All this recent talk about Rogue City, which as of this writing is scheduled to be released later this year, I took pause and thought about RoboCop's history of video games. What comes to mind immediately is, Paul Verhoeven's movie was one of the films in the 80's to receive an X rating for its gruesome (and awesome) violence. Yet, this very adult product had a pretty successful toy-line and an animated series. And since the Nintendo Entertainment System was a platform marketed to children, why not give Alex Murphy an action game?
Originally an arcade title developed by Ocean, RoboCop saw several home ports and was a financial success on the ZX Spectrum, MS-DOS, and the Amiga, with programming duties passed around for the various computer versions. Data East directly handled duties for the NES version, and the first thing it feels like is Bad Dudes. Well, if you submerged your cart in a bucket of water for several days and dropped your Nintendo console in a sewage drain.
So how does a platform that excelled in side-scrolling action games handle the content of the not-too-futuristic source material of the sci-fi film? Surprisingly, With only a handful of levels, it does an alright job of nailing some of the key villains and locations. The gameplay is as simple as it gets, merely walk to the right and left, pummel some thugs, and do your best to stay alive. Way harder than it sounds, because while Murphy is a damage sponge, it feels like enemies just come from every direction, are fast as hell, and are difficult to hit.
For anyone that saw the movies and TV show, it's clear that once Murphy is given his cybernetics, he's not necessarily the most nimble and agile of fictional characters. Data East completely nailed his mobility down to a science, Murphy's bullet-ridden cadaver could move faster than navigating RoboCop around on the play field. His punch has a little bit of a delay, which is something I normally don't have an issue with.
As I've said about games like Castlevania, the delay in your primary weapon is a part of the meta, making you think more adequately about HOW to attack, rather than plowing through. RoboCop at least circumvents this by allowing access to his sidearm, the Auto-9, at random intervals. I like that, as a police officer, lethal force isn't necessary in all altercations. Aiming the gun doesn't feel very smooth, it can require some fidgeting with the d-pad to fire at angles.
You also have a time limit in the form of an energy meter that gradually depletes. Murphy "powers down", costing you a life. It can be recharged through item drops, but it's best to try and keep moving. At least most enemies take one shot to put down, but the general movement is slower than the sheltering sky.
Stairs are the most annoying obstacle, and it's ironic that ED-209 had problems with stairs. RoboCop feels like he has a great anxiety simply going up or down them. You have to be standing at just the right spot and takes more awkward directional pad motions. There should never be a point where I'm playing an NES game and end up thinking Contra Force is more fluid and intuitive. Also, you pick up various guns, but could never find out if you could switch between them. Why is the select button DODGE? I get it, the NES has limited buttons to map, but that's so unorthodox.
RoboCop, as mentioned before, is a hard bastard. It can be beaten quickly, but with a lot of trial and error, along with only three lives, it gets frustrating. I wouldn't put it in the upper tier of tough NES games,nor is it one of the worst. I'd put this as more...slightly below average. Gotta be honest, I like hearing the RoboCop theme emitting from the NES. The graphics look nice, some screens have a bland color palette, but I like the animation work on Murphy himself.
RoboCop's run in video games, he's been through some rough times, but this was a mediocre start. Data East tried something ambitious, blending a run-n-gun with a beat'em up. For some low-end, mindless 8-bit carnage, you can do better, but I'd still buy this for a dollar.