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SummaryNot the best use of the license
The GoodThe graphics, both in the game and in the interstitials, are a great recreation of the sources material. There are all kinds of great touches to the animation, like blowing capes and such.
Every few levels, there's a shooter section where you fly along and use your heat vision or equivalent to shoot down flying enemies. This is a nice diversion and keeps the walking around and punching people from getting too dull.
You get to play as five different Supermen throughout the game, which is pretty cool. They aren't just palette-swaps either. They all have their own animations, which are quite nice across the board.
The BadUnfortunately, the enemies are just palette-swaps. I'd be surprised if there were a dozen in the whole game. Like most super-hero games of the early nineties, you walk from left to right and punch and kick legions of identical enemies. I can't think of any super-heroes who ever actually did this except the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is perhaps why their game is the best regarded out of this genre.
While it it's great to get to play as five characters and they all look quite different, they play exactly the same. All of the have a short-range attack, a long-range attack and a special that clears the screen. They all can fly, but this really doesn't do anything except in the shooter levels. In the source comics, they had rather different powers, so this comes across as unimaginative or maybe just lazy.
On a related note, The Death and Return of Superman suffers from terrible Nintendo logic. Why is Superman getting hurt by falling rocks and molotov cocktails? Why does it take him half a dozen punches to knock out a street punk? For that matter, why are these jerks attacking him in the first place? You'd think they'd want Doomsday stopped, too.
The fighting lacks any discernable depth. Mostly, it's mashing on the attack button as heat vision is too slow to be very useful. Occasionally, you grab someone and throw them or pick them up and punch them in the face repeatedly, but it seemed to be random.
The Bottom LineThe game is fairly similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game with Superman, except there's no multiplayer, the moves are simpler, all the characters are exactly alike, there's less variety in the enemies and the bosses, for the most part, are less interesting. Also, there are some side-scroller bits thrown in, but they're not any better. Other than good graphics and a good license, there's little to distinguish it from the multitude of other 16-bit superhero beat 'em ups.
Despite all these qualms, this is probably the best Superman game out there. The guy hasn't had great luck in the department, so I'd still recommend if you really need to play as Superman. Otherwise, maybe buy it if it's cheap.