Retro Reviews is a new series from Epicpower Gaming. Each week I’ll review a retro game or accessory as if it was a new title. No nostalgia goggles here. The Retro Reviews highlight items that deserve a review without bias. Here is the second review in the series about R.O.B. by Nintendo.
R.O.B. The Robot was an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in the United States in 1985.
The Robotic Operating Buddy, or R.O.B. for short was developed by Nintendo as a Trojan horse for the Nintendo Entertainment System to enter the US market after the video game crash of 1983. Prior to the Nintendo Entertainment System, retailers were very hesitant to carry any video game systems since it was very clear that consumers had abandoned the home platform all together.
In the early days of the Nintendo Entertainment System era, it was marketed as a toy instead of a video game console. To help solidify that persona, Nintendo released the R.O.B. simply as a toy that could play the game with you. Using the same technology as the Zapper, the R.O.B. would perform a handful of operations and to complete tasks displayed on the screen.
Setting Up Your R.O.B.
The R.O.B. requires 4 AA batteries and 1 D battery to operate. The 4 AA power R.O.B. and the 1 D powers the gyro spinner. It wasn’t a problem locating AA, but not too many devices take D batteries so those were a little harder to track down.
After the batteries are in place, there’s no real hardcore set up required. Simply place the proper pieces for the games in the appropriate slot on R.O.B. and you’re good to go. Just make sure his eyes are pointing toward the TV and turn him on. It also should be noted here that R.O.B. requires a CRT TV to operate. He will not work on modern televisions.
Games that R.O.B. works with
The Robotic Operating Buddy is only compatible with two games, Gyromite and Stack Up.
How R.O.B. works with Gyromite
Gyromite is the more popular of the two because the accessories needed for the game came packed in with the Nintendo Entertainment System Deluxe set. This game uses gyros to place on plungers that then press either the A or B button on the NES controller to progress through the level.
Gyromite has you guiding Professor Hector through a series of platforming levels to collect dynamite. Professor Hector does not have any abilities other than picking up radishes and moving left or right. There are red and blue pipes blocking his way and that’s where R.O.B. comes in. Pressing start enables Professor Hector to send commands to R.O.B. and have him drop the Gyro on either the red or blue plunger which presses the A or B buttons. There is also a time limit and enemies that can only be killed by squishing them under the pipes. If that’s too tricky, you can distract them for a small amount of time with radishes located around the level.
The game gets trickier as the game progresses even requiring you to have one gyro on one plunger while working on getting the next plunger down. This is done by bringing over the gyro to the spinner, then picking up that spinning gyro and dropping it on the plunger of choice.
Overall Gyromite is very tedious with R.O.B. and it’s much easier to just play with the second controller in your hand.
How R.O.B. works with Stack Up
Stack Up is the other game that R.O.B. is compatible with. This game requires you to stack blocks in different designs shown on the screen. Since the game has no way to know if you’re actually doing what’s required in the level, it relies on you the player to be honest and only progress when the level is completed. There is no time limit and you need to try to complete the pattern on the screen in the lowest amount of moves. Points are awarded for every move under par and if time allows, a bonus.
Stack Up also allows the player to program moves into R.O.B., but I use that phrase lightly as it’s essentially creating a macro to tell R.O.B. what to do. There’s also a Bingo stage which causes R.O.B. to perform a certain move after bingo is achieved.
A video posted by @the_starship on
Stack Up is one of the rarest titles on the Nintendo Entertainment System to find complete. While the game itself is easy enough to find, the parts are a completely different story. Stack Up requires 5 platforms and 5 different colored bricks. In order to grip the bricks, R.O.B. needs special claws as well. Complete copies of Stack Up have been known to fetch up to 300 dollars depending on the condition of the box. Since I’m not made of money, I bought the Famicom version from Japan for 80. The only difference is the color of the platforms which are white to match Japan’s version of R.O.B.
R.O.B. is over 30 years old and the technology in him wasn’t designed to last longer than 10. R.O.B. has some issues with durability and one of them is the axels that drive his body up/down and left/right. Nintendo used some really cheap glue that eventually degraded over the years causing R.O.B. to remain stationary when given a command. Mine was unable to move left or right so I took him apart and found that, yes, my axle had become unglued. I spent 15 minutes taking him apart and then an hour putting him back together because all of the pieces need to be placed perfectly before closing the housing.
R.O.B. is a gimmick. Plain and simple. He’s slow, loud, and his functionality is severely limited. Even when he does work, he doesn’t work well. The one biggest fault about R.O.B. is that he only recognizes 1 action at a time and cannot stop that action until it is completed. This can be pretty frustrating when you accidently pick the wrong move for R.O.B. to perform, but it’s incredibly frustrating that R.O.B. isn’t very precise. There are plenty of scenarios where I would choose to pick up the Gyro but it wouldn’t let me place it on the platform because R.O.B. can’t just stop right above it. Apparently there’s a way to calibrate R.O.B. to be compatible with each game, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.
R.O.B. has gained popularity lately by being a playable character in Super Smash Brothers for Wii U and so demand for the physical version have spiked. Finding a complete, working R.O.B. will cost you a pretty penny and even then, you need to be on the lookout for people who have purchased Famicom parts to drive up the price of their unit.
Overall, unless you are a collector who really wants this as a talking piece you shouldn’t buy a R.O.B. he’s simply not worth the cost and the headaches. If you were to find a broken one for a really good price, you should snap him up and put him on your shelf because that’s all he’s good for nowadays.