Software : Spider-Man vs. Kingpin
This story is part of a Lookback Series: Filling Gaps
This review was first published on: 2009.
Sega crashed onto the Spidey game scene in a big way with Spidey vs. Kingpin. They eventually released this game for their Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Sega Master System and also for their handheld Game Gear platform.
Of these, the Sega Genesis was their most successful platform, and was a highly influential game system in the 1990's. Spider-Man appeared no less than five times in Genesis games.
This particular game was also ported to Sega Master System and Sega CD. The Master System version could also be played on Master System II, and Mega Drive/Genesis with Master System/Power Base Converter.
Note that the Sega Master system version is © 1991, however a credit is given for Capcom © 1988 reprogrammed game. It looks like Sega took a Capcom game from a few years earlier, and reworked it into Spider-Man.
Each version of the game was basically the same, but had more levels, better graphics, and extra features as the game went from Master System, to Genesis, to Sega CD.
Spider-Man vs. Kingpin
Year 1991 : SM Title
Developed by the now defunct Technopop, The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin was the studio's biggest title before disappearing into obscurity. It isn't too difficult to see why, because in spite of a few innovative ideas, AMSvsK is a largely forgettable game whose only legacy is being part of a very memorable character's catalogue of old games.
The story is told simply enough through a series of still images with scrolling text running underneath them. The Kingpin has stolen a bomb and plans to blow it up in New York within 24 hours unless Spider-Man surrenders himself. Not really interested in letting that happen, Spider-Man heads out to stop that bomb from going off by tracking down various villains associated with the Kingpin. It seems like an original incarnation of the Sinister Six consisting of: Dr. Octopus, Lizard, Venom, Electro, Sandman, and the Hobgoblin and each one of them posses a key required to deactivate the bomb. Naturally, the final obstacle is the Kingpin himself. The story is fairly straightforward, but it doesn't really have to be any more than that.
The game has a few interesting quirks compared to other platformers. For one thing, the time limit operates in real time giving you 24 hours to defeat all the bosses and defuse the bomb. The game isn't long by any stretch of the imagination so 24 hours is more than enough, but you do lose considerable amounts of time on the clock whenever you're knocked out in a battle or whenever you opt to leave a level to return to your apartment in order to recover some health. It creates an odd tension throughout the game where speedy victories are encouraged, but there's a penalty if you overextend yourself and face off against a challenge you aren't ready for. One crucial problem with this approach is the lack of checkpoints within a level. If you're defeated or return back to your apartment you'll have to restart the level from the beginning. Most of the levels aren't long enough for this to be too annoying, but the first two are both lengthy enough to make it a bit of headache to restart them.
Another neat twist involves a neat photography dynamic. You can quickly pull out your camera to snap pictures and earn a little extra cash which you'll need to buy web fluid at the end of every level. It's also possible to find power ups that will restore web fluid throughout a level, but it's a nice additional method to make sure you're never without any. Naturally, taking a picture of the bosses will net you the most cash.
The combat controls is where the game really falls down. The game is just way too difficult and incredibly picky as to what constitutes a successful hit. Especially with bosses, attacks will be ignored unless they land during particular frames of animation. For example, Venom cannot be damaged when either he or Spider-Man is ducking or when either are in mid-air. You have to time your punch to hit the second he lands after a jump while he is still vertical. This can make boss encounters incredibly frustrating, especially when losing them means you'll need to traverse the entire level all over again. As another example of how annoying combat is in the game, my first death was caused by an unfortunate bump in with a rat. Out of place stock videogame villains have never been acceptable, and the reoccurring rat cliché is not an exception. On the flipside, taking out Sandman by kicking open a fire hydrant was a cool touch compared to the other more forgettable boss fights.
The music clangs in a horrible medley of the usual fair for an early 90's game soundtrack. It's difficult to fault the game when compared to some of its contemporaries, but there were many NES games that had better soundtracks than this one.
One last thing I'd like to mention is that this is the only Spider-Man game I can think of where J. Jonah Jameson actually confronts you in a level. He just yells at you and you aren't allowed to hit him, but I thought it was a cute addition.
Graphics - 2 Webs: They aren't particularly remarkable, but if it's insisted upon me to provide a remark, they do the job decently.
Sound - 1 Web: A mute option would have been nice.
Gameplay - 1 Web: Dreadful and annoying. I've never had so much trouble fighting criminals in a Spider-Man game before.
Story - 2 Webs: Decent, though certainly not memorable.
Fun Factor - 1.5 Webs: When you aren't in a tough boss battle, or struggling against difficult enemies, it can be sorta fun moving around the city using the mostly useless web swinging mechanic.
Replay Factor - 1 Webs: You can go for a faster completion time, but there's little else to bring you back.
Aging Factor - 2 Webs: It holds up fairly well for an early Genesis game, but there are much better 16-bit Spider-Man games out there.
Tech Troubles - 0 Webs: N/A
There weren't many other options on the Genesis when this came out, but there were a lot more in the future, and since we live in the future, it'd be best just to play those.
The Sega Genesis version comes with a 24-page Instruction Manual. Monochromatic black/white in English only, featuring four pages of comic book story.
The Master System comes with a standard 40 page A6 format monochromatic white/blue player booklet in eight languages. The text is almost identical to the Sega Genesis booklet, however it version lacks the pictures, and the few pages of comic book action.