Halfway between a direct port and a remake, Bionic Commando follows roughly the same story as the game of the same name
on the Nintendo Entertainment System
. The protagonist is Rad Spencer
, the best of the bionic commando corps, and his mission is to rescue Super Joe
from Director Wiseman's Doraize Dukedom. Using an assortment of guns and his grapple-launching bionic arm, Rad is airdropped into various levels and must locate and destroy their command center or boss to continue.
The game is a tried and true platformer, trading the ability to jump for a grappling hook that can be shot horizontally, upwards or up at an angle. It can stun enemies, retrieve items or latch onto solid objects so that Rad can swing about the stage and launch himself into the air. Between levels, Rad gets a ride from a helicopter that can follow branching paths between hostile levels and neutral zones where equipment and contacts can be found. Enemy dropships also patrol the paths; when the helicopter encounters them, Rad is dropped into a short, linear stage where he must defeat parachuting enemies and get to the end of the zone.
Over the game, Rad gains specialized pieces of equipment that can offer additional strategic options when in battle. He also gets access to a growing selection of guns to choose from before being airdropped. As each gun can have its advantages, selecting the right tool for the job is the key to victory.
The game does not use a save system, instead relying on a password mechanic to let the player pick up where he left off over multiple play sessions. Passwords consist of various geometric shapes arranged on a grid.
Game Boy Vs N.E.S. Differences
Despite sporting drastically different visual styles, both the Game Boy and the Nintendo versions of Bionic Commando have strong similarities. Being a reboot of sorts, Bionic Commando on the Game Boy takes the original story and tweaks it while still paying respect to the original Japanese version.
Instead of going up against the Nazis lead by Adolf Hitler, or the Badds led by Generalissimo Killt, Rad instead takes the fight to the Doraize Dukedom and its leader, Director Wiseman (the original name of Killt's character from the Japanese version of the NES Bionic Commando). Additionally, while the NES version had the Badds plot to revive Master D, the Game Boy's Director Wiseman instead only sought to activate the Albatross, a mighty flying fortress. In the end, both games require the same precise finishing blow to achieve victory, except that the Game Boy's final explosion lacks a certain bit of color (in the form of an animated sequence of Hitler's head exploding).
While the original NES title had a contemporary military theme overall, the Game Boy incarnation punches up the technology level into sci-fi territory. Characters leave the modern army templates aside to go for spiky hair, arm-mounted cannons, futuristic armour and the iconic grapple.
Of note are the cinematics of the opening sequence, which are a step up from the NES ones. They go so far as to trick depth of field effects out of the limited Game Boy hardware to make backgrounds seem blurry and far away.
Travel over the overland map is still the same in both versions, except that enemy transports were changed from trucks to high-tech dropship aircraft. While in the original, the troop transport encounters were top-down, here they keep the same platform mechanics found in the rest of the game and enemies parachute down instead. The game as a whole is also more forgiving than the NES Bionic Commando, starting the player off with a three-hit lifebar (as opposed to the NES's one-hit-wonder commando) and using a mild RPG element for lengthening it as enemy tokens are obtained.