- / : Press left or right on the direction pad to make Clark Kent / Superman run in either direction. When disguised as Clark Kent, he runs a little slower, so as not to attract attention to himself.
- : Press up on the direction pad to make Clark Kent / Superman jump in the air. He will jump the same height regardless of how long the up direction is pressed.
- : Press down to enter/exit through doors of buildings, phone booths, subway entrances, etc.
- : Press the A button to attack enemies by punching them. When no threats are around, press the A button to talk to friendly citizens of Metropolis, or read signs.
- : Press the B button as Superman to utilize whichever super-power is currently activated, provided there is enough energy remaining in the meter.
- : Press the Start button to pause the game and bring the sub-screen up to select which super-power is activated.
- : Press the Select button to summon a map of Metropolis, and to see where you are currently located, as well as potential sites that Superman might fly to.
You control Superman, and his mild-mannered alter-ego Clark Kent, in the effort to defend his chosen home city of Metropolis from a selection of threats including crime gangs, evil Kryptonians, and even Lex Luthor himself. As Superman goes about the job of saving the world, he has a meter that displays his current level of health. If the meter is reduced to a final square, the player will lose the ability to remain as Superman and revert to Clark Kent. If the meter is depleted, Clark Kent will die, and the game will end. The player can then choose to continue the game, or begin again. When returning to the game, passwords can be entered to resume from the beginning of the chapter where the player left off. As Superman completes each of the five "chapters" of the game, his health meter grows and his defensive power increases, allowing him to sustain more damage before being forced to revert to Clark Kent. In addition, his offensive power increases with each chapter, allowing him to knock out enemies with fewer punches.
As a son of Krypton, Superman is endowed with special powers when under the influence of the Earth's yellow sun. However, in this game, Superman must select and use his powers wisely, as they are not infinite in supply. By pressing , you will summon a sub-screen where you can see Superman's current offensive and defensive power ratings, as well as a selection of six powers which Superman may select from. A seventh power, Super Hearing, is always in effect, and does not need to be chosen.
Each of these powers start out 3 tiles long, and can be improved by collecting tiles that extend the length of the meter representing each power, up to a maximum of 10 tiles. Such tiles contain the same symbol as the power they improve, but they are dark blue and flash. They can only be obtained by clearing certain locations or building floors of all enemies. There are four upgrades for each power. (There is a fifth upgrade available for Super Spin, but it will not increase the meter beyond 10 tiles.)
When defeating criminals and enemies throughout Metropolis, they may drop items that Clark Kent / Superman can collect. As Clark Kent, enemies will only drop two types of items: power crystals and green kryptonite. As Superman, the items that enemies drop may be power crystals or red kryptonite, or they may be one of the six power icons that can be collected to increase the level of power available to Superman. Dropped items will always travel upward to the right and arc downward, regardless of which way the enemy was facing when he was defeated. Items may also be obtained simply by running past certain locations where the items are hidden away.
Every power crystal that Clark Kent or Superman collects will restore some of the damage that he has suffered in previous fights. If he is already at full health, the crystals will have no effect on him. If Superman is forced to revert back to Clark Kent, and he collects enough power crystals, he can return to Superman by entering a phone booth or indoor restroom. It is easier to collect power crystals as Clark Kent than it is to collect them as Superman, so you may opt to become Clark manually in order to restore your health to a sufficient level.
Whether it is green or red, kryptonite spells bad news for Superman. Everyone Clark or Superman touches one of these items, he will lose a small bit of health. They resemble power crystals in shape, but not color. The color does not matter, it simply happens that only green kryptonite appears when Clark Kent is walking about, and red kryptonite appears when Superman is attacking enemies.