Released in the Arcades way back in 1987 Bionic Commando was touted as a spiritual sequel to Commando. It gained wide appeal and prompted Capcom to make a home port. Instead of the making a direct remake which was the common practice at the time Capcom decided to make a sequel and in 1988 Bionic Commando for NES was released and became an instant classic that many still play today. With the underwhelming response to 1942: Joint Strike has Capcom finally nailed it with a remake of an NES game that gamers still hold dear to their heart? Let’s find out.
Upon first booting up the game you are greeted with the story which pretty much boils down to the hero from the original arcade version being kidnapped and it’s your mission to rescue him. You are then greeted with the main menu which has several different options, there’s single player, ‘challenge rooms,’ multiplayer and many others.
Single play campaign plays out like the original NES version in that you are presented with a map with different paths you can take. Along these paths are bases categorised by either red for allied or white for enemy. Allied bases allow you to pick up chips that unlock more areas of the map and enemy bases are the actual levels you will play. Typically a level will consist of a heavily fortified base which you must traverse followed by a boss battle at the end. You will be given 3 lives once they’re gone its mission failed.
The main gameplay mechanic that made this game stand out from the crowd was unlike Super Mario your character cannot jump instead you have a ‘Bionic Arm’ which can be shot from different directions and used as a grappling hook to allow yourself to swing from place to place. Unfortunately at first it can be rather difficult to control the direction the hook shoots in mainly due to the 360’s rather unimpressive D-pad, analogue control is available too, though it may take several missions until you have fully mastered all of its quirks.
Most of the action is standard run and gun, with you only having to stop every now and again to kill an enemy who has ducked in front of a concrete slab. Enemies at first only take 3 bullets to kill but towards the end it can take more like 5-6 to kill one soldier but by that time you’ll have amassed a rather large arsenal of weapons, everything from shotguns to vector guns (vector guns shoot a laser at an angle that can kill certain enemies very quickly and easily) will all be at your disposal which evens it all out.
In each level there are communication points you must reach in order to communicate with your H.Q to gather intel, there is also an option of hacking the terminal to reveal secret conversations by enemy troops, most times regarding a potential weakness in the boss at the end of the level. In order to hack a terminal you must complete a sort of mini game puzzle where you are a ball and you have to guide it in 3D by using the obstacles/teleporters to guide your ball to the green cube without leaving the boundaries of an encompassing cube around the puzzle, you do not actually control the ball its more of the case you control the rotation of the puzzle and the ball will go in whichever direction you have it facing. Personally I found these little puzzles broke up the gameplay, though I found them far too easy when compared to the actual game.
Which brings me to difficulty, this game is hard. Expect to see the ‘You Died’ screen and the ‘Mission Failed’ screen very frequently what with enemies placed so they can attack you but you can’t attack back and obstacles such as electrified walkways and bear traps all zapping away at your health. Then there are the bosses, the conversations by the enemy do give little hints as to what you are supposed to do but putting what they say into context can be a little tricky leaving you to pretty much try and figure it out for yourself. Each boss you beat you will face again in a more powered up form so remember if you find one of the first bosses difficult there is always much worse to come, talking from experience.
The graphics has have received an major overall, you play in a 2.5D environment meaning everything is rendered in 3D but you can only move on the 2D plane. All textures, models and backgrounds are sharp and your characters extremely fluid movements all help to make the world look alive and some environments you encounter will require special items such as flares in caves, etc. The actual effect of these flares in the darkened caves looks extremely lush and well done, weapons fire and such all have their own glow in the dark too.
In game story elements between your character and Haley are shown by different still shots of the two characters to show the emotions of their words which are shown below the images. The actual look of your character in these portraits I thought looked extremely 80’s action movie which I got a kick out of. All character art is colourful and well drawn easily pulling you into the world that little bit more.
Most of the in game music is remixed from the NES version and what a job they did too, the music retains its 8-bit roots but is backed up by some lovely instrumental parts all of which are enjoyable and fit the mood of the game perfectly. All the sound effects have also been redone giving all the guns different sounds all of which sound right and free from distortion, and all the bosses have their own set of sounds too.
With the game being as hard as it is it will take a while to get through but replay value comes in three forms. Firstly there is 2 player local co-op on the single campaign so you and a friend can play through together. Secondly there are many achievements not linked to actually completing the game, most of them require you to do certain things with a level to unlock them, giving that extra challenge to those who look for it. And finally there is the multiplayer; unfortunately it is only offline play where you and three friends fight it out against each other until only one is left standing.
Overall this remake is a complete game; the amount of content for the mire price of 800 points justifies its purchase and it has an awesome soundtrack too. The only downside is that the difficulty maybe too high for some players and the grappling hook can be a pain to get used to.