Super Spy Hunter

Graphics: 5
Sound: 4
Control: 4
Depth: 4
Overall: 5

Super Spy Hunter

By: Sunsoft
Released: 1991

To me, Super Spy Hunter feels like Contra in a car. It doesn’t really hold up as an analogy, but “exciting vertical Gradius in a car” just does not have the same ring to it.

The original Spy Hunter more or less lifted the car chase sequence from 70s Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me and made a whole game of it. In the game, you drive a sports car equipped with machine guns along winding roads, avoiding or taking out various bad guy vehicles out to kill you. You can pick up additional weapons from the occasional red truck, including Oil Slick, Smoke Screen and Missiles. Eventually, your car will switch to a boat during a river sequence – in a nod to the submarine transformation from the Bond film. The arcade machine features a steering wheel with triggers for various weapons, as well as a gas pedal and gear shifter. Home versions made do with a joystick or joypad and one or two buttons. Either way, Spy Hunter is a game of various scenery changes with twists and turns on the roads, but it has no ending and is played for score. It is also known for its catchy rendition of the Peter Gunn theme by Henry Mancini.

Super Spy Hunter – the console only sequel – keeps the basic premise and, for the lack of a better phrase, gives it the NES treatment. You no longer drive on an endless series of winding roads, as the sequel consists of six distinct stages. Your car now has hit points, and can be tricked out far beyond adding Oil Slicks and/or Smoke Screens to your arsenal. There are now red and blue trucks that cycle through different upgrades if you are patient. (Rather than driving up a ramp at the back of the truck, you blow the trucks up, which seems rather harsh, even for the 80s.) With a bit of timing and luck, you can be driving a larger and more powerful car with an auto-aiming spread gun that can take 12 direct hits before exploding. And, of course, the end of each stage features a giant boss vehicle to destroy, with various forms before it stays down.

The game is well polished for a later NES game, with lots of detailed sprites, smooth animation and an impressive warping effect used for the winding roads. It does become rather difficult – particularly in later stages, but there are a couple of hidden codes that will net you some additional lives (listed below). For the record, I have made it as far as the boss of Stage 4, want to try Stage 5, and Stage 6 intimidates me – at least based on YouTube videos.

It rarely seems to make best of NES lists, but Super Spy Hunter is definitely one of my favorite games for the system.

- Ben Langberg



Random Extra Lives – When the title appears, hold A + B + Select, then press start.

Pong Mini-Game – At the Continue screen after Game Over, Press A eight times, then press start. Beat the game and you’ll start the game with 20 lives.