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Retro Reflection: Rise of the Robots

Billed as a revolution in the fighting genre and with superb visuals, Rise of the Robots got people talking. But was it all that? I barely played it as a child, so I’m giving it a second chance.

I got this game in 1995. I’d seen someone else have it on PC and, to me, it looked amazing. The graphics were superb and the main robot looked bad-ass. At seven, all robots were awesome, and, no, I didn’t use the word “bad-ass” back then.

I actually bought Yoshi’s Safari first, but stupidly I hadn’t realised you needed to have the Super Scope. So we took it back and traded it for Rise of the Robots. Oh how I wish I’d kept the game I couldn’t even play.

There isn’t much to Rise of the Robots and that’s its ultimate downfall. The story is straightforward. Man makes some robots. Man can’t control all the robots, so man makes nanobots to run said robots. Said nanobots are infected with a virus and form a super robot that is a complete rip-off of the liquidy terminator from Terminator 2. You, playing as the blue Cyborg, are sent in to sort it out. Can we all say “original”.

You fight five robots on the way to the final boss: the Supervisor. A boss named after a supermarket job slightly above “shelf stacker” is hardly terrifying. It gets better; the other robots are aptly named Loader, Builder, Crusher, Military and Sentry. Can we all say “exciting”.

Graphically the game is impressive for its time. I had it on the SNES and to even achieve full-motion video, no matter how tiny, was a big deal. Some other versions I’ve seen look better, obviously, but not significantly. However, you very quickly get over this novelty. And you very quickly get over the novelty of a Brian May introductory soundtrack. Apparently he had composed an entire score for the game, but delays meant the developers went ahead with their own music. Some of it isn’t too bad, but it’s incredibly repetitive.

Gameplay wise, what can I say.

(…long delay)

(…further delay)

It’s broken. This game has so many issues I can’t even remember them all. Plus I’m too lazy to write them down. The game has considerable framerate problems, which is mainly a result of the developers focusing on the graphics – I think. It makes fights unplayable at times. Press a button, wait a second, and then something happens. There are essentially two moves; punch and kick with high and low versions thrown in for variation. Oh, and a kick and punch that inflict more damage, but are slower than the normal attacks.

The aforementioned, awfully-named opponents are stupid. I know this is the early 90s, but artificial intelligence is non-existent, at least on the lower difficult levels. Builder, the second opponent, simply cowers in the corner attempting to block your jump kick attack, taking damage until it’s defeated. Even though the enemies do get much harder (more on that in a bit), it’s still mind-numbingly boring. As a child I knew something wasn’t right, despite not knowing exactly what made a game good – I just thought it was rubbish. I’ve gleaned more enjoyment from watching the Sky Arts channel than playing this.

I haven’t even completed the game. I can’t. Perhaps I’m out of practice or maybe I’m terrible at the game, but the difficulty level starts out ridiculously easy, lulling you into a false sense of security until you reach the third and fourth enemies who repeat the same moves to defeat and block most of your attacks. Coupled with the game’s lag, leaving you unable to dodge attacks, it becomes stupidly difficult to win. I wouldn’t mind if it was down to skill, but I’m always left feeling that I’ve used everything the game offers me – a punch and a kick – and I still bloody lose. It’s pure frustration and, unsurprisingly, I don’t find that enjoyable.

The multiplayer isn’t much better either. In fact, it’s worse. Instead of both players being able to choose a fighter, player one is assigned the cyborg and player two gets to choose from the other enemy robots from the single player. Except, if player two has any sense he or she will pick the Sentry or Military robots for the simple reason that they are the best. This game is not finely balanced like Street Fighter – three of the robots are rubbish, the other two are powerful. End of. Essentially, whoever plays as Sentry should win. It’s about as fair as a Russian election or the Syrian dictatorship government.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding Rise of the Robots during development. Watch this hilarious gameplay trailer showing marketing hype at its best.

“Full 360-degree movement” has to be my favourite line, simply because it doesn’t exist in the game. Although, “VR-inspired background designed by an architect” is pretty impressive too – I wonder which barrel they scraped that from.

Rise of the Robots was multiplatform and, while some other versions look more impressive, they appear to suffer from the same lag and the terrible plot, names, moves and general gameplay seem to be present.

Worryingly there was a sequel, which I don’t own and I’m not sure I’ve reached a low in my life whereby playing it would be seen as something desirable. I have no idea how this happened, but it shouldn’t have.

Rise of the Robots – full of so much promise and also full of not very much at all. And that, generally, is the problem with this game. Nothing really happens and, despite the clever technical achievements, it’s something the game never recovers from.


  1. That PR video is bloody superb! I can barely take the excitement as the stilted characters on the screen randomly extend their legs in what I can only assume is supposed to be a kick.

    Still…. it has a ‘futuristic motif, proven in focus groups’. Can’t argue with the focus group. They get everything right.

  2. Danny Morgan

    And not forgetting the moves were inspired by a “martial arts” expert!
    The PR video does seem like it was aimed at a bunch of investors though, but even then it’s still terrible.