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Bionic Commando – Great Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Video Games From the Past
Full of Win
The original Bionic Commando game on the NES is considered one of the greatest 2d platformers of all time. I remember trading Double Dragon for this game as a kid, and my mom got really mad at me because she had purchased DD for me for Christmas. I still regret the trade, mostly because Double Dragon really was one of the best games back then. Despite being pretty original, Double Dragon was clunky. You can read more about what I think of Double Dragon over here on this hub.
I enjoyed Bionic Commando. I took it to my friend’s house, and everyone over there liked it too. It was a one of a kind game. Capcom got rid of jumping altogether and forced you to use your bionic grappling hook (who is this guy, the Six Million Dollar Man?). And hey, what other game lets you kick the crap out of futuristic Nazis? This game had win all over it from the get go. Ah, and the music was total class all the way.
Nothing Says Oldschool Skills like Your Very Own Nintendo Game Controller messenger Bag! Carry Your School Stuff or Games or Whatever.
Okay, Not Full of Win
There was only one problem for a kid playing Bionic Commando – the game was long and sort of difficult. It was only years later that I discovered that there was a hidden RPG-like level up system hardcoded into the game. Since I had traded for it, I didn’t have the manual. That might have helped. I don’t remember making it all that far in the game. There was a level where you had to basically climb straight upwards on a building thing while a bunch of dudes with helicopters coming out of their butts tried to shoot you down. If I could get past that stage, I was doing pretty well.
The graphics were pretty good, especially for 1988. Developers were still trying to figure out how to use the NES’s primitive 48 colors (with 6 shades of grey) and low resolution to their best potential. Still, the map view looks like total garbage. What where they thinking? Lines, trucks, and numbers? It looks ridiculous and really takes you out of the game.
What was pretty cool was the part where the game became a top down 2d shooter where you moved up the screen. This took a bit of the monotony away from sidescrolling, but the top down parts became very tedious. They happened whenever you hit a truck on the map screen. The whole concept made no sense, too. Maybe the manual explained what the heck is happening. Why does a helicopter have to stop for a truck? Shouldn’t you be in a truck too for this to make sense? Eh, I guess making logical sense didn’t matter to Capcom back then. Heck – why do you even have to fly over those straight lines in the chopper? You should just be able to fly straight to Master D. and beat his ass.
Ah, speaking of Master D. – if you made it to the end of the game, you got a huge surprise. These guys are basically Nazis, and they have kept Hitler in some sort of stasis! They’re bringing him back to life! Right, so the final point of the game is to destroy Hitler and his albatross weapon thingy (for all the bragging done in the game about the Albatross – well, it sure goes down faster than a fat kid riding a seasaw).
Bionic Commando for NES Speed Run Video.
Master D. Is Adolph Hitler!
It wasn’t as if Capcom meant for the whole Hitler storyline to be a surprise. The game was originally released as Hitler’s Revival: Top Secret in Japan. They had put swastikas and stuff all over the video game, and the final boss was actually Hitler. For the US release, Nintendo forced Capcom to remove all of the references to Nazis in the game. They turned the Nazis into a group referred to as the “Badds” – but the original game manual also says “Nazz.”
By the by, Bionic Command was a really weak name for this game, at least in my opinion.
Many have given high praise to this game, even going as far as to rank at as one of the very best Nintendo games ever made. I have mixed feelings, mostly because the game had a rather high difficulty for kids. I never got too far in the game, no matter how hard I tried. The jumping mechanic was fun at first, but it just continued to be a bit awkward. I really wish they would have made the special hook more like the wall walking in Ninja Gaiden – CPU controlled. Jumping is just such a basic thing for any platformer.
Seriously, how did this thing get made the way it did. I can just imagine some guy pitching this game: "I want to make a platform game like Mario where you can't jump..." and then a bunch of executives laugh hysterically at him and call security.
Still, I did love this game back when I was young. I can get much further in it nowadays since I am more experienced, but I can’t help but remember how frustrating it all was when I was a kid.
Nintendo was well known to censor even the slightest blood and gore in their video games, so it’s interesting that they allowed Hitler’s exploding head sequence to remain in the final US version. I never even knew the game was actually about Nazis when I was a kid.
Unique Gaming to the Max
It was particularly cool how you got to find Radios throughout the game that would inch along the story for you. That was a good thing, especially since I didn’t have the manual. Then there were those weird neutral zones where everyone got pissed and tried to kill you, but only if you shot your gun. That was a weird addition to the game. Why did they care so much about my shooting? Can’t a guy get drunk and have a good time anymore? Oh, and the bosses were almost always in that same cheesy computer room. That got kinda old. Why am I destroying all these computers? Can’t let those suckers get on the internet, that’s for sure.
Ah, there was also that electronic sound effect that they played whenever stuff blew up. You can listen to the video on this page and find it after you destroy a boss. It’s really weird. Sounds like electronic drums. Very memorable.
Shooting Hitler in the Face
Now, as I mentioned earlier, the Albatross is really way too easy to defeat. I don’t know what Capcom was thinking when they programmed the final battle. I guess they spent more time on making the exploding Hitler graphic than they did the actual battle programming. All you do is hang from a ledge and shoot the cockpit. It takes like 5 seconds.
“Now I’ll show you the horror of the Albatross!”
Blam. Dead. Very disappointing.
Another weird thing is that at the very end, you have to jump off of a cliff and shoot Hitler in the face on the way down. You die if you miss Hitler. Shouldn’t you die either way? Oh well, again, Capcom didn’t give much of a crap about logic, I guess. Jumping off a 100 foot ledge is perfectly safe, kids.
Someone Set Us Up the Bob-omb Plush! Nice!
My fond memories of this game are mostly glazed over by the difficulty that it presented to me as a child. It was frustrating, and for some reason I just wasn’t driven to really try and beat it. Maybe it was the fact that you spend so much time just platforming around (without jump) rather than killing stuff. There was a lot of that. There were also very obnoxious mazes at certain points in the game. The game just felt so big and harsh to me back then. I really felt like one little soldier trying to defeat a whole army.
Oh well. In the end, I appreciate this game a lot more nowadays than I used to. It’s a gem, but I wouldn’t rank it all that highly on any list. Maybe in the mid 40s for a top 100? That sounds right to me. I’m sure plenty readers will disagree. It's just that I can think of an awful lot of games that I would rather pop into my Nintendo these days. Like Barbie!. Nah, I'm kidding.
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