Saturday, June 15, 2013

"Death and Return of Superman", 1994.

So, yesterday was a Superman game, and because this is Man of Steel weekend, and if I miss these now I might be waiting a long time for any kind of relevant setting for these ads, here's ANOTHER Superman game. It gets TWO ads! First, the "teaser trailer"...

THE DEATH
AND RETURN OF
SUPERMAN
THE VIDEO GAME
FROM SUNSOFT
COMING IN AUGUST
You may recall these events in the comics: "Doomsday" (no ham-handedness here) escapes from containment and massacres his way across the Midwest (I have a recollection of him breaking a mighty, noble forest stag in half, just because he could, and because he was such a bad-ass) before a final showdown in Metropolis, where he apparently kills and is killed by Superman, in what we like to refer to as a "Kryptonian standoff". Four dauphins appear, pretending to the mantle of Superiority -- Steel, the black arms designer; Superboy, an immature Superman clone; the cyborg; and a tough Kryptonian. Eventually Supes' body disappears, he comes back alive with reduced powers and a ridiculous new costume, plus ├ža change, etc. Anyhow, while this event was in the works for some time, its approach was somewhat telegraphed... I don't know but it's possible this teaser ad appeared contemporarily with the comics events in a campaign of cross-promotional synchronicity. "Why are there four different styles of Superman insignia? That's intriguing..." In retrospect, each logo represents one of the claimants (or something like that -- there are only four variants, one of which appears to be the standard style, representing five different flavours of Superman. Go figure.) The ad tells you that the comic book event is happening, and that there will be a video game adaptation.
THE DEATH AND RETURN OF
SUPERMAN
THE CYBORG
THE ERADICATOR
SUPERBOY
THE MAN OF STEEL

SUNSOFT
The Super NES Game from Sunsoft
Available Now!


This ad gives us a bit more to sink our teeth into: a bloody Superman logo!  Doomsday's stony fist punching right through!  The Supermanian impostors, named and depicted!  Screenshots!  Also: SunSoft's mascot, Aero the Acro-bat.  I don't know if they think they're benefiting this game by associating it with Areo or vice versa.

This ad leaves us with fewer unanswered questions (like: why does SunSoft feel that "from" is the only word in the bottom blurb unworthy of capitalization, while elevating Game and Now?") but as usual the interesting part of the story is what is left between the lines.  For instance: this game was joingly developed and released for SNES and Genesis -- why emphasis only the one platform here when your product's platform ubiquity is an asset?  OK, that's curious but not interesting.  What's interesting is that we're looking at the handiwork of future titans before they maneuvred into a shots-calling position.  This unglamorous and basically uncredited hack work for pay was followed up the following year with Justice League Task Force -- the Street Fighter to this game's Final Fight -- but another game they released this year was WarCraft: Orcs and Humans.  Yes!  The ad says SunSoft but the bits say Blizzard!  SunSoft was just the publisher, which translates to: front the dough, take all the credit.

I appreciate that's not much of a big reveal.  But it's fun to see Blizzard here in its infancy, starting to distance itself from this kind of thankless franchise-milling and defining its own space... then in 2011, we see the launch of DC Universe Online, an attempt for this property, left behind by Blizzard, to catch up in the MMORPG space Blizzard made its own.  Somewhere in the mix are a couple drams of poetic justice.