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Video Game / Robotic Operating Buddy

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In the wake of The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, Nintendo needed to give their upcoming console, the NES, an edge to make it attractive to market to leery vendors and customers alike. The answer came by packaging a toy and promoting the NES as your means of interacting with it (and could play other games on the side, ostensibly). The Robotic Operating Buddy, or R.O.B. (Family Computer Robot in Japanese), was that toy, and it worked just enough for word-of-mouth to take over selling the systems. His role completed, the plucky little robot was quietly retired, but he continues to live on in the hearts of nostalgic fans and retro hobbyists alike.

In reality, R.O.B.'s only been formally compatible with two games — Gyromite, his pack-in titlenote  and Stack-Up. Both games star Professors Hector and Vector as they work together with R.O.B to bypass obstacles and achieve given win conditions, with most of the gameplay switching between controlling the professors and inputting instructions for R.O.B. to follow.

R.O.B.'s cameos

Although R.O.B.'s original purpose is fairly obscure nowadays, he is best known by Nintendo fans for his myriad of cameos throughout several Nintendo games.

  • StarTropics: Nav-Com is essentially a purple-tinted R.O.B.
  • Kirby's Dream Land 3: Appears alongside Professor Hector as a goal of a Heart Star mission.
  • Star Fox series: ROB 64's English name is in honor of the original R.O.B. (In Japanese, he's NUS 64 after the development name of the console he debuted on.) Also, the Direct-i drone introduced in Star Fox Zero bears a heavy resemblance to R.O.B.
  • WarioWare: Appears in several microgames throughout the series, generally having to do with in-universe Nintendo enthusiast 9-Volt and his friends.
  • F-Zero GX: Appears as a background element in the Port Town: Aero Dive track. This carries over to its appearance as a stage in Super Smash Bros..
  • Pikmin 2: R.O.B.'s head (referred to as "Remembered Old Buddy") and several Stack-Up blocks are some of the obtainable treasures.
  • Mario Kart DS: R.O.B. is a playable character, even including a kart based on Stack-Up.
  • Super Smash Bros.: R.O.B. has been a playable character since Brawl. The Subspace Emissary story mode from Brawl prominently features R.O.B. models as enemies, and the titular Subspace Emissary turns out to be a R.O.B. himself.
  • Tomodachi Life: Appears as an obtainable artifact in-game.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D: R.O.B. appears in the Curiosity Shop, a cameo that was not featured in the original N64 release.
  • amiibo: R.O.B. has received a figure based on his Smash Bros. appearance (in two different colors, Red Japanese Famicom and Grey Western NES), and a handful of other games have their own R.O.B. content tied to the figure:

R.O.B. and his games provide examples of:

  • Awesome, but Impractical: As cool as it is to have a Robot Buddy to play games with, the simple truth of the matter is that R.O.B. is too slow and cumbersome to be a reliable partner. In Gyromite, it's far more effective to just push the buttons on the second controller yourself if you don't have another player to help you. Not to mention the peripheral only worked for two games anyway. Even if one is interested in it as a Rube Goldberg Machine toy, you still need the NES to operate it, which is still cumbersome compared to something like the Mouse Trap board game.
  • Console Cameo: As a piece of hardware, R.O.B.'s appearances in later games qualify as this.
  • Cute Machines: R.O.B. is a little robot with big eyes who plays video games.
  • Endless Game: Both games just loop around to the beginning if you complete all their levels.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": R.O.B. has only ever been called "Robot" in his homeland.
  • Fake Difficulty: Gyromite's gimmick is that gyros need to be spun up and placed on pedals which will then depress one of the controller buttons, moving same-colored pillars in the game level. The timing of R.O.B.'s movements made this problematic in busier sections. It is perfectly possible to simply do this by hand, saving the player a lot of frustration.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
  • Genre Shift: Gyromite had side-scrolling platformer elements and Video-Game Lives; Stack-Up is shown from an overhead view and has no real lose condition.
  • Interface Screw: One enemy in Stack-Up, Flipper, depresses buttons as he hops across the playing field, possibly adding extra inputs for R.O.B. to follow if he completes a row.
  • Jump Physics: Averted. Professor Hector can't jump.
  • Labcoat of Science and Medicine: Both professors. What their field of study is, is never explained.
  • Misbegotten Multiplayer Mode: An inversion. Given how it is structured, Gyromite is completely playable without the robot, turning what normally is a slow, cumbersome game into a frantic cooperative dash through the levels when played with a second person. Of course, then you'd have to worry about them being an asshole and squishing your player.
  • Never Wake Up a Sleepwalker: Game B in Gyromite sees Professor Vector sleepwalking to the right, automatically climbing any ropes he finds. It's up to the player to keep him from blundering into Smicks or pillars.
  • Non-Action Guy: Professor Hector can't attack enemies.
  • Palette Swap:
    • The Famicom Robot is red and eggshell white, similar to the Famicom. The international R.O.B. is silver and grey, like the NES.
    • The only difference between the professors is the color of their labcoats and hair: white for Hector, brown for Vector.
  • Player Versus Player: Stack-Up's Bingo (2P) mode pits the professors against each other for control of R.O.B., fighting to get more blocks on their side of his platforms.
  • Portmantitle: Gyro + Dynamite.
  • Robot Buddy: When it's two-thirds of his full name, you'd expect this to be obvious.
  • Rube Goldberg Machine: He's essentially a needlessly complicated way to execute a "Push button" action (for Gyromite) or a slow automated Tower of Hanoi (for Stack-Up). In either case, just performing the actions yourself would be more efficient.
  • Scoring Points: Stack-Up's goals.
  • Sir Cameos-a-Lot: R.O.B. was released with only two compatible games (Gyromite and Stack-Up) and was swiftly forgotten as the Nintendo Entertainment System took off in popularity. Nowadays, R.O.B. is best known for his cameos in multiple Nintendo games, including his playable appearances in Mario Kart DS and Super Smash Bros..
  • Sleep Walking: Professor Vector does this in game B. Somehow, he is able to climb ropes while doing this.
  • Swiss-Army Appendage: R.O.B.'s hands can either be claws meant for holding gyros or soft foam grips meant for holding blocks.
  • Timed Mission: Gyromite's game modes make you lose a life if you run out of time; Stack-Up just penalizes you points.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Smicks love turnips and will stop chasing after the professors to chow down on one.
  • Trojan Horse: The most famous one in video gaming.
  • Unusual User Interface: R.O.B. himself. While undeniably an interesting piece of gaming history, his two games just highlight how impractical he really was as anything but a novelty.
  • Zero Effort Game: Stack-Up is played entirely on the honor system, as the game has no way to verify if you've arranged the colored blocks properly. Once you input that you've satisfied the win conditions, bingo. You win.

Alternative Title(s): ROB The Robot, ROB