Retro Game of the Day! Robocop
Robocop the arcade game, by Data East. Released 1988.
If you were a kid growing up in the Eighties - and chances are good that you were, if you read this column with any regularity - then you remember the Robocop film which released in 1987. This came out of nowhere, and truly was the epitome of cool. The mid-Eighties were already packed with enough franchises for adolescents to drool over, and this one just pushed it over the top that much more. Robo had it all - fantastic special effects, kill-crazed robots and cyborgs, bleak futuristic overtones. This was the one of the first R-rated movies I saw (though I had to wait to catch it on VHS!)
When my local arcade got a copy of the Robocop upright in their stock the following year, elation ensued. The game itself was nothing fancy - walk to the right, punch and shoot baddies, kill the bosses - but it had the slick Robocop theme, and they did it right. You actually didn't see many licensed arcade games back in those days, and when it did happen it was never too noteworthy (or it was a pinball machine).
The game pretty much was a reskin of their earlier Bad Dudes/Sly Spy titles, though the action was slowed down (and only 1 Player). Also, in comparison to the film, Robo felt extremely vulnerable - bad guys could take you down fairly easily, and there were endless waves of them. I would likely manage to get to the first boss (the hulking ED-209) and get my butt handed to me. I think I nailed him once. Maybe.
In hindsight, Robocop didn't have much going for it, but to reiterate - they took a great theme, punched it up with some fancy visuals, Data East new a thing or two about attaching rocking soundtracks to their games as well. Who cares if it was shallow, the game made you feel like the metal titan and it felt good to blast thugs!
A port was announced for the NES and screenshots hit all the mags. Data East was known for putting out C-grade titles on the home system, more often than not, so it was bittersweet. I was anxious to get my hands on the cart, but the development time seemed extremely drawn-out and when it did finally release, it met with mixed reviews. I think I gave it a rental, played about 5 minutes (the beautiful graphics I loved in the arcade where nowhere to be found in this sorry port!) and then returned to Contra or Mega Man or something.
To this day, Robocop is one of those games which I will fire up in MAME to bring back some memories of the good old days, when I was a graphics fiend - maybe I'll beat that damned level two someday!