Wednesday 27 May 2009

Robocop versus The Terminator

Oh my god

After playing a bit of the Terminator on the MegaDrive I came across this relic of the past. I already knew it existed and assumed it was rubbish, but that was before I had this blog feature and enough spare time to talk to nobody.

The first MegaDrive Terminator game isn't amazing. It's alright, but it's short, easy-ish and has numerous gameplay problems. By the time Robocop vs Terminator came about, many of these issues had been fixed. Likewise it's an improvement over the Robocop games that were around at the time too.

Robocop versus the Terminator was released for the usual bunch of consoles in 1993/1994 by Virgin (and Interplay) once again. The NES version was cancelled (which is probably for the better), the Super Nintendo and MegaDrive copies ruled the roost once more, and once again the two copies are ever so slightly different. You know how the Wii and DS versions of that new Ghostbusters game have cartoony graphics while the Xbox/PS3 versions don't? This "changing the mood to suit the console" idea is not a new thing it seems. Sega's copy takes a more realistic uncensored approach while Nintendo's goes for the comic book style. There's a few differences with the weapon systems and storytelling and censoring but they're effectively the same game. Well okay I haven't played the SNES version but still.

The story is an odd one. Basically it states that all the Skynet from the Terminator series is based off Robocop's technology, and as Robocop is amazing he manages to rebuild himself in the future to well... destroy his earlier self. They were going to make a movie about it, but it ended up being cancelled. A shame, though it's obvious it was really just a money making scheme like Alien vs. Predator. Problem is Robocop and Terminator don't mix as well as you might think. Terminator is great because it's always got X person on the run from Y terminator. A horror/action thing. Robocop can easily take care of Y terminator, so there's no running involved. It's just a Robocop rampage which doesn't really need Terminators to work.

RCVtT is one of those side-scrolling shooters that were all the rage in the day. Still not quite up to the level of Contra, but closer than previous attempts. Like Contra, this game aims to make your life a living hell by making everything under the sun fire projectiles at your robo face.

Now it's all fine and dandy up until the Terminators start getting involved. Shooting civilians? That's alright, but when the machines come to town you start losing lives. I don't think it's physically possible to beat some of the later stages without cheating. Even when things explode they still manage to fire at you, and since Robocop is quite big, he's quite the bullet magnet. The last boss is horrible, so much so I had to resort to Game Genie. Of course it must be worse on the Super Nintendo as apparently enemies respawn on that version... but still, this isn't easy.

As well as this, Robocop is a bit clunky and sometimes has trouble with hanging on bars and aiming. But he's more agile than Kyle Reese who had no way to avoid enemy fire (though Reese still has more health... amazingly). It also has the classic "no recovery time" issue, so bosses will literally crush you if you stay in one place. The camera isn't perfect either. Each level presents you with a slightly different mission (rescue hostages, destroy all satellites etc.) though I'm not sure if it makes a difference if you don't do all of these things. The SNES version apparently spices things up with first person shooter sections too. That's nice.

Graphics have certainly improved over previous attempts - animation is more fluid and there's more background effects, though this is to be expected for a 1993 game I suppose. Sound is marginally better too - the sound effects are nicer and Robocop says "excellent" every now and then. The music is hit and miss - there's not a lot of variation and I'm sure the announcer from Action 52 was captured to say "TERMINATOR" for the first couple of levels' music. It's a bit... stupid, but fun I guess. Bosses lack music altogether for some reason. Decent stuff, but there's been better.

But it's really the difficulty that kills this game. With gloomy level after gloomy level where every move must be timed so that you recieve as little damage as possible, it does start to lose that edge it once had. It's the sort of game where you almost feel like demanding a motorbike stage halfway through just to keep things going. I can't see how anyone could play this game to the end under normal gameplay conditions.

However it does have a nice array of cheats. If you input a code you get a nice little message from the game's programmers, and there's even a "real mode" code which adds more blood, skeltons and strangely dressed women with guns into the mix. Why is this an extra option rather than being part of normal gameplay? God knows.

And that's all I really have to say. Nobody talks about these games and I bet many of you don't even know they exist. But there you go - Robocop vs. Terminator. Bring on the movie dammit.

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