Retro Gaming Challenge Week Seven: Robocop vs The Terminator (Megadrive)

It’s the clash we’re yet to see in the cinema, but back in 1994, Sega owners could pit cyborg cop against assassin droid with ease.
The retro gaming wheels roll ever onwards as I continue this slightly silly challenge. For those coming in late, I’m going to play a different retro game, not always to completion, every week for 52 straight weeks. The Internet votes (from a selection) of titles each week to determine what I play the following week. And so it rolls on…
Retro Gaming Challenge Week One: Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling: Toukon Road 2: The Next Generation (N64)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Two: Donkey Konga (Gamecube)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Three: The Firemen (SNES)
Retro Games Challenge Week Four: Space Invaders (2600)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Five: Three Dirty Dwarves (Saturn)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Six: Trog (NES)

Robocop vs The Terminator

Robocop vs The Terminator sounds like it’s a movie game. But it isn’t… quite… a movie game.
Movie games have a terrible reputation that hasn’t really improved with the passing of the years. For every Goldeneye there’s been an Enter The Matrix, Lethal Weapon or (shudder) Home Alone. Movie games are cheap tie-ins, because the licences are expensive and you want to get the game out to tie in with the film (generally), so they’re usually also rushed.
So when you combine the licences for two of the most iconic science fiction action characters, you’re going to have about three bucks left over to hire programmers who will have all of ten minutes to come up with a game, right?
Well, maybe so. I can’t speak with any particular authority about how Virgin Games managed their finances back in 1994, although it probably helped that rather than being based on a film (I’m getting older, but i’m certain I’d remember a Robocop vs Terminator movie being made) it’s instead based on a crossover Dark Horse comic series. Maybe those are cheaper to licence the rights to?

"Dead Or Alive, You're Coming With Me. Actually, Only Dead. I Don't Arrest Anyone Any More."
“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.
Actually, only dead. I don’t arrest anyone any more.”

Side pernickety thing: Technically, the game is “Robocop vs The Terminator” which should mean you only ever face off against one. Slight spoiler alert: There are dozens in this game.Maybe early code only featured one, or it was some kind of weird licensing thing? Outside the original film, Terminator’s dropped its definite article years ago. Now, back to the game.
Robocop vs The Terminator plays out much like the classic Robocop arcade game, in that you play as Robocop, walking mostly left to right but sometimes right to left, shooting everything in sight. Subtlety is not its strong suit. Sorry, Terminator fans; no hidden codes to play as the “bad” guys… erm… robots… in this game. Robocop always was a slow moving tank of a dude, and for the most part that’s what you get here.
Which is, even after all these years, no bad thing. There’s a very ’90s-futuristic vibe about Robocop vs The Terminator that not only places it within the context of games made at the time (there are a lot of scrolling shooters I could have put in its place, from Rolling Thunder 2 to E-Swat and plenty more besides), but also the tone of both film series. Robocop Vs The Terminator just feels… right. The guns have heft and variety, Robocop doesn’t suddenly break out ninja moves he has no right in breaking out, and, naturally, he’s in the proper, silver Robocop suit.
Let us never talk of the remake again. Ahem.
This is all relative to the Megadrive version though; I can’t speak for the SNES, Master System or Game Gear iterations of the title, because I’ve never played those. Don’t think I’ve ever even seen a copy of the SNES version.
Robocop vs The Terminator did present me with a real challenge this week in terms of playing through it, because it’s a surprisingly bloody game, in line with the source material.
That splash of red up there? That used to be Gabe.
That splash of red up there?
That used to be Gabe.

The very first thing in the game you shoot is a street thug who explodes in a vibrant carmine splash, and it only goes on from there. Somehow, Robocop vs The Terminator escaped the general moral panic of the era, possibly because there were bigger, more obvious targets (Doom, Carmageddon, etc) to focus on. Still, this wasn’t a game I felt entirely comfortable playing around my kids. Which means, amongst other things, that it’s the game that I’ve played the least of from any game in my Retro Challenge so far.
Not for want of trying to play, however, because after Trog last week, Robocop vs The Terminator was a breath of fresh and intermittently challenging air. Robocop moves slowly, and you’ve got to account for that when dodging bullets and foes, either of which can sap poor Robocop’s health rather quickly.
It also served to remind me of one of the few gaming Easter Eggs I can honestly state to have found by sheer accident. There’s a hidden OCP office early in the game that’s filled with Terminators (bad) but also extra lives (good) and, critically, a pickup gun that shifts between just about every gun in the game.
This means that if you time it right, you can get Robocop powered up ridiculously quite early on. Match that with the fact that Robocop carries two weapons (see, somebody thought of it years before Halo) that you can switch to when he dies, and Robocop Vs The Terminator can be finished with more ease than the developers intended. I’ll be honest; I did a bit of both, tackling the game as intended, and also with the easier gun and some switching around to get that bit further.
Robocop Vs The Terminator is also one of those games that, emulation aside, you’re pretty much guaranteed never to see pop up on anyone’s virtual console service, simply because the rights would be an utter nightmare, between multiple movie studios, comic book writers and (if I read the who-owns-which-gaming-studio-tea-leaves correctly) Interplay. I don’t see there being much common ground there, or any great desire to release this particular game again. Which is a pity, because while it’s not what I’d call a great game, it’s a perfectly solid and playable one that does a lot of work capturing the spirit of what a game called Robocop Vs The Terminator should be anyway!

Next Week

The votes came in, and the winner was never really strongly challenged. So next week, I shall step into the tuxedo of Mr Bond. Mr James Bond.
No, not to play Goldeneye, as much as I might like to, but instead the Xbox Bond title, Everything Or Nothing. I haven’t been back to it since… hmm… probably since it was brand new, now that I think of it.
As noted, the week after I’ve got some catchup to do, playing (and suffering) through the first Dreamcast Godzilla game, so there’s no voting to do there. To keep things interactive though, I’m going to open up the voting for the game in Week 9 now, so the poll for that will run for two weeks of voting time.
But what to play? I think I’ll stick with the single-system theory again, and go back to the system that started it all for Sony: The original Playstation. As there’s two weeks of voting to go, I’ll even extend the voting choices out to five titles. I could have chosen from quite a wide variety, because the PlayStation era coincided with when I started having proper, paying full-time work and therefore a budget for games, but I tried to go for a little something from every PlayStation era, with few of the best-known titles.
Plus, y’know, if I picked Final Fantasy VII, I’d never have time to finish it.
Make your choices below (and if you like the idea, share this article around whatever social networks or sites you frequent; everyone’s welcome to vote or leave feedback/reminiscences/large unmarked stacks of currency below!)
[socialpoll id=”2360896″]
Update: I’ve been informed by my better half that not including Devil Dice was a mistake. My better half is, well, better, so it’s been added.

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