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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Top 10 Greatest and Most Memorable Robots

There, there reader, I know. You've probably come here with great expectations that your favourite robot will make the list; that this article will truly shine on the bright examples of machinery in your favourite animé, movie or game..

Well, not that I want to be disappointing in any manner in these first lines of this post, but what you're about to read may not live out to your expectation.

First of all robots in an extremely broad term. Is it a machine, a synthetic organism, AI, operable vehicle, domestic tool ? A robot can be a definition for a variety of objects, which is why I was very lenient in what qualified to fit in my list.

Second, while I read a lot of opinions and watched even more video shows depicting the best of robots in a variety of mediums, "best" is still a relative term. Since robots are designed and manufactured for a lot of different purposes and tasks, there in no one single category which encompasses ALL of them...Except maybe fuel efficiency, but get real, nobody ever thought of that, so it's not possible to make a classification.

Along the fact that you can't really compare everything with everything, there is the matter of personal opinion, which can strongly sway the pendulum towards one side or the matter. And while I'm savvy with the TV remote, game controller and the Internet, I have not played or watched a lot of "the most popular", "best" and "greatest" productions, and certainly not liked many of the ones I've tried.

Therefore, this article will try to resemble an ordered and authoritative count down, but it will also very much rely on my personal experience and tastes.

Snoop, take it from here ! ​

10. Claptrap - Borderlands

CL4P-TP are a series of robot stewards in the universe of Borderlands, but their "friends" know them as Claptrap. By friends, I guess it means the player, who he constantly bugs around with random gibberish.

Claptrap is the first character, you encounter on the world of Pandora, and for good or bad is one of the only ones who will stick to you...And not try to kill you brutally. He serves as a guide and comic relief character in the game and as such he does ideal job.

The small, one-eyed, one-wheeled robot is tailored to continuously mock you around, during your progression, but in such a way, you kind of grow attached to him, even when emptying cartridges in his small, fragile, but immune to your fire, metal body.

During the game you will save numerous of Claptraps, who typically end up as a target practice and amusement for bandits. Even though they know the world better than most, the stewards are design for...well.. stewarding and are completely helpless to fend for themselves.

Or, at least that's what you think before the ending of the first game, where the first one you encountered turned out to be programmed to kill you, sparking another DLC where he is the main antagonist.

His personality aside, Claptrap is a major figure in the history of the game and is so recognised, he is designated as one of the four playable characters in the upcoming Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.

I can't help but wonder whether or not Claptrap is the Borderlands version of R2D2 - both small; helpless in combat, but technical savvy; with a funny voice and complete assholes at times. Whether or not Luke's best friend is the inspiration for CL4P-TP, every Star Wars fan will be reminded of him, during his moments in the company of Pandora's steward.

9. HK-47 - Knights of the Old Republic

Star Wars... Finally Star Wars.. While I find it needless to mention C3P0 and R2D2, because get real... It's like telling the world Michael Jackson was one of the greatest pop singers ever. The whole world already knows their best and nobody needs me and my profound opinion repeating it.

Anyway, HK-47 is one of the characters in the Knight of the Old Republic who probably won more praises than the game itself. HK was dubbed 13th top Star Wars hero by IGN, received "NPC of the Year" award in 2003 by Computer Gaming World and announced "Computer Gaming World" in 2004 at Game Developers Choice Awards.

If only Leonardo was a video game character, he'd probably already had a dozen Oscars.

What made the world love a non-playable droid in the game was his incredible personality and humour - sarcastic, ironic and bulletproof of any comeback you could think. There we're a lot of funny remarks and comments during your gameplay along the character, which served as an incredible comic relief of the frustration generated at times.

8. Wall-E - Wall - E

Yeah well, I guess this is going to be the most questionable part of the entire article. Why Wall-E - just a stinking junk robot ?

Well, I'd praise every single one, regardless robot or human, who can keep up with the waste-producing capacity of a single household, let alone be charged with the task of clearing an entire planet. Just imagine trillions of tons of rubbish being processed by a single Claptrap-sized robot.
This small, dated machine can humiliate the entirety of the world's cleaning industry. From recycling factories to odd businesses like move out cleaning, every single company would kill to have this little bot on staff.

Not only is it efficient in it's work, but Wall-E discovers a way to completely resolve the problem, which forced humanity to abandon it's home planet. Some of the most brilliant minds we have for the past hundred years have failed to remotely improve the mess we, ourselves create. Imagine the situation in the timeline of the flick - seven hundred years from now.

If that's not impressive in your book, you can freely diss me in the comments.

Furthermore, Wall-E had a simple programming - take care of the trash, however, over time he developed a conscience, an intelligence. You can assume this as mechanical autonomous evolution - a program that can learn, grow smarter and even develop attachments and feelings.

While it's not the focus of the movie, the process that Wall-E went through is fascinating in theory and frightening in reality. Just remember how Skynet started.

The personality of Wall-E resembles that of a small child - ever so curious and adventurous, seeking new friends and horizons. After his loneliness finally found a solution, he's willing to go through unimaginable journey, filled with risks and perils, only to make sure he never loses his companion.

The bravery to step out of your directive and jump into a sea of unknown dangers, only to follow your heart has been the topic of more than one epic tales.

7. J.A.R.V.I.S. - Iron Man

And when you though AI couldn't get any funnier, Jarvis pops up. The "Just A Rather Very Intelligent System" - brain child of genius Tony Stark is no less genius on it's own, constantly correcting and commenting on his creators thought's and actions in way so funny, it had brought me to tears many many times over time.

Jarvis is the boy for everything of Tony. He takes care of the housework, handles communication and messages, troubleshoots his collection of cars...And suits and even provides assistance, analysis and advice during combat.

A less know fact is, J.A.R.V.I.S. the successor of Edwin Jarvis, who was the butler in Howard Stark's (Tony's father) mansion. Perhaps not as strong a connection as Bruce Wayne's relationship with Alfred, but it's hinted the bond between the two was once very strong. Thus it can be believed J.A.R.V.I.S. was created in an attempt to replace the man who took care and provided support for Tony in his childhood years.

Dirty gossip aside, the AI is of the most advanced at their time, completely able to perform on multiple platform at the same time. During the final battle in Iron Man 3, J.A.R.V.I.S. autonomously fights a number of enemies while controlling dozens of armor suits in a complex environment...while doing his sarcastic remarks. For that computing power alone, he earns his proper place in this list.

6. Tachikoma - Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in The Shell is an amazing animé, contemplating on the idea of a human's mind transcending their body and the question of what happens with their ghost. The series unfold in the not so far future, where technology and artificial intelligence peak and the difference between an ordinary human and an android is virtually unrecognisable at first look.

The Tachikomas are a group of tanks with artificial intelligence that serve the Section 9 unit. They are state of the art machinery, equipped with enough destructive power to level a building in minutes, while their arachnid design allows them to be more manoeuvrable than any tank you can imagine. In fact, the only reason they're classified as tanks is because you're told so in the series.

They are both operable on the inside allowing for a driver to be safely protected behind their armour and execute orders autonomously.

What is special about a tank, apart from looking like a giant spider on roller blades, is their intelligence. Apart from the strategic and combat procedures programmed into them, the Tachikomas think, talk and sound like a little child who on a long journey of discovering the world. 

Their AI is so advanced they delve into the concept of what it take for a machine to gain a ghost and how hard is it. In the end they seem to prove they had one all along when they sacrificed their AI storage satellite to prevent a nuclear explosion - also one of the most heart-breaking moment of the entire franchise.

5. Legion - Mass Effect

For all fans of the Mass Effect series, it might come as a shock I'm calling Legion a robot. I've read the tens of arguments whether or not they can be called machines at all. And, as far I'm willing to call a creature who's sentient, has attachments, feelings, logic and reasoning, capable even of self-sacrifice for somebody else a living thing, the fact the Geth are entirely synthetic also denies them the right to be organisms, in my eyes. Therefore, Legion is as much a robot as it is a person, which kind of qualifies him as both.

Once past the technical questions, the nit picking and the hair-splitting, the Internet so much adores, we can get back to the primary issue of why he has a place in the top then.

The Geth are Bioware's version of the Skynet story - they are machines created by an organic race to aid them in their life and warfare. They were created as smart tools - nothing more, nothing less.

However, when they got too smart and started to question their masters, here comes the smack with the newspaper move. Facing total extermination, the Geth naturally defend themselves in the only way possible - kill their creators. And once they do, the Reapers come and take control.

When you look at Legion's "people" out of the context of the first Mass Effect, they are but a nation with a poor luck - freeing themselves of one slavery, only to encounter another. Surprisingly enough, the Geth hate neither of their conquerors and would only fight back if forced in the corners.

Name me one nation in our world that has once gone through another's rule and doesn't despise their guts.

Legion as a character is composed, logical, loyal to Sheppard, over-intelligent compared to most of the team, technically and combat savvy and, as stated before, ready to sacrifice for the greater cause...twice... There is nothing not to like about him, especially when he addresses the player with "Sheppard commander".

That more than qualifies him as a character worthy of being called Best.

4. Voltron - Voltron

Voltron is one of the everlasting pillars of robots in our culture and entertainment. The ultimate defender of good was the perfect eye-candy when I was five - strong, determined, just and law-abiding the pilots of all Voltron pieces were a team of moral teachers and role-models for the growing kids.

But even that didn't rank Voltron among the top robots of forever. The reason you read these lines right now is simple - the graphical representation of how unity is stronger than division. That line drilled into each and every viewer of the animation via an amazing at the time artistic talent.

When a group of people, with their flaws and strengths come together and act as one, they can collectively shrug off each individual's negative sides and create the closest thing to a perfect being.

Clearly, mechanical transformation is one of the most entertaining things you can watch - it's visually appealing cool, technically complex and at the same time easy to read. This mix of ideas made sure Voltron's transformation was one of the most viral moments in the history of animation.

The creation of World Events Productions and Toei Animation is one of the biggest influencers of any robot production since. The Power Rangers - another major hype in kid's entertainment shows owes most of it's success exactly on the underlying concepts of Voltron.

Proof of that influence still being strong is that none of the merchandise, none of the content, produced since 1984 has vanished until now. Toys, comic books, even series are still being produced 20 years after the initial run. And when something is still relevant for twenty years - that's something.

3. Optimus Prime - Transformers

Honestly, I have little to say about Optimus that won't repeat the last chapter, but the Transformer series have earned their own place in the top and it's unrighteous to have them share a medal.

Just as the Voltron series, the Transformers are another building block of the robotic culture we can admire today. While mechanical transformation is again the biggest hook-up and seller, the series promotes another idea.

I'd never guess about it when I was little, but each and every one character in the Transformers series is a weapon hiding in plain sight. A car, a truck, a plane - ordinary machines, doing their ordinary jobs of transportation suddenly become giant robots and attack each other.

Before you get the wrong idea, I'm neither starting conspiracy theories, neither suggesting them, I only find it interesting.

On the other hand, Optimus Prime is an example of a fighter. He's composed - neither jumping in the fight before counting to ten, neither thinking for ages as the battle rages. He's prowess in combat is magnificent, and while he has moments of defeat, it's only to prove nobody ever is invincible. He's a just and wise leader of the Autobots, but his shiniest feature is that he's more than willing to take the hit for somebody else.

And while I tend to dislike personalities like Scot Summers or Steeve Rodgers, where the idea of the "perfect citizen" unfolds, neither of them aren't actual leaders of somebody. Optimus is a deciding factor in the fate of many worlds, thus he needs to think and act as perfect as possible in order to protect the needy.

2. RX - 78 - Mobile Suit Gundam

Even though this list is mostly based on personal preferences, in order to keep it at least partially authoritative, I have little choice but to include the king of mechs.

Even though at first it faced a multitude of drawbacks and low profit, which forced it's cancellation in 1979, Mobile Suit Gundam revolutionized the Mecha genre and exploded the market. The show became pivotal not only for mecha animes, not only for Japanese anime culture, but for the entirety of Japanese culture.

There is a 1:1 scale giant statue of the RX - 78, in Japan, just to celebrate it's existence. Ever since 1980, Mobile Suit Gundam has become the most important base and inspiration of mecha and robot productions in Japan and probably most of the other world. The design and especially the helmet can be recognised in countless following productions. Furthermore, the design is so solid, it still looks cool after more than thirty years, which alone is worthy of praise.

Onward to the robot itself, it's a prime example for a multiplatform, driven weapon.  The RX can fight in space, on land, under sea - whatever the terrain or environment, it's always packed with the perfect tools to perform it's job. It outclasses any combatant on the field with a variety of weapons, from light sabers, through machine guns and rocket launchers to adapted sniper rifles.

While it's function is reliant on the pilot inside, RX - 78 offers many optimizations to enhance it's performance, include direct tap to the pilot's central nervous system, to eliminate slowdowns.

The biggest proof Gundam was a success can be extracted from the fact the franchise still makes an enormous amount of money to it's creators. Sequels and spin-off series continue to air on television, cinema and online, while the merchandise is still hot, even though not as it was back in the day.

1. M.E.G.A.S - Megas XLR

In a video listical much similar in ideas like the one you're reading, Benneth the Sage called it better than I could.
-"What would a guy, who wrote a Top 20 Giant Robots List do if he HAD a Giant Robot ?"
The answer you'll see in the video below.

The thing about Megas XLR is it's your dream come true. You're a teenager, born and raised with cartoons, animations, video games and junk food. Since you're a teenager, you're also into cars and chicks.

 Suddenly, you're introduced to the opportunity to relive everything you watched on TV in real life for the price of two American Dollars and it include a car and a hot red head on the back seat. It's everything you ever wanted, so naturally you take it and then realise it's still everything you ever wanted.

Even if we ignore the dream come true part, the robot itself is a goliath in combat. It's equipped with a great variety of weapon systems, each capable of leveling a city with the push of a button.

Furthermore, M.E.G.A.S. Is extremely durable and able to take a punch without breaking vital internal systems...Half the time. The other half is you fixing it like your old PC - with a bash on the case, or duct tape.

Megas can do anything you ever need a giant robot to do.

The design is solid. Megas samples all the best ideas from both the Japanese robot culture and the American Grunge era, creating something extremely eye-catching to the time's teenagers.

The paint job, the car head, the size of the hands and feet and the mechanical transformation idea are completely tailored to fit the viewers imagination or a custom giant robot.

The brilliantly designed cock-pit, full of Easter eggs; the stereotypical, but hilariously goofy behaviour of the characters; the prolonged multi-phrase insults; the constant accidents leaving either utter destruction behind, or turning around a hopeless fight; the numerous references to all the past favourite shows; all of that contributed to overwhelm the viewer with so much awesome, we ran back for more and more and more.

M.E.G.A.S. - the robot and the show was written and designed to endear all those little kids that used to wake up early on Saturdays to watch robot animation; all the kids playing with the Voltron action figures running around in groups of five to defeat unspeakable horrors. All those children that have now grown up into teenagers, almost ready to take on real life.

Even though literally every cartoon fan was hooked on it, Megas XLR was cancelled eight months after the first broadcast on the popular American animation channel Cartoon Network in January 2005. To this day the fans never learned the reason why that happened.

However, seven years later CN dropped all rights to air the show and transferred them to the creator - George Krstic. Since, there were hints for starting up Megas once more and even tailoring a game to it, but yet to come to light.