Any child from the 80s will remember Robocop and the Terminator. They’re both science fiction action movies from the not too distant future. Robocop is a man that has become a machine, while the Terminator is a machine that has become a man. Two similar yet opposing forces. Between the two of them, they’ve had eight movies in the past 30 years, not including some that weren’t in theaters. Both franchises even had short lived television series. In the early 90s these two metal men clashed in Frank Miller’s comic book Robocop vs the Terminator.
In the Super Nintendo version of Robocop vs the Terminator (RvT), you play as Robocop in a 2D run and gun platformer that starts on the dark streets of Detroit and heads into a grim future full of black skies and cyborgs. I hesitate to call it a run and gun, because Robocop moves so deliberately slow that he’s always walking, so I guess this is a walk and gun platformer. He moves so slow and stiff that he can’t avoid things so much as he can stop short to let objects go by him and he can shoot enemy bullets out of the air if you’re lucky enough.
Robocop can still get around though, he can climb ladders, shimmy across horizontal pipes and jump. Think of it like a much slower paced Contra. You’ve got 7 direction shooting, up, diagonal and you can shoot while crouched, but there’s no downward shooting unless you’re on a ladder. If you shoot while standing, you’re locked in place, so you can shoot diagonal without walking. If you’re already walking when you start to fire, you can still walk. I say that, but it feels inconsistent sometimes. There are no real special abilities, just changing between your pistol and a second better weapon that you’ve picked up somewhere. All of your weapons have unlimited ammunition and holding the shoot button keeps a steady stream of projectiles.
For those of you expecting to fight Arnold Schwarzenegger, prepare to be disappointed. You’ll get a boss battle with him, see his flesh burn off and become a standard endo skeleton. By saying “The Terminator” that means the series, not the character.
Between certain levels, you’re greeted with a comic book style cut scene that explains things and shows different scenes. These seem like a forgotten perk of the game, because there’s not many of them. Instead RvT resorts to text explaining the next level. That’s fine and it takes less time than watching the comic book cut scene play out.
The graphics really sucker you in. They look great even by today’s standards. A lot of work went into the enemies, backgrounds and scenery. There’s a dark grim atmosphere that looks cool and feels appropriate for the tone of the game. Its not long before Robocop enters the future to fight Skynet and hundreds if not thousands of cybernetic endo skeletons.
Why do I say hundreds if not thousands? Because enemies in this game respawn if you leave the screen. Well stationary enemies like turrets and bomb launchers will stay destroyed. Everything else returns with a vengeance. This is a truly challenging game. Its not here to be your friend, its here to stop the only man that can stop Skynet. No not John Connor, that’s silly, I mean Robocop. John didn’t even go into the future or to the past.
Everything is against you. Steel beams fall from no where, and you need to use your robot like reflexes to either stop short or shoot above you to sever the beam in two. The game is full of cheap traps like that. Gatling guns raise out of electrified pits to keep you on your toes. In later moments of the game super powered endo skeletons throw grenades when you need to time your leaps from pipes. While you’re clinging to a ladder or hanging from a pipe, you don’t get knocked off or knocked back like when you’re on foot. However, grenades break that rule. Get hit and you’ll fall down and need to climb back up to start it all over again. In fact the later levels become maddening towers where one fall might mean you’ll plummet to the bottom and get forced to start your climb all over again.
Its not all bad, you’ve got plenty of health, which is fine for the mean streets of the big D when you’re gunning down humans in the face with your automatic pistol. Later on the enemies take a lot more damage and deal twice as much. The endo skeletons become a common enemy and for the most part they’re quite a chore to take down. They eat your bullets and sand back up. Over and over again. I guess you can run past them as they’re on the ground, but then that just means you’ll be sandwiched between them. They’re far more intelligent than any of the other enemies. They can do anything you can do, climb ladders, jump gaps, cling to pipes.
The first few endos are boss battles. You’ll need to destroy them with rockets and ED-260’s arm cannon and even knock them into pits or into electrical fields. Once you get to the future, there are better weapons, but they still don’t feel powerful compared to the foes. Once you reach the vertical levels, its easy to shoot a cyber skeleton off its perch. The improved weapons are the cannon, the combo cannon that shoots grenades and my favorite, the most useful weapon of the game, the homing missiles. I’m so thankful its there, because the enemies have better shooting trajectories than you do. They don’t just have 7 way shooting, they’ve got almost 360 aim with their weapons. You can still shoot their bullets down in mid air, but the homing missiles are the only way that I feel powerful in the game.
You’ve got X number of lives and unlimited continues, with a short password system, so the game is forgiving like that. Some continues will send you back a level or so, but for the most part, you start on the same level or boss. Several of the levels feel painfully long. The levels themselves are linear and winding around a giant area. You’ll find things off the beaten path if you go exploring. Things like walls you can walk through to find full health and necessary weapons.
Enemies randomly drop small bits of health, invincibility power ups and screen clearing bombs that feel pretty useless since several times the foes are all cleared out. Endo skeletons give full health which is always nice, because they keep coming. If there’s not a wall or gap at the edge of your screen, they keep coming. You need to keep inching forward even if that means less time to react to the enemy bullets.
As the game progresses, you’ll take on a towering hunter killer boss battle, a laughably small flying HK and of course Skynet in the living flesh. Well more like in its electrical form. The flying hunter killer that took more than an hour to defeat. Other boss fights in the game force you to destroy the boss piece by piece, but not this one. You need to wait for it to open up its center compartment to release what I can only describe as a floating flower. That sounds easy enough, even with homing missiles. The challenge was dodging the timed lasers as the HK flew across the screen, while it threw the occasional bouncing grenade, and shot a triple bullet spread shot. Another problem is that the homing missiles wouldn’t always go up into the center, they end up chasing lasers and other projectiles.
To break up the walk and gun action, there’s a first person section where you ride around destroying X number of endo skeletons. This controls pretty simple L and R turn your pod, up goes forward, down goes back, left and right strafe. Its an interesting little segment that they could have done a lot more with, but its just a break in the action that the developer was probably forced to throw in for the sake of the Super Nintendo..
While the game is still tough with no difficulty settings, I still went through it in under four hours. I felt that the challenge outweighed the fun sometimes. I was very thankful to make it through certain levels. If this is cannon, Robocop is the reason why Skynet was smashed and the reason why it sent a Terminator back in time to murder John Connor. Nah its probably not cannon at all. I’m still trying to figure out why Skynet needs cyborgs to kill people when there are so many other ways. No no never mind, we want cool robots! And you get them in Robocop vs. the Terminator.