Insert Disk collects Spider-Man for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis.
Today’s retro game review is Spider-Man for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis. This retro gaming classic is one of the first outings for Spider-Man in the 16-bit era. Sometimes known as Spider-Man Vs the Kingpin the game pits you against some of Spider-Man’s most famous arch enemies including Doc Ock, Lizard, Sandman, Electro, Venom and the Kingpin himself. It’s classic Sega and classic Spider-Man. A true nostalgic trip down retro game memory lane.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. It’s a good day today as I get to share with you two of my favourite things, 16-Bit Sega games and Spider-Man. I’m of course re-visiting the 1991 classic Spider-Man for the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis.
Although released on the Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear and later an enhanced version for the Sega CD it’s the 16-bit editions that are perhaps the most widely known and played. You’ll notice right from the start that it was the Sega consoles that receive the Spider-Man title. It was all part of Sega’s “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” approach. In the early 90’s both Sega and Nintendo looked to create unique selling points for their consoles. Sega traded heavily on their arcade legacy of games such as Golden Axe, Outrun, Afterburner, Space Harrier, Super-Hang On and more.
Nintendo historically went down a more mascot based route of franchises such as the Legend of Zelda, Kirby, Metroid and of course Mario. I won’t get in to the details of the whole 16-bit war but it’s sufficient to say that the battle between Nintendo and Sega was well and truly on and so was the battle to sign up exclusives for their platforms. In this era Sega managed to sign up some big names such as Michael Jackson and of course the license to publish certain Marvel Entertainment characters. Although the box only references the game as just “Spider-Man” the game is also widely referred to as “Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin”. Even the in game menu screen calls this out. It’s not explicitly known why the box and in-game titles are different. A good guess would be that either the artwork was made upfront before the game was assigned its full title or the added text would just looks less aesthetically pleasing on the box cover.
So, what’s it all about. Well as you might have guessed you play as everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. The Kingpin has announced that a bomb will go off in New York City in 24 hours, Spider-Man must save the day by defusing it. How will he do that you may ask, well it turns out that the Kingpin has hired a rather classic line-up of Spider-Man’s arch enemies. Each of them holds one key needed to defuse the bomb. There’s Doc Ock, Lizard, Electro, Sandman, Hobgoblin… this mutant gorilla. Of course there’s also an appearance of Venom and the Kingpin himself in the later stages of the game. Defeat the boss and take their key.
The game plays in quite a linear style. You have the ability to shoot webs, punch, kick, climb walls and web swing. In addition though you can pause the game for some additional features such as creating a web shield or reach for you camera. As your alter ego Peter Parker you’ll need to be working as a photographer. So at key moments it’s a good idea to snap the villains. At the end of each level you’ll sell you photos enabling you to buy more webs. Cool, $50 for a picture of a forklift! Of course the higher profile the enemy the better the cash reward. You’ll receive $250 for a photo of Electro. Be careful though as the enemies can be fairly camera shy and just focus on kicking the webbing out of you. This is perhaps a common criticism of the game. Generally the platforming action runs at quite a decent pace. Some of the boss designs though ensure that you will suffer unless you know their exploits and attack patterns. Electro in particular will really punish you with a non-stop barrage of electric bolts unless you get your timings right.
For the physical release expect a really good solid Sega offering. You’ll get the black plastic case, manual and of course the game cartridge. All of which feature some classic Marvel artwork. Despite Spider-Man being a large mass-produced game the price is relatively surprising. The game typically sells complete for £10-15 here in the UK. I dare say you could find it cheaper but the enduring nature of Marvel seems to be keeping this one alive. In the current climate the North American Genesis version typically sells for around the $15 mark.
So, what’s the verdict? Well, if you’re a Spider-Man or Marvel collector then the price certainly won’t break the bank. The game is really well presented and exactly what you would expect from a Sega/Marvel collaboration. The game itself though. In truth if you know what you’re doing you can complete this one quite comfortably in under 30 minutes. You’ll need to practice to get to that point but it’s fair to say that Spider-Man is not a long game. What’s here is fun if at times a little frustrating but overall the game will provide that escapism of becoming your favourite webslinger and taking on the bad guys of New York City.
It’s also fair to say that there are far better Spider-Man games out there but this one does get the 16-bit era off to a good solid start. The cut scenes between levels will keep the fans of the comic book happy and the familiarity of the “save the city” premise makes the game very accessible to fans new and old. I have to say that Spider-Man is my favourite Marvel character. Whilst the game is rather short I feel it does enough justice to the original source material to make this one a long-time classic outing for the arachnid hero.