An inferior port of an above average NES game.
This is actually a pretty fun game...on the NES. The Master System version is inferior in all ways except one: graphics. It’s a shame because the in game visuals are upgraded quite a bit, with a noticeably higher color palette. The added colors make the game look much brighter, resulting in a more comic book like look. However, for some reason the cool screens that occur before each level, introducing the member of the Sinister Six you will be fighting at the end of the stage (for example the one before the first stage shows Electro shooting some bolts, and Spider-Man dodging them) have been chopped up, and only include the villain's face next to a cheesy looking head shot of Spider-Man.
Well, where to begin. First off it was only released in PAL regions, and like many NTSC to PAL ports the timing is off, and the developer that ported it was to lazy to fix it. So it runs noticeably slower than the NES version. This cannot be fixed on your Master System, but if you dump it to your computer and play with an emulator, and change the region to NTSC, it runs at a much better speed.
Second are the controls, which have degraded severely in the NES-Master System conversion. The responsiveness of the buttons is a bit lower, and the hit detection is horrible. For a hit to register on some enemies sometimes you have to be basically on top of him, others you need to be almost out of arms reach, it's quite frustrating.
Third there is the sound, which suffered greatly during the port. The music sounds muffled, and a lot of the sound effects are either missing or very faint.
Fourth are all of the enemies that were cut out, or changed. Many enemies in the Mysterio stage were taken out or severely reduced in quantity, which is a shame because that was probably the funniest level on the NES. Also in another level, Vulture would fly by and drop bombs on you, but in the MS version he is missing completely, instead bombs just fall from thin air. Also some enemies are still in the game, but look pretty dumb compared to their NES counterparts, as I said before the color pallet is better in this version, but yellow shirts and green pants is an undeniably bad choice for armed thugs.
Fifth there is the enemy AI, which was nothing special in the NES version, but is pretty bad in this one. Not as noticeable on the normal enemies, but the bosses are horrible. For example there are a few bosses that teleport from one spot to the other to try to confuse you, which made the fight more interesting on the NES. But in the MS version it takes a ridiculously long time for them to reappear, and you have to run around like an idiot for sometimes up to 20-30 seconds to get them to reappear. Then when they do appear it usually isn't anywhere near where you are, 90% of the time it's on a higher or lower platform, and they will walk over to the spot that is directly above or below you and stand there like an invalid, punching at nothing for a good while, until the disappear and reappear in another location far away from Spider-Man. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
Speaking of the boss fights, there are a couple fights (Stage 3 and 6) that were changed significantly, one of which pretty much ruined the battle because they took away the only thing that was unique about it. I won’t give away any spoilers, but just trust me on this one.
Now for the last and MOST IMPORTANT reason this game is inferior to the NES game it was ported from, a flaw that cripples your attack capability: Spider-Man’s jump kick, or lack thereof here. Oh yes, you can kick in this game by double tapping punch same as the NES, but he stands stationary and kicks, instead of leaping and inch or two like he did on the NES. Standing still, the kick actually has shorter range than the punch making it completely useless. It might do more damage than the punch, but I can’t say for sure, since I only hit an enemy a few times with it, throughout the whole game! If you are wondering why this is such a big deal, is because you only have 2 attacks: the punch and the kick, and you can only perform a punch while standing still. The kick was essential to defeating some bosses, because it allowed you to attack airborne enemies by executing a kick from the edge of platforms. In some cases, you can use your web projectiles, but after the first level, I could probably count on my fingers (with a few left over) the amount of web cartridges you find throughout the rest of the game.
The Bottom Line
If you want some 8-bit Spider-Man action, Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six is probably the best you can do, but NOT this version. Find yourself an NES copy. It's still not the best game ever or anything, but there is some fun to be had there (you can read my review of it here at MobyGames as well). All in all I must admit that I am disappointed, as I used to play this one all the time on the NES when I was a kid, so I was excited to play it on the Master System with nicer graphics, but why did they have to ruin the rest?