This year marks the 50th anniversary of Marvel’s iconic web-slinger, and as we approach the 700th and supposed final issue of the Amazing Spider-Man, I thought it would be topical to look at some of the more important video games starring the wall crawling wonder.
As popular as Spider-Man is, there was only one game on the NES that featured him, Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six by LJN. Publisher LJN would become synonymous with the Spider-Man character, as they would be the only ones releasing games starring the character until Activision took over the license in 2000 with the release of “Spider-Man”, which I looked at last September.
ROTSS is your typical 8-bit side scrolling action affair, minimal story and all. The Sinister Six (Electro, Sandman, Mysterio, Vulture, Hobgoblin and Doctor Octopus) are on the loose and it’s up to Spider-Man to stop them. The game is composed of six stages (shocker, huh?) with each of the levels concluding with a boss fight featuring the six.
As far as games by LJN go, I actually think ROTSS is okay. I won’t go on to say it’s a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t think it’s as bad as what the Angry Video Game Nerd will have you believe. I think one of the fundamental problem with making a Spider-Man game on the NES is the lack of amount of actions you have to pull off with two buttons. You jump with B, attack with A, and web sling by hitting the two buttons at the same time. The web slinging is very down played in the game, and you can honestly beat the entire game without using the feature at all. You can wall crawl, but you are only limited to a few areas where you can do so, such as a building of a wall, but the number of times they are present is limited as to make you wonder why they even bothered.
One of the best parts of ROTSS is the boss fights. LJN really nailed the six and each boss fight is unique: In the Electro fight, you have to shut off a generator or else he’ll regain health, Sandman is fought in a cave where he can form and reform in any place he wants, both the Hobgoblin and Vulture are aerial opponents that you have to time your hits just right while avoiding missiles and pumpkin bombs. My personal favorite fight in the game is in level three when you fight Mysterio. You have to beat him three times in order to win the fight because the first two Mysterio’s are decoys. This doesn’t sound like anything spectacular, but when you think about how this is a licensed NES game released in the early 90’s, it’s pretty cool.
What can be frustrating in the game is the difficulty. The game is not long (you can beat it in a half an hour or so) but it requires a lot of practice. You only have one extra life and no continues, so when you die twice it’s back to the start. I don’t know what LJN had against continues, as I don’t think I played one of their licensed games that had them until Spider-Man/Venom: Maximum Carnage. When I was playing this game, I had fond memories of when I was trying to get that perfect run through Castlevania, another short NES game. Unlike that classic however, where I could continue and get better at a particular section, I had to start over from scratch each time. Sometimes I would play and get a perfect run up until the Hobgoblin level, other times I would slip up at a section in the Mysterio stage. You really need to learn how to tackle each of the regular enemies found in the stages. Some are best taken with with a crouching attack, while others are better taken out with your jumping kick.
So in the end is ROTSS any good? On a systems with games like MegaMan, Mario and Castlevania, hell no. But, as for the first and only 8-bit Spider-Man related game it’s interesting and worth trying for the boss fights alone.