Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Robocco Wars (NES)

Hybrid (Horizontal / Platformer)
Checkpoints OFF/ON
1 Difficulty level
10 Stages
Ship speed by icons
- - - - - - -
Developed by Taito
Published by IGS (Information Global Service) in 1991

The sound of the word is neat, but what exactly is "Robocco" supposed to mean? My best guess is that it's a colorful world where robotized creatures live in and a gallant human hero named Lance battles evil robots inside a heroic robot codenamed R-10. At least that's what can be ascertained from the ending sequence, but in order to see it players must fight their way across ten stages that intercalate platforming and shooting in equal measure.

I'm not very familiar with Taito platformers from the 8-bit era, so I can't really touch on the subject of in-house connections or influences. In any case I think Robocco Wars sounds a lot like Mega Man in its platforming sections, which is of course a good thing. There's an obscure charm to them that extends to the shooting levels, all of them designed with nice variety and a few unexpected and interesting references to the Darius series. The main problem with the game, which saw release only in Japan, is that most of the time it's very easy, ramping up in difficulty and annoyance in its final level only.

Lance and R-10 are a go
(courtesy of YouTube user 8-bit Days a Week)

During the platforming areas button B is used to shoot and button A is used to jump. Most of the time it's not possible to return once the screen scrolls as you move, which reduces the importance of exploration except for a few areas where you must fall through long shafts or need to choose between a few splitting directions or platforms. Every once in a while you'll enter a dedicated chamber to fight a miniboss before proceeding with the next area in the level, and when the stage boss appears it's often a larger mechanic foe that requires some jumping around and a little shooting to be defeated.

Surviving the challenge imposed by the mechanized enemies shouldn't be of much trouble for anyone in Robocco Wars thanks to the wide assortment of items to be collected. More important than the P for power-up, the S for speed-up, the star for temporary incinvibility and the occasional extra life are the heart-shaped items that extend the lifebar (blank heart) or refill it (colored heart for 1 refill, blinking heart for a full refill). Extensions to the lifebar are preserved for the rest of the credit regardless of deaths, plus the lifebar is completely refilled at the start of a new level. Dying comes from receiving too much damage and depleting the lifebar as well as falling into ground holes/pits (the number of lives and the ongoing score can be seen when you pause the game).

As expected, shooting sections are even more straightforward than the platforming areas. Button B is the main weapon and button A is the secondary weapon, which is either a ground bomb in the spaceship form or a vertical torpedo in the submarine form. It's not possible to fire both weapons at the same time (secondary takes preference when both buttons are held), that's why players must exert some rudimentary choicemaking at certain points. All the items from the platforming parts still apply here, as well as the frequent miniboss encounters prior to the stage boss. Due to their linearity, the shooting stages are also a tad easier and only start to show a little flair when you find yourself facing none other than Mother Hawk from Darius II. And if that wasn't enough, in the next shooting area you also have to deal with a variation of Guard Savage, one of the bosses that appears in the PC Engine Darius games.

An unexpected famous intruder

Taking power-up items will eventually bring up some more nods to Darius during the shooting areas, as seen in the wave shot and the needle laser you acquire in the second half of the game. Strangely enough you don't see these upgrades in the platforming parts, which are restricted to a few more powerfurl shots only. Dying does away with all upgrades, but since the game is so easy it won't matter much unless you're fighting a boss (boss fights are checkpoint-based, unlike the rest of the game). Mistakes are much more common while platforming, especially when sliding heavily during the levels covered on ice. R-10 seems to be subject to some sort of minor inertia, which is much worse under the ice effect.

Robocco Wars does everything right in regards to music and graphics, only with the occasional 8-bit sprite flicker. More than once you'll notice strong similiarities with Parodius, and it even adds some Sonic the Hedgehog flair in the Starlight Smile level. The walk in the park ends after two consecutive shooting stages prior to a final platforming level appropriately called Square Magic. Because "magic" is almost what must happen for you to figure out what to do in a cylinder maze that doesn't seem to have any way out. I entered multiple doors, fought the usual share of minibosses and wandered around like an idiot for a long time before realizing where the final boss was. The trick is to follow the green arrows until you see what looks like a portal at the very center of the screen.

And just to make the last stage even more out of synch with the rest of the game, the final boss is more difficult than all other bosses combined. One could say in the end Robocco Wars finally shows a boss that's worthy of its Mega Man inspiration. This odd difficulty spike might probably make you remember the game long after you've played it, since without it Robocco Wars would be just another colorful oddity in the Famicom library.

My 1CC mission was accomplished with the high score below. Note that projectile milking is possible during some boss fights, but it requires constant moving and would take forever to actually be worthwhile.


  1. I'm not convinced Robocco Wars was developed by Taito (in spite of a poorly-sourced Wikipedia entry).

    1.) The opening credit is "© IGS 1991, Licensed by Taito". Generally the copyright owner is the developer, while the publisher licenses the sale (see all the NES games "Licensed by Nintendo").
    2.) The same "© IGS 199X" opening credit is used on IGS's other NES/Famicom games (without the additional line about Taito).
    3.) The classic Taito joystick logo never appears in the game.

    Weaker points:
    4.) AFAIK, Taito never developed NES games. They did license their arcade games to be ported.
    5.) The style of the game in general (a sidescrolling platformer) is vanishingly rare in the Taito library.

    1.) The Silverhawk may of course have been licensed out to IGS, but it seems like a weird thing to do for a cameo in a random one-off game.
    2.) Given their limited output, IGS could have been a Taito shell corporation (like Konami's Ultra Games). This doesn't explain why both names would appear on Robocco Wars (the point of a shell corporation would be to hide Taito's involvement), and I kind of would expect it to be public knowledge by now, but it's not like they have any particularly notable games that would lead fans to start digging.

    Humorously, a Google search for "who developed Robocco Wars" has three conflicting answers just on the first page (none of which match the solution I propose).

    That's my e-detective work for the day. If only NES games contained real, traceable credits instead of joke names like "Drunker K".

    1. Yeah, credits for old games seem very blurry at times, but you made some good points.

      I was sold on the presence of the several in-game Darius references, that's why I went with Taito as developer this time. Why would they allow the Silverhawk to be in the game were they not responsible for it?

      Which game has this Drunker K credit by the way?

    2. The very game that makes for the subject of this post!

    3. Holy smokes, I just LOLed so hard now!