Sunday, November 3, 2019

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Game Boy, 1991)

This is a particularly special game for me, as it was very nearly the first video game I ever bought. Unfortunately (yet very fortunately) the store didn't have it, so I had to "settle" for Kirby's Dream Land instead. Thank goodness. With the new movie out, it was time for me to finally play this game. Let's find out how history might have been different if this game had reached me before Kirby's Dream Land had a chance to intervene. Would it have stopped me from ever getting into video games with its sheer badness? Would Corona Jumper cease to exist? Let's find out.


It's good to see Sarah Connor again, as she explains what's going on. Is she explaining this in 2029, where the game begins? It looks like she's explaining it in the early 90's. That's confusing.

Long story short, John Connor is attacking the Skynet Mainframe, and he's doing it by himself for some reason. This game predicted Terminator Salvation!

Also like that movie, the Future War here is all grey and brightly-lit rather than the dark, blueish version from the early movies. This is because it's on Game Boy, but whatever. The cool thing about this game is that the first half of it takes place in the future. Only the second half takes place during the time of the movie.

This is an infamous stage where you have to destroy radio towers in order of height before you can proceed with the game. On the surface, the game isn't bad. The controls are okay, the gameplay is fine, and the life meter is generous. The problem is that the developers couldn't get out of their own way: The radio tower puzzle is a bit of a chore, and your life meter doesn't get restored between levels. Oh, and you have one life.

HK Aerials and Terminator endoskeletons attack on the future war battlefield. Honestly, I probably would have liked playing this as a kid. I might not have gotten much further than the first two levels, but I think I would have enjoyed the hell out of those two levels.

There's a random glowy thing on one of the radio towers, and if you jump up and hit it, Sarah tells you how to get past this level. Chances are the average player will waste quite a bit of time before this, and if you already destroyed some towers out of order you have to reset the game anyway.

Get past the radio tower battlefield and it's onward to the boss, a Ground-HK. These things were so badass in the first two movies, and it's bizarre that we've never really seen them since. Supposedly Salvation has a proto version of one during the first major war scene, but you can only see it onscreen for about two seconds and it doesn't move so it's hard to tell if it's a turret or an actual HK.

Staying ducked during this fight means none of its shots can hit you, though you still need to watch out for bombs dropped by Aerials. Jumping up to fire at the boss' head about 30 times is the only way to win, and it's crucial to avoid losing much health here so that you have enough for the second stage. The shared life meter only extends through that stage, to my knowledge. Weird.

The next stage is inside Skynet itself! This should be exciting. I'd be flipping out if I were playing this in 1993 when I originally wanted to.

This place is full of endoskeletons and monitors. Nice attention to detail that some of them show mountains on them, considering that Skynet's mainframe is inside of the Colorado rockies. That's like "they read the screenplay" attention to detail, because very few future details got into the movie.

The music here in Level 2 is pretty good. The music is probably the strongest part of this game.

 There are four minibosses in here that are called Centurions by the instruction manual. These don't look at all like Centurions though. Those have four spider-legs and are pretty large. These things have treads and look more like miniature Ground-HKs. They're most comparable to the T-1's from Terminator 3. In any case, they're all pretty easy to beat. Most of the fighting in this game is on the easy side; the difficulty comes from the way the game is set up. Things like sharing a life meter between multiple stages, having no extra lives, etc.

 This part is just weird. You have to jump over a trio of land mines at the end of the level. The ceiling is too low to actually jump over them, though. It's impossible. I might just be missing something here, because it seems like the height (hyuck) of poor game design to put in something that's impossible to jump over. Better have enough health left when you get here to survive running through them. On the bright side, this is the last thing you have to do with the shared life meter of the first two levels.

 Stage 3 is a puzzle where you have to re-wire the T-800 Model 101's circuits and send it back in time. This is a cool idea and even the execution of it is fun, though they ruined it by only giving you two chances to get it done before going back to the beginning of the game again.

 The first of three timed puzzles is pretty much a gimme. You rotate the loose circuits to line them up with the circuits around them so the current can go from the lower left to the upper right. It's the kind of puzzle you find all over Bioshock, except that game didn't erase your saves when you failed one.

 There we go, all set. It lulls you into a false sense of security, like the not-so-hot sauces on Hot Ones.

 The second puzzle is notably more chaotic. The key is to just focus on fixing broken circuits and ignoring the rest. The third plug on the top row is already lined up correctly and can be ignored, meaning you only need to fix three circuits. Still, it's easy to fail this one. Especially considering that the only circuits that you can even use are the 1st, 5th, 6th, and 7th (as those are the ones that get electric charges once the timer runs out), something it gives you no clue on.

 At least the game is swell enough to give you a second chance here, unlike the first two levels.

 Fail again though, and it's BACK TO THE BEGINNING. That was the only reprogrammable terminator in existence I guess.

 The third puzzle is even worse. At least there are only four circuits to work with here which eliminates the confusion of puzzle 2 having seven circuits with only four of them working (the hell was that about). The dots can't be occupied by circuit, which prevents you from rotating a lot of the loose circuits the way you want to.


 After many, many tries (with save states to prevent massive time-wasting) I finally got all four circuits connected with basically no time left on the clock. There was no easy way to do this. If this had been my first game back in 1993, I have no doubt I would have found a way around this. Chances are I would have finished the game the same way I finished Kirby's Dream Land, and it probably wouldn't have had much adverse effect on me continuing to play games. That's my conclusion.

I would have probably spent many man-hours figuring out a way around this damn puzzle, though. I likely would have started by finding a way to copy the image (maybe with a photograph, which back then you had to go get developed). Then I would have copied it onto graph paper or something and set about figuring out what to do from there. I still would have had to actually execute the process within the strict time limit once I figured out what to do. In 1993, I totally would have gone through all of that trouble, and it seems so unnecessary just to continue the game. I wonder how many kids had their T2 run dashed by this puzzle.

 Onward to stage 4, which is a shooter. They could have just jumped to this from the Skynet base and saved players a lot of grief. And again, the puzzles were actually fun for me when I had unlimited tries, so taking them out isn't even the best choice. This game could have been fine as it is if they hadn't tried to make it all punitive with lives.

 The next stage is all glitched up with anti-piracy code, so that's it for my T2 on Game Boy run. I feel like I'm not missing anything by not beating this game.

I do want to see what else they did with it, though. TO YOUTUBE!

The non-glitched version of stage 4. New character since you're in the past now, new life meter, and what looks like a pretty fun shootout with the T-1000's truck. This is probably the most fun stage. It's also over in like one minute.

 Stage 5 is Cyberdyne, which for some reason is full of falling spikes and gun turrets. Looks pretty much exactly like the Skynet interior stage, except without terminators.

 Finally, stage 6 has the player blasting the T-1000 around the factory. Another easy level, from the looks of it.

 Eventually it gets knocked into the molten steel, and that's it.

This game isn't terrible, but it REALLY needed some thought put into making it more playable. The whole thing can be finished in 20 minutes for a pro. The circuit puzzle halfway through the game needed to either have unlimited tries or be axed entirely, as the difficulty of the third puzzle dwarfs everything else in the game.

Now for a quick look at another game I was desperate to get in 1993, and was probably better off without.

.....OH BOY.

This half-skull image was on the box art of a lot of T2 games back then. It brings back a ton of nostalgia.

This shitty game? OK, OK, I'm being unfair. not the T2: The Arcade Game of the arcades. However, it isn't awful either. The controls work well (though aiming with a D-Pad instead of an actual light gun really takes the wind out of its sails), the difficulty is fair, and it looks pretty good for a Game Boy game from 1991.

It functions just like the other versions of the game, with similar animations like terminators comically flying backwards when blasted.

It even has the resistance guys who you're not supposed to shoot. They really get in the way. This brings back memories of playing the game in the arcade and being completely overwhelmed with all of the noise and chaos.

HKs swoop in to fire missiles, something you never actually see in T2. Now, Terminator 3 over a decade later had missile-launching HKs. Maybe they got the idea from this.

The first boss is a Ground HK in this too. Much better look at it than the weird side-view in the other game. This is a blistering fight where you have to blast the gun turrets, then the head, then the torso, then the lower tracks in order. It helps to spam your missiles at this point (after saving them up to now, the player should have a ton)

Finally it's down to just the treads, which still launch missiles at you. What a dastardly opponent. I'm down for fighting a Ground-HK boss in any game that has one.

And here's the reason T2: The Arcade Game doesn't get its own post. Unfortunately, it wasn't playable past level 1, as level 2 completely glitches up on emulator. It's okay though, I probably wasn't missing much by not playing the rest. TO YOUTUBE:

 This follows the same beats as the arcade, except it's missing the legendary Truck Defense stage. Stage 2 has you in a resistance base fighting terminators that look almost just like the resistance fighters you're not supposed to shoot. The Game Boy screen does this game no favors.

 The coolest moment of the game is probably fighting this HK at the gates of Skynet. They could have just reused the one from the first level, but instead they made a completely new sprite that looks much better.

 Skynet itself is...a door. This version is missing all of the creepy noises it makes in the arcade version.

After that, you go to The Past and straight to Cyberdyne to shoot SWAT teams and the T-1000's helicopter. Surprised that the arcade version jumped this far ahead in the movie as well. The canal chase scene seems like a perfect thing for this kind of game.

 Last stage has you shooting a nitrogen tank to freeze the T-1000. Once the temperature meter bottoms out, the T-1000 gets shattered. However, the meter is constantly regenerating rapidly, so you have to pummel him with nitrogen. The idea of a boss without much HP that rapidly regens, forcing you to stay on the offense, is an interesting idea.

Finally you knock the T-1000 off a platform, as is tradition. This game looks pretty bad, but in an era where I couldn't play T2: The Arcade Game on the Super NES, I might have liked it a lot. I can't say either of these games would have ended my game-playing career before it got started, as it turns out.

Before we sign off today, VERY QUICK DARK FATE THOUGHTS:

It was pretty good. Too bad it doesn't do anything new with the series, and too bad it was snakebit with the fanbase and is sure to tank. I give it an 8 out of 10. Probably not going to be writing any essays in its defense like I did with Salvation, but it was a fun watch.

1 comment:

  1. That music is pretty good.

    Given how unfair that hacking part is, I doubt very many people finished this game at all back then.