Solid State Game Review: Bionic Commando (NES)
Game Title: Bionic Commando
Release Date: December 1988
Genre/Type: 2D Platformer
Game Rating: [V/V][Editor's Choice]
This is by far the most revolutionary platforming game to ever come out…
With the advent of the Nintendo Entertainment System, many third party developers flocked to it for it’s relatively large install base. However, finding that this console is technologically limited, developers toiled in the effort of squeezing every little bit of performance out of the popular system. Capcom is one of those companies that strived toward that goal. One of there games marks itself as the most unique and revolution game in the common 2D platforming genre. Even to date, there is no game that mimics or improves on the game’s unique formula. The game is Bionic Commando and it is the only game of its kind.
Bionic Commando has an interesting story, as well as an interesting way to tell it. The basic premise is that an enemy force known as the Imperials put their plan to create the Albatross (a secret super weapon with devastating power envisioned by the Badds) in motion. The leader of this evil movement is Generalissimo Killt, who executes the plan himself and also plans to revive an evil in order to make his terrifying plan complete. The introduction to the game starts with the story of the game being told from the point of view of Super Joe. He essentially tells the story of how this plot unfolded. He also spoke of Ladd Spencer rescued him from the Imperials who captured Super Joe after his mission to stop them failed. Your mission as Ladd Spencer is to rescue Super Joe and stop the Imperials.
Bionic Commando was released 1988 for the Nintendo Entertainment System after it’s initial release in an arcade format. This game takes the conventional 2D platforming game genre and makes two radical changes to the popular, yet monotonous formula. One of the biggest changes in this game is the lack of the ability to jump from platform to platform. It doesn’t necessarily seem like a huge change at first thought, but the fact that jumping from and to platforms is something all gamers expect and take for granted is what makes this a huge change. The other radical change made was bionic grappling arm mechanic. Your character can use the bionic arm for grappling onto overhead platforms and pulling yourself toward stationary objects (barrels and walls). You can also knock enemies back and grab out of reach items with the bionic arm. This new game mechanic makes for unique experience that no other game can provide. The way your character swings from platform to platform looks incredible. The swinging and grappling animations have a graceful tempo that contributes to the fluency and overall pace of the game.
Other than the 2D platforming game play mode in Bionic Commando, the game also has a top down perspective shooter mode. Like the main game mode in the previous Capcom title Commando, you make your way from point A to point B while fighting soldiers on the way. Though the grappling mechanic isn’t in this mode, you can still knock enemies back with your bionic arm.
The last big feature of the game is that you start out on a world map. The map has different mission or location areas that are differentiated with numbers. There are mission areas as well as neutral zones. Each area contains items that aid you while you are on your mission. You start with a standard rifle and can eventually get other weapons like a rocket launcher, and get special gear like energy pills and body armor. Anytime on the world map that you cross paths with an axis truck you have to land and confront the enemy in a top down perspective sequence where you have to fight your way from point A to point B.
Though the game is great representation of what makes a game a success, Bionic Commando does have a couple of issues. The first problem with Bionic Commando is that the translation is poorly done compared to other games of the genre. There are, at some times, too many article words in a sentence and sometimes there are just not enough. Sometimes the dialogue text is not formatted properly, so you will sometimes find that the last dialogue box in a conversation to only one word or one period. Also, there are some mission areas that require a certain weapon (some mission areas are blocked by steel). If you don’t pick the right weapon, there is possibility you could end up stuck at the beginning of the level and you would be forced to reset the whole game.
The graphics in Bionic Commando are very colorful and vibrant. It’s a unique graphical scheme especially for a game with characters being soldiers. The environments are vast intelligently designed to complement the revolutionary grappling arm mechanic and also present challenges that force you to employ new methods and techniques in order tackle them. Another great quality of the game is the sound effects and the impressive music soundtrack. The music simply immerses you into the entire experience. The overall presentation and superb mechanical execution of the game makes Bionic Commando a uniquely rich and action packed gaming experience. This is a game that no one should go without playing. Anyone who plays this game will remember it for years to come…