Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Friday at the Movies: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Arcade)

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T2TheArcadeGamepromoConsole: Arcade
Released: 1991
Developer: Midway / Probe Software (console)
Publisher: Midway / Acclaim (console)
Ports: Gameboy, Game Gear, Master System, Genesis, SNES, PC/DOS (all as T2: The Arcade Game)
Digital Release? No (probably due to license issues)

In 1991, the sequel to Jim Cameron’s film Terminator hit theaters and literally launched the careers of Edward Furlong and Robert Patrick as well as ushering in a new generation of computer generated image (CGI) effects.  With a monster budget the film was accompanied by a marketing blitz like no other.  At that time making an arcade game for the movie was a great and potentially cost-free endeavor (it would make as much in revenue that it cost to produce), which resulted in one of the heaviest cult following of a licensed game I’ve ever experienced.  Not only was it a licensed arcade game, but it was also a bolt-on light gun game (which I describe in my Operation Wolf article) that made it significantly more approachable than any other format.  For me, it was the “why can’t I beat the damn third level!” game.

Hosted at Universal Videogame List www.uvlist.netIt’s quite an expansive experience that takes you through most of the pivotal moments of the movie, including several levels that take place in the post-apocalyptic future and subsequent present day challenges.   Like other shooters of its type, you have a primary machine gun weapon and bombs that can be fired off for some of the stronger enemies or to take out clusters.  I must admit that at the time it was awesome taking out the original T-800 cyborgs we first saw in the original Terminator and the neo-future setting.  Then you hit level three.  Most people don’t remember and even fewer talk about the fact that unlike arcade quarter-swallowing titles like Revolution X, level three requires skill to complete and no amount of money in the world will get you past it.  This is why most people who have played this game get hung up on or never see beyond the third level.  It’s a protection mission where you literally have to memorize the spawn points of the oncoming enemies that seek to destroy the truck John Connor is fighting in.  This vehicle is very susceptible to damage and if you can’t intercept the airborne enemies right as they appear you have no chance of completing the level.  If John dies, you have to restart with no true penalty.  This resulted in long, repetitive, and frustrating replays of an escort mission you never wanted to play.  It’s really disappointing too, because the remaining seven levels are both fun and provide much more fan service for those that have seen the movie.  These levels are also brutally difficult to the point that I don’t think it’s possible to pass on consoles and requires more than 50 credits on arcades/MAME.


There are plenty of people out there that adore Terminator 2: Judgment Day but as for me the impossible nature of the third level remove all desire to tackle this game.  At the same time, all you need is a pencil and paper to record where each ship spawns from and the level should be a breeze (they never change, always the same patterns).  Still, even with only three levels played, this is a great shooter in the Terminator universe, but  I still can’t let the frustrating third level go.

Home Ports

t2_snesThis title was ported to most home and portable consoles as the retitled T2: The Arcade Game due to the Terminator 2 game that had nothing to do with the arcade.  While I don’t see much of a point to the gameplay on the Gameboy or Game Gear, the Master System, Genesis, and SNES ports are faithful recreations.  You are forced to use the gamepad on the Master System, but I think that is a better option than trying to rapid fire the Light Phaser at the speed T2 requires.  On the Genesis you could use the Menacer, which I didn’t care for, and on the SNES you can use the Super Scope and even the mouse that came with Mario Paint (a great way to play, might I add).  Graphically they all look close to the same but the different graphics modes on the SNES (especially Mode 7) allows that port to look and act quite close to the arcade game.  Basically if you have a choice, go with the SNES version.

Written by Fred Rojas

April 26, 2013 at 11:00 am

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