Review – DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power
I think everybody wondered what the hell was going through Nintendo’s mind when they first announced DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power as a first-party title for the Switch a few months ago. Especially since it’s a game based on the Cartoon Network show centered around teenage versions of DC heroines. This is the kind of game you don’t expect from them; a western-as-hell licensed game with not a lot of global appeal. You laughed at it. I laughed at it. We all laughed at it. But now that I played it (for much longer than I’d have ever imagined, mind you), I can actually see what their thought process was behind releasing this game. I also can’t help but think they did a surprisingly good job with it.
DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power, for those who most certainly have never heard of it prior to that trailer, is a 2019 cartoon series which features most of DC’s female characters as high school students at Metropolis High School. The posse of “heroines” is comprised as people like Batgirl (a Batman fangirl who acts like Robin in the Lego Batman Movie), Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Zatanna (who speaks with the strongest Valley Girl accent in history), and so on. The posse of “villains” features Batgirl’s best friend Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Giganta, Catwoman, and many others. Other characters like Lex Luthor and Lois Lane show up in brand new roles, and for the most part, everyone has a distinct and charming personality. Better yet, everyone is voiced by his/her respective voice actor from the show in this game.
The game itself is a weird hodgepodge of various genres and playstyles crammed into one product, and for the most part… it works. It truly surprised me. I thought the game was either going to be a generic third-person beat ’em up or a bad clone taking “inspiration” of the Lego games’ core concept and loop, but there’s more to it than that. Sure, there is a ton of combat and not a lot of it is good (more on that later), but DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power also features platforming, exploration, social media handling, item collecting, and the weirdest of all… a small city building simulator…
The reasoning behind the latter lies in the game’s main plot, which revolves around Lexcorp reviving an older district of Metropolis with the help of high school students. It makes no freaking sense and it’s quite a dumb story, but the game is so innocent and saccharine that you can’t help but like it despite the barrage of nonsense being thrown at you. Every now and then, you’re given the chance to select which building to build in a specific plot of land. Shallow as a puddle, but it does add some variety to the game. Being a title about teenagers, some storylines also revolve around grades, boys, bullying, and of course, doing whatever it takes to have more likes in your social media profile.
Each of the protagonists has her own social media profile in this game’s version of Instagram, and you can take pictures in order to gain more followers. The more followers you have, the more popular you become and the more people will want to talk to you, unlocking new missions along the way. It sounds very stupid, just like most social media, but shortly after posting two pics for mission-based reasons, I noticed how my character was gaining clout and I started posting selfies, pictures of graffiti, and so more, just to see the number of followers increase. Yep, the game got me. I got hooked on a freaking fake social media simulator and I’m almost ashamed of admitting this.
Of course, DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power isn’t just about the life of a bunch of valley girls, it’s also a game about superheroes, meaning that there are loads of enemies to beat the living hell out of. The combat mechanics aren’t great, but aren’t awful either. It all depends on who you’re playing as: Wonder Woman is agile and features a ton of area-of-effect moves, while Supergirl is a slow tank whose attacks feature a noticeable amount of input lag, but with the added benefit of being able to freely fly around the map with a fairly decent yet shallow control scheme.
Metropolis isn’t big, but it’s filled with areas to explore and items to collect. There are always two versions of the same map: one of them is accessible when you’re outside of your costume, where you’re not able to attack anyone but can talk to NPCs, unlock missions, take pictures and buy new clothes for your girls. You can also buy upgrades for your characters (both heroines and villains, as you can play as some of them as well) with a simple, but functional skill tree.
The VR version of each map allows you to explore the same setting but in your superhero suit, unlocking combat mechanics, letting you use abilities such as flying, using a shield as an extra platform or Batgirl’s grappling hook to access new areas. Again, the combat controls aren’t good per se, feeling like a poor (wo)man’s version of what the Arkham games have successfully achieved more than a decade ago, but you can get used to them. Thankfully, the game’s performance isn’t egregious, so you can’t exactly blame the framerate for any of your mistakes.
DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power is far from being the prettiest first-party Nintendo game, but it gets the job done. Some of its characters look weird and simplistic, but it’s mostly a consequence of its source material. The TV show follows the minimalistic and oversaturated trend most cartoons follow nowadays, which is far from being my cup of tea, but I cannot blame the game THAT MUCH for looking similar to its animated counterpart. I can, however, blame the environments and NPCs for looking bland and dated, looking like characters that would have been part of a THQ game from the Gamecube era.
As previously mentioned, DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power‘s sound department is surprisingly good. The soundtrack is comprised of just a handful of tunes repeated ad nauseum, but I won’t lie, some of them ended up being quite catchy. The voice acting features all of the talent from the show, and while some of them sound irritating as all hell, upon watching clips from the show on YouTube, I just realized how identical they sound to their animated counterparts. Not to mention the fact that Tara Strong reprises her role as Harley Quinn and that’s never a bad thing.
Finally, I wanted to point out the reasons behind the existence of DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power, and the fact that Nintendo published it. At first glance, it makes no freaking sense. Why would Nintendo want to hire a Japanese studio, the same one behind Deadly Premonition 2, to make a game based on an American tween show? Everything made sense when I found out that the DC Super Hero Girls show was created by Lauren Faust, the wife of Craig McCracken, creator of the Powerpuff Girls.
Suddenly, it was almost like a lightbulb had appeared over my head. Everything started making sense! DC Super Hero Girls is literally just Powerpuff Girls for a new generation! It ticks all the boxes! This is aimed at a preteen girl demographic, and Nintendo has previously published licensed games based on cartoons meant for girls in the past, as most publishers don’t bother doing so. Which is a completely short-sighted idea, as loads of market research studies have proven that women play as many, if not more, games than men.
The Little Mermaid and a crap ton of Hamtaro games have been published by Nintendo for their handhelds in the past. Given that the Switch is basically their handheld at the moment, it makes a lot of sense to try to make a game for the same young female demographic which bought Switches in droves last year during the Animal Crossing craze. I used to think DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power was a dumb idea, but now I see that it’s actually one hell of a marketing move. Except the price tag. Sixty bucks for it is just way too much.
Laugh it up. DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power is actually not that bad. If you put it next to pretty much any other open world superhero game released over the past decade, sure, it will stand out like a sore thumb. When you put its target demographic into perspective, however, you’ll realize this is a competent title that will appease to fans of the show and younger kids/preteens, especially preteen girls. It has charm, a ton of content, and beyond its layers of jank and simplicity, it’s quite fun at times. Now, I really don’t think its price tag is attractive at all (sixty bucks? For real?), but I was expecting a lot less from it.
It looks pretty similar to the cartoon, but a lot of its assets looks severely dated and animations look simplistic. It does run well at a stable 30fps though.
The combat is sluggish and simplistic, depending on which character you choose. The camera, social media, and city building mechanics are beyond basic, but do add a bit of variety to the overall gameplay. The open world is nice to explore, but its collectibles are barely hidden, making fetch quests feel redundant.
A lot of voice acting with all of the show’s cast. The soundtrack is a bit repetitive, but oddly catchy.
As vague and simplistic as it can be at times, DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power features a surprising amount of content and a saccharine story that’s so dumb it’s charming. It’s a shockingly competent game when you think of its target demographic.
Final Verdict: 7.0
DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power is available now on Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power was provided by the publisher.