Some things deserve to be nuclearised



Terminator 2: Judgment Day (SNES) (1993)

I want you to try to remember the first time, or even the last time, you watched Terminator 2. And I’m assuming you’ve watched it; if you haven’t, there ought to be a convenient window nearby that you can hurl yourself out of, probably do us all a favour. Or you could at least redeem yourself and take a look at it for the first time. When you do, recite your favourite bits for me. I’m sure I’ll be able to guess at least a couple.

Do they include the thrilling truck/motorbike chase? Arnie wielding a minigun and robotically dropping some outdated 90s slang? The endlessly parodied on-foot chase by the T-1000? The way the T-1000 gathers all of his liquid little pieces together, arms, ghoulies, the lot? Surely the wonderfully eerie soundtrack, with a little dash of Guns ‘n’ Roses on the top, deserves mention?

Christ, why not just pick any given minute of the film? It’s a masterpiece. They may put just about any clag on terrestrial telly these days and call it a film, but Terminator 2 still tends to dominate the screens late on weekends for good reason. It’s endlessly rewatchable, full of action, with a little pathos even, essential 90s fashion, and an emotional ending. Most of all, it serves as a timely reminder of what the dastardly laser-toting robots are going to do to us doomed human bonebags when our own scientists get a bit too big for their labcoats.

Loads of action scenes and guns and explosions. It all seems perfect enough to translate into an action game, doesn’t it? Although you’re immediately faced with a potential problem: the protagonist is just about invincible. Alright, well, I hate to spoil the film or anything, but he doesn’t much like molten steel – it’s almost enough to make him cry. Other than that though, the main character for your proposed “game” is unbeatable really. But that’s not so bad. Wario’s often been the same, right? That won’t do, though, because this is an action game, so any challenge would be rapidly eliminated.

But then the movie’s also about protecting a sassy young becurtain’d child and, occasionally, his quasi-lesbian bi-polar mother. And that presents us with another problem, because these escort missions are a far worse proposition than having an invincible character. So the game elects to make Arnold vulnerable to gunfire (albeit able to take dozens of bullets, which isn’t so bad at all), and occasionally makes us protect the simpering child whose destiny it is to stop the nukes.

The intro to the game actually seems decent, once you’ve gotten past that disconcerting LJN rainbow logo. In fact, LJN simply published this game, not that that’s going to save it. In any case, a hokey version of the film’s main theme plays, the cool flame-covered Terminator head pops up and you’re invited to play. Or if you’re more of a cautiously lethargic player, you might navigate to an options screen to change your control scheme. Not that you’ll be able to make any of it work in practice.

Indeed, the problems with this game crop up terrifyingly quickly. You start the first level outside the motorcyyyyycle bar. Rest assured, Ahnold has mercifully already picked up his clothes and boots, and is set to leave on his motorcyyyyycle once he completes the level’s objectives. Wait, what objectives? What was the point of the T-800 going here in the film? He just spawned a few minutes away from the bar, naked as the day he was assembled, went to get some human clothes to blend in and acquired cool transport. Is he stopping for a brewski?

Well, here he needs to pick up some weaponry and find John Connor’s home address. Alright, fine. You have to kill a specific enemy to get a shotgun and a pistol, with your character taking tediously endless bullets from tediously endless enemies. Your own weapons seem to fire jelly in response, dealing about the same amount of damage as a punch – an Arnie punch is no minor tickle, but you want a bit of stopping power. At points, my killer cyborg was in danger of being laughed at.

You also arbitrarily have to collect ‘future objects’, these wee Terminator heads that lie around in little Amnesty International aid packages. And you can’t leave the level until you’ve gotten them all, so enjoy slowly trundling around to gather them while the same tune plays over and over again. Although I must say, the hilariously goofy theme of the first level is a guilty pleasure of mine – and answers the question as to where this game’s budget went, if any.

You know, I don’t think Arnold ever even left his feet in the movie. But this is a Super Nintendo game, so it’s a contractual obligation that he has to be able to jump when B is pressed. That is the absolute law. Let me tell you though, his jump animation simply must be seen to be believed. If you have Ahnold at a standstill, and this is fairly likely as it takes him about three hours to get moving, he almost apologetically rises into the air, his head bowed in shame. If you instead tell Arnold to rigor mortis his way across the screen, he does a little skip forward with a floppy animation that doesn’t befit a fish, let alone a human or a killer cyborg.

What good is that? And what’s the use in hopping about anyway?! You can’t even jump over the volley of bullets that the infinite enemies spew at you. Jumping animations might seem terribly minor, but both variations are bad enough that even the normally unflappable T-1000 will stop in his bladey-arm ways and simply laugh at you if you ever make it that far in the game.

And I can tell you that you won’t suffer this ignominy, because this game is unbeatable. I know that’s a lazy conclusion to draw, but it really is. Probably the worst part for separating the Terminators from the cleaning bots is the driving levels – they are an absolute disease, a waste of what might have been perfectly good lines in the coding. The difficulty lies in how much easier it is for Arnie to die on the bike. It’s odd: on foot he’s a leather jacketed kneecapping mega-cyborg, capable of soaking up literally hundreds of bullets. But stick the big lummox on a bike and he becomes just another contender.

As you desperately try to follow the (mostly misleading) compass directions, your bike’s speed jerks from ‘unchecked’ to ‘alarming’ incredibly quickly. It’s not long before you’re careening around the suburban streets on the jitteriest motorcycle ever, getting rear-ended, side-ended and end-ended by screaming yokels yellin’ out anti-gay sentiments from pick-up trucks. You crash and burn, and the nuclear weaponry follows suit on Judgment Day, and you begin to wonder what’s the use in trying to soldier on. Why should I be expected to sit down and properly try to attain the skillset needed to beat this screaming banshee of a game? Why wouldn’t I try to learn something just as hard but a million times more interesting instead, like the unicycle or Mandarin Chinese? At least I can tell people that I did these things, in that exact kind of falsely self-deprecating way that typifies a humblebrag. How can I humblebrag about beating this clag?

You only get one life – yes, of course you do. I suppose it’s realistic, and only natural really. The game kindly tells you on the Game Over screen that Judgment Day arrived on some day in 1997 and put paid to about 3 billion people, which is a bit of an anticlimax – it sounds like less than half to me. And you just know that most of the obnoxious people you hate somehow managed to keep themselves alive. Darwinism simply doesn’t work.

Regardless, with an eight-figure tally like that, what does the “life” of a cybernetic organism (living tissue over metal endoskeleton) matter? Is he really the only one they could send back to protect John Connor? Later, critically panned sequels in the film franchise retconned Judgment Day to be inevitable anyway. So if you throw all logic and reason to the wind and take that on board, the events of Terminator 2, a top notch and seminal film, were ultimately pointless – all of the characters might as well not have bothered.

And if even a film like that can be made to look totally irrelevant, what’s the use in trying to engage with this hurriedly made game? You should take a look at that scene in the film where Sarah Connor dozes off and has this lucid dream about a nuclear weapon striking a city right in front of her, blowing everything but the Adamantium fence to bits. Now, I wasn’t there at the time, but a smaller scale version of that is exactly what happened when this newly released game hit the retail outlets back then. I’m sure of it.

29 June 2014

One thought on “Some things deserve to be nuclearised

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