Bionic Commando


Review by Sotenga



Graphics: 7

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

As much as I like Street Fighter, I dislike Capcom for putting a much greater emphasis on SF in their modern days over pretty much all the rest of their games. C'mon, Capcom, why focus so greatly on just fighters when your expertise in shooters and action-platforming is oh-so prominent? I wouldn't be so pissed at them if they didn't just rule so much in the lateral 80's, what with absolute classics such as Trojan, Forgotten Worlds, Commando, Ghosts N' Goblins, Gun.Smoke, Forgotten Worlds, Final Fight, and a certain war-themed action/adventure jamboree that features a protagonist with a giant metal extending thingy on his arm. I am referring to Bionic Commando, definitely one of Capcom's finest moments on the NES and in their career.

You are Radd Spencer, the titular Bionic Commando, who is named that because of the bionic arm that allows him to reach places that other soldiers cannot. It is this arm that brings about a great part of this game's innovation. Instead of the jump button, pressing A causes Radd to fire out his arm and attach to whatever surfaces it links to. He fires it straight out if moving forward, diagonally upward if standing still, and straight up if holding Up on the control pad. The bionic arm has to be used so our hero can swing across the ceiling like a monkey and reach areas that Mario wouldn't be able to with his finest jump. Although the arm physics are a little unorthodox at first to platformer fans who are used to jumping, this wouldn't be "Bionic" Commando without it.

The plot involves the mysterious disappearance of expert commando Super Joe around the same time that an evil terrorist militia initiates the ominous sounding "Project Albatross." This project requires the knowledge of their former leader, the dead Master-D, whom the bad guys are attempting to revive. Radd is sent in to find Joe and crack down on these evil doings by the "Badds." The Badds are actually Nazis, but Nintendo of America changed their names to offend less people. Of course, when you witness Master-D's true identity, it will become apparent that Nintendo did not do a good enough job of censorship.

There are nineteen areas in the game overall, with twelve of them being action stages and the other seven as neutral zones, which exist to provide you with information or new items. The overhead map allows you to move along to some of the areas, but until you fulfill certain quotas, you will not be able to progress to certain parts of the map. When you choose an area, you are prompted to choose from your supply of weapons, armor, items, and communicators.

After that, you head into the conventional 2D platformer perspective where the A button shoots our your bionic arm, the B button causes your weapon to fire, the start button pauses the game and shows your stats, and if you have life refreshing medicine, the select button will restore your life. Pressing all four buttons together will cause you to abandon the current stage and return to the overhead map. While flying along certain paths on the map, you may run into an enemy convoy, which will require you to go into a top-down perspective reminiscent of Commando. These sequences don't take very long, and destroying certain enemies in them are the only way that you can collect continues in case your lives are lost at the hands of bloodthirsty Badds.

BC's graphics are nothing special, but they are really damn good for the NES. You wouldn't expect a game with a grim war theme to work well with rather colorful environments, but it gets the job done rather well. The backgrounds, while well illustrated, are stoic and lack parallax scrolling, and the sprites don't have much animation to them. Still, this is an earlier NES game, so for the time, it was damn impressive. When talking to someone, character portraits with good detail appear along with somewhat badly translated text. While hardly on the same level as Battletoads, the graphical style of BC is one that will appeal to most gamers.

The music is impressive, at least by my standards. I always thought that Capcom made great use of the NES sound chip, and it shows here in BC. With music ranging from the militant theme of area 1 to the unsettling dirge of area 5, the tunes are fantastic. The problem is that different areas use the same themes, although I don't get tired of them. Some gamers might get a bit tired of the same theme that plays throughout all seven neutral zones, but thankfully, none of it is grating or obnoxious. The sound effects aren't greatly impressive, but they are adequate. It's just that you'd expect a rocket launcher to cause a BLAM instead of a THUD when one of its projectiles hits the wall.

The enemies are diverse, ranging from the common foot soldier to hulking spiked ball tossers to enemy commanders who don't really do much more than swish their baton while an endless platoon of paratroopers fly into the fray. At the end of each action area is a reactor that must be obliterated to complete the mission. The defenses vary from stage to stage, whether it is a tireless legion of soldiers, a floating robotic armament that talks about Pi Pi Pi, or a hulking Robocop rip-off with more bionic arms than thou. You can actually ignore most of the core guardians and go right ahead to blowing up the reactor, and once you get the rocket launcher, which can overheat the core in a matter of three shots, these scenes may become a bit too easy, but the harrowing stage designs, especially in the last three areas (10, 11, and 12) make up for the boss scenes.

The charm of Bionic Commando is indescribable, but I think I just like it because very few games have a similar style of play. As mentioned before, the bionic arm really adds innovation to the conventional action formula that gamers have grown used to. Jump button? We don't need no steenkin' jump button! But it's not just the arm that sets BC apart from all other Capcom and NES games. While most stages are linear, the overhead map gives you the choice to go where you want, although you won't spend most of your time running around like a blindfolded muskrat hopped up on morphine. The design of the stages is built around the use of the arm, which will provide a fair learning curve for newcomers to the game.

Bionic Commando is still a classic to this day, and it is practically a requirement for all NES owners, especially if they happen to be Capcom fans. What other classics give you a bionic arm to fight evil Nazi forces? Unless there's a secret code in Wolfenstein 3D that allows you to use one, I don't know of any others. As a final incentive to play, you are treated to an unbelievably gory display near the end of the game. To find out what it is, play Bionic Commando, soak in the glory of its greatness, let time pass by around you, and finish it as an extremely satisfied gamer.


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Last updated: Sunday, May 01, 2005 09:33 AM