There are few games held with such reverence by a hardcore NES gamer
as Bionic Commando. Sure, ask any most any casual video game player about
their fave NES game, and the answer would likely be Zelda, or Super Mario
Bros. 3. But the ones that have been around...they know abut Bionic
Commando. Rarely has an action title been so unique and innovative, but
still manages to be one helluva adventure.
The title of this game alludes to the fact that this was meant to be
a sequel of sorts to the Capcom game "Commando". It barely shows through:
other than the fact that the character you're trying to rescue is Super
Joe and the overhead bonus stages, this game is basically entirely
different. It also bears little relation to the arcade game it was based
on, much like Strider.
As mentioned before, Super Joe has been kidnapped, and you're up for
duty to save him. Only you're special. See, you have this bionic arm
that will allow you hand on ceilings, swing on ledges, and grapple items.
You also can't jump. This is one of the most novel approaches I've
ever seen in an action game and turns out to be quite cool. It
may take awhile to get used to swinging your way across chasms rather
than leaping, but once you do, it'll turn out to be a lot more
fun. Hey, think Tarzan.
In addition to Super Joe being kidnapped it turns out that an evil group
known as the "Badds" are looking into a long dead project known as
"Albatross". Later in the game, you learn that this is an incredible
fighting machien, but it can't be completed. See, the person with the
knowledge on how to build Albatross is dead. The Badds want to resurrect
him and have him create this badass dead machine for them. Although this
person is known as Master D in the game, its quite obvious by the portrait
that this is Adolf Hitler. It's a cool storyline when you look into it:
someone is trying to bring Hitler back from the dead to help build a machine
that could produce something a million times worse than the Holocaust.
Okay, I know I gave away pretty much the entire plot right there, but
that's just one of the many things that adds to the game. It's not
entirely straightforward and linear. You manuever around the map in
helicopter, where you can then descend into the levels. There are enemy
trucks, which you fight in an overheard battle when you collide with them.
These levels are extremely easy and unvaried (there are only two different
terrains) but are fun nonetheless and are great for getting continues. Plus
its fun to swing your bionic arm and deflect bullets.
Basically the game as being divided into
three sections: you must beat all of the levels in that section before
your helicopter can move to the next. You can beat these levels in the
given section in any
order, and each level conquered earns you another item. There are four
different communicators required in different areas to get clues and
open doors. There are also various cool weapons and armor that will
help you on your adventure. There are some areas that require various
items to go on...I'm not sure if this is mentioned in the instruction
booklet, but if you press "Select", "A", and "B" at the same time, you'll
exit the level. Since you don't know what communicator to bring into
each level, this will allow you to bring the right one. Still, you've
got to start the level over. It would be nice if you knew what to bring
before you started each level, so you wouldn't be stuck with a boss door
that won't open and you have the repeat the level. This is relatively
minor quibble though.
You start out as weak as a blind, deaf cat with four broken legs: a wimpy gun
and no life meter. By killing enemies, you get bullets. When
enough bullets are collected, you earn an extension to your life meter, so you
can take more hits. Along the way you'll also get other weapons with various
characteristics, like machine guns and bazookas. The game also has areas called "neutral zones" that are
simply places to get information and new items (and firing is not allowed.)
The graphics in the game aren't particularly stunning, but they are very colorful
and well-animated. Each of the levels has their own distinct look, whether
it be a normal, linear cave level, a sprawling sewer, or an indoor
labrinyth. The sound effects are generally good, and the bionic arm sounds
pretty cool. All of the music in the game is excellent, whether it's the
military sound of the first level, or the mood generating tunes of other
levels. The bionic arm controls almost perfectly, in my opinion; simply
pressing the "A" button shoots it diaganolly up in the direction you are
facing, but it can be fired directly up or side-to-side. Swinging,
retracting, and letting go of ledges with your arm requires practice, but
is all very simple once you get used to it. Some levels require
absolute mastery of these skills, and the game can get a bit annoying
if you can't use them.
Bionic Commando has it all: a good adventure, intriguing story, excellent
action, decent graphics, and an innovative concept that seems to make this
game stick out in everyone's mind. All in all, one of the
best NES games out there. Truly deserving of its classic status.