Classic comic book characters have been reinterpreted endlessly; and will continue to be reimagined for decades to come.
Retelling fables is something that humanity has done through out all of remembered time, and comic book super heroes are like our modern day Greek mythos. There is no limit to how a story can be retold with a modern twist, since as time changes; so do we and how we define what is “modern”.
DC Super Hero Girls is a reimagining of the characters from DC, but as modern day high schoolers. This ploy by cynical executives to market something that has been aimed for boys for about 100 years and to repackage it to girls would inevitably be made into a video game.
DC as a brand has typically been associated with darker concepts than its competitor; so to translate its characters into something lighthearted is creative.
In an age where most comic book adaptations take themselves utterly serious, along comes Nintendo to publish DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power, to push against the status quo. What did Nintendo see in this game that would under normal circumstances be Walmart bargain bin fodder? For something about vapid girls, DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power has a bit more going on than expected.
DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power
Developer: Toybox Inc.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: June 4, 2021
Price: $59.99 USD
DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power begins with a climactic battle between killer robots and the protagonists of the story. Anyone who is unfamiliar with the cartoon show this is based off of, might be surprised by the boring robot designs that resemble round trash bins with circular saws for hands. These drones are products of LexCorp, and even the CEO Lex Luthor has no idea why they have gone haywire.
Batgirl is a very energetic and eager Batman fanatic. Due to her wildly expressive eyes and Tara Strong’s high pitched performance, she comes off as a vain and hyper e-girl. By day, she is just Barbara Gordon; typical vain high school girl. Sadly, her father the commissioner, does not make an appearance.
Vanity as a whole is a re-occurring theme that surrounds many of the characters within the story of Teen Power. Every character except Wonder Woman is seemingly obsessed with their image online, and constantly post on this game’s iteration of Instagram; “Supersta.” A lot of the time the girls will get into fights, just so they can further boost their online image.
Wonder Woman is basically the same character she has always been; the tough Amazonian, who lives by a warrior’s code. The only difference in Teen Power is that now she’s in high school, and her interactions with characters make her the most amusing to watch. She doesn’t understand technology, and generally acts like an honorable spartan.
Kara Danvers, aka: Supergirl, is comically dumb and acts like the muscle of the team. Like most of the cast, she is materialistic and ego-driven. Even during sidequests, her motivations will always be comically selfish. One of the better gags involving her is that her vocabulary is so poor, her super hearing becomes worthless because she can’t understand what a couple of villains are saying.
The story these girls get wrapped up in will eventually see them joining forces with their arch enemies, to battle a greater force of evil; an invasion of large killer toys. With the combined forces of Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and Star Sapphire; they will be tasked to thwart the nefarious schemes of Toyman… The lamest DC villain.
Teen Power sometimes shows hints of being self aware of what it is, and will often draw attention to the shallowness of the characters. Toyman was likely chosen to be the main threat because of how pathetic he is. In a game where one of the playable characters can fly and shoot lasers from her eyes; it’s the bad guy who is the underdog.
You almost have to feel sorry for Toyman. Aside from the six playable characters, there are several more super heroines who act as supporting cast members, and are effectively benched for the story. The Green Lantern is a lady who can manifest basically anything from her imagination, and she sits this one out- probably because if she took a more direct role, the party would overwhelm the main enemy.
When Nintendo first revealed they were publishing a game based off of DC Super Hero Girls in one of their Direct Presentations; most people either immediately forgot about it or scratched their heads in confusion. What was this embarrassing looking, low-res, girly game about selfies and hashtags?
Teen Power is a 3D collect-a-thon at its core. Between the six playable characters, players will explore the hub area of Old Town Metropolis and partake in side missions to earn money or star points. As side missions get accomplished, the Old Town district gradually expands, and more optional objectives become available.
The steady flow of new things to do is stimulating and addictive. For a game that is based on a soulless kid’s cartoon, the range of objectives is surprisingly varied. While roaming the town as a regular teenager, the girls can only do basic actions like take pictures, jump, and find collectibles.
The developer found creative ways to maximize how pictures can be an interesting game mechanic, by tasking players to take shots of specific things. Logo graffiti is always something to keep an eye out for, and the designers placed many of them is truly diabolical locations that nobody would think to look. Other times the girls might have to help some stalker and take shots of her crush for her.
On top of photography missions, some side quests will involve getting into fights with thugs or Toyman’s creations. The settings will be varied to keep the fights interesting, and other times the battles might involve escorting someone or even defending a location from being destroyed. Some missions are character specific, and will force players out of their comfort zone and to encourage a balanced team.
From helping old ladies cross the street, to getting balloons for crying babies, or bomb defusal; Teen Power will have the girls do any kind of mundane to epic feats. By having so many kinds of objectives, the experience always feels like its got a surprise up its sleeve at any moment, and it becomes hard to stop playing because of what might be discovered next.
The pacing of the gameplay can be very laid-back and relaxing while walking around the town. It becomes a very familiar and comforting location as time goes by. It definitely could have used some mini-games to add more flavor to the setting. There is even a fairground in plain sight that is inaccessible due to an invisible wall, constantly teasing you of what kind of fun activities could be just past the barrier.
The money earned is used for either shopping, or rebuilding the destroyed district from the introduction level. Shopping for new clothes is not as fleshed out as one might hope in a game about teenage girls who obsess over fashion and style. Most options are reskins of each other, making the joy of shopping feel hallow and empty.
The rebuilding is much like the clothing; in that it is superficial. The reason why anyone would bother with picking buildings for locations, is mostly to do the defending missions where the girls have to battle waves of robots and toys. The city planning module of Teen Power is not fleshed out enough, and is out of place for something aimed at children.
Most of the different buildings are interchangeable; but there are a few that are costume shops that cater towards either the heroes or villains.
Beyond this, the only substance to gain out of this aspect of the game is walking about the rebuilt town and see it flourish from the rubble it once was. This experience is small and requires a big time investment, but it is one of the few actions the girls can engage in that it actually heroic.
The other main gameplay element is the combat. Each of the girls has their own quirks and unlockable special attacks, and some can even fly. Surprisingly, flight is something that is not relied on that much and goes to waste; probably because the city is very small, and the main areas where story driven missions happen are walled off with invisible barriers.
The melee mechanics involve stringing together a very basic combo, and following up with a devastating “smash” attack. Landing a smash can only happen if all basic strikes connect, which is a little trickier than it seems because of how chaotic these brawls tend to get.
Fights will often have many foes of varying types swarming the field, and compounded with the onomatopoeia effects from the dodges, hits, and storms of money and upgrade stars swirling around the girls like a twister; it can be hard to focus on any one thing. Impressively, this never impacts frame rate in any noticeable way. Teen Power‘s simple art style and basic graphics are very light on Switch’s CPU budget.
The combat feels a bit sticky because there is no dodge canceling, and strike frames linger a fraction of a second too long. This is no PlatinumGames’ Transformers: Devastation; but it is competent, and does make for a serviceable entry level action game for kids.
All characters are highly mobile and can move really fast. Batgirl gets a hookshot that makes it easy to latch to surfaces that are way above, but it is pretty tough to use for an action game made for kids. On top of the momentum from the grapple hook, she can also glide for extra control in the air. Harley Quinn gets spring shoes and can make unbelievably far jumps, which can lead into a vicious hammer somersault.
The range of movement across the the characters is expansive enough that any one of them makes platforming very easy. The tight controls combined with the exaggerated cartoony animations makes for a natural fit for a violent action game and it is surprising that there are so few.
The voice actresses from the show version of DC Super Hero Girls reprise their roles ,and while most of them are serviceable, a few sound like they are phoning it in. Tara Strong is fine as Barbara Gordon, but the noise she makes when she voices Harley sounds worse that nails on a chalkboard.
If agony was a voice, it would sound like Tara Strong do her Harley Quinn voice. It’s a terrible shrill that makes hairs stand up on end, and the shaky cadence in her speech patterns will make you wince as she emphasizes on random words.
The characters of DC Super Hero Girls are all supposed to be highschoolers; but for whatever reason, Cree Summer decided to voice Catwoman as a 80 year old chain smoker. She sounds so incredibly old that she is unconvincing as the character, and it causes a distraction every time she speaks.
Thanks to the visual style of the cartoon this is based from, the graphics hold up despite the low poly count. The main characters all have unique body types and silhouettes that define their personality and combat style. Even their color schemes make them easy to pick out in a big showdown with dozens of enemy toys and robots.
While it does get the job done, the imagery does have some really low quality textures. Some of the materials resemble PlayStation 2 levels of fuzziness, and the animated textures for faces are just passable. Edges show low resolution haze that stick out on during TV mode, but are not too distracting in portable mode.
Also disappointing is the lack of enemy designs. A majority of battles will have the girls duke it out with the same basic robot drone, the Monokuma knock-off killer teddy bear, the stock evil dolly, generic toy-soldier, UFO guys, or the run-of-the-mill toy droid.
Sometimes Teen Power gets really bold and pallet swaps the enemies or makes them larger. Killer toys is a great idea with endless possibilities, but the developers went with the most boring choices.
The music is something that will fade into the background and become white noise. Most of the time it sounds like the most generic idea when anyone thinks of spunky teenager music. It has a vaguely ska quality to it; the kind of soulless and corporate approved punk music that would be used to sell some junk to teens.
DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power is a decent collect-a-thon platformer that has a fair bit of effort poured into making it a fun experience. While it is as shallow as the girls that you play as, these girls just want to have fun and sometimes fun is enjoyable.
While much of the humor is skin-crawlingly embarrassing, once in a while there is a gag that might get a chuckle out of the most cynical of gamers. DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power is a fine game for kids, or weirdos who are into ponies. Everyone else might find it a curious feel-good game where the action is mild, and the dopamine satisfaction for seeking collectibles.
DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code purchased by Nichegamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.