Thursday, November 17, 2016

Old Terminator Games

Total casualties in the making of this post: 001. That one might be me. Good God, these games are bad.

First up is Terminator for the NES. This surprisingly didn't come out until 1992, well after the second movie had already debuted in theaters. The Super NES was already out, too. So this was a bit late to the party on all counts, but that should be even more reason for it to be decent, right?

Cool, starting in the future war and fighting to Skynet's base. Seems like all the Terminator games were really hung up on this part of the story even though we never saw it in a movie until 2015.

Behold, Kyle Reese! the muddiest, deadliest starting-room I've ever seen. Okay, those are definitely platforms in the air. There are some weird, off-balance green blocks that I can jump onto as well, and acid dropping from the ceiling. Huh. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the dulcet tones of the game's one real track:

 Oh Yeahhhhh. It sounds just like the movie!

Kyle's jumps are super-awkward and difficult to control. He sorta flails about, and he only actually jumps about 90% of the time that you press the B button. Maybe less than 90%. Why it isn't a hundred percent is anyone's guess.

...oh yeah, I said B button. That's the jump button. A is shoot. This goes against EVERY NES GAME EVER. Who made this thing?

After a few difficult jumps, I get past the first screen and battle an Arnold. Looks like he fell into a pool of mud right before this.

When you fire Kyle takes a moment to crouch down before actually launching a projectile. The jumps also have a slight delay on their animations. In other news, the acid drops are getting really common really fast. This first level feels like it was designed by someone who has never designed a video game level and wanted to make something difficult, and then no one else played it to tell them it wasn't fun in any way.

What's this? A solid walkway? Oh man, you don't realize how much you take solid platforms for granted in your video games until you have to go this long without one.

Get out of the sewers and you find yourself in some city. All the buildings are weirdly standing, but we'll give that a pass because whatever. At this point enemies endlessly run in from the left and one can easily sit here and farm extra lives up to the max of 6. Every 20 or so enemies gives a life.

Oh man, a jumping section. Not only are the jumps delayed and hard to control, the platforms have somewhat poor hit-detection on them. It's easy to fall right through a platform as you try to leap onto it. So if jumps are a weak point of your game, do you add small moving platforms in the first level? You do if you're THIS GAME

 I finally reach an impasse with some gun emplacements that are too low to the ground for me to shoot. That's right, I can't just duck and shoot them, and my regular shots fly over them even though my dude insists on automatically ducking when he fires. The only way to take these things out is to throw grenades at them, and meanwhile they're blasting you. It's ridiculous. Next game.

What's this? It's got a pretty great intro, with the giant scrolling letters of the first movie.

A year later, it's Terminator for the Super NES. Made by the same people, but with new hardware and an extra year to think about how terrible they are at making games. Let's see what they've got for us now.

Wow. Uh... this isn't bad at all. The graphics are great and actually resemble the flash-forwards from the movie, Kyle looks more like a resistance soldier, and there are no jumps, pits, or acid drops. It's like they did a little research on what they were covering before they started making this one. Big improvement.

The terminators look totally wrong, but...whatever, I'm sure the graphics people did their best.

One touch I like a lot is that some of the terminators, after blowing up, will crawl after you on their torsos.

Arnold sighting! Weird how they're wearing 90's leather jackets and jeans in this post-apocalyptic wasteland. Gotta milk the Arnold license, damnit!

I don't know what these flying pods are, but they're the bane of my existence. They drop Silverfish onto the ground and, much like the turrets in the previous game, they're too low to hit. I can either lob grenades or just run away from the Silverfish, and either option kinda sucks. Grenades are way too limited for this.

The terminators fire at you the exact moment they enter the screen, so you pretty much need to edge forward and duck constantly if you don't want to get hit by every terminator that appears. Yikes. Give the player some damn viewing distance, or at least a half second delay on the terminators firing at them. Well...this game has problems, but so far it's waaaaay better than the previous game.

Soon, you man the gatling laser on a truck and fire at an HK overhead. This is really cool stuff, just wish the fight had gone on a bit longer.

They did a good job animating the HK, too, as it looks spot-on.

Just occurred to me that T1 and T2 - the movies - both have scenes with a pickup truck versus an HK. In the first movie, the truck loses. In the second, the truck wins.

 What seems like an hour later, I reach the end of the first level. That was a loooooooong first level, like the designers didn't know what a good time to end a level was. This HK tank looks good, but like the flying HK it's too easy to beat.

Cutscene has Kyle landing in an alleyway in 1984. I guess that was it for the future scenes. No Skynet base plundering? Ah well.

"Are you Sarrah Connah"

 Kyle lands in the serene tranquility of "The Present". Ah, behold the wonders of the pre-apocal-


What is this, Chicago?

Continuing on, Kyle has to traverse gang-filled rooftops. His shotgun rapid-fires a little too quickly for a shotgun, as you can see here. It's basically the same weapon he had in the future, but at least they changed the color/sound effect.

Speaking of sound effects, one weird aspect of this game is that when Kyle jumps it makes a very mechanical sound. I don't know if one of the designers was confused about what Kyle is or what. That may sound ridiculous, but I once hooked up with a girl who had recently watched The Terminator and somehow thought that Kyle Reese was a cyborg. Like, what?

This weird blue helicopter attacks you repeatedly on the rooftops. For some reason, every time it appears, Kyle gets rooted in place. That's right, I suddenly can't move, just shoot. I don't get it at all, but the good news is that the helicopter only takes a few hits to beat. Just like the HKs earlier, it's very underwhelming for a boss fight.

I don't even know what's going on at this point. I'm trying to figure out which objects are solid platforms and which aren't.

This level, like the first, goes on and on and ON AND ON AND ON, and eventually I ran out of health due to not being able to find any heals whatsoever. Die and it puts you back at the beginning, seen here. This is at least passable as a game, but it's still clear that this development team doesn't know how to make a fun game. Next.

Moving on to the second movie now with T2 for the NES.

Cool intro. Looks like we're skipping the future stuff and going right to Arnold in the present. he punches bikers! A lot! Yes indeed, it takes a lot of punches to take down even the first enemies that you encounter. I miss being able to shoot things already.

This is so weird. If you run to the right, it stops you, saying that you need to follow arrows to find enemies. After doing this a few times in the same couple screens...

...more enemies appear! These look like the Jock Bozo. No word on if they called moi a dipshit.

They also take way too many punches. It isn't Bebe's Kids bad, but it's bad.

They can beat you in a few punches, though. HOW IS THIS LEVEL SO TOUGH

After following arrows back and forth for a while, I finally get allowed into the bar.

A boss fight follows...with some dude who is TWICE ARNOLD'S SIZE. What the hell? So I wail on him a bit with punches, back up to avoid his counter, run back in, wail, retreat, repeat, over and over and over. The bosses in the previous game took like five seconds to beat, and they were HKs! Now this random biker guy is taking minutes on end? What the hell!

So I continue to run in, wail, retreat... over and over, often getting slugged in return. This goes on for a while, and is in no way fun, but at this point I need to know what the second level looks like.

I'll say this. The terrible controls (and starting you at the beginning on death) of the first game I covered were brutal. The incredibly long levels (and starting you at the beginning on death) of the second game were brutal. But neither...NEITHER can compare in any way to how brutal this boss fight is. The guy has so many HP that I started to feel like I was getting carpal tunnel over the course of the fight.


Time for the T-1000 to get involved. Things are about to get awesome!

...or not, because I didn't get my health restored between levels, have one tick left, and the game has me suddenly hurling towards a wall at high speed on a bike. I fail to react quick enough to blast the fence in front of Arnold, and it slams into him, and that's it.



::sigh:: Let's check out the Super NES version of this gem. Maybe that one will be as improved as the SNES version of the first Terminator. I mean, it still wasn't good or anything, but it was at least playable.

Oh boy.

Well, this one has a different development studio...I think. Which makes it particularly weird that... pretty much looks the same. Though it does have a comical intro with nude Arnold walking behind stuff.

LOL. The biker is moving with him. So far this game is awesome.

He goes into the bar and emerges fully-clothed. With that, it gives me my objectives, and we're off and...walking slowly.

Not only does he walk slowly, his jumps are weak and limp. He barely even gets any airtime. This is truly bizarre.

Making things worse, my only attack guessed it...punching. The bad guys all have guns and throwing knives, meaning they can pelt me from a distance while I slowly waddle over to them to throw punches.

One of them looks like he's throwing Hadukens when he fires.

Well, I can't seem to leave the area until I find a shotgun, and none of these guys are dropping a shotgun (even the ones that are clearly wielding shotguns)...

Specifically, this guy. He can't let me take the man's wheels, dammit!

I keep fighting these guys off, trying to find something in the environment that I'm missing. The good news is that I have MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF HEALTH. It's nearly unlimited. I can take something like a hundred hits from these guys. Talk about swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction from the last game...

I continue looking around, and find one of the "future objects" but no shotgun. Eventually the enemies just wear me down and I...don't die, because I still have 36%, but I turned the game off.

Had to look this up, and it turns out that you're supposed to turn around and go back into the bar at the beginning of the game. Why even start with Arnold leaving the bar before giving control to the player, then? Nothing indicated that I was supposed to go back in there. He was done in there, now he was outside to get the shotgun. WELL NOPE, you gotta go back inside and go through some rooms there to find the shotgun, then go back out here to proceed. And level 2 is a terrible overhead-view driving level. I'll pass.

Next I'm going to play the game that, deep breath, was going to be the first video game I ever bought. Much like Mega Man III for the Game Boy could have easily been my first game over the then-unknown-to-me Kirby's Dream Land (if the store had the Blue Bomber in stock), THIS was something that I wanted Day One when I got the system. I never got it, and by the time I got a Game Boy there were other things that needed my attention.

Well, today, I'm finding out what exactly I missed out on two decades ago. If this had been my first may well have changed the course of history. You might not be reading this post right now. My love of games could have been killed before it was even conceived.

Actually, all of that might be a little over-dramatic, because the Game Boy version here is BETTER than the NES and SNES games above. No, seriously, this game actually comes across like they made an effort with it. It still isn't -good- by any means, but...well, let's just take a look.

Looks like I start out in the future this time and need to disable Skynet's Shield Generator. Where's Han Solo when you need him?

Not sure if I'm playing as Kyle or John (or maybe even Sarah, she was still around in T2's version of the future war). Okay, just looked it up. I'm playing as John.

I'll say this. The game totally nails the battlefield here, with some good music and constant lightning crashes in the background. The GB port of T2 The Arcade Game should have really sounded like this.

I get to the end of the battlefield, only to find... a barrier. That's right, it can't just be a regular level with a boss at the end. You have to go back and destroy beacon towers to proceed.

The T-800s look pretty good in this game. Their plasma rifles look like the movie, and the machines themselves don't look wildly incorrect like in some of these games.

But need to destroy beacon towers. There are five in the level. And you can't just destroy them, nope, you have to destroy them from tallest to shortest. This is, to say the least, a bit of a pain in the ass and seems kinda arbitrary. Meanwhile, the enemies are chipping at your health meter, and this is a problem because you only have ONE LIFE in this game. Die at any point, and it's back to the very beginning, destroying beacon towers from tallest to shortest again.

Once the barrier is dealt with, you battle a Ground HK for the fate of mankind! It looks kinda stunted, and only has one tread-track instead of the traditional two, but hey, at least it's here.

This picture of Sarah seems kinda random. Is she giving the orders? What's going on? Regardless, John now enters Skynet's main base to send a terminator back.

Annnnnd my health isn't restored.

This game was doing so well, too.

If you're only giving the player one life to get through your game, GIVE THEM HEALTH RESTORES BETWEEN LEVELS.

 On the bright side, the music here in Skynet is actually really good. The soundtrack for this game continues to stand out.

Not sure what these tread-mechs are but they look like they have a built-in battle-axe arm. That or a satellite dish. Good thing all of these machines are too dumb to aim downward, and I'm able to blast them while ducking without any problems.

Unfortunately, with no health restores, I gradually get whittled down. This section has you in narrow hallways where you can't really jump, and the floor has numerous mines. ...that you can't jump over. .........with your limited health and one life. Hey, that mech is rolling over one right now! Why doesn't it detonate?

Well, this is it. There's a mine, and the ceiling is too low to jump over it, and I have no remaining health. There's nothing I can do here but futilely try to jump over it, and...

....well then.

This last one might have been the best of the lot, but it isn't saying much. These games are uniformly terrible, and the sad thing is I bet they sold really well regardless. At least the developers seemed to have a good handle on the mythology. Too bad they didn't have much of a handle on how to design a fun game.

Hasta la vista, Old Terminator Games.


  1. The acid ceiling predicted Genisys!

    That stage music is ASS.

    How is Arnold so much weaker than biker dudes?

    Good stuff here (good terrible stuff), and how many game over screens have the extinction of all human life on Earth?

    1. Short answer: Chrono Trigger.

      The good news about the acid-dripping sewer level is that Kyle doesn't have to worry about any T-1000s coming through.

  2. This track. Ohhhh man. I really started to believe it was just going to be that one note over and over and over.

    I see this game is programmed very badly from the start, with that first screen. No surprise the controls are bad too. Tight controls are a sign of great skill.

    Wait is this theme song going to just be this over and over now?

    The platforms don't even detect you sometimes? Man I would quit right here. Amazing you are still...ok good you stopped, whew. game..ok, I can stop that song now? ...ok. Whew.

    Glad that team learned from its mistakes after a year. But would've been a huge upset if it'd become GREAT.

    Ahaha sorry getting through that ultra-long boss fight was so hard, but them slamming you into a wall RIGHT after and sending you back to the beginning is sooooooooo funny.

    I'm proud of you for giving up on this next game before even accomplishing a single objective. If I could only walk slowly and punch and jump limply, I would go home too.

    How many companies bought licenses to make Terminator games? This is seriously confusing. They are probably bad games because these are the companies that thought they could guarantee success by buying licenses and didn't have the guts to design their own games.

    I'm so glad you bought Kirby's Dream Land instead of this last game.