When I was six years old, I was allowed to see my first R rated movie, ‘Terminator 2’. Well, technically my second, but my first, ‘Akira’, which I saw the year before, was technically unrated back then. In any case, ‘Terminator 2’ is a magical movie. It transcends age and masterfully tells it’s story. The violence, the strong language, none of it was gratuitous or out of place. Up to that point I enjoyed movies, but after those credits rolled, I LOVED them. If this was what adult films (phrasing) had to offer, then I wanted more. The Disney films being crammed down my throat wasn’t going to cut it anymore.
Then a year later I saw ‘Robocop’, which is the opposite of everything I just said, and thought it was the most amazing thing ever put on film.
By the time ‘Robocop Versus The Terminator’ (from here on known as ‘Robocop vs Terminator’) came out, ‘Mortal Kombat’ and ‘Mortal Kombat 2’ showed me the level of violence and gore that videogames could now get away with. Robocop has a standard to live up to. Whatever game he’s in needed to be violent, brutal, and something that would make parents everywhere would shake their heads and say to themselves “Why did I buy this for my kid?” When I found it for rent at Blockbuster and saw that it was only rated MA-13, my heart sank. That would be like making a ‘Mortal Kombat’ movie and renting it PG-13!
Here’s what I remember:
Remember the first time you saw ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and saw those Nazi faces melt? Or the end of ‘Romancing the Stone’ where the bad guy loses his hand and blood gushes out of the stump? Do you also remember turning the box around because, holy shit, this is a PG movie, WHAT IS THIS DOING HERE?!? That’s how I felt about the first time I shot someone in ‘Robocop vs Terminator’. They don’t just fall over and die, they burst into a fountain of blood! The death animation of one of the enemies is a recreation of Emil’s death from the movie (he’s the toxic waste guy, yes I had to look that up on IMDB)!
Beyond the violence, I remember a hell of a game. Each stage had a maze like quality to it. You still went from left to right to get to the end, but you had free reign to hunt high and low for secret areas. You start with Robocop’s trusty auto pistol, but along the way you find a great assortment of guns ranging from a plasma rifle to ED-209’s arm! Which, by the way, you first get by fighting ED-209. ‘Robocop vs Terminator’ has no problem telling you that you’re a big boy and throwing you into the middle of some shit.
There was one problem that vexed eight year old me. Robocop couldn’t avoid gunfire very well. Robocop was, well, Robocop, he was stiff and thus not very agile. While not a bullet hell kind of game, the screen did fill up with enemy projectiles and trying not get hit wasn’t easy. The game even rubbed it in your face my making enemy fire slow enough that you can outrun (walk?) the bullets, but you knew that it was only a matter of time before those sons of bitches hit you.
How does it hold up?
The one thing I forgot was how damn good this game looks. Virgin Games didn’t let an inch of space go to waste. The details on everything from the character sprites to the backgrounds make playing this game feel real. Well, real enough for Sega Genesis. Let’s face facts, no one is mistaking this for the real Detroit. It’s the little things that make ‘Robocop vs Terminator’ immersive, like how the Terminator loses flesh as he’s weakened, or how light reflects off Robocop’s face and chestplate when he fires his pistol. Trash litters the sidewalk of this rundown areas while lights illuminate within the windows of the buildings of the greater metropolitan area in the background. All of this happens with fluid animations, which is always a welcome sight. Janky movements take me right out of the game. If someone’s going to explode into a puddle of gore, then there shouldn’t be any missing frames!
Full disclosure, I had to prep for a convention over the last two weeks (shameless self promotion for the ‘What Did I Just Watch?’ podcast! We’re going to go fuck up Flower City Comic Con in Rochester New York on Sunday the 26th!), so I wasn’t able to play more than the first two levels, but hot damn, those levels were just as fantastic as I remember them! They’re not overly complex, it’s an action side scroller after all, yet it contains enough variety to keep me interested. Enemy placement is unpredictable, such that constantly shooting ahead won’t get you very far. Despite being surrounded, battling off goons isn’t a chore. I didn’t avoid every bullet, but the game made it difficult to get away unschated. Plenty of heath is scattered around each level, though get ready to fight for it if you need it.
As much as I enjoyed ‘Robocop vs Terminator’, it did have it’s flaws. Each gun is distinct, yet most are useless. Here’s a great example: the grenade launcher fires a string of grenades quickly…which never explode. Instead, the grenades move where your character is looking. This is useful for hitting an enemy that’s above you, but more often than not I was shooting at an enemy, they shoot back, so I move backwards in order to avoid the oncoming bullet. Guess where my grenades go? I end up in these situations where I can’t kill the guy shooting me because my bullets run away with me. If I was playing a Loony Tunes cartoon this would be hysterical, but it’s goddamn Robocop! The bullets should always be going TOWARDS the bad guys!
There are a few other gripes I have (weapon pickups replacing the non-selected weapons, no invincibility frames, etc.) but overall, I had a blast replaying ‘Robocop vs Terminator’ again. This is the experience that all the sequels, reboots, cartoons, and toys managed to screw up. It finds a way to put two unstoppable forces together and hands them both guns. I remember recommending this game to everyone when I was younger and I’m going to keep at it now. Play this game, specifically for the Sega Genesis. From what I understand, Nintendo didn’t have the balls to show enemies evaporate into a red splatter from non-exploding grenades, you know, like real life.