The Terminator and RoboCop are two of the biggest names in 1980s science fiction action. Both spawned sequels, comic books and video games. This week Defunct Games is bringing these two powerhouse characters together. All week long we're looking at games starring RoboCop, the Terminator and, in one case, both. Check back every day this week for a brand new retro review starring two of Hollywood's greatest characters!
A few years ago Rockstar Games stunned critics and consumers alike with their video game adaptation of The Warriors. Gamers were justifiably skeptical, it had been a quarter century since the Lizzies, Destroyers and Hi-Hats had invaded movie theaters. Plus, most movie games are terrible; the sort of thing you actively avoid. But Rockstar proved everybody wrong, releasing a game that expanded on the movie's fiction, showing the origins of the gang and connecting with people in a brand new way.
The Warriors isn't the only movie game to expand on the fiction. A decade before Rockstar went street fighting; Virgin Interactive was blowing people's minds with The Terminator. This Sega CD action game is more than just a retelling of James Cameron's 1984 movie, it also delves into the war happening 40 years in the future. It delves deeper into a chapter that is only hinted at through flashbacks (or rather, flash forwards).
There are a lot of things 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System games are good at. For one thing, they excel in letting you fly with a raccoon tail. You can save the world from an alien invasion simply by running left to right, and all random battles are turn-based. There's no question about it, old NES games are good at a lot of things. Unfortunately one thing they're bad at is nuance.
The original RoboCop movie was not just an ultra-violent action movie from Paul Verhoeven, but also an indictment of big businesses taking over our government and security. The film features satirical commercials and news clips, as well as a TV announce who will buy just about anything for a dollar. The deeper you dig, the more nuance you can get out of this influential 1980s blockbuster.
In all the years I've been playing video games, I've found that light shooters make very bad portable experiences. It's not just the tiny graphics on the small screen; it's also the fact that you don't have a light gun. This is a genre that prides itself on being as shallow as possible, to the point where a fake plastic gun is normally the only good thing about the game. Terminator 2: The Arcade Game should be a colossal failure that nobody dares bring up in polite company, and yet it turns out to be a rock solid port for the Game Gear.
There's no reason Terminator 2: The Arcade Game should work on Sega's portable. For one thing, the arcade original wasn't that great. Oh sure, it looked good and featured digitized versions of the lead actors, but there wasn't much to it and the action was instantly forgettable. Yet, on the Game Gear it's surprisingly intense, will a lengthy quest and a variety of cool looking backgrounds.
Despite being the worst film in the series, RoboCop 3 has all of the elements to make a must-play video game. This time around Officer Murphy wields new weapons and takes to the sky in order to serve and protect. Best of all, this time around he's not battling megalomaniacal billionaires, but rather robot ninjas. If that's not the recipe for an incredible video game, then I don't know what is. Too bad I was stuck playing this barely competent adaptation for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
First the good news: In this video game you'll never know Peter Weller was replaced by Robert John Burke. Then again, I have a hunch Buckaroo Banzai has no interest in being connected to a game this truly horrible. I wish I had Peter Weller's lucky.
At last, it's a RoboCop game worth playing. It turns out that all you need to do is add a heavy helping of Terminators and suddenly Detroid is worth fighting for. RoboCop vs. The Terminator is not just an obvious pairing, it's also a solid 2D action game with over-the-top violence, great graphics and all of the key elements from both blockbuster movies franchises.
RoboCop vs. The Terminator proposes that, in the future, Cyberdyne would use RoboCop's tech to build Skynet. I don't remember Arnold Schwarzenegger mentioning any of this to John Connor, but I'm willing to go with it. From there the plot resembles that of Terminator 2, with Skynet sending an army of Terminators back to the past in order to stop a series of events from taking place. Now it's up to RoboCop to beat back the Terminator scourge and defeat the Skynet CPU.