Genre: Fighting Developer: Mirage Technologies Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
Rise of the Robotsis a famous game -or rather, it’s infamous, as it’s commonly known as “one of the worst video games ever.” At the time of release however, this 2D fighting game with robots as characters got a mixed reception. Maybe some reviewers didn’t dare to burn down the game due to the huge advertising campaign for it in their magazines. Maybe some reviewers were baffled by the “amazing graphics,” as is often heard in relation to ROTR. (the graphics that aren’t that stunning at all, but more about that later). Furthermore, at the time many reviewers complained that they didn’t receive a review copy of the game before it went on sale, thus preventing them from warning consumers about the product in time.
For a release with such a bad reputation, I found it surprisingly hard to find an original (European) Mega Drive copy. I don’t know about the United States, but in Europe there’re many Super Nintendo copies of the game around, but acquiring one for the Mega Drive requires a little more effort. But now that I finally got a copy of ROTR, I’ll first tell you what I think is good about it. Then, we’ll see what’s bad. Finally, we’ll weight the good and the bad to decide if Rise of the Robots really is “one of the worst video games of all time.”
Rise of the Robots has a few aspects I find attractive. First and foremost, I like the setting and the atmosphere of the game, despite the boring backgrounds. The original edition on CD-ROM should have featured a soundtrack by Queen’s guitarist Brian May, but due to delays only the intro of his music was used. There isn’t much left on that on the Genesis edition. Instead, this version has some light techno tracks that are by no means great, but they’re appropriate for the game’s futuristic setting and really help to created a sci-fi atmosphere. Besides the created atmosphere, I also like the initial idea. It could be really cool to fight with advanced robots in a futuristic technological setting.
And that’s about it for the good points. I really can’t think of anything else you could compliment, because everything else is pretty horrible. The visuals, which some people claim are the most significant part of the game, are mediocre at best. Rise of the Robots looked quite impressive on CD-ROM, but the Sega Genesis has a hard time recreating those graphics. It really tries to render the graphics as high and sharply as possible, but it’s just not convincing. The futuristic setting the game reminded me a bit of VectorMan, only with much larger and much more pixilated characters. However, ROTR is nowhere near as good looking as Mortal Kombat II, a game that really has large and impressive high-rendered characters. Most of the robots are pretty huge, but the large amount of pixels and the lack of animation just don’t bring them to life. All the characters have high, medium and low punches and kicks, but they all have just two real attack animations, which makes it often unclear which move is performed.
The shortage of animation really effects the gameplay in a negative manner, making the control feel sloppy. You can use every button (the six-button controller is supported), but all the moves seem alike. For the player it feels like it doesn’t matter which button he’s using. Furthermore, it’s never clear how much damage an attack does, either from the player or from the computer. A hit can take almost half of either robot’s energy bar, but another hit that looks exactly alike often does very little damage. Together with the fact you can’t really jump over your enemy, it makes the game really frustrating. It’s only because the computer has such a horrible AI that the frustration doesn’t get the best of you.
Then there are some aspects that really set Rise of the Robots apart in the worst game category. In the single-player mode alone there are several. For example, there are no continues, and it’s only possible to play with the main character – a blue cyborg aptly named Cyborg. That’s right, you can’t play the game with any other character! Cyborg is apparently so beloved that even in the two-player mode one of the players always has to be this character. Only the other player can select one of the other five characters for use. All robots are relatively slow and most fights just end up in random button bashing mania. Another thing that annoys me is the fact that you cannot skip certain screens. Every time you start the game you have to face six different title/credit screens and before each fight an ‘analyzing opponent’ screen is shown – none of which are skippable, so they really test your patience.
Overall, besides the initial idea and the setting, everything about Rise of the Robots is and feels defective. The graphics are mediocre at best, the control is bad, the shortage of options is baffling, and there are all kind of other annoying flaws that each make this game a total nuisance. All those flaws together however, truly make Rise of the Robots “one of the worst video games ever.”