Greetings, all! Last week, we took a trip to Planet Gitaroo.
This week, we go way back to the NES days, to a game where you couldn't even really jump.
Bionic Commando is an NES classic, released in 1988 (wow). You play as Ladd Spencer (or maybe Rad, translation errors abound. I'm going to refer to him as Ladd simply because that's what the American version calls him). Ladd is sent deep into enemy territory to rescue legendary hero Super Joe from the Badds, a nefarious organization bent on world domination.
Right off the bat, when you start the game, you'll realize something weird: you can't jump. At all. Pressing A makes Ladd fire his bionic arm in a straight, up, or 45 degree fashion, depending on directional input. B shoots your gun, of course.
The goal of the game, therefore, is to master your bionic arm and swing your way through each level. Enemies, of course, will try to stop you. At first, your enemies will be simple soldier types, like in the screenshot, but soon, you'll fight armored troops, flying drones, and even weird, floating, jellyfish-like creatures. (Yeah) Boss battles await at the end of most levels. Typically, you'll fight a mass of soldiers, a robotic gunship, and even a guy with his own bionic arm as you try to destroy a reactor, clearing the level and awarding you with a new item to use in subsequent levels.
Linking the levels together is a sort of overworld map where you travel to each level via helicopter:
You select which level to go to, and watch the chopper slowly move to the level you picked. As you do, the trucks on the map will move simultaneously. Should the helicopter connect with a truck, a short, overhead-view battle ensues. These resemble the old Capcom game Commando, which starred Super Joe. So think of Bionic Commando as a kind of quasi-sequel.
It's totally worth a revisit because, for a retro game, it's pretty different. Simply taking away a jump function changes the whole dynamic of what would otherwise be an everyday side-scroller. There are sections where you have to have the swinging mechanics down pat. Anyone who's played it will remember Level 5, for example. That's just the tip of the iceberg. It's a demanding, challenging, and endlessly rewarding game.
For the era, it's a surprisingly lengthy game, too. You have to explore most every level to get radios (glorified keycards) and other items to proceed. Items like better guns and bulletproof iron boots. (!) (Seriously. Your feet can deflect bullets. Also you can swing into enemies, I guess.)
And here's some more fun bits about Bionic Commando:
- There's one of the earliest instances of cursing in gaming. Certainly the earliest on NES:
Sorry for the tiny image.
- That's totally supposed to be Adolf Hitler. In the Japanese release, the bad guy was a resurrected Hitler and the Nazis. For the American release, Hitler became "Master-D" and the Nazis became the "Badds." Awesome.
- There's also (SPOILER) the image of Hitler's (D's) head exploding at the end. Probably tame by today's standards, doing this in a game in 1988 was unheard of. It's pretty graphic:
- There's an arcade version of Bionic Commando, but it barely resembles this version at all. This one is the better one, I think.
- The music in this game was composed by a Capcom employee named Junko Tamiya, who also did the music for the arcade version of Strider, as well as games like Gun.Smoke and 1943.
Play it again (or for the first time) if you have the means. If not, there's the remake for 360, PS3, and PC, called Bionic Commando Rearmed. It's a worthy remake that captures the spirit of the original perfectly. There's also the sequel, simply called Bionic Commando. It's a full 3D sequel, but...well. The game's gotta be like 8 bucks, now, and it's not the worst thing... Still, stick with the original, it's the best.
Hit the comments! As always, suggestions for future Game of The Week posts are welcome!
Thanks to Wikipedia for the box art, and the Internet at large for the other shots.
Next week, we'll keep the retro wagon rolling with another NES game that's much, MUCH harder than this. Seriously. It's ridiculous.