Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#108 – RoboCop

Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!

I don’t usually see a “subtitle” before the title like this.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 12/9/18 – 12/14-18
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Video: RoboCop Longplay

Usually when I play a game based on a movie, I always end up saying something about how I never saw the movie because my childhood was deprived and all that stuff.  This time I actually have seen the original RoboCop.  It’s just that it was several years ago and even then I barely remember anything about it.  RoboCop is one of those gritty late 80’s action movies that is ripe for a video game.  I would say it’s a pretty decent one.  Let’s take a look.

RoboCop is a 1987 action movie written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner and directed by Paul Verhoeven.  The film is about a dystopian, run-down Detroit, Michigan that makes a deal with a huge corporation, giving them control of the police department in exchange for renovating part of the city.  RoboCop was born out of an idea from one of the company executives where a recently-deceased person would have most of his or her body replaced with cybernetics, transforming the person into RoboCop who will help drive down crime.  The movie was a financial success and had relatively positive reviews from critics.  RoboCop would become a big media franchise including three feature films, a 2014 remake, two live-action TV series, two animated series, and several runs of comic books.

There were also several video games based on RoboCop.  All three feature films received a video game adaptation.  There was a RoboCop vs. The Terminator game based on the comic mini-series.  There is a Game Boy Color game that appears to have been released only in Europe.  A PlayStation 2 and Xbox RoboCop game came out in 2003.  There were also two mobile games.  The NES received three RoboCop games while a RoboCop vs Terminator NES port was developed but never released.  The NES RoboCop game was released first on the Famicom in August 1989.  The North American version came in December 1989, and the PAL version launched in April 1991.  The game was developed by Sakata SAS who ported many Data East games to the NES.  The game was published by Data East except in PAL territories where it was published by Ocean Software.

Just casually punching thugs on the street.

This game loosely follows the plot of the film.  You play as RoboCop over six different assignments.  Your first missions don’t seem to be based on the movie.  You follow RoboCop as he cleans up the streets, takes out some bad guys, and deals with a hostage situation at City Hall.  Later, you encounter and go after Clarence Boddicker and Dick Jones, both villains from the movie.  You beat the game once you complete all six missions.

RoboCop is a side-scrolling action game with basic controls.  Use the D-pad to walk around Left and Right.  You can’t jump in this game.  The B button punches while the A button fires weapons.  If RoboCop doesn’t have a weapon drawn, the A button also punches.  RoboCop can take the stairs by pressing either Up or Down while standing near the stairs, but the positioning for this is a little tricky at first.  You can press Down to duck and fire low.  You can press Up to enter doorways.  RoboCop can fire his guns in any direction including diagonals by pressing the desired direction when shooting.  The Select button with the Down arrow is used to block punches.

The lower portion of the screen contains your useful information.  The left side shows your energy level and your power level.  Below that is your score.  Your currently selected weapon is in the center followed by your ammo count and maximum ammo.  You can switch between weapons by pressing either Up or Down when the game is paused.  The four boxes on the right side are your function indicators.

One of the main mechanics in the game is the connection between the energy and power meters.  The energy meter corresponds to your battery while your power meter is more like your health meter.  When you take damage from enemies, it always drains your energy meter a little bit.  Some enemies also deal damage that affects your power meter more drastically.  Your energy slowly drains away as you play, acting like a timer.  You die when either meter is depleted so you need to manage both as you play.

Both the lower indicator and wall flashing make this obvious.

The four indicators at the bottom of the screen will blink to notify you of certain things during the game.  The first is the infrared indicator which blinks whenever your infrared vision is turned on.  When this happens, part of the stage will blink and you have to attack it with punches.  The second indicator is the punch indicator.  When blinking, it means the enemies on screen can only be defeated with punches.  The third is the foe detector which blinks faster the closer you get to the end-level boss.  The final indicator is the energy and power alarm.  This indicator blinks either when you are low on energy or power or when either meter has dropped quickly.

There are a couple of different weapons you will acquire through the game.  Your default gun is the Auto-9, a handgun with unlimited ammo.  It is basic but effective.  There is a machine gun with rapid fire capability that burns through bullets very fast.  The best weapon is the cobra gun.  It launches huge bullets that do massive damage.  However, you don’t find the gun until late in the game, and when you do it can only be fired a few times before it’s gone.  Use it wisely!

There are a few pickups during the game that help you out.  Sometimes defeated enemies drop them, but mostly you will find them lying on the ground.  Walk over them and duck with Down to bend over and pick them up.  A lightning canister fills up part of your energy meter, while the canister with the letter P on it restores part of your power meter.  You can also find machine guns and cobra guns on the ground to give you more ammo.

Pickups aren’t usually this plentiful.

RoboCop is quite a straightforward game.  The levels are relatively small and self-contained.  You usually travel to the right with only a few stages that have different paths through.  There are simple enemies that run at you.  Guys with guns fire out of windows and you have to aim your guns to defeat them.  RoboCop does not always have access to his gun.  At certain points, RoboCop will either draw his gun or put it away.  This means you have to get used to punching, but often the enemies you get are suited to your weapon loadout at the time.  All levels end in a boss fight.  Simple stuff.

After the second and fourth missions, you get to play a shooting mini-game.  This is a first-person style game where you move a targeting reticle with the D-pad and press A or B to shoot.  Targets appear and you have to blow away as many open ones as you can.  You will get a feel for which ones appear quickly and which ones take a while to set up.  If you manage to take out all the targets, you will earn an extra life.  You also get a bunch of points here during the mini-game if you care at all about your score.

RoboCop has only one life in the game.  Your extra life is extremely valuable because when you die you get all your energy and power restored right away and can keep playing from that same spot.  Otherwise, you can continue up to three times.  You will continue at the start of the current mission with just your base equipment.  Normally you get to keep your weapons from level to level, but continuing is better than starting over.  One really annoying thing about this game is that when you run out of continues, the game freezes on the Game Over screen and you have to physically reset the console to start over.

Just a handgun? No problem!

I have played RoboCop many years ago as a kid.  I remember a babysitter had the game with her NES and I’m pretty sure that I even beat the game back then.  This was my first time playing the game in probably 25 years, so it might as well have been a new game to me.  I don’t think I owned a copy of the game until during my collecting days, though it is a common one and I have owned several copies.  You could probably get a copy yourself for around $5.

I only needed a few attempts to complete the game.  It wasn’t until the end that I managed enough shots in the target game to earn an extra life.  That pushed me over the top.  I can handle each level on its own well enough except the final level, but with the extra life I can make it.  Nowadays, I tend to play through games like this twice.  The first playthrough is casual, and then I do another one for video.  My casual playthrough and my recorded longplay ended up just about identical from what I remember.  I think I needed the extra life a little earlier in the longplay but it’s not a big deal.  Even with limited continues and no lives to start, the fact that I can now beat the game quickly after only a few tries makes this game a little bit below average difficulty in my view.

RoboCop is kind of a no-frills, average action game.  The graphics and music are pretty decent.  There are some animated cutscenes that are nice.  The controls are stiff and triggering the stairs could have better hit detection.  I like that you can fire in all directions and that shooting is responsive.  I think the boss encounters are pretty neat.  The energy and power meters maybe don’t make the most sense in gameplay, but it forces you to play quickly and effectively which I think is okay.  I like this game, but I admit that it is average and doesn’t really stand out so much.  It is far from an essential game and can probably be skipped, but I feel it’s worth a look anyway, especially if you don’t have to spend much on it.

#108 – RoboCop