Saturday, June 1, 2013

Superhero Games and Why Aquaman Will Always Suck

     Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, X-Men Legends, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Incredible Hulk Ultimate Destruction. These are examples of video games based on big-name superheroes that succeeded in making gamers feel like they were at least controlling their favorite hero or heroes.

More often than not, however, you get Superman 64, Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis, Uncanny X-Men on NES, Iron Man.

It is difficult to take a hero, powers, personality, universe and all, and create an experience that conveys the weight of being a superhero as well as the awesome powers that go along with it.

Superman should not be relegated to flying through rings in a world of green fog, occasionally stopping to throw a car or something.

Superman should be flying around, fighting Darkseid, Braniac, General Zod or the latest Lex Luthor scheme. He should have heat vision, x-ray vision, super speed, flight, all that sh*t.

But how do you take an alien who becomes a supreme being under Earth's sun and make a satisfying game?

You can't have him relegated to saving Metropolis from twisters or repeated rocket attacks spearheaded by Luthor. You can't make him so invulnerable that the game is broken due to being OP.

So how do you do it, at least with Superman?

I think you have to integrate his alter ego into it somehow. It would be a little hollow to just be Superman all the time. Part of the allure of Superman, beyond supreme power, is how he carries on as the average man, building connections with the people of the planet.

Approach it RPG style starting on Krypton. I want to experience Superman start to finish. Learning abilities as a kid in Kansas, having short missions and a story that could branch off to being Superboy and later becoming Superman.

Leveling up dictates available paths and possible story directions, as well as alterations to the Superman costume.

When fully upgraded, you get the Superman Prime look. Stuff like that. How you upgrade your Kal-El dictates the game you play.

It would also be cool to see a Superman game where collateral damage adds up, which gives incentive to fighting smart, which could be luring an enemy away from the city, or taking it to space.

But if necessary, you have to fight among the buildings and it changes the world. I don't like invincible, unchanging cities, and comics seem to gloss over any and all damage done to cities, or avoid it altogether.

If I'm flying around and hit a building, I want to see that building react in some way. Smash through the windows, terrify the people inside, and changing the way the city approaches or thinks of Superman.

One of the greatest Superman lines ever was in the Justice League Unlimited fight against Darkseid.

It conveys the idea that Superman has had to take great care not to simply obliterate the world around him. He's been in complete control the whole time.

A game should find a way to get this across. You can fly around recklessly, pummeling villains through tall buildings and streets, tossing cars around and creating havoc in the name of saving the city, but the city will change because of it.

If not Superman, Iron Man, Green Lantern, X-Men or Incredible Hulk. They may be difficult to build worlds and game mechanics for, but part of the fun is the challenge.

I like the idea of another X-Men Legends/Marvel Ultimate Alliance, except I also want the experience of having an individual character to control from start to finish.

Build a game that has an overarching threat that everyone must tackle, but allow for different starting points that follow different parts to the same story, with interactions along the way, as well as being able to play as one hero throughout the entire experience, with the ability to follow one starting point to the climax, or spiraling through the other paths to creating a more complete experience.

This all just wild imagining, and I'm sure it is all a bit lofty and unfocused, but I know I want more than has been done with many of the superheroes out there.

I'm not even opposed to games approached with team-up mentality, like Ultimate Alliance and Legends.

Though not as satisfying as playing as one hero from start to finish, they are solid experiences that allow players to create teams of their favorite heroes, recreate actual teams, deck their heroes out in their favorite costumes.

If only DC would get their sh*t together. Honestly, who in their right mind OK'd THIS?!?

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