Spider-Man takes on some of his most lethal foes in a game that was only released in Japan.
This game is quite the anomaly. It was released only in Japan, but starring a comic book character whose fan base largely resides in North America. The reason for its limited release is unknown to me, but if I had to speculate, it may be that the publisher deemed it too difficult for North American audiences. This was somewhat of a trend in the 90's that kept several games developed in Japan from being released, or toned down in difficulty when finally released in North America. However, this is purely guesswork, and doesn't answer the question as to why a game like this wouldn't just be made a little easier for the thousands of kids who would have undoubtedly snapped it up. But with that question out of the way, we can move on to the game itself.
Since I can't read Japanese, I have no means of understanding the plot in this game. From what I could ascertain, a number of Spider-Man foes have teamed up and are building...something in Central Park. It could be another park, but I'm guessing the game takes place in New York, and it's just the most obvious answer. The cut scenes unfold with nice little dialogue bubbles and the occasional image of the Daily Bugle featuring an oddly positive headline congratulating Spidey. I can't offer much more commentary than that without learning to read Japanese.
The game itself plays in typical sidescroller fashion with levels being divided in a mostly straightforward path as you scroll through each stage to a set goal where a boss awaits you. To spice things up, there's a timer you're working against the whole way through. The time limits are fairly liberal, but there are a few bosses that really gobble up a lot of time, most notably the Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus. It provides an uneven challenge, spiking up drastically at points, but otherwise being a bit on the easy side.
Spider-Man controls nicely, and the most interesting part of his movement is how the shoulder buttons can be used to web swing through a stage. It can be a little tough to control just right, but it adds a nice break from having to foot it everywhere. Climbing walls also works nicely, though you oddly can't pull yourself over a ledge, resulting in using an awkward pendulum motion while jumping at a few points. Combat involves physical or web attacks and works nicely, but a few bosses have a tendency to bypass your attacks with annoying frequency. The worst offender is probably Allister Smythe (yes, he's actually in the game) whose reach manages to get through your punches for a damaging grappling attack that feels like a cheat.
The game looks sharp and Spider-Man looks fantastic. The same can be said for his villains as well, and aside from some oddly rendered arms for Doc Ock, they're very faithful renditions. Everyone is nicely animated and it all moves without any slowdown. The music is decent, and the sound effects are as well. While not remarkable, they do get the job done, and they deserve credit for that.
Graphics - 4.5 Webs: Some areas could be less repetitive, but otherwise it's a great looking game. Sound - 2.5 Webs: Serviceable, but nothing you'll be remembering for too long. Gameplay - 3.5 Webs: Simple combat with fun web swinging mechanics. Story - N/A Webs: My own lack of understanding Japanese prevents me from evaluating this particular aspect of the game. Fun Factor - 3.5 Webs: I'm not sure I would play this more than once, but it was enjoyable while it lasted. Replay Factor - 2 Webs: If you enjoy high scores, or just want to go through the ride again, you might be willing to give this another go. Aging Factor - 3 Webs: Timed sidescrollers used to be a much bigger franchise, but it won't confound anyone. Tech Troubles - (None)
A fun, albeit limited game. I'm not sure how you would get a hold of this game outside of visiting Japan (where it would likely be easy to find), but if you get a chance, it's worth giving it a whirl. You just might not be likely to pick it up again for some time.