My Link to the Past: Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

 

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Note: Originally published in Platform Magazine here.

This month, the sequel to the reboot of the Spider-Man series was released, introducing new fans to the character and his many enemies once more. But it also made me think back to when I first came across the series, back when a film of Spider-Man seemed almost impossible.

Not long after receiving the Mega Drive in Christmas of 1994, this game appeared as a gift from the parents one day, and I spent many a day repeatedly playing it. Around this time, an animated series on Spider-Man was being aired, which is how I first came across Spider-Man and this Marvel world.

So to play this while the series was simultaneously running when Live & Kicking was on at Saturday mornings, it was a good time.

There was also another game that was directly based on the cartoon, but it wasn’t as good and barely memorable as this entry.

The story involves a bomb being planted somewhere in New York, and 6 keys have to be collected in order to disarm the impending explosion.

As soon as you begin, there is a timer to the right of the status bar that counts down from six hours. This timer can actually run out, and when it does, it’s a game over. Different factors can cause the timer to go faster or go to zero. This is probably where the fear of the timer in a game came from, as it was to return in ‘Metal Gear Solid’, where I talk of it in its own part.

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When the player presses start, they are brought to a menu where they can select webbing, a web shield, and Peter Parker’s head. By selecting this, you’re then taken to his house, where your health will regenerate, but will cause the timer to count down more rapidly, as seen here.

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It also had the innovation of using Parker’s camera. You could take pictures of enemies or bosses, and would be paid for it at the completion of a level, which would in turn pay to refill your webbing. A great idea and it made you conserve this when you could.

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There are seven levels in total, each having their own end boss, with the final confrontation with The Kingpin.

With each level and their bosses, they mostly had the same technique to beat them, except Sandman, which used the level to its advantage.

  • The first level is a very short beginning, where you simply take down a burglar, and then jumping into a window of the Daily Bugle.
  • The second level involves a warehouse, where you take on a forklift, followed by Dr Octopus.
  • The third level is to the sewers, where you find yourself in a maze of pipes, and ultimately evading alligators, followed by The Lizard.
  • The fourth level is in Central Park, where the enemies are now SWAT Teams, firing their weapons at Spider-Man at any opportunity. Eventually you face the mini-boss of a, Gorilla. You then come across a sandpit, where The Sandman appears. You can’t simply defeat him with punches and webbing, and it’s left to another innovation to use objects placed in this level.
  • The fifth involves a power plant, where surreal electric bats flood the level, while the final boss is Electro, where timing is essential.
  • The sixth involves a return to the first level, but significantly expanded. This time you get a mini-boss of a biker, where the web shield comes into play, followed by The Hobgoblin, and finally Venom.
  • The seventh and final level is the underground to find the bomb, now that all the keys have been collected from the bosses. You will eventually find yourself in a room where you face every, single, boss at once where the bomb is located. The best advice for this area is to simply stay in the top corner, and fire the webbing from a distance.

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A specific order of keys have to be selected to disarm the bomb, and incorrectly selecting the order of keys would result in a 10 second countdown, or would simply explode, which would result in an instant game over.

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Even for its ‘normal’ setting its difficulty is very high, but thats also where part of the fun lies. You are constantly on guard to see what is coming next, and when you see the ‘Spidey-Sense’ occur, you’re on alert to swing to the top of the area, or crawl incredibly slowly.

When you set the difficulty to ‘Nightmare’, everyone is on the warpath to make sure you don’t get the keys.

Unique to this mode also, Venom appears in each level instead of the sixth, and if you don’t learn his pattern, he’ll leave you with one bar of life left, and disappear.

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The music is good in places, the power station especially but its ultimately forgettable.

It was a challenging game, but a rewarding one, and I would always have a game over around the park level, as you have enemies from every direction firing at you. It wasn’t until coming back to this for the feature that I completed it in one go, in under an hour. But you’d want to replay it again just for the fun factor.

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This game was notable in the fact that because this sold so well, Marvel still kept their licence with Sega, allowing them to port this to the Sega CD in 1993 and continue making games involving the X-Men.

When I bought a Sega CD from Ebay a few years ago, I was finally able to play the improved port of this game. Instead of a linear path from one level to the next, you would select where you’d go from a map of New York, and would add the Vulture and Mysterio as exclusive bosses in this version. There were also animated segments instead of a picture and scrolling text at the end of each level, which was a nice touch. It’s a great port with justified improvements to make another purchase for if it can be seen on Ebay.

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Overall, out of the Spider-Man games that have come and gone, only Spider-Man 2 on the Playstation 2 matches up to the fun of this game since, and even though I’m past playing games on consoles, I look forward to the movies that have a better adaptation of Venom, and the Sinister Six.

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