Bionic Commando Rearmed

No Dodging This Draft

Bionic Commando Rearmed is everything classic games were and more.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: September 1, 2008
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Back during the heady days of 8-bit gaming, there were few companies I could count on for seriously solid games like Capcom. Like all publishers at the time, The Big C pumped out more than a few stinkers, but stuff like Chip 'n Dale's Rescue Rangers, Duck Tales (the moon level's music is still my ringtone to this day) and of course Capcom's own in-house IP like Mega Man were brilliant, offered killer music and best of all were a blast to play.

But no NES game enthralled me as much as Bionic Commando. It was a platformer without a jump button, a task handled by the utterly unique mechanic of using a bionic arm to swing around. With only the arm and a weapon to gun down enemies, it was not only one of the most unique concepts around (yes, let's just ignore that the arcade version ever existed), it was insanely difficult. To this day, it's one of the games that I'm most proud of having finished back when I was a wee tyke and if you ever needed evidence that all us old fogeys claiming that "video games back in our day were way tougher," you need only look at the original Bionic Commando.

The best part about the remake, however, isn't the fancy graphics, it isn't that plenty has been changed to make the game better or more modern, from storyline to power-ups to the way in handles continues. Nope, it's that it's still insanely hard. You can control the difficulty, of course, but the core parts of the game, the platforming, avoiding long beds of spikes and shots that seem to come from everywhere, those are still there.

So let's go over what exactly has been changed, hmmm? Gone is the need to essentially farm out lives and continues by collecting bullets dropped by enemies and in those overhead fights between levels. You're now given a set number of lives (and you can still find extra ones tucked into nooks in levels), but unlimited continues. Nathan (nee Radd) Spencer now starts out with a significant chunk of life and only needs to upgrade it once about three quarters through the game. He's still fighting an evil army, but they're not really Nazis, nor is their Leader such an obvious nod to Hitler.

There were a number of improvements made to the overall game, some to simply make it more playable and others to ease the difficulty just a little. All weapons (some of which are basically new) are carried into battle, and can be switched between more freely (some enemies and their placement definitely play into this, which makes things more varied), enemies now drop health or points tokens the first time they die (but not subsequent trips through a level if you die or enter a doorway), neutral zones are now exclusively occupied by allies, so no paratroopers dropping in if you accidentally fire a shot, bosses have been added, and so on.

Little touches, like being able to fire your shotgun (once you get it, of course) to restore momentum if you happen to get "stuck" motionless over, say, a spike pit, or the ability to use the bionic arm to grab barrels or even soldiers, not to mention being able to toss grenades to platforms below were seriously welcome additions. I like the old game's challenge, but part of the difficulty was just in getting stuck somewhere with the only recourse being to fall to your death.
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