Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin (Sega CD)

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Console: Sega-CD/Mega-CD
Released: 1993
Developer: Technopop
Publisher: Sega
Instruction Manual: Helpful – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $8.88 (used), $39.99 (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – Simply known as Spider-Man on Genesis, Game Gear, and Master System
Digital Release? No

As we sometimes see in the 16-bit era, first party published titles became interesting exclusives on either side of the console wars and among the various Spider-Man titles I have to say this is my favorite.  Amazing Spider-Man vs. Kingpin (or better known on all other ports as Spider-Man) tasks you with defusing a bomb set by the nefarious Kingpin within 24 hours (pretty sure that’s not real-time) by collecting keys from different foes in the Spider-Man universe.  This was the first game I played that gave me exactly what I expected out of a superhero title.  It allowed me to play as Spider-Man, it had solid controls that included web slinging and wall grabbing, and it did it all in a side scrolling platformer/brawler.  Not only that, but the game embraces a non-linear structure where you visit locations throughout the city and face whatever is in certain locations, which felt like it freed the game up to your personal pacing, something quite uncommon in the days of early platformers.  While the plot centralized around the Kingpin, you will take on almost all of Spider-Man’s key foes including Venom, Doc Oc, Lizard, and Electro, just to name a few.  Graphically the game had that semi-real grit that Sega titles all seemed to offer in the early 90s with great animated storyboard art throughout.

The Sega CD version was enhanced in several ways.  As with most titles on the console, animated moving cutscenes were integrated complete with voiced dialogue for all the characters – as a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated 90s cartoon, I’m pretty sure the same cast was utilized here.  I must admit that the cutscenes made the game look more cartoon-like, a stark contrast to the traditional levels you would traverse moments later, but they are in the same style as Willy Beamish and I just thought it cool to see Spider-Man come to life.  This game also had collectible comics in various locations, 21 in total, that were digital scans of actual comics that you could explore and read in the main menu, another nice touch.  In all of the  other versions of this game, Spider-Man is tasked with taking photos of enemies to sell to J. Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle to purchase more web fluid, however in the Sega CD version web fluid is a simple (and common) pick up within the world.  Finally the soundtrack was much better than the cold metallic “beep boops” of the other Sega ports and instead featured a soundtrack by Spencer Nilson (a composer that almost solely did Sega CD titles, known best for the Sonic CD soundtrack) and performed by the rock band Mr. Big.  Of all the updates made to the game, the drastically enhanced soundtrack stands out.

It’s just a fun game of exploration and bumping into the various foes of Spider-Man, which was always the key plot points for almost all of his comics so it felt like your own personalized adventure.  Like so many other titles of this era, it took me more than two hours and several game overs before I even figured out where the enemies are and how to diffuse the bomb, although I’m certain there are a few dozen walkthroughs that can be found on the Internet today.  There’s a twist after completing the bomb diffuse mission that completely twists what the game is about and makes the player more prompted than ever to capture Kingpin.  I was also surprised that it is possible, and frankly for me a bit too easy, to fail in the final fight and have some very tragic endings (I think there are three different endings), which was something I didn’t expect and seemed like an idea Marvel would never approve.  Amazing Spider-Man vs. Kingpin is easily the best port among the different versions on Sega consoles and is yet another stunning example that Sega CD does more than just port a game, but it’s still a bit disheartening that at its core the overall title can be found elsewhere with much cheaper hardware.  In any form, however, it’s well worth a play for retro gaming fans and comic book fans alike; in fact, it’s the sole reason that Marvel continued its licensing deal with Sega and according to developer Randel B. Reiss, two-thirds of all Genesis/Mega Drive owners purchased this game.  In hindsight, a 66 percent attach rate on a specific game is almost unheard of, even today, unless its one of the powerhouse exclusive titles (think a Mario or Sonic game) and Spider-Man should be highly commended for that feat alone.

Written by Fred Rojas

November 25, 2012 at 11:34 am

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