R.O.B. with the NES color scheme
|Also known as||Robotic Operating Buddy|
|Type||Video game controller|
R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy), released as the Family Computer Robot[a] in Japan, is an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was launched in July 1985 in Japan, and October 1985 in North America. It had a short lifespan, with support for only two games which comprise the "Robot Series": Gyromite and Stack-Up. R.O.B. was released with the intention of portraying the Nintendo Entertainment System as a novel toy in order to alleviate retail fears following the North American video game crash of 1983. R.O.B. was produced in the Deluxe Set, a configuration for the console that includes, among other things, R.O.B. and Gyromite. Stack-Up was packaged separately and includes its own physical game pieces.
In addition to its status as a peripheral, R.O.B. has appeared in various video games, either in cameos or as a playable character.
R.O.B. receives commands via optical flashes in the screen. Once the screen lights up, R.O.B. is ready to receive six commands. Just like the NES Zapper, R.O.B. only functions correctly when coupled with a cathode ray tube (CRT) type of television. Both Gyromite and Stack-Up include a test feature, sending an optical flash that should make R.O.B.'s LED light up.
The R.O.B. unit's height is 24 cm (9.6 in). It has a head movement range of a 45° horizontally centered tilt. The arm movement range is 240° left and right with five stopping points, 7 cm (2.75 in) up and down with six stopping points, and 7 cm (2.75 in) between hands when open. The unit has five accessory slots around the hexagonal base, numbered clockwise, starting at the rear-left from the robot's point of view; and notches on the hands allow for specialized parts to be attached for each game. The optional tinted filter can be attached over the eyes to compensate for overly bright televisions. The unit is powered by four AA batteries.
Nintendo's vintage issuance of R.O.B. functions only with the two games which comprise the Robot Series for the Nintendo Entertainment System: Gyromite and Stack-Up. According to Computer Entertainer magazine, Nintendo had plans for four other R.O.B. compatible games, but they never got released.
The Gyromite retail package consists of the following items: two claws for R.O.B.'s hands; two gyros (heavy spinning tops); two red and blue trays upon which the gyros will rest, causing buttons to be pressed on the second NES controller; one spinner motor for accelerating the gyros; and two black trays upon which the gyros are placed when not in use. Direct game mode is a feature used to learn how to use R.O.B. or to play with R.O.B. without playing the game. Gyromite is a puzzle-platformer in which the character has to collect dynamite before the time runs out, with several red and blue pillars blocking his way. In Game A, the commands are made by pressing START and then pushing the direction in which to move R.O.B., and using the A and B buttons to open and close his arms. If R.O.B. places a gyro on the red or blue button, it pushes the A or B button on the second NES controller, moving the pillar of the corresponding color. If both buttons need to be pressed at the same time, the gyros are placed in a spinner so that they will stay balanced on the button without R.O.B. holding it. Game B has the same controls, except that START does not need to be pressed to make R.O.B. accept a command.
Stack-Up comes with five trays, five different colored blocks, and two claws worn by R.O.B. for grabbing the blocks. In the Direct game mode, the player makes their block stack match with the one on screen by moving Professor Hector to the button that corresponds to the desired movement. In Memory, the player has to make a list of commands to recreate the displayed block set up, and then R.O.B. follows the list afterward. In Bingo, the player makes the shown block stack, where the color of the block does not matter. There are two enemies: one causes the player to lose a life, and the other makes R.O.B. perform undesired actions.
In 2014, independent homebrew game developer Retrozone produced a limited release NES cartridge titled 8-Bit X-Mas 2014. The title screen features R.O.B. character graphics, and interacts with the vintage R.O.B. toy by making it dance to Christmas music.
Following the North American video game crash of 1983 many retailers had lost confidence in the video game market. Nintendo created and marketed R.O.B. with the intention of portraying the Nintendo Entertainment System as a novel and advanced toy, as opposed to a regular game console. The creation and marketing of R.O.B. as a "Trojan Horse" after the North American video game crash of 1983 was placed fifth in GameSpy's twenty-five smartest moves in gaming history. Yahoo! ranked R.O.B. as one of the craziest video game controllers and noted the unfortunate fact that the peripheral only worked with two games. In January and February of 1986, an independent research firm asked 200 NES owners some questions. 19% of the kids surveyed said they asked for an NES because it came with a robot.
R.O.B. is featured as an unlockable character in Mario Kart DS, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, each of which refers to R.O.B. as male within their respective universes. In Brawl's adventure mode, The Subspace Emissary, R.O.B. plays a major role in the story's plot. He first appears as the Ancient Minister, a cloaked figure who initially leads the Subspace Army in an attempt to transport the Super Smash Bros. world into Subspace, an alternate dimension ruled by a mysterious force. Upon being betrayed by Ganondorf, one of the Army's chief commanders, who forces his fellow R.O.B.s to self-destruct against their wills, R.O.B. joins the allied protagonists in their bid to stop the Subspace Army. As part of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, R.O.B. is among the Super Smash Bros. series of Amiibo, with his figure being unique in that it is available in both his gray and white NES color scheme and his red and white Famicom color scheme.
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