The year is 1988 the location: somewhere deep inside in Capcom’s Nintendo R&D
“I like platform games.”
“I wish you couldn’t jump in them though…”
“Yea me to… wait what?”
“Jumping, we should make a platform game where you cant jump.”
“Riiiiggghht… um I’m just going to give Electronic arts a call see if any job offerings are open”
In Capcom’s platformer Bionic Commando you cannot jump, yes I said you cannot jump (any questions?). Instead Capcom decided that the main protagonist Super Joe (Edit: Ladd Spencer – thanks correction nerd pups) would have a bionic arm that you can use to grab ledges and swing around. Now I’m not sure what kind of Heroin was being passed around the R&D department that day but they sure didn’t give any of the good stuff to the coding department because a more complete game you will not find. So before I take my own arm off with a bread knife and knock on the doors of the NHS asking for my replacement bionic arm lets see what makes this game so playable.
Graphics: Your main character is such a well drawn sprite that you can even make out his hero sunglasses! The backgrounds really work the NES’s hardware too. The stages are colorful and detailed yet don’t distract from the action on screen. Each level is different and doesn’t follow the usual ‘samey’ level tactic that a lot of NES titles employ and there are some sunset levels which are quite frankly, stunning. some of the enemies do suffer from no faces which is odd but not glaringly obvious.
Sound: No this is a tricky one, we all know that Capcom music is top notch and they usually employ some great composers but I have a feeling that there is more than one composers work in this game, as some songs are really rocking and triumphant but some of the tracks feel a little limp (although expertly written) but these limp songs are few and far between and for the most part songs fit their setting perfectly. sound effects are great too my personal stand out SFX’s would be: the noise that your bionic arm makes and the alarms that go off in some levels after you get caught wire tapping.
Gameplay: Your basic gameplay go’s a little something like this: Your stage select screen is a giant map and you can (almost) play this game non linear (although for certain stages you need to complete a previous level in order to get an item or information that helps you progress). There are levels which are safe zones that no one will shoot at you, these levels are usually for information gathering or story telling purposes but I know everyone who plays this game will at some time shot someone in these zones and when you do, oh dear lord, you will be attacked on every side. It’s sometimes more fun to cause havoc in these stages and try to survive (I have not managed to survive yet so I’m not sure if anything happens if you pwn everyone). On normal stages you traverse the stage using your arm to swing to unreachable places and basically shooting every thing that moves. You will need to go into rooms here and there to wire tap enemy communications and to talk to your home base. Its quite a varied bunch of gameplay mechanics all held together buy the expertly designed bionic arm physics.
In closing this games gives you more bang for your buck (bang for your sterling just doesn’t seen to work) than a lot of NES titles out there. For any collector out there this is another ‘Must own’ game. I get a lot of flak for reviewing Solstice 5 stars but if you are into adventure games it is the best you can buy but, if you are into action games Bionic commando is the the best game you can buy. this game should take centre stage on your games shelf with Contra (Probotector). and if you can get a JPN version of the game I highly recommend it, It’s called The Resurrection of Hitler: Top Secret and you actually battle Hitler in it! I really cannot emphasize how much you need to own and play Capcom’s classic and that’s why I give this game 5 out of 5 stars