Bionic Commando
Release year - USA:1988
Company: Capcom
System: NES
Genre: Platformer, Run and gun
Players: 1

Review by: PrimeOp

Not only is this game almost completely different from it's spiritual predecessor, Commando, but it's also a huge departure from the actual arcade version that it's based on. What's even more strange: it's all for the best.

A group of tyrannical fascists (or something) known as the Badds (Nazi scum in the Japanese version, 'Top Secret') are building a vast army with which they plan to dominate the entire planet. That's what groups like that do, you know. What troubles the military minds of the free world the most are the whispers of their top secret program known only as Project Albatross. The soldier codenamed "Super Joe" (hero of the game "Commando") is sent in to do what he does best: perform a one-man surgical strike to destroy Project Albatross and bring down the organization. Something goes wrong and no one hears from Super Joe. Now, the a second agent must be sent in to deal with the threat. This time, they send Radd Spencer, the Bionic Commando. Deployed into enemy territory, Spencer, equipped with his experimental grappling arm, must finish the job that Joe started as well as rescue Super Joe. Instead of jumping, you are equipped with a bionic arm attachment with a grappling hook. With this arm, you can climb from platform to platform, swing across areas, grab items, punch enemy soldiers and, my favorite, cut the lines that attach paratrooper to their parachutes causing them to plummet to their deaths. For the first few minutes, I cursed the idea of how there was no jump. After toying around with the arm by swinging on nearly everything in the level, I saw the game's true genius. From that moment on, I've been hooked on this game.
Part of the fun is figuring out how to use the arm to get items like this 1-up in Area 6.

Meeting an enemy transport on the map puts you in an old-school Commando-style shootout!
Travelling by helicopter, you battle from area to area in an attempt to crush the Badds, find additional weapons to do said crushing with and find Super Joe. You can move to any area on the map that you wish unless there's a task that needs completing or an item that you need to clear the way. Most of these items are obtained by clearing a stage or finding them in the Neutral Areas, the fire-free zones of the map. Those areas are filled with NPC's who will give you information of various degrees of usefulness like 'Don't be hasty.' Thanks, pal. You'll also find more communicators that will allow you to contact your HQ or wiretap in areas that jam your default comm. device's signal. The main stages are standard platform play, each with it's own unique traits, obstacles and enemies to overcome and all (but the final stages) end with either a boss battle or just trying to shoot the generator (or whatever that giant doo-dad is) while fighting off hordes of paratroopers. Don't ask me how or why they parachute indoors. Look, it was the 1980's and we were having too much fun to be a bunch of snarky sourpusses.

The graphics are typically good Capcom NES fare. Except for the "neutral zones" most of the sections have their own distinct look, even down to the different colors. The once you get into the later levels, it's almost always dark. Whether or not this was a conscious choice, it adds a nice flair. Personally, I think the incredible music outshines the graphics in this game. Capcom musicians really hit their stride (no pun intended) during this era with BGM of games like this, the NES Strider and Duck Tales. Many people were disappointed that the enemies in the game were changed from Nazis to a generic group called the Badds. But when you think about it, one of the game's most memorable revelations has an added impact by leaving out the Nazi affiliation. This game has a pretty legendary ending that you really wouldn't expect to see on the NES. Only some Jedi mind-trick or arcane ninpo magic heeby-jeeby could've gotten that gem of a moment past the censors. If you haven't found out about it by now, I won't spoil it for you and rob you of same enjoyment I had that Saturday morning as I watched one of the most satisfying endings in video game history. This entire game is an enjoyable experience from beginning to end.
You'll have to master the art of the bionic arm just to have a chance at shooting this boss' weak spot.

Bionic Commando is a great game created in an era where gameplay innovation took precedent over pretty graphics. It's also one of the most fondly remembered games of the 8-bit era and deservedly so. Besides the original NES cart, it can also be found in the "Capcom Classics Mini Mix" game for the GBA.

Return to top of the top of the page