Monday, September 21, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Spider-Man vs The Kingpin

Retro Game of the Day! Spider-Man, for Sega Genesis

Spider-Man, that most timeless of action heroes, as American as apple pie (and until somewhat recently, owned by.. the French, I believe?) has appeared in a bevy of videogame titles over the course of his career. Many, many games, most of which this author has not played (though I have seen a fair share of them!) Like many comics-to-games, they are a mixed bag. Here is one I was particularly excited for, when it originally released (that would be 1991 I believe)

According to the Internet, this title was developed by a Sega-funded outfit known as Technopop (news to me!) The early pics of the game looked very enticing, and the enthusiast press coverage recalled Strider when previewing it (damn you EGM and your pack of lies!) Well - this game was prety far from that one, I will say that much.

So what was the web-head's game all about then? Mind you, this title released a good 10 years before Spider-man fever gripped the culture - comics were definitely big news at the time (the Michael Keaton Batman movies were in vogue) but the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films were a long ways off - same with the Spidey cartoons which many people who read this will think of. This was strictly a comic-based affair, which was fair enough.

The game itself was typical comic book Spider-plot - one of your enemies has hidden a bomb in NYC, it's up to you to locate and disarm it, avoid cops (you've been framed) , take pics for the Daily Bugle to earn money to buy webbing. A lot of interesting and unique story elements, added to some interesting character interaction (it was cool to make Spidey climb things, web-swing, walk upside down). However, this was an American-developed game which came about during an era when American developed games looked rather pale compared to their Japanese counterparts - specifically these console affairs. The game lacked a lot of polish that their Eastern cousins would enjoy, and though the game had some interesting and entertaining diversions, it never felt like "a very cool game" like you'd expect from the Marvel Comics world.

A lot of iffy/sludgy control hampered things, a disjointed art style (some of the character graphics weren't bad, a lot of the environment art was really drab and unloved). It was kind of shocking to pick up a game like Revenge of Shinobi (with a Spider-Man homage in it, no less) and then years pass and this appears on the same system, should have been the other way around.

In spite of the drawbacks, there was fun to be had with the game. What it lacked in TLC it did make up for with some interesting platforming and the maps were passable. This was a game which, though frustrating to play at times, was compelling enough that I felt I needed to see the whole way through, and I did do that in no short order. It was novel enough to have a Spider-Man game that wasn't trash (this several years before Neversoft came along and re-invigorate the brand on psOne) so for that I was happy. Apparently many others felt the same way, it seems the game sold rather well.

In summation - Spider-Man for Genesis, not wonderful, not terrible, not enticing enough for me to try any of it's follow-ups (Sega CD, Sega Master System, Sega 32X). Might be interesting to take for a spin one of these days, though I think I am more inclined to investigate the (unrelated) Japanese-developed Super Famicom one from the same period, personally. Any 16-Bit Spidey lovers out there?

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