Rise of the Robots: Sega Mega Drive / Genesis

Rise of the Robots: Sega Mega Drive / Genesis
Rise of the Robots: Sega Mega Drive / Genesis

Insert Disk collects Rise of the Robots for the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis

Today’s retro game review is Rise of the Robots for the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis. This retro gaming classic is a retro game that caused a shockwave of horror for collectors back in the 1990’s. Marketed as a next gen fighting game with an advanced AI combat system and pre-rendered sprites. What we actually got was a half baked generic fighting game with a collection of bugs, exploits and limited game play. Rise of the Robots was a game that wanted to be remembered, it’s just the way this retro game might not be remembered for the right reasons.

Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Get ready for the defining gaming moment of the century, the greatest game of all time, the next generation of gaming. Or not as today we take a look at Rise of the Robots. There are defining moments in your life that you remember when you’re looking forward to a new movie or game. A game that the marketers tell you is the real deal, the next evolution in gaming. Then when that game hits the shelves it falls down so short it makes you question everything you thought you knew about games evolution. Rise of the Robots was perhaps the shining example of overpromising on a game release. The game was to feature pre-rendered spites, cutting edge game play and even a soundtrack by Queen’s Brian May. On paper this robot rumble was to be the ring-side event of the decade. But then…

Just what went wrong? Upon release the game was universally panned by critics and gamers alike. Most of you will know the history but essentially it was a case of style over substance. In truth only one of Brian May’s tracks made it in to the game and the much talked up AI never really manifested itself. I have to say that Rise of the Robots isn’t the worst game ever. Don’t get me wrong it is bad, it’s just that the crappyness was massively amplified under the spotlight the marketers created for it. In truth if you had never been exposed to the hype engine surrounding the game you would simple just have passed this one by rather than crossing the road to stare at it and poke it with a stick to check if it was breathing. Rise of the Robots starts quite promisingly with a futuristic animation of a world dominated by robots. Its a little low on fps and the music is quite brash but nothing to terrible. Then you realise that you will be fighting a fork-lift truck. Well ok, I suppose that’s ok. After all it’s not the weirdest thing that’s been fought in a game. Looking from afar the graphics also aren’t too bad. The static background of an empty warehouse is a little underwhelming. It would have been nice if they designers had added at least some animation.

It’s the characters themselves though. The player cyborg looks decent enough but the move set is absolutely woeful. He controls like a slow moving tank and your only real options are a punch or a kick. Even back in the days of the original Double Dragon we had progressed further than this. As for the opponents, well, it’s a fork lift truck. It can extend a mechanical arm and that’s about it. The whole setup really doesn’t allow for a fluid fighting system. As for the ape type robot. Well, he will just sit there and take it all day long. Not only is the move set limited but the actual programming flawed. Simply crouch and the opponent won’t really fight back. It really is just exploit after exploit with this game to drag yourself to the end. Mediocre move sets are one thing but if the opponent isn’t programmed to fight back or is programmed so that its attack patterns and responses are so transparent then really the game is a non-starter.

In truth the game looks ok, not great but ok. It’s all about the gameplay when it comes to the failure of this game. Imagine having to work on this game knowing that people would be buying a half-baked product. This was certainly one of the low points of the 16-bit era. The footage I’m showing here is the Sega Mega Drive version although many platforms of the day did see a release. Interestingly each version was also bad but in slightly different ways. The Megadrive / Genesis version stands out for me though as the worst of the lot. Whereas the PC version and even the 3DO versions can redeem themselves a little with enhanced graphics the Megadrive and SNES versions can’t even offer this.

If you are looking to pick up a physical copy here is the UK Sega Mega Drive edition. Look for a mint box with manual and cartridge. Here in the UK the game is incredibly common so you shouldn’t have any issues in tracking down a copy.

Would I recommend Rise of the Robots? Absolutely not. Other than for academic reasons this is a game that needs to stay in the past. Rise of the Robots did spawn a sequel in 1996, Rise 2: Resurrection ***show*** How is a question that I still can’t fully fathom. After the PR nightmare of the first I don’t think anyone saw a sequel on the cards. In truth the launch was far quieter and very few gamers held any interest in it. It is better than the original but very much still mediocre. If you must play as a Cyborg or robot I can suggest Cyrax or Sektor in Mortal Kombat 3.

There is far more to the Rise of the Robots story on how it went from being a game changer on paper to the rather poor implementation in practice. For those really interested I’ll let you did deeper, the Internet is full of interviews and back story.

Personally I’m happy to have this game in my collection. It’s a reminder that not all technology turns out the way we want, despite the best endeavours of their creators. Ironically, technology not turning out as we would like is what one day may allow a real world rise of the robots.

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