Wednesday, November 15, 2023

T2: The Arcade Game (Arcade/Genesis/SNES, 1991-1994)

 Here's a game that a lot of us spent waaaay too many quarters on back in the day, because it was approximately the coolest arcade game on the planet for a while. One or two players can wield light guns and battle the forces of Skynet in a first-person rail shooter.

Wait a minute...where are the PURPLE LASERS?

(Originally posted: November 2016. I've decided to give the Game Boy version its own post, for...reasons)

The first 70% or so of this game takes place in the future. Those short scenes in T2 that got everyone's imagination going? Yeah, they're pretty much this game. Good call on the part of the developers.

The objective here is simple: You blast terminators with your light gun. Keep in mind that at this point in time, the NES Zapper was still a cutting-edge light gun. We didn't have the SNES Super Scope 6 yet. This arcade game managed to trump both of those with accurate and quick-response firing capabilities.

The enemies PILE ON right from the get-go in this game. There are humans fighting on the battlefield too, but they're useless. They get in the way of your shots and cause you to lose points. You're playing as Arnold, which explains why your character is able to withstand so much enemy gunfire. Except that you're basically fighting other Arnolds and mowing them over, ya traitor!

Terminators now have the ability to jump. The devil's hands have been busy.

Hunter-Killers also like to fly by and harass you by blasting the screen with missiles. For the most part you can shoot down enemy projectiles, or at least the bigger ones. Besides your regular firepower, you can also launch rockets that pretty much one-shot everything. Things to bear in mind: A) The rockets have limited ammo, though you get tons of them; B) Firing the standard blaster too much at a time will cause it to overheat, thus reducing your power by a large degree temporarily.

The first boss is the HK Tank (called Ground HK back then). It has a lot of frames of animation during its entrance, frames that end up not being used anymore during the actual battle. I bet those frames won't be there in the console versions of the game.

That's right, there were console versions. More on this in a bit.

First boss is as far as I remember getting in the arcade with my friends. This game was relentless, and this HK just bombards you with beams. It's a cool fight because you can blast off the gun turrets (and indeed, you're supposed to) as well as the "head". It keeps fighting to the bitter end, even when it's missing its entire upper half.

The second level takes you into a resistance base that is crawling with Arnold terminators. I'm not really big on this because in the original story, Arnold was just one type of terminator-look. If they ALL looked like him, that'd be pretty dumb because everyone would be able to spot them. Unfortunately it seems like a lot of later Terminator games have perpetuated the idea that all terminators look like Arnold. That and the first movie showed us another infiltrator that looked different!

Worst part is that they're all dressed exactly like he dresses in T2, which makes no sense here in the future unless there are tons of biker bars that survived the apocalypse (wouldn't be too surprising, actually).

Back outside for level 3, an intense chase that has you protecting John Connor Himself (in the truck) from attacking machines. This is a very tough stage because you're defending the truck from damage rather than just annihilating everything, and man, that truck takes damage way too fast.

Terminators are now in gold, and can somehow outrun the truck. Luckily, Connor has a buddy manning the gatling laser...AND IT'S GONE. Well, good thing Arnold is here and apparently can also run as fast as the truck. Unless I'm also in a truck.

In any terminators? WTF? That definitely isn't canon.

This is as far as I remember seeing anyone get in the arcade. I remember wanting a gold terminator action figure, but obviously they didn't exist.

The fourth level, which I never even saw as a kid much less reached, is the Skynet Main Base. Outside is an airfield brimming with Aerial HKs. Everything is appropriately metallic and smooth here.

Miniboss fight is this wall of doors, as we're introduced to the dastardly Silverfish. One of the machines that didn't make it from the screenplay to the film version of T2, the Silverfish are basically metal snakes that slither into groups of Resistance fighters and then detonate, sending shrapnel everywhere. It's pretty dark.

Another Ground HK awaits, and this time you fight it from the front as opposed to the side. That's pretty cool; they could have just reused the same boss from earlier. This one is a bit different, and instead of moving around and strafing, it...


Somehow get past that (and by somehow I mean...lots of quarters), and you're face-to-face with Skynet's CPU. It looks like a wall, which is...probably what it'd actually look like. I imagine it wouldn't stand out too much to any intruders.

Actually, I always had this idea that Skynet's CPU would be a much, much larger version of that blocky CPU that Miles Dyson had on his desk. Like the Resistance would walk into the CPU chamber and not even realize what it was at first because they'd be walking around on giant blocks.

As Skynet comes apart over the course of the battle, it goes from talking in a woman's voice to unintelligible baby-noises and incoherent babbling. It's unsettling.

Destroy it, and the way opens to the Time Displacement Device. In this chamber, our hero can send himself back to stop the T-1000.

Yeah, it isn't quite the way the movie went, but this is actually more or less what happened in the original screenplay of T2. The Resistance stormed Skynet's mainframe at Cheyenne Mountain, and after shutting down Skynet they found the time equipment and used it to send one of their reprogrammed terminators back. That whole section of the movie was abbreviated into the short future sequence we got, mainly due to the special effects budget. It's finally on film in the fanservice-fest that is Terminator Genisys.

"Destroy everything", heh. The next phase of the game is in 1995 (or whenever T2 takes place), and consists of three levels. None are as long as the four we've seen already, and the difficulty level dives a bit at this point too.

Cyberdyne Systems has digitized Sarah and John running around while you lay waste to... furniture and computers. Yeah. Well, it's a level.

Unfortunately it doesn't take long for our heroes get Swatted by some griefer on Playstation Network.

Things get weird in the cold storage lab, as an army of scientists attack our hero by hurling vials of yellow liquid. I don't even want to know.

Beyond that extreme weirdness, we encounter the real menace: The T-1000. The level ends as our heroes retreat.

True to form, the next level has you protecting a SWAT van with Sarah and John in it. The T-1000 really hates SWAT vans, and chases after in his big rig. The good news is that this is way easier than the truck stage earlier, as you don't have to worry about accidentally shooting your side.

Defeat the truck, and it's time for a battle with the T-1000. Since it regenerates, it doesn't have a life meter. The only way to win here is to freeze it. Shooting the liquid nitrogen tank will cause freezing nitrogen to pour out, and if you consistently land these on the T-1000, it will gradually freeze. It's an interesting fight.

The T-1000 doesn't mess around, and occasionally slams you with its hook-arms.

The final level puts you right into the steel factory. The T-1000 moves around the screen and shoots you while John just sorta hovers around. Where's Sarah? She held the T-1000 off pretty well in the movie.

Man, they did a great job with these animations. Most of them are taken right from the movie and digitized surprisingly well for 1992.

Victory is a matter of blasting him with rockets when he's in the middle of the platform. Well, that was cool.

Thus concludes T2: The Arcade Game. It's a lot of fun. They later made a similar (but arguably superior) light gun shooter for Terminator Salvation. Which I actually found in a real arcade, and beat:

Roll credits. These names bring back memories. I feel like I should be going over my basketball card collection and making sure the Dream Team is all accounted for.

Next I'm looking at a few of the non-arcade ports, starting with... the Game Boy version? What the?

Since Game Boy is the system I had at the time, it's amazing that I didn't buy this. I guess even then I knew it was too good to be true.

The first boss is the same, more or less. What's up with the tiny head?

I managed to destroy the turrets and the non-head, but then I couldn't figure out how to finish the damn thing off. I blasted the treads and the midsection and everything, but nothing seemed to do damage. It'd help if there were, ya know, some sort of sound effect indicating when you're doing damage in this version.

Eventually, the missiles being fired by the treads did me in. I could block them indefinitely, but I just got tired of not being able to find any weak point on the thing. With that, I'm the #5 Terminator.

A quick Google search tells me that, for the most part, this game follows the same structure as the arcade version. Same levels and everything, just everything is stripped way down. Oh, and there's no music in this version at all. It's a broke man's T2: The Arcade Game. Let's move onto a console version...

This is the Sega Genesis version. It has a cool intro with T-800 face closeups.

Hmm, this doesn't look right. At least the weird spotlights from the Game Boy version are gone, but the sky is waaaay too bright for this game. It's supposed to be dark, with red on the horizon.

The terminators look a little weird too. But wait! Nevermind all that, because the music is ROCKIN'.

Huuuge improvement over the dead silence of the Game Boy version, and I like it more than the Arcade music too. It's very Genesis-y with the instruments.

With that rockin' tune backing me up, I'm ready to shoot down some HKs! WE GOT SKYNET BY THE BALLS NOW!

The, sigh, gold terminators show up en-masse. This game plays just like the other versions, but the audio/visual differences make it very distinct.

The Ground HK now looks like Rob the Robot... if Rob the Robot LOST HIS MIND.

 I manage to blast off the top half entirely, which makes the middle damageable. Maybe that's what I needed to do in the Game Boy version instead of focusing on the treads/core and ignoring the remains of the top half after I took out the important components.

The between-level point-tally is faithful to the arcade, and brings back memories.

 The second level is where the graphics take a bit of a tumble. The human hideout looks really cartoony in this version.
One cool thing is that when you blast Arnolds...

 ...they start coming apart. Yikes.

Third stage has us bodyguarding John Connor again. The age is about right for 2029.

 Once again, the poor guy on the gatling gun doesn't last long, as...

 ...machines absolutely flood the screen. The main reason this level is so hard is that your attacks damage the truck, and the terminators like to hover right in front of it. Without a light gun, forget about doing precise attacks either.

 This is as far as I could get with this version. The truck kept blowing up and it'd start me at the beginning of the chase sequence.

Finally, let's check out the last console version to come out, the Super NES version.

::high-pitched screaming::

"TPF" was in first place until Jay Leno decided he wanted first place.

The color scheme is back to normal for this one. Looks really good.

I'd say this is the closest to the arcade version, easily. The human soldiers are just as big and in-the-way here. ...and just as inept, too. They don't even notice the terminators walking around behind them.

These digitized endos look much better than the Sega Genesis version.

Maybe it's just later and I'm bored with this, but this version seems to have a lot more enemies. This first level just goes on and on and on.

The gold terminators are basically trolling the player with the way they leap in and attack in these big groups. Man, I hate these things.

The deja-vu continues as I battle the Ground HK. The levels may seem longer in this version but the overall difficulty feels lower. I seem to be able to take a lot more damage. Makes sense that you have more HP because in the ports of this game you have lives instead of (theoretically unlimited) quarters.

Destroy the Ground HK and it unleashes a bunch of gold endos on you at the last second. "lol" they say.

The human hideout has a similar layout to the Genesis version, but you can see how different it is right from the first screen. Less cartoony, more real-world digitized.


The third stage is where things get rough.

Gold endo: "lol"

This is where I met my demise on this version too.

The SNES version is probably the winner here overall. It's pretty much the killer app for the Super Scope 6. This was a fun trip down memory lane, regardless.

So yeah, I'd say Arcade version if you can get it, SNES if you have to emulate. It's still possible to get the arcade version via Best Buy, in an actual cabinet and everything. Nearly got one myself until I realized the silliness of having an arcade game in an apartment, even THIS arcade game. Ah well. Maybe in another lifetime.

2023 Edit: Hold on! I've wondered for a long time how the hell the Game Boy version of this can even exist. I'm gonna take another stab at that version and see if I can get through it, Because... like, how? Why does it exist? HOW? And how did I not buy it in 1993 when I was obsessed with the arcade game and had a Game Boy? It's yet another thing I really lucked out by not buying back when I could only get like 3 games per year. Stay tuned.


  1. Whooa, it's been so long since I saw a 16-bit shooter that this is disorienting. But the more I read the more I liked it. I'm really grateful you played all 4 versions and that you did the highest-power, arcade one first and all the way through. I've played very little of arcade games so this was sweet.

    What an interesting game arc, too! Starting with the hardest levels and giving you easier ones after you've paid your way through. It also builds up Arnold as a total badass...if he had to get through all THAT just to get to Earth why would one T-1000 be something to fear? He must have liked the quiet.

    The graphics here are great for the time indeed. I'm even happier to hear about how good the play control is of course.

    Hey, while checking out arcade games, I'd be happy to see what you and Brayn think of those old good-looking Neo Geo fighters from this era. There was one in an ice skating rink I used to visit and I was curious about it.

    Coming back through this from the beginning I'm really impressed you eventually survived the truck stage in the arcade version.

    The Skynet sound effects you describe make me think of Giygas. Great touch.

    That liquid nitrogen fight is a good idea. Builds up the T-1000 as a huge badass too, and makes sure your fights with him don't get too repetitive.

    That last victory shot with the explosions in the background is so tight.

    I agree with you the SNES graphics, especially the sky, are way better than the Sega version. Man, it must have taken a lot of patience for them to code this game 4 different times, by the way.

    1. Neo-Geo is pretty much an unknown for me, unfortunately.

      The truck stage is much easier in the Arcade version now because you can use a mouse as opposed to a controller for the others. Back in the day you really needed some kind of light gun for this, and I imagine without a Super Scope it wasn't very beatable on the SNES.

      Skynet IS somewhat Giygas-like in this. The incoherent babbling as it takes damage is even more unsettling here because it's voiced.

      All four of these weren't made by the same people. I believe Midway did the Arcade version while LJN did the Game Boy and SNES versions. Genesis version was Acclaim. It's weird because one of the two LJN versions is so much better than the other.

    2. To be fair, there's a good reason the GB version was so much worse than the SNES version: The GB's hardware is way worse than the SNES's, and a lack of space. I doubt they had room to do much. I'm actually not surprised they didn't have music (although I thought there were bigger GB games with music. Oh well.)

      Though I'm still a little confused. I thought almost everything LJN made was crap. Huh.

  2. What does Hunter-Killer mean anyway? They kill hunters? They're hunters as well as killers?

    In this case they're all Arnolds because they have the rare Schwarzenegger license and they're gonna use it, by gum!

    What's the "TERMINATOR: ONE" in the corner mean? Oh, I see it on the SNES version, one and two player.

    If Cyberdyne's work continues in the arcade game, I wonder if the Good Arnold never kills himself.

  3. The Angry InternetJuly 14, 2015 at 10:49 PM

    Here's a bit of pedantic trivia: the arcade version doesn't technically use "light guns"—moving the gun moves potentiometers in the base that are used to determine the position of the on-screen cursor. In other words, it's all mechanical, with no optics involved. I think all fixed-gun arcade shooters (Alien 3: The Gun is another one I recall) worked like that. The Terminator Salvation arcade game that came out a few years back was available in both light-gun and fixed-gun models.

    1. Wow, that's pretty interesting, thanks for the comment.

      The Salvation arcade game is a really good upgrade to T2: The Arcade Game. I got about two-thirds of the way through it with two friends before we ran out of quarters (had roughly $15 of them to start). The second light gun on the machine didn't work, so we had to trade off on using the first. If the second had worked, I'm almost certain we would have beaten the game.

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