With the re-release of X-men on XBLA and PSN I figure it'd be kind of nice to look at some other Superhero-themed beatemups. Sega produced this game back in 1991, around the same time as the Genesis Spiderman game Return of the Kingpin. While the Genesis game was a bit different with its emphasis on conserving powers as well as time-management the arcade game is a beatemup. The beatemup has always been a humble genre in that there's really not a whole lot that can be done to change things up.
Spider-man tries to avoid that route somewhat by splitting the game into both standard beatemup action and side-scrolling action-platforming. It's an interesting idea as the side-view sections of the game feature different bosses that are fundamentally different compared to their beatemup brethren. These sections also tend to contain more health power-ups and that sort of thing is necessary because health goes quickly. Aside from taking damage with every attack our heroes also suffer an affliction that causes their health to drain slowly. However as long as you can avoid that one hit you can run around potentially forever with just one point of health.
Spider-man is joined by three of his super-buddies. There's the Black-Cat and her trusty grappling hook, Hawkeye and his mastery of the bow, and Namor who shoots lightning. I never understood Namor, he's probably King of the Oceans but he looks like Aquaman in his underwear, I can't think of anyone less threatening. Since this is a beatemup a rogue's gallery of villains is required. Kingpin, Green Goblin, Venom, The Sandman, and a host of other bad dudes represent the side of evil.
For the most part the bosses are actually really easy. A number of them fall into pretty basic patterns as the heroes can punch them out, knock them down, move just out of the way, and the bosses will walk right into the heroes next punch without fail. Thankfully most of the bosses are backed by henchmen which help keep the fight interesting as the player can't just abuse openings constantly. Still if a friend or three were to join along they could take care of the other enemies while someone pounds the boss into submission. The final boss is especially embarrassing as Dr. Doom doesn't even pull a counter-attack when he gets off the ground. I beat him down with a one hit-point Namor. This is especially sad because Namor makes a "bloop bloop" sound whenever he swings his fists.
Unfortunately punching is really about all the heroes can do. There are a handful of other attacks to choose from but they're mostly useful in their ability to manage crowds. Jump-kicks as well as a more useful flying kick are handy because they knock enemies down and give a brief second of rest but they're too weak to be much use on bosses(and for the most part the Green Goblin can only be hit by jumping attacks). The Heroes have access to their powers but it drains a bit of energy when they're used. These aren't the standard "invincible-attacks to clear space" either as an enemy can come from another direction and hit the player out of it. This really limits the usefulness of such attacks and turns the beatemup side of the game into more of a "regular guy beatemup". In fact it seems kind of ridiculous because I'm starting to picture a handful of normal people dressed like superheroes but with no powers taking the fight to Dr. Doom and his henchmen. At least in the side-view sections the heroes get their powers back so they can hit enemies from a distance but I don't know it seems like a wasted opportunity.
Overall the game is alright. At least it knows when it's starting to get old and game itself takes maybe 20 minutes to complete. In that short time I managed to continue eight times which is actually really pathetic so it's not like I can claim I'm done with the game. Besides it's a four-player beatemup and everything is more fun with others. Still it's a bit lacking in terms of enemy variety and while the mechanics are there this game could have really been something with a nice selection of moves for each character. I guess I shouldn't be expecting so much from a game that predates Streets of Rage 2.
Game Rating - 2.5 out of 5 stars
My Rating - 2.5 out of 5 stars
Oh and here's a funny Spiderman video I saw on the internet.