With the release of Terminator Salvation, gamers are again going to be treated to a beloved franchise. John Connor (played by the ultra-intense Christian Bale), is set to take up his leadership role in the resistance movement against machines. Though it remains to be seen whether the movie can live up to the lofty standards set by Terminator 2, one thing is for sure, it’s time to break out the Genesis and Sega CD and play some licensed games! The 16-bit wonder was home to five games dedicated to the Terminator franchise, and while not all were classics, there definitely are a couple of gems in the bunch. So get ready to kick some robot ass and help ensure that John Connor fulfills his destiny in saving mankind from the evil Skynet!
(Virgin Interactive, 1992): Though not the first Terminator video game in existence, Virgin Interactive’s The Terminator was a giant step forward in quality for the series. Essentially a run-‘n-gun, the title followed the original movie’s storyline very closely. As Kyle Reese, John Connor’s father, it’s up to you to travel back in time, and protect Sarah Connor so that she will in turn give birth to John Connor, the future Skynet resistance leader. Sound confusing? It all makes sense if you’ve followed the series. And even if you haven’t, the game is still just good old fun.
The Terminator was released by one of best development houses of the time, yet stopped short of being a full-fledged classic. The controls were just a bit unpolished, the sound was limited by the Genesis audio limitations, and the game was quite short. Otherwise, the game was solid. Running around shooting enemies with machine guns, shotguns, and bombs is always fun, and the game’s visuals were quite good for its time. It’s worth mentioning that Virgin Interactive went with a great art direction that has allowed the game to age gracefully. While certainly a solid selection, gamers looking for their Terminator fix should instead look to the Sega CD port/revamp.
The Terminator (Sega CD)
(Virgin Games, 1994): Where the Genesis original faltered, the Sega CD version triumphed. This is the classic that gamers need to play. The game’s story is essentially the same: As Kyle Reese it is your job to ensure the future. The big difference here is in how the game is presented. Along with several brand new levels, cut scenes are added to flesh out the narrative. These are fairly standard “grainy” Sega CD FMV scenes, but the added element is still a welcomed one.
Another improvement has been made to the gameplay, which is far superior in this version. While the Genesis game felt a bit rushed and not fully thought out, this version feels just as it should. Kyle jumps and shoots just as you’d expect, and everything finally has this “David Perry” smooth feel. Like Aladdin and Earthworm Jim, the game just feels perfect. Best of all, though, is the soundtrack. If there’s ever been a reason to tout the abilities of a CD-based console, this is it. The legendary Tommy Tallarico composed the score, and it’s just awesome. The Terminator theme sounds gorgeous, and full new compositions are included that perfectly suit the intended atmosphere. I can’t recommend this game enough. Every Sega CD owner owes it to him or herself to seek out this game and added it to their library.
T2: The Arcade Game
(Arena, 1992): Did you like Terminator for the Genesis? Well here’s something completely different! Terminator 2: The Arcade Game isn’t a run-‘n-gun, but rather a light gun game. Hey, at least it still has shooting, right? The game loosely follows the movie’s storyline, with you taking on the role of the T-800 in his (its?) quest to save John and Sarah Connor from the T-1000. The basic premise is there, but it’s worth mentioning that the game doesn’t stick religiously to the events of the movie. In fact, the first level in the game is dedicated to the T-800’s back-story, which is pretty cool considering Arnold Schwarzenegger reprised his movie role and lent his voice to the game.
Terminator 2: The Arcade Game can be a fun afternoon waster provided you own Sega’s Menacer light gun. If you don’t, just forget it. I attempted to play this game without the accessory, and while I was able to get through a single level, things soon became impossible. Moving the gun cursor across the screen using a D-pad is both slow and inaccurate. If you do own the Menacer, things become a little more bearable. The game is difficult, requiring a steady hand and precision aim. Challenge can be a good thing though, and it certainly helps extend the game’s replay value. The visuals are satisfactory, with a different art approach than the Virgin games. The visuals are outshined by their arcade and SNES counterparts, but that’s to be expected. The sound, while not close to touching the quality of Tommy Tallarico’s score, is actually pretty good. Overall, the game is worth a look for the fact that you get to blast away sinister robots while hearing funny sound bites alone.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
(Flying Edge, 1993): Developed by Probe Software, Terminator 2: Judgment Day represents another style change for the series. Though the game does include side-scrolling shooting, like The Terminator, its focus is much more on exploration than straight up action. Like T2: The Arcade Game, Judgment Day follows the storyline of the second Terminator movie. Unlike T2, though, the game pretty much stays strictly to its source material. As the T-800, you’ll revisit multiple scenarios from the movie. While this all sounds great, the game is ultimately a bit of a disappointment. To me, the game feels more like a generic action game for the Genesis than a quality licensed game like the Virgin titles.
As the T-800, you’ll punch, kick, and shoot your way through a number of locations ripped directly from the cinema. Instead of just managing to go right and get to the end of the stage though, you’ll be required to retrieve boxes that allow for each level to be finished. This wouldn’t be so bad had your character been given a faster walking speed. Arnold is SLOOOOOW in this game. You’ll walk slowly, shoot some stuff, and walk some more. Some variety is added into the game through the use of driving stages, and these are fairly satisfying. Had they not been included, things would’ve gotten monotonous early. Most disappointing about this game is the visuals. Again, the art direction has changed. While both The Terminator and T2: The Arcade Game’s visuals have sustained their vibrancy over their years (well, mostly), Judgment Day just looks lifeless. Add the fact that you walk around super slow, and you’ll understand why it’s so easy to quickly lose interest in the game’s locations.
RoboCop vs. Terminator
(Virgin Games, 1994): Like a fanboy’s dream come true, Robocop Versus Terminator pits the two robotic characters against each other. Kind of. Set in the future in which John Connor’s resistance is fighting Skynet, a lieutenant travels back in time to prevent shenanigans from taking place. Along the way, you meet up with RoboCop, who puts himself back together in the future and helps the resistance. The story doesn’t really matter, we’re here for one reason: kicking robot ass with Robocop.
Robocop Versus Terminator plays more like The Terminator than all other games discussed. As Robocop, you’ll shoot you’re way through multiple locations. The game doesn’t play as smoothly as The Terminator on Sega CD, but it comes close. There’s also an added level of gore, which will make any Mortal Kombat fan happy. Watching a human explode, guts flying everywhere, is somehow satisfying. This is what video games were made for. Unfortunately, not everything is so fantastic. The game can be incredibly difficult, and the controls aren’t the best. Still, if you put in the time and effort (or the cheat codes!) the later levels are great fun. All said, Robocop Vs. Terminator is a fun follow up to The Terminator. Unfortunately, you don’t get to play as the T-800. But all the violence and gore will make you forget what should have been include.
It’s obvious that The Terminator for the Sega CD is the best game of the bunch. Not only is it a fine representation of the Terminator franchise, but it also goes far in proving the potential of the Sega CD. It’s a superior version of a solid game with added FMV and a masterpiece soundtrack. It plays well and presents great visuals and challenge. Had more games like this been released for the Sega add-on, instead of uninspired FMV games, the fate of the console may have been different. Regardless of the history of the console it resides on, The Terminator is a gem worth owning. As for the other games, T2: The Arcade Game is worth owning if you have a Menacer (all four of you out there), and Robocop Vs. Terminator is pure ridiculous fun. So on your way to seeing Terminator Salvation, maybe stop by your local retro games shop and see what they have lying around!