It’s the 30th anniversary of Paul Verhoeven’s film RoboCop, which continues to be one of the best science fiction films out of the 80’s. The movie, which focuses on a police officer who gets rebuilt into the cybernetic crime fighter and attempts to settle the score against the gang that killed him, became a cult classic over the years – and also stemmed a number of video game releases as a result.
Unfortunately, most of these games were pretty lukewarm, at best. The NES version of RoboCop failed to capture the magic of the arcade original, and the following sequels were uninspired and also way too difficult for their own good. Titus Software had the opportunity to bring him back with the 2003 Xbox release RoboCop, but it too faltered, mainly due to lackluster gameplay and a terrible presentation that couldn’t live up to the film.
But, believe it or not, there were some good video games featuring the hero – three, in fact. So let’s take a look at the triumphs of RoboCop as we attempt to “stay out of trouble”.
Data East created quite an arcade following in the 80’s, with games like Burgertime, Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja and Heavy Barrel. But it really took off with the release of the RoboCop arcade game, which features many elements from the film, including the ED-209 and surroundings such as the chemical factory and the corporate headquarters. It did throw in some great new weapons, though, including a tri-cannon that can hit more than one enemy at a time (even if ammunition was limited).
The arcade game was pretty much perfect, thanks to wonderfully captured voice samples (“Thank you for your cooperation”) and sharp gameplay – which, sadly, did not measure up in the NES version of the game. Regardless, this game remains just as beloved as the movie it was based on – and it left us mind-boggled that Data East didn’t consider a version for the SNES or Sega Genesis. (Or include it in the Wii package Data East Arcade Classics, for that matter.)
An arcade sequel followed, but took a different, Final Fight style approach. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t nearly as memorable as the original arcade game that preceded it. It also didn’t get wide distribution, so that didn’t work in its favor.
Just a few years after the release of the RoboCop arcade game, Virgin Games had the ingenious idea of pitting the futuristic hero against the ultimate villain – the Terminator. Well, in this case, several Terminators, as RoboCop finds himself pitted against pretty much an army within SkyNet, as well as his own enemies. While this game was released for several platforms, including the SNES and the Game Boy, the Sega Genesis version shines best, for two reasons.
Number one, its gameplay is perfect, channeling the RoboCop arcade game before it, as you lay waste to enemies and pick up some sweet new weapons, including a grenade launcher with tracking bullets.
And number two, it’s bloody. It’s incredibly packed with carnage. But that goes with the theme of the Terminator, so it works very well here. The other versions are all right, but there’s something about the Genesis version that just feels dialed in. If you have to go with any edition of the game, it’s this one.
Data East didn’t just capitalize on a stand-up arcade game featuring RoboCop. It also doubled down and produced a pinball machine as well, at a time when its pinball division was just getting started. And it did pretty well, despite a number of other tables being popular at the time.
Featuring a wonderfully designed playfield featuring elements from the hit film, RoboCop was a lot of fun to play, and its backglass looks pretty cool as well, capturing the cybernetic hero in all his glory.
The table got a good amount of distribution, so there’s a pretty good chance you can catch it at a local arcade, or during a pinball/arcade expo. It’s definitely something that signifies that Data East knew what it was doing with the license…which makes us sad that more wasn’t done with it.
Happy anniversary to RoboCop! Now…how about a new game…?