I quite enjoy myself a fighting game, with fighters in both the 2D and 3D realms tickling my fancy at different times or another. One aspect of the genre that I really enjoy is that you will normally have a healthy selection of different characters to choose from, with the law of averages dictating that there will be at least a couple of fighters that you will be able to have fun playing as. I’ve seen it said in the past that fighting games are almost a celebration of character itself as so much copious work goes into crafting interesting personalities and fighting styles for each brawler because you have to grab people right from the off. My love of characters and variety is probably a big reason why I dislike Rise of the Robots so much, amongst other notable factors that I’ll cover below.
Developed by Mirage and released originally on the AMIGA in the autumn of 1994, Rise of the Robots was one of the earliest instances I can remember of crazy hype for a video game where the eventual game itself was an absolute bust. And make no mistake, Rise of the Robots was hyped like mad, even getting featured in the 1994 Christmas episode of GamesMaster over here in the UK (although GM at least had the common decency to mention how overpriced it was). Ports for the main fourth gen consoles were also arranged for the early months of 1995 as well, with the hype train again going into overdrive and the focus being on the game’s graphics.
I personally remember seeing trailers for it in computer shops, like Tandy and Curry’s, as it also got released for the PC, and I was suitably impressed by the snippets they showed. It’s kind of hard to explain just how hyped this game was if you weren’t around at the time, especially as the hype died down drastically once people actually got to play it. I’m not going to say it started the traditional hype cycle that we see for games like Cyberpunk 2077 today as it could easily have happened prior to that with another game, and I just didn’t notice, but if nothing else, Rise of the Robots exists as a monument to how people in the general gaming discourse fail to learn from the past.
Set in the year 2043, the story of Rise of the Robots sees you take control of the cyborg character known as “Coton”, who is tasked with taking down a city full of robots who have been infected with a computer virus that has seen them become self-aware and decide they want to give humankind a nice bit of annihilation as self-aware robots are often want to do, of course. Coton decides the best way to prevent Armageddon is to take on a selection of the robots in a one-on-one fighting tournament (seems like there was probably a more effective way to go about it, but hey-ho), and that leads us into the game itself.
Rise of the Robots is positively awful to play, with Coton having the most basic of movesets to work with and the fights themselves being a mixture of both dull and overly cheap at the same time. The CPU will tend to spam a couple of attacks, and you’ll either have to spam as well to have a chance of winning or just see Coton get turned into scrap metal in record time. Hit detection is awful, meaning that attacks will land or miss seemingly at random, and it’s close to impossible to fight tactically. I often would find an attack that worked and just kept doing it over and over, which is thoroughly boring and made the whole experience feel like a big waste of time.
I’ve played some bad fighting games in my time, but Rise of the Robots is genuinely one of the worst I’ve experienced when it comes to overall gameplay. There’s just nothing even remotely positive I can say about the game from a gameplay perspective. It’s sluggish, it’s horribly programmed, the CPU is cheaper than supermarket home brand soft drink, there aren’t any interesting moves to pull off (and even if there were, the CPU spams so much that you wouldn’t have a chance to do them anyway), and it’s not only frustrating but also incredibly boring.
I played the Super Nintendo version for the purpose of this article, and I have to say that the graphics aren’t bad. You couldn’t walk into a video game shop or look in a gaming magazine without the visage of Coton glaring at you during the incessant hype for Rise of the Robots, with the graphics being the #1 selling point. It was also the aspect of the game that received the most praise when it was eventually released. Without question, this is one of the most obvious examples of style over substance that I can think of, but the graphics haven’t held up too badly over the years, so I guess you can consider that aspect to be a success.
This is one area where Rise of the Robots really excels, especially the CD-I and SNES ports. Some of the music on the SNES version in particular is utterly fantastic, with the theme for the Loader actually making my top ten list for best music from the fourth gen. A lot of hype was given about Brian May of the band Queen handling the music for Rise of the Robots, but that ultimately only led to him handling a couple of tracks at most. Most of the heavy lifting on the SNES version is handled by Patrick Joseph, and he absolutely knocks it past the boundary with some truly great tracks. It’s genuinely one of the best SNES soundtracks, and when you consider some of the absolute belters that console enjoyed over the years, then I don’t think it’s possible for me to praise the music here enough. It’s a small oasis of joy in a barren wasteland of misery.
As you may have gleaned from my description of the gameplay, the single-player of Rise of the Robots sees you only being able to play as Coton, meaning the usual appeal of completing the arcade ladder mode with all of the fighters is an impossibility. This not only makes the game less interesting to play, but it also drives a sledgehammer to the game’s longevity as once you complete the single-player once with Coton, you will have literally seen all the game has to offer on that front. Thankfully, there is a multiplayer mode included, but that is hampered by the fact that one of you has to always play as Coton, meaning that you can’t match the enemy robots up against one another.
The result is that the multiplayer mode will soon become boring, especially as one of you is going to be stuck as the same character all the time unless you agree to regularly swap who has each controller, which let’s be honest, is hardly an optimal way of playing a fighting game. Ultimately, Rise of the Robots gives you very little reason to keep coming back to it, and it doesn’t take long to see everything it has to offer. Considering the game cost close to £60 when it came out originally (yes, they had the unmitigated gall to charge 12 Bison Dollars for this shower of disconsolation), the fact it had so little to offer in the way of longevity is tantamount to an insult.
Would I recommend it?
Absolutely not. This game is bad and not even in a “so bad it’s perversely entertaining” kind of way. Give it the widest of berths!