Game Review: Bionic Commando
Bionic Commando

Bionic Commando Title Screen

  • Publisher Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Released: December 1988
  • Game Type: Action
  • Players: 1
  • Product Number: NES-CM-USA
  • Rarity: C (Uncommon)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 9

    Box Scan
    Bionic Commando Screen 1 Bionic Commando Screen 2

    This game is based on an arcade title Capcom released in the mid 1980s. Bionic Commando was brought out as a sequel to their vertical shooter hit Commando, but this version was a side-view platforming title with an interesting gimmick: you controlled a soldier who had an extendable arm to climb ledges and grab objects. While the arcade game was ported to several computer systems, Capcom decided to rework the game for the NES, making it an action/adventure title with an interesting story. Their decision paid off, as the result is one of the best NES games ever.

    In the near future, the world is threatened by a ghost from the past. It seems the Imperial Forces have stumbled onto some documents that belonged to a long-dead militarisitc group called the BADDs. They detail a top-secret doomsday project known only as Albatross, and the Imerial Forces have decided to carry out their plan. The Federation has sent in their top agent, Super Joe, to thawrt the enemy, but all contact with him has been lost. You play a soldier with an experimential bionic arm and your mission is to find Super Joe, stop the Imperial forces and bring an end to whatever Albatross is.

    Bionic Commando consists of 19 areas: 12 main stages and 7 neutral levels. When you begin the game, and between stages, you view a map of the areas. You move around like a board game to each area, then you decide which available weapon and items to take with you before you descend into the battlezone. When you start out you only have your normal gun and one communicator, but as you visit different areas you gain more powerful weapons and some important items. Also you can pick the order of the areas, but certain stages can't be reached until you clear other levels.

    Once you parachute into the area, the real fun begins. Each area consists of a side-view action stage, where you face off with a never-ending army of enemy soldiers. The object of each level is to gun your way to the end of the stage and put the energy core out of commission. The main draw of this game is that your character cannot jump. Instead you use your extendable bionic arm to swing over gaps and climb up to ledges. Your arm can swing out at three different angles to grab overhead ledges and can also grab useful items out of reach or stun enemies. Also at the beginning of the game you have no life meter, meaning one hit will kill you. Every enemy soldier you slay gives you a bullet, and if you collect enough bullets you'll earn a life meter. Plus certan amounts of bullets gives you an an extension of your life meter, allowing you to take more hits. You also need to bring a certain communicator with you into each area; there are communication rooms in each stage you must visit to keep in contact with your unit as well as open certain doors. There are four different types of communicators, and each one only works in certain areas, so you have to find out which one to use in each area. You can also wiretap the enemy communications for some important information, but sometimes that alerts the enemy and causes an ambush. After you blast the energy core you clear the area and earn a new weapon for your arsenal or a useful item you need to reach the later areas of the game.
    In your mission you'll also have to visit neutral areas, where firing is prohibited, for more items and information. As you move from level to level on the map, enemy convoys also travel along the routes. If your helicopter runs into one, you enter an overhead stage that works just like the original Commando; simply blast your way through soldiers to the end. By taking out certain targets you can earn continues. At the end of the last area you'll discover who is really behind Albatross, and if you haven't heard who it is already, let's just say it'll blow your mind.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics are very good in this cartridge. Each of the stages boasts its own unique look, from mountain areas to jungle areas to enemy bases, and the backgrounds are colorful and varied as well. The sprites all look decent and have good animation, especially your main character; his swinging animation is very smooth and well done.

    The music is top rate as well. There's only a small selection of background tunes, but each one sounds excellent and fits the mood of each stage very well. The real standouts include the theme at the first level and the Area 5 theme that matches the sunset. The sound effects are good, including the sound of your arm shooting out and grabbing a ledge, though a few of them could have been done better.

    The controls work well, despite some issues. You use the A button to extend your arm, and it'll take some practice to get the hang of it, but once you do you'll have no problems pulling off some cool moves. The only other issue is you push SELECT to pause the game while the START button uses your special item. This can get confusing at times; when you try to pause the action you might find you've used your all-important energy recovery pills. I don't see why Capcom couldn't have done it the other way around, since that would have made more sense.

    Challenge & Playability:
    The innovative gameplay of Bionic Commando does not disappoint. It's good fun to swing your way past spike-filled pits and enemy soldiers, and there's plenty of exciting shooting action to keep you occupied. Even if you've already beaten the game, there's still enough gameplay to keep you coming back. Plus the game's story unfolds at a good pace and features some unintentionally hilarious moments when you talk to certain people. There's also a few scenes that live on in NES infamy that you must see to believe, especially near the ending.

    As far as the difficulty level goes, it's pretty balanced for the most part. It may start off a little difficult with no life meter but you can easily build it up to get you going, and once you learn the ins and outs of each level, you should have very little trouble reaching the end. There are a few stages that can be downright frustrating and cause you to throw your controller at your TV, such as Areas 6 and 10, but it doesn't hurt the game too much. A minor gripe also involves the communicators; if you bring the wrong one into a stage, it'll keep you from reaching the end. If this happens you can push Select, A, and B together to leave the area, but you will have to restart the stage. At the same time you never have to worry about staring the entire game over; continues are limited by how many you get from the overhead areas, but you can easily enter the overhead stages repeatedly, making it easy to replenish them.

    Anyway you look at it, Boinic Commando ranks as one of the finest platform titles ever released for the NES. The fun unique gameplay is backed up by a good story, great graphics and awesome soundtrack to form a stellar package. Although the control issues do get in the way at times, it's not enough to deter an otherwise stellar release from Capcom. Even after all these years, Bionic Commando still passes the NES test with flying colors, so you'll definetly want to sign up for this mission pronto.

    - Review posted on January 8, 2008