Much like before the gaming crash, major American companies began to get involved in the release of video games. In one case, Time-Warner, who partnered with the now-bankrupt-and-vanished Acclaim to produce games that… through all logic… should be some of the best games ever. In this case, Rise of the Robots.
In fact, you almost couldn’t look into any comic book, gaming magazine, or any other form or printed media made that year without seeing one of a dozen ads for this game – some of them proclaiming how this game would be the equivalent of the Second Coming of a certain religious figure, and others declaring how ‘badass’ the main character would be: a nondescript blue human…ish form, with the words above “I might not have a mouth, but I’ll bite your ****ing head off.”
Brian May, former lead guitarist for the world-known band Queen was contracted to write the soundtrack for this game – something that would draw in many, many people who had never played a video game before just by his name alone.
A videocassette was sent out to many homes, gaming establishments and magazines, proclaiming how good this game would be – the video itself stuffed with more buzzwords of the time than actual English. This video proclaimed that the AI would be thinking things out to the last microsecond, and that this entire idea was ‘proven in focus groups.’ The combat for this game was touted as being ‘selected by martial-arts experts,’ though the video itself didn’t show it.
There would be novels, comic books, cartoon shows, action figures, and even talk of a movie being made as well – something that was practically unheard of for a new video game franchise back in 1994, and still isn’t even seen today.
And as for what it was coming out on? The 3DO, both versions of the basic Amiga (and the Amiga CD32), Arcade, the Phillips CD-i, the Game Boy, PC, the Game Gear, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, and the SNES.
In fact, two gaming magazines even gave these games near-perfect reviews months in advance before Rise of the Robots hit the stores!
However, as people flocked to purchase this game at retail price, the truth was quickly coming out:
This game is just plain bad.
The player’s role is running around as a random blue… thing. In the game, the only descriptor given to this human-shaped guy is ‘Cyborg.’ A brief look through the instruction manual gives this guy the model number of ‘ECO35-2,’ and a name of ‘Coton.’ Quite frankly, it would have been nice to use that name, considering it would have given this blue guy a little more personality than ‘vague main character.’
As for what you’re suppose to do, some random other-robot-thing has gone berserk and infected with a lot of the other robots with some sort of virus that makes them rebel against humans. Or something – the game is never really quite clear on what’s going on. Either way, ‘Cyborg’ goes on to fight the following inventive characters: Loader Droid, Builder Droid, Crusher Droid, Military Droid, Sentry Droid and ‘the most fearless end-boss to ever face down a Cyborg’ (their words, not mine), The Supervisor.
Gotta love that originality, huh? At the very least, the designs are unique. Also, each of the ‘droids’ look pretty different overall and all move uniquely when compared to one another.
However… I wish I could say the same for their much-lauded ‘intelligence.’ You see, unlike that promotional video (found on YouTube if you know what to look for), the AI for all of these ‘droids’ is seriously lacking. The Builder Droid, for example, actually willingly backs himself into a corner each and every single time you face him. The Crusher Droid, on the other hand, abuses his 3/4ths-of-the-screen-reach to slaughter you before he can even be hit – and yet doesn’t seem to realize the basics of blocking. When it comes down to it, there’s nothing ‘intelligent’ about the robots in this game – which makes me laugh at the hype all the more.
Not only is the AI broken, but so is the entire idea of different characters in this game. You see, with the exception of the ‘Cyborg,’ none of the other characters in this game are playable outside vs mode. That’s right, each time you want to go through the single-player mode, you have to run about as the ‘Cyborg.’ And this wouldn’t be quite so bad, but the problem is that the enemies get stronger as the game goes on.
No, that’s not a typo: stronger. I didn’t mean ‘tougher.’
You see, despite what their build is, or their moves, each character progressively does more damage – until a character like The Supervisor can whip out a move that kills you in one or two hits. And considering the blue ‘Cyborg’ can only deal out as much damage as the first or second characters, this becomes a real problem pretty quickly. I’ll be revisiting this in a few seconds, so keep this in mind for later.
If the player is somehow able to wrangle a friend into playing, there’s also a two player mode to enjoy. Er… sorta. You know how Street Fighter lets you choose just about any character in the game for a two player mode? Yeah, that’s not the case for whoever is player one: they’re stuck as the blue generic ‘Cyborg,’ just like in story-mode. So much for the character selection, I suppose.
Finally, remember what I told you to remember? The thing about certain robots doing insane damage? The programmers forgot to remove this for the vs mode. This means that, if player two knows what’s going on, they’re going to select the Sentry Droid – or maybe even The Supervisor, considering it’s also unlockable for this mode. And thus, the game is literally over in seconds, because player two is a complete jerk and the programmer was completely lazy.
So… story mode is disappointing and with more variable difficulty than dealing with a puppy – and vs mode is a complete bust. Is there anything else that would bring someone back to this game?
Well… not really. Aside from the novelty of this game featuring robots that do… things, there’s almost no reason to play it again. Or even once, considering the fact that the game is so horribly broken.
I have to admit, though, this game is at least better-than-average for the SNES. While the PC edition looks fantastic for the era (Wikipedia has screenshots, actually) and the opening screen on the SNES version looks surprisingly more like a PS1 game, the rest of this version is heavily-pixelated and just looks laggy at times. The FMV sequences are tiny on the screen, but do contain more than a fair share of detail and look rather decent. However, the backgrounds are pretty bland and really iffy overall – with little redeeming features in this round beyond the ranking of ‘decent.’
In fact, even horrible fighting games like Brutal: Paws of Fury look better than this game – and I wish I was joking.
Remember how I mentioned Brian May was contracted to do the music? Guess what?
The only music he got to provide for this game was a few notes – most likely the intro music, considering how short and good it sounds compared to the rest of the soundtrack. I just wish the rest of the music could stand up to how awesome the title screen music was.
Take some of the most generic video game techno and then remove most of the actual inventiveness and decency. Now run it through another generic filter – making it sound average for the era. Now you have about what the music for this game was: Decent – at best.
The sound effects, though, should actually be labeled as ‘sound effect.’ Rather than having anything resembling voices, much less different impact noises… there’s one: the dull thud of something hitting something else. That’s right – there’s only one sound, and it’s utterly horrid.
I’ve mentioned the AI before, but I’ve never really touched upon the controls for this game… Remember how lackluster the AI is? That’s about the same level as the controls.
Despite advertising special moves and such designed by martial arts masters, the moves in this game are literally as follows: punch, kick, jump-kick, and a punch while jumping. This is less variety than the first Street Fighter game, which had only punching, kicking, and the possible chance of unleashing the Hadouken or Hurricane Kick. In fact, despite the game demos often displaying things like a shoulder-charge or a different kick, the blue ‘Cyborg’ doesn’t do anything but punching or kicking.
Now, maybe this wouldn’t be so bad… but the animations for each punch and kick are exactly the same. The only actual difference is the frames of animation used for each level of strength. Weak punch or kick flash across the screen quicker than most people can follow, while strong punch and kick look fluidly animated and move slowly. This just completely looks lazy – and is yet another red pen mark on the horribly-written essay that is Rise of the Robots.
Really, this game is just a train-wreck. Despite the glut of marketing surrounding this game, there is nothing redeeming about Rise of the Robots.
Brian May’s soundtrack? Gone.
The much-hyped gameplay? Lacking.
The much-lauded AI? More artificial than intelligent.
The VS mode? More broken than the single player mode.
There is nothing about this game that isn’t done better elsewhere, and the only thing that remains noteworthy about Rise of the Robots is the insane marketing hurricane surrounding its release. As such, Rise of the Robots remains as one of those attention-getting games made throughout history – joining such proud other members like Custer’s Revenge, Thrill Kill and Manhunt.
The only problem is that those games were actually playable upon their release (or, in the case of Thrill Kill, last build).
Replay Value: 1
Personal Tilt: 1
3 out of 10