LICENSE TO THRILL?: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1993)

Rod battles the T-1000 as a 16-bit Arnold in this largely forgotten SNES tie-in. 

Who made it?: LJN (Developer), Nintendo (Publisher).

Genre: Sidescrolling Beat ‘Em Up/Driving.

Platforms: SNES.

Format: Cartridge.

Released: 1993.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), directed by James Cameron, was adapted into several video games across multiple platforms. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1993) for the Super Nintendo is a better version than the one released on the NES in my opinion. However, that isn’t really saying much! And it’s a shame, because I think there was, and still is, great potential to make an excellent video game out of one of the best sequels ever made. Oh, and did I mention it was developed by LJN, the terrors of the licensed video game world?

There’s no need to go into detail about the story, because it is exactly the same as Cameron’s celebrated film. If you let the game play without pressing any buttons, you will be shown the T-800 appearing in the present, completely naked. Of course, there’s foreground scenery to block his dangly bits as he enters the roadside diner. We then hear the commotion as the T-800 acquires the clothes he obtains in the film, as well as the biker’s motorcycle keys.

The gameplay consists of two types. The first kind of level is the side-scrolling sections. Each side-scroller  has objectives you must complete in order to finish said level. “Future Objects” are also located within stages, and these must be found before you can exit the area. The second type are the top-down isometric levels when you’re controlling a motorcycle or other vehicle to reach your next destination. This is while contending with bikers, police or the T-800 pursuing you, and you also have to avoid hitting other vehicles at the same time.

The controls for the game are nothing to write home about, and this is extremely evident in these driving levels. Due to the problematic and strange nature of the setup for driving, turning corners is very frustrating to say the least. You would think that, when approaching a corner, you would just press the corresponding directional button on the D-Pad. But no, in this game, you have to press and hold the “Y” button, while at the same time keeping the “B” button held, which is the accelerator, before pressing the required directional button on the D-Pad! Additionally, in order to reach each destination, you must keep an eye on your compass in the top-right corner of the screen, highlighting the path for you to take. I will admit, though, that if you can get used to this annoying control scheme, it does make your time in these levels a bit easier. But still, they should have taken a different approach.

Information related to the character’s health, ammunition count and other elements are presented in a very basic way. The only things you see are your health, which is located at the top of the screen, and an ammo counter for your selected weapon. As you take damage, the percentage drops, and when it drops to 50% capacity, a message will appear onscreen letting you know. As you play, you not only take damage from enemy bullets or other projectiles and weapons, but also explosions, too. So, be careful when shooting things that explode because they too will inflict damage. If you lose 100% health, instead of getting a game over screen, you are then given backup health of 50%. This references the fact that, in the film, the T-800 at one point has power re-routed to revive him. I would have liked, though, for there to have been some creativity used in how your health and ammunition is presented. I would have liked to see an image of the T-800’s face in the top-right of the screen, in pristine condition, but, as you take damage, the endoskeleton is slowly revealed. When you do die, you are treated to an overly dramatic death animation, and then a message which reads: “Mission Failure: The T-800 has ceased to function. Without its protection, John and Sarah are defenseless against the T-1000.” And then some stills from film’s nuclear blast fade up as text tells us: “August 29th 1997: 3 billion human lives lost. The nuclear fire they called Judgement Day.” And if you die in a driving level, you explode along with your vehicle! Oh, and you only get one life and no continues!

The weapons you can find in the game are the handgun, the Ruger shotgun, an M16, and the gattling gun the T-800 uses in the memorable scene from the film when he fires at the police officers surrounding Cyberdyne without hitting a single one of them. It would have been cool to also get the grenade launcher, but alas, it’s not part of the T-800’s arsenal. Remember in the film how John orders the T-800 not to kill anyone, and the next time he comes across any opposition, he chooses to shoot them in the kneecaps to merely incapacitate? Well, in the game, you have to take the same approach with the police officers that attack you. That’s not the only thing from the film carried over into this game, though. The tie-in is very faithful to the movie with the locations that you visit. Of course, this being an interactive experience, they’ve taken liberty with things in order to make it action-packed in places. For instance, the scene when the T-1000 visits the home of John Connor’s foster parents. A level actually takes place there in which you must retrieve a photo ID of John, learn his whereabouts via an answering machine, and face-off against the T-1000 whilst also dealing with cops who turn up if you don’t take out the burglar alarm. Not only that, you also have invisible ticking time bombs that appear once you move over them, and don’t forget the toys moving about in John’s room which attack as well!

Sooner or later, you arrive at the local mall, in which you must find John. Once you locate him, you must assign John to follow otherwise he won’t go with you. Obviously, he can take damage too, so you have to make sure he doesn’t get killed. And this all leads you to the Pescadero Psychiatric Hospital where you must rescue Sarah Connor, who functions like John in that you have to assign her to follow you. Unlike John, though, Sarah is actually armed and is able to defend herself from attacks, so you don’t have to worry as much about the damage she takes. But still, she can get killed, and like the police officers in the previous stage, you must shoot the orderlies and security guards in the legs as well.

After yet another bloody driving level, you have arrived at Enrique’s compound where you can find some more ammo. Then the home of Miles Bennett Dyson, the man who has been working on the project that ultimately leads to the creation of Skynet. After this is the Cyberdyne Systems complex where you have to destroy beams to make the structural strength of the building weaken, and finally, place the explosives required to do the job. Not unexpectedly, the final stage is the Steel Mill, in which you have the final face-off against the T-1000. But not only that, there’s also OTHER T-800 model Terminators to battle (isn’t there only supposed to be one in this time period?!). Anyway, the objective of this last stage is to make your way to where John and Sarah are located before the final showdown against the liquid-metal bastard. Once you knock him into the molten steel, he becomes monster-like in appearance, and you have to battle him in this form as he throws clumps of molten steel balls at you. Interestingly, the ending of the game doesn’t go with the one we ultimately received in the film, projecting an uncertain future. Instead, LJN go with the alternate movie ending where John is an adult and Sarah is an old woman, both in the very same park that was shown to be destroyed by the nukes. This is displayed in the form of still images that just cycle on repeat until the credits finish rolling.

Overall, Terminator 2: Judgment Day for the SNES isn’t a game I would recommend to anyone but Terminator completists. It’s not something you are really missing out on to be honest, but there are surely worse alternatives for the franchise. The music for the intro isn’t too bad really, and there’s even a section that is very familiar to Brad Fiedel’s actual movie theme. But the music you hear throughout isn’t very exciting, adding the last touch of mediocrity to this tile. There are better video games based on movies out there for the SNES, such as the Super Star Wars Trilogy (1992-1994), Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures (1994), and even the likes of Judge Dredd (1995) or Demolition Man (1994). Arnold deserved better.

Useless Trivia

(Via Wikipedia)
  • It was an action-adventure game developed by Bits Studios for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and Super NES. Both versions were released in 1993; the Genesis version was published by Flying Edge, while the Super NES version was published by LJN.
  • Both versions have different musical instrumentation, different sound effects, and some minor graphical and control differences, but are otherwise identical.
  • There was also a Terminator 2 Arcade Game which was later ported to home systems and was set in the Future War.

Rod Petrie

Gamer since 1988 at the age of five. First system was the Nintendo Entertainment System. Favourite retro systems - NES, SNES, N64, MegaDrive, PS1, and PS2.

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