You play as Kyle Reese, starting in the future, with a gun and grenades, fighting many enemies in order to stop the T-800.
Why It's Terminated
The grasp of the source material in this game is very poor. Notably when you're in the computer factory, you don't play as Sarah Connor since Kyle Reese should be dead by the time you face off in the final struggle with the T-800.
The combat system is a joke. You only get to use a gun in the first level after which all you can do is kick and punch. Aiming with the gun has its own set of problems as they are only fixed on certain angles that make it very difficult to hit an enemy. There are grenades, but they are very scarce. And much like the gun you only use the grenades in the first level.
The jumping itself is delayed beyond comprehension, which involves squatting for a whole second and THEN jumping; aiming your gun hinders you from moving since it has Kyle going into a stationary kneeling position, and the hit/collision detection is so horrid that you have to be right on the mark whether it comes to jumping on a platform (which results in you falling through said platform to your death if you time it wrong) or hitting an enemy (which is almost impossible). And to make things worse, the controls for jumping and attacking are reversed, unlike most platforming games.
The game only gives you 3 lives at the start of the game, you gain an extra life with every 50,000 points, and only six lives maximum and no continues. If you run out of lives, you start at the beginning of the first level.
False advertising: the cover says "devestating (sic), high-powered weapons from today--and tomorrow" when you only get a machine gun for the first couple levels and basic kicks and punches the rest of the game.
Despite the NES itself being capable of creating far better graphics than those in this game, The Terminator is just like every other bottom of the barrel NES game made by some amateur development team that didn't want to put more time or effort into making SOMETHING more colorful or appealing to the source material's aesthetic.
The music suffers from horribly repetitive songs. The Sewers level is literally the same note repeated over and over.
The sound effects themselves are so generic and repetitive, it feels like they were recycled Atari 2600 sound effects.
Most enemies cannot attack you while ducking and when you duck, the Terminator will jump over you, almost always right into a bottomless pit. The Terminator itself poses no threat whatsoever and can be killed very easily, even with kicks and punches.
What the game lacks in formidable enemy AI, it MORE than makes up for in its rather sadistic and unfair level design, especially when you take the game's aforementioned abysmal controls and collision detection issues into consideration.
In the final phase of the first level where you enter Skynet, the developers added sections where you must make precise jumps over platforms so ridiculously small that they're more narrow than your sprite. Keep in mind that this section takes place right after you struggle to outrun an HK-Aerial in a mediocre side-scrolling driving level where you barely make it out with only low health and presumably one life left.
Next comes the Police Station level, which in itself is a maze where you run through corridors trying to figure out what you have to do while killing one braindead police officer after another, and the game doesn't even give you a clue on what to do at all. Then there's the added bonus of aspects in the game: there are 2 instances where you have to pick up a random box and throw it in just the right part of the level to use to platform across to the literal end of a level, most notably the police station and the first phase of the Computer Factory.
To top off the level design sadism, in the last phase of the Computer Factory with the steel press, you start right on top of an electric current, meaning that unless you duck as soon as the level begins, you take damage. You also have to time luring the Terminator into the steel press just right because there's a bottomless pit right on the opposite side; so if you're not careful, you'll fall right off and die.
And after you beat the game, all you're treated to is one lousy ending screen.
The Only Redeeming Quality
There's a cheat code to make the game slightly less frustrating. You'll need two controllers: the first to play the game, and the second to key in the cheat. On the second controller, press the following sequence of buttons: ◉B+◉B+←+↑+◉A and then a sound effect will be heard, confirming correct entry. What does it do? It grants you unlimited lives and allows you to skip any level with the push of the Start button.