Arguably, few actors have had as great an impact on the world of video games as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Many of his biggest films have been adapted into popular video games over the years, while his likeness has served as the unofficial inspiration for countless artists. Speaking to the former Acclaim producer Dan Feinstein, however, it appears that not everything the star touched was guaranteed to be an instant success, as shown by the struggle to adapt True Lies for the SNES and Sega Mega Drive/Genesis.
As Feinstein told Time Extension, the film surprised the New York publisher Acclaim who had just signed a lucrative agreement for the console rights to whatever the star made next following the success of the home ports of Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
One of the biggest problems was that Acclaim was expecting the star to make another straight-action movie, whereas True Lies also incorporated elements of romance and family drama, following the double life of government agent Harry Tasker as he tries to juggle his responsibilities at home with his job as an international spy.
As Feinstein explains:
"We had a license with Arnold Schwarzenegger to do his next few movies I believe. So the next movie after that, he decides to do True Lies, which isn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger the superhero. It was with, I believe, Jamie Lee Curtis and him. We saw a special showing and we all walked out like, ‘Where’s the game?’ There wasn’t much to go with for a game, so we had to make something up."
Together with developer Beam Software, Acclaim jettisoned most of the subplot about Tasker's wife having an affair with a sleazy used car salesman (played in the film by Bill Paxton) and instead opted to make a straight top-down action shooter that saw the player run and gun their way through nine unique levels (some of which appeared in the film, and others that were invented for the game). Some of the original levels, for example, included an elaborate new hedge maze and a Chinese city — elements missing from the film.
Despite these changes, problems for the project apparently didn't stop there. Development dragged on and Acclaim was apparently still unsure of how it would market the title to gamers. According to Feinstein, at one point it even considered dumping it, arguing that the pieces just weren't coming together into "a cohesive whole". Nevertheless, as history tells us, the team persevered and managed to produce a surprisingly fun tie-in that still bears some resemblance to the original property it was based on. In fact, we'd go so far as to call it a hidden gem.