Robot Arm Grapple of Awesomeness
Generally, a remake is what, a 3-D re-imagining of the source material? This is the impression I’m under, that developers are afraid of taking two steps back when they put out games because they think the market won’t accept anything less than full 3-D. And one look at Sega proves that a once celebrated game developer can lose that charm and quality that was lost in translation from 2-D franchises to 3-D versions of their former selves. The Playstation and Nintendo 64 virtually killed 2-D gaming. Everything evolved so quickly that a whole new generation of gamers forgot about the NES, the Genesis, and the Super Nintendo. These consoles are the pinnacle of the 2-D side-scroller, platformer, fighter, and RPG’s. They live on in our memories but only serve as blips to modern gaming. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to declare a single generation of consoles as the golden age for gaming overall. Nostalgia aside, these are still great games with huge potential. And I firmly believe Bionic Commando: Rearmed is a step in not only the right direction, but also a great motivating factor for the rest of the industry to go back to its roots. Sales will obviously determine what we see in the future, but critics have already proven that there is still a place for those classic games, remake or not.
In its entirety Bionic Commando isn’t for the faint of heart. There may be no more punishing experience than a Super Hard play-through. And an Easy game will still be a platforming challenge like nothing else. But the most rewarding any game can get is progressing through very difficult areas. Too often a game will hold your hand, something players are accustomed to. You won’t find that in Bionic Commando: Rearmed, and you shouldn’t.
The level design is fair, even if a few parts seem like they should have been tweaked to be more forgiving. The grapple is mechanically sound but it still has minor issues here and there. The levels generally lend themselves well to the controls. Even the last stage, the newest addition, works under very difficult platform sequences. And the grapple is very smooth. It’s a very functional tool. Because you can use it in so many ways, the forced habit of applying it to the game really grows from each stage. There are instances where you’ll find the need to grab an enemy or deflect a bullet and in those areas it proves its usefulness. It’s more than a way of climbing; the game works because it works so well.
The weapons are all ultimately very different and with that variety it’s still the Machine Gun and Laser that made the biggest difference. I saw no reason to use the Shotgun unless I had to start a new swing. And the Rocket Launcher was effective in clearing the path ahead, but I don’t feel like it’s any better than the Shotgun in a boss fight. The bosses themselves are, in a word, brilliant. Brilliant in the sense that I haven’t had a game with solid boss fights in years. Rarely do games use them anymore, and when they do it can be short on the creativity and imagination of a time gone by. These bosses feel totally retro. Find the weak spot, and shoot that thing. I didn’t know that the grapple would be put to use in so many great ways. It’s just great game design.
The presentation is why you come back. The same reason why I go back. Its visuals are a luxury for such an inexpensive game. The color palette is tasteful and simplistic, but the range of those colors gives the game a little more personality than the original. The effects give little touches that add to the experience without taking your attention away. The music reminds me of a time when it mattered in games, when the soundtrack would be even more memorable than the game itself. Hearing the music in Rearmed, you can’t help but get excited for the potential it has. The game takes itself seriously too, that’s attention to detail. This is the throwback I want to action games that once had over the top ridiculous storylines. Poorly translated dialogue was just something you got used to. I’m just as surprised as I am happy to see that here. It was a real pleasure to read some of the in-game text, because it can be so entertaining. And as you find yourself unlocking challenge rooms, you realize that this is a ten dollar game which could have been even more and would hold its value just as well.
What I’ll always remember from Rearmed was a revival of the past. This could prove to developers that retro still works. For Capcom, it may well lead to a new wave of success in the downloadable marketplace. Right now there is an emphasis on quantity over quality but I think that’s changing. We shouldn’t discourage against Shoot Em’ Ups just because there are so many of them. Instead, we need to encourage more of them. Increase competition and creativity. Mega Man 9 is the next step. A proven formula that was long thought to be dead. It wasn’t fatigue that lead to the demise of big name franchises; it was the assumption that gamers wanted more from their games. It’s not that we don’t want more content, rather we don’t want layers upon layers of gameplay and graphics. There is a place for that, and I think that place is filled with games like Gears of War 2, Soul Calibur 4, and Metal Gear Solid 4. These are games that push technology forward. They’re on the cusp of our expectations. But this download space is very much a void. My hopes rely on Bionic Commando: Rearmed just as much as Capcom’s. I want to see these kinds of games succeed so that other developers will realize there is a home for this content. Sega, Midway, and Rare could all be very successful taking their franchises retro. I understand this desire to keep Sonic or similar characters modern and up to date, but those characters would benefit immensely from this style. Can you imagine how many people would buy Sonic 4, or Vectorman 3, in this style? Sometimes less is more. And in the case of Bionic Commando: Rearmed, we could be looking at the start of something great.