Imagine that! Imagine what? A game! Figure Skater? No…A game on a compact disc! Say what!?
That’s right folks, it’s high time this reviewer (Olly023) delves deep into the glorious depths of Sega’s finest MD add-on device known to us in Europe as the Mega CD! (Sega CD for you crazy Americans.) And what better for me to review than a game I hold a very bright nostalgic candle for. No, this isn’t Sonic CD (although that particular game ranks high up on any true retrobates list of awesome titles), I am of course chattin’ about The Amazing Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin!
I get it, Spidey games have never really had the best rep in town – but this one is for sure a big personal favourite of mine. Originally released in cart form back in 1990, mostly known to the world simply under the title of Spider-Man. The 1993 CD-ROM version however is the obvious focus of this review and as far as I’m concerned the best of the ports. Developed by Technopop and published by Sega (an exclusive Spidey title to their systems), this single-player, side-scrolling action-platformer (think Shinobi with more webs and wall-crawling) allows the kid inside all of us to take on the dream role of Spider-Man, travelling through New York, battling thugs and attempting to take down super villain foes. Standard and awesome. Yay!
So, assuming you’ve played (even if you haven’t, which you should out of principle) the MD/Genesis version, you may be sat there twiddling your thumbs with a singular raised eyebrow as to why I think the Mega CD port is the be-all, end-all of the game. Fine, I’ll tell you. There’s many additions and revisions with the CD version. You get animated cut-scenes with voice over for one, to flesh out and easily move that story along. You also get a whole new soundtrack courtesy of Spencer Nilsen/Mr. Big, which is pretty rad and supremo quality audio. The game is also more non-linear (if you so choose) with two additional levels, a bunch of new moves for Spidey and you can even nab yourself some repro issues of actual comics (something revisited in many a Spider-Man game since).
Its aces, I tells ya!
Another addition not previously mentioned to the Mega CD version of the game is that of a password-based save system, to save your progress (of course). So no more single-only runs, which allows you to return to the game later and take it all at your own pace. Which is nice.
Graphically speaking the developers have undoubtedly done an admirable job and the look plays to the strengths of the Mega CD by utilizing more detailed (actually redrawn) sprites than featured in the cartridge standard. There’s some nice scrolling and the animation is fluid. There’s variation in enemy sprites/animation and overall the game never feels slow and/or sluggish at any point. There’s no obvious glitches that stand out like a sore thumb or anything, no flicker – none of that nonsense. Just good stuff all round.
Some of the boss fights can feel like a let-down, as they tend to be on a bit of the repetitive side. Fighting the Lizard is a prime example, which’ll have you crouched all casually as he runs back and forth with you simply punching him in the snout. In fact, it’s the repetitive nature of any game like this that brings about any dull moment. But with an ever-progressing story and choice as to where you head on the map, it at least changes things up there. Speaking of variation, there’s even a bizarre pinball level.
To get back to the animated sequences, there’s touches such as seeing what happens when you lose a virtual life. Spidey in jail, or the hospital as examples, while a timer ticks on whether you want to continue or quit. It’s the little things that win this over for me, it really is. As you’re probably starting to guess by now. There is lots to see and do with The Amazing Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin on Mega CD, the standard level progression is just the start of it all. There’s the 21 digital comics to collect and a choice of difficulty mode (the hardest being Nightmare, which I wouldn’t recommend for a first attempt as its rock hard), as well as multiple areas within the well-crafted levels to uncover featuring enemies and collectables, etc. There’s also alternate endings, which gives you reason to replay if you end up getting a soddin’ bad one. Which’ll just irk you to try again, really. No spoilers here, though!
The plot is classic Spider-Man, really. The Kingpin is being a bit of a douche and has decided to plant a bomb that could wipe out the entire City within 24 hours if the worlds favourite Web-Head doesn’t find/collect a series of keys in time to diffuse it. Sounds bad enough, but Mary Jane also manages to get herself kidnapped, many of Spidey’s greatest foes seem to want in on the act (of destroying Spider-Man) and Kingpin has managed to turn the whole City against Spidey by having the media report that Spider-Man is actually the mastermind behind the bomb! Craziness! So yeah, the players got their work cut out if they thought it was gonna be easy jumpin’ into that red and blue spandex suit of his. But, any real fan wouldn’t have it any other way…
The game kick starts (post-epic title screen) with an introductory animated cut-scene, followed by some short moment of gameplay prior to yet another cut-scene. Straight away, you get to witness that classically cheesy charm that many an FMV-based game gave back in the day. Dodgy voice acting and mostly lame dialogue. A thing of beauty. The game is littered with these animated sequences, but even if you don’t dig that aforementioned charm, you can always skip them (shame on you!), No matter how cheesy, though, they do a great job of actually moving the story along, making it very easy to follow and rather engaging in fact in a way that a cartridge based title simply wouldn’t be able to do, which is one of many points in the Mega CD column here.
As already mentioned, the game takes a more non-linear stride in the Mega CD version. You have a map of the City which allows you to manually select where you’d like to take your journey to next. The core of the game engine is the same as the original, with the improvements previously spoken of (the extra combat moves, etc) which ultimately makes an already highly playable game that much more playable. You have multiple ways to dispose of your opponents – kicking, punching, various web attacks and possibilities of combos. There’s a couple of metre’s at the bottom of the screen allowing you to keep an eye on your life and webbing (yeah, you can run out of web so make sure you collect those darn capsules, yo’!), as well as enemies lifebar’s in boss fights, etc. There’s also a timer counting down the 24 hours before the bomb goes off. You gain hints as to where the keys are through cut-scenes within the game, so it’s worth taking note there.
It plays much like later Spider-Man games of the early part of the decade, in that you’re essentially running about beating up anything that moves (you even get to punch bats down in the sewer and dogs in a warehouse, because Spider-Man). It’s as satisfying as it ever was in any game of the period, but the big draw of it being Spidey is obviously the ability to stick to and climb any wall/ceiling in a level. A nice sense of freedom and added exploration results. A result I very much welcome!
The in-game soundtrack is certainly a product of its time and downright awesome at that. “Swing Time” in particular will be one that’ll get stuck in your head for days on end, with its typically early 90’s rock flavour and fairly silly lyrics, it’s incredibly catchy all the same and entirely fitting to the game. Big studio sound, screeching guitars and steady percussion, laced with some funky bass and keys of course, pumps out of the TV’s speakers by way of the Mega CD and simply blew the mind of a kiddie Olly023. It was something that couldn’t be done on the MegaDrive, nor the SNES. It was essentially showing off, but in a good way. If you can stomach the upbeat cheese, that is.
Overall it’s simply an incredibly fun little game, no matter whether my mate agrees or not. It’s playable and not as over-the-top frustrating as other Spidey games, or indeed many a superhero game to come out of the 16-bit generation. It does well to be a showcase title in what the Mega CD could do to improve an already existing title. There are flaws, of course. Parts of the original game were unfortunately removed, no longer will you be resting up in Peter’s apartment, nor will you be taking photos to earn monies for webbing. But the improvements counter-balance that anyway, for me, shifting it only to a minor niggle.
The Amazing Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin when utilising the key ingredient of contextualisation brings about the idea that this was something truly, in itself; amazing. I was floored when I first played it in-person around my Uncles house and was an immediate reason for me to want a Mega CD (even more than I already did at the time). Granted, that didn’t happen then but it’s something I have since rectified and have regained all that initial joy of that original play through, which gives me nothing but hope for any of you out there reading this tempted to give the game a shot. Yeah, technically speaking I would say Maximum Carnage is a better game, but this certainly has (at the very least) its unique factors that I’ve hyped up already and plays very well on its own making it nothing less than a must own title for any Mega CD owner out there.
Basically, I like this game, it is a good game, you should play this game. Especially so if you’re a fan of your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Which you should be. Or you smell.
Verdict:- Definitely an above-average title that borders on great when considering the then-mostly horrendous line-up of games starring Spider-Man.
The Mega CD port brings much to the table that makes it the best of the conversions and a must have game for Mega CD owners everywhere.
You're certainly going to get the most out of this if you're a fan of Spidey, but when a good game's a good game, you should be able to enjoy it regardless. Enjoy this, I think you shall.
Check it out, webheads!
Second Opinion:- Transbot could be a superhero... A really cool superhero, but he chooses to just be Transbot instead... But he could be, jus sayin'!
This is a great example of how to utilize the Mega-CD to make an already great game even better with a nice set of extras and a very nice soundtrack.
It's not the first game to play on Sega's unloved system but it's absolutely on the list of things to have fun with for sure.
Transbot Scores:- 7 out of 10