Chess, it has been played for hundreds of years, and with no drain on its popularity. It’s the perfect game to test an opponent, and with approximately 10120 possible games, a good challenge for artificial intelligence. So, in 1993, to capitalise on the success of the previous year’s blockbusting Terminator film, Capstone Software settled the score between Skynet and humanity once and for all, in Terminator 2 Chess War.
Chess War is pretty much just Chess, so If you’re familiar with the classic game, you should be set here. The Resistance is on one side and The Terminators are the opposing force. With famous faces as the high-up pieces, as you would expect. As new characters were added to the continuity way, way later, you don’t get Kate Connor as the queen of the Resistance, but Sarah Connor as the queen, with the T-800 as king (This really should be the other way around but it doesn’t matter in the long run.)
Aping off the success of Battle Chess, the main draw here is the then cutting-edge death animations for when a piece captures another piece. The victor time-bubbles into a battlefield and the capturing piece triumphantly slaughters the loser, with their weapon of choice. This is all rendered in impressive detail at the time of release in 1993 and with limited music technology that still today creates a moody atmosphere. You also get your choice of five backgrounds to fight on and a selection of two themes of music to play out. Certain pieces, based off characters from the film, will have little quips, based on audio clips from the film. Young John Connor will often state “Piece of cake” after rendering a futuristic U.A.V. into a pile of debris.
With the power of Skynet behind it, Chess Wars includes an opening library, an analysis facility, and an option for the AI to face itself. Considering the whole film’s plot is about a militaristic A.I. going rouge fits the theme here. But since we are in the futuristic year of 2020, and I suck at Chess, I tired the A.I. against a chess app on my iPhone and it provided a good challenge, but this version allows print outs and other recordings to better enhance your game.
In another attempt to add some razzle-dazzle to the plain, battle of the wills that Chess is, Terminator 2 Chess War succeeded by injecting a franchise that feels like it belongs on the board, and with a whole host of features, is great for those, like me, who wish to improve their game. If you’ve got some time to kill and a fan of the series. It might be worth it to take a time machine back to 1997 and play a chess match that actually means something (any references to Deep Blue and Gary Kasparov is purely unintentional!)
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