Toyman. His army of robot toys would provide a lot of variety for baddies. You could have green army men as his main troops. Giant teddy bears as the muscle. He had flying monkeys once on Supergirl, so throw those in. Toyman offers a lot.
A non-robot source of a variety of enemies would be Funnyface. As I explained before, he can animate characters from comics, so he could bring forth any number of sci-fi or fantasy foes worth our fists. (Similarly, Mxyzptlk offers a means to fight any and every thing, of course, but I would rather save him for non-combat stuff.)
If we absolutely need Superman to be punching actual people, we can do that a couple different ways. The main way, the way which Absolutely Will be in a Superman game if they ever make one, is to give mobsters super high-tech weaponry. That’s fine, but a batch of Intergang crooks with fancy guns is not particularly interesting. It’s downright boring. It can be in there, but it has to be the least of Superman’s worries.
Luckily, Superman has a villain called Riot. He has the power to create multiple forms of himself and run amok over the city. That means there could be massive battles against dozens of enemies that are actually one guy. I am actually pretty sure he actually showed up in the Superman Returns game, so lets take that and improve on it.
Another option that occurs to me is criminals who are using Tar. In a storyline during the 90s, I can’t recall if it was in one of Superman’s books or in Steel’s, there was a drug called Tar that would turn its users into superhuman brutes. I like the idea of including them because it could be required to administer an antidote to defeat them, thus changing up the gameplay a little.
Finally, a pretty obvious one: Lex Luthor. He is an obvious opponent for the game (too obvious for me. I would not have him as the big bad.) But he would be a plausible source of robots, and of human opponents. In some stories LexCorp has a security force of guys wearing power armour (Iron Man style). That means enemies who can fly around as a precursor to the Phantom Zone criminals to be fought in the sequel. And after Superman beats them Lex can issue a press release about how those guys were disgruntled employees using stolen equipment and so on.
Well, I think I have proven that you can have a variety of goon hordes in a Superman game. I suspect that next week’s post will also be about a hypothetical Superman game.
Toyman is one of Superman’s longest serving villains. But what’s he good for?
Of course, Toyman is an archetypal supervillain. He’s the kind of criminal who has a specific theme (toys) and uses them for all manner of crimes, be it robbing banks or breaking out of prison or just straight up seeking to “show them all!” He’s ideal for appearances where he’s not the main threat, but just to add a bit of action. He’s a good cameo character. You want to start the story with a fight scene that isn’t tied to the main plot? Have Superman foiling a giant cymbal monkey sent by Toyman. Or have him capturing Toyman’s radio-controlled submarine that is smuggling stolen gold. Or have him burning up the paper stealth bombers that Toyman had sent to attack city hall. The options are endless.
But can you build actual plots about a colourful criminal while staying true to my insistence that all the characters should represent something appropriate to Superman missions? Well, obviously, if you’re starting with Truth and Justice you don’t even need to go further. Criminals are threats to Justice. But criminals aren’t just a threat to others, but to everyone else. Over the years, Toyman has been depicted as mostly-harmless old fool who can be easily reformed and live a life of goodness and as a ruthless remorseless killer who could never be reformed. I’d want that pendulum to stop somewhere in the middle. Let’s have a Toyman whose arc is about determining if criminals can and should be welcomed back into society, and if they’d want to. Worth noting: On the currently-running Supergirl show, Toyman’s son Winn is a character and has to deal with the fact his father was a crazy supervillain. That’s good. Let’s keep that up.
Also, he’s often been depicted as a friend and partner of the Prankster. Supervillain friendships are great, so let’s have more of that as well.