Monday, November 14, 2016

The Terminator (Sega CD, 1993)

Given how great the first two movies were, it's weird that so few Terminator games have been any good. The Terminator for the ill-fated Sega CD has the distinction of being a rare good Terminator game. It also has quite the soundtrack, and fans of game soundtracks would do well to track this one down.

This game is surprisingly tough, to say the least. There are no continues, so if you run out of lives you start at the beginning. That said, I'm going to get to the end. I'll show you what this game is all about, the way only I can, while completely nerding out with useless Terminator fun facts. Get ready.

SEGA! Unlike those losers over at Ninnytendo, their games don't feature slow-mo monkeys and slow-mo plumbers. Look at all the 'tude on Sonic! Sega does what Ninten don't!

...alright, I admit it. I was always a Nintendo guy.

Kyle Reese stumbles through a desolate future that refuses to change. A future where Bill Clinton was the last president because the world ended in 1997. Unless we're going by Terminator 3 saying the end got delayed until 2003, or the increasingly-convoluted timeline presented by the series where it was 2011, or the Genisys timeline where it's 2017, or...

T-800s are all over the place, but they die so fast to my plasma shots that they're probably the mythical T-700s or something. I say mythical, because while various movie novelizations mention them and even show them in action, the movies have yet to concretely say anything is a T-700. I'm interested because it's the missing link between the big, bulky, dumb 600 and the sleek, badass 800. Supposedly they're a lot weaker than 800's and easier to put down, but look very similar. Apparently they're in Salvation (most notably in the final area), but the editors took out any mention of them so they're lumped in with 600 and 800s by dubbed-over Christian Bale calling them by other names. The editors didn't want too many models appearing and confusing audiences. Whatever.

Another missing link is the 900 series. The T-X should have just been called T-900, because that's pretty much what she was. An 800/1000 hybrid thing. She was totally a step down from the T1000 anyway, one of the reasons T3 sucked.

T-400s and T-500s have been seen only in novelizations and games. They're both humanoid but not skeletal yet. The 400 is kind of blocky and the 500 is a bit more streamlined. No idea about the T-200 or T-300, as they literally don't exist in any medium at all. Maybe they were too primitive for field use or something. I find these things interesting, because rapid evolution in general is interesting. And that's what's up with the T's.

And finally, there's a T-100 (known in the third movie as a T-1), the predecessor to both terminators and HK tanks. They're really nasty in this game because contact with them equals instant death.

Stage 2 consists of more ruins. I wonder how heavy those guns are that the machines dual-wield so easily. In this game, Kyle is all alone...basically the one resistance soldier. Weird. Luckily, he's like superman and can take plasma blasts to the head. Hey, nobody said this game was canon.

I think that's a Centurion, or at least a Centurion prototype since it's so small. That'd be another mythical machine that James Cameron created but never implemented in the flash-forwards due to costs. It'd cost way more to make a giant, skittering spider mech than it did to make tank models, and might not have even been possible with special effects in 1991. The good news is that the HK Centurion finally appears onscreen in Terminator Genisys.

HK: "Sup"
This mini-boss is actually pretty tough. You basically have to get on this hill and LOB PIPE BOMBS really fast.

And here's the boss, the HK-tank. It's missing from Salvation, to the rage of many nerds. Except it isn't totally, because you can see two slightly primitive versions of them rolling along in the distance of the charred hellscape in the beginning battle scene of the movie. Dunno why they weren't featured more than that, because they're pretty cool looking and debatably even iconic.

As for this game, it isn't a tough fight, just another matter of LOBBIN' BOMBS.

Stage 3 is a terminator factory. Pretty unsettling scenery.

Here's the boss, some kind of gun-pod. I dispatch it pretty easily by LOBBIN' BOMBS.

Stage 4 is the same place, only now it leads to the Time Displacement Chamber. Kyle busts on in by himself. Note: This isn't quite how the original story went, 'yo. In any case, after watching The Terminator warp through, I have to contend with another terminator.

This terminator is a formidable opponent, and teleports around the room. WTF? Lobbin' bombs is USELESS.

After winning the fight, the time displacement device magically turns on and Kyle heads on through.

This should be like a vacation...but it's not. He's got a job to do, and that's protect Sarah Connor. If he weren't such a noble soldier, he'd just let the world end in 1997 again. He could totally spend the next thirteen years partying, doing coke, and makin' it with lots of babes while "Push it to the Limit" played.

Or as I know it, "January".

Kyle appears in 1984. I thought it'd be cool if I had to fight the homeless guy to get his pants, but no dice. He could have been a boss! He could do belly-flops around the screen while the digitized music goes "He Took Mah Pants!" over and over.

Yanno, Kyle never changed his pants in the movie. I've seen the movie in 4K, and you can clearly see that the pants have lots of stains on the back. I guess naive young Sarah wasn't put off by filthy pants. Come to think of it, that's probably the biggest hole in the story: the holes in Kyle's tattered, stinky pants.

1984 is FULL of punks. Because this is a video game with linear progression, they're somehow more dangerous than the terminators in the first few levels.

The boss here is a brutal fight with a police helicopter, which I win by - you guessed it - LOBBIN' BOMBS. It was tougher than that HK earlier. Screw this, I'm going back to the future.

...but 1984 is so easy on the eyes.

Kyle hits The Club. This music is some kind of crazy Terminator Techno Remix, and Kyle gets drunken and crazy in a scene right out of Black Swan. ...well, not quite. He's got a job to do, so there will be no fun for our hero.

Besides, Kyle can't hear the music over the sound of his own being awesome.

The police station is the next stage, starting with the creepy basement. At this point in the game, The Terminator starts making appearances to hound you. He can't be killed (or bargained with or reasoned with) at this point, either.

The music here sounds very... not-Terminator. It sounds like it was supposed to be for a Top Gun game or something, especially with the plane whooshes. Regardless, the music in this game is still shockingly good.

Our hero must battle the terminator momentarily here. This is actually the second time he shows up, as he's also the end-boss of Tech Noir. I was just too busy trying not to die to get a shot then. Like I said before, he's indestructible and menacing.

Kyle finds Sarah and they get the hell out of there. It isn't easy, because The Terminator seems to be around every other corner.

After that stage, the game jumps forward quite a bit in the movie timeline, skipping over the sex scene (Dammit! Shoulda been a minigame!) and the highway chase.


These cutscenes aren't half bad considering how long ago this game came out. They're like grainy proto-youtube videos.

Our hero gets the final weapon powerup (sort of), which turns his shotgun shots into FIREBALLS. The final two stages are inside the Cyberdyne factory...which is vastly more heavily-guarded than that Skynet factory I went through in the future. And therein lies the inherent problem with Terminator games back in the day... they'd have to go back in time at some point early on, and it was impossible to realistically have the game still increase in difficulty after that without taking massive liberties. This game managed to have nearly the first half of the game transpire in the future, which was a start. There's a reason why the few good Terminator games are the ones that take place entirely in the future. Well...there are lots of reasons. The War is more suited for a game, for sure.

Miniboss... some kind of weird loading robot. It falls quickly, like most of the bosses in the game. On the bright side, my regular attacks are now strong enough that there is no longer a need for LOBBIN' BOMBS.

Cutscene... this is no doubt not a foreign scene at all to Kyle, who has probably slain a few of these things in his time. But with these weapons, he can't stop even one terminator.


Our heroes retreat further into the dead end. No jokes here, because it's a sad tale.

Kyle wails on the terminator with a pipe...

...but it recovers and overpowers him. This melee-whacking scene made a big impression on me the first time I saw it. On one hand, there's little point in such a futile attempt to fight back with no chance of winning. On the other hand, it's a very Living Thing thing to do.

But wait! The game still isn't over, as it continues taking huge liberties with the story. Kyle suddenly gets the true last weapon powerup (a charge shot, the only attack that damages the bad guy) and LETS LOOSE on the terminator. It's a tough "fight", because coming into contact with it means instant death, and you're on a conveyor belt pulling you towards it at all times. Luckily your shots push the terminator back, but you have to charge them, so... yeah, it's tricky.

After defeating the terminator, his lower half falls apart and his upper half claws away while Kyle stands there. Yeah, Kyle lives apparently. HOORAY! But wait, get ready for more non-canon weirdness...

Sarah is all like "hlep". WHILE KYLE STANDS BACK THERE! HELP HER OUT! This would make far more sense if Kyle got killed by it before it chased Sarah, as in the original story... but I guess they couldn't show that in the game. Rated PG.

Sarah has the wherewithal to crush the terminator in a pressing machine for the one two three. What happened to Kyle? Dunno, he's still standing back there somewhere. I guess in THIS timeline they kept makin' mad whoopie until she left him for a less scarred-up man.

There's a storm coming.

Well, that was interesting. It's about a 45 minute long game, but due to the lack of continues I had to play through it three times to get all of these shots. That last stage was a doozy, and ended me the first two times. Not being able to continue right from that last stage was frustrating, but it's all good.

The music is excellent and undoubtedly the strongest aspect of the game, but a lot of it doesn't seem to fit the game too well. It seems less like "terminator music" for the most part and more like "really good Sega CD game music".

In any case, I liked this game, and it's a real classic. Check it out, if you're into early 90's action games and this series.


  1. The fact that man can make music like that is the reason why Skynet is never going to become a reality.

    1. Thing is, we can do both. From what I understand Russia, home of some pretty great music, actually has a huge portion of their nukes under computer control as we speak, with triggers in place for the computer to take over operation of them entirely and "retaliate" if necessary.

      The U.S. has also played with various computer controls to run military counterattacks in the event of everyone being dead. I believe that all of these things need to at least be "flipped on" by human hands, at least. Perhaps thanks in no small part to the Terminator movies, the military is extremely reluctant to ever take humans out of the loop entirely.

  2. I just came from GameFAQs while listening to "Taking To The Air". Damn that's one of the best things I've ever heard. I first heard it on a Angry Video Game Nerd episode and later this particular track was linked to me by a friend.

  3. This was quite a cool journey. I guess it would make sense for the latter stages to be more dangerous since Kyle didn't get to bring his strongest armor and weapons with him to the past...yeah you're right it's still just bowing to game mechanics.

    This SEGA screen does the choir chant SEE-GAA, right?

    Clinton being our last president...would not have been so bad.

    The description of all the terminator models is the jewel of this mail. Great stuff. This game used a satisfying amount of the original designs.

    Sounds like they did a great job recreating the terminator chasing you everywhere.

    These cutscenes are basically animated GIFs right? Ah-ha, proto-modern technology!

    Man, Kyle getting killed after all the work you did with him would have been such a depressing way to end it. I'm sure it'd happen if the game were made today, though.