Bionic Commando and Bionic Commando

Bionic Commando Xbox 360 CoverThere once was a game named Bionic Commando, and then twenty years later there was another game named Bionic Commando. In some media, this would be called a remake, but when one features a generic soldier battling through different locations with a grappling hook and the other features a dreadlocked dude battling through an office building with cheesy one-liners, I wonder where the remake line is drawn.

Bionic Commando was released for the NES in 1988 by Capcom. It landed among a glut of platformers where characters did normal things like run and jump, but Bionic Commando bucked the trend and put you in the body of a slow-moving soldier with only his grappling hook at hand to move vertically. Its combination of solid but difficult gameplay and a branching level select entrenched it in the mind of gamers, which led to...

Bionic Commando was released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows in 2009 by Capcom. It landed among a glut of actiony-platformer shooters where characters shot things until they died, and Bionic Commando did not buck the trend. Its combination of generic yet insulting gameplay and derivative story made it largely a totally forgotten game.

Neither Bionic Commandos is meant to be confused with Bionic Commando: Rearmed, which is an actual remake of Bionic Commando (for the NES), and released a year before Bionic Commando (the forgotten one on the more whiz-bangery systems). Or Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2, which is a sequel to the remake released before the game with the same name as the original.

I've played around with this tom-foolery before, particularly with Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden. A pair of games that both featured the same name and ninjas, but that's about it.

I'm going to play the first half-hour of each Bionic Commando, which adds up to an hour of Bionic Commandoness. I will then judge them entirely on 30 minutes of gaming and move on with my life. First up, the original Bionic Comando for the NES.

Bionic Commando
Bionic Commando Cover
Platforms NES
Genre Classic vertical platforming
MtAMinutes to Action 1
Keep Playing? No
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Minute by Minute

00 - I press Start and the first half-hour of Bionic Commando for the NES begins. A Metal Gear Solid codec-like conversation window appears and some soldier tells me he's the Captain from headquarters. My objective is to enter the enemy area and rescue Super Joe, but first I have to meet with some Agents.

01 - Some music begins blaring and a map appers with about 20 different locations on it. I head to number 1 in my chopper. I'm dropped in the level and play around with the controls. A shoots the grappling hook and B shoots my gun. Simple enough.

02 - There's some tricks about what kind of levels you can climb up on after grappling on or not, figuring it all out.

03 - Entered a room with an Agent. So a bunch of guys have already infiltrated the bad guys, why do they need me to loudly break in and bust stuff up? Seems like they have it under control.

04 - "Ignore all dangers and proceed to the open door."

Bionic Commando map

05 - I also wiretap the bad guys and listen in as they warn each other about an elevator, guess I shouldn't take the easy way up (or down).

06 - Keep falling to my death as I try to be tricky and shoot my grappling hook out at the last moment. Oh oh, Game Over! There were no indications of lives, haha.

08 - When bad guys die they leave some kind of canister behind, no idea what it is as there is no HUD in this game (found out later you can press Select to view a few details).

09 - Getting over this particular ledge is rather difficult, you need to grapple and swing from just the right location. Game Over'd again!

12 - I finally made it over the chasm and reached some kind of door with a bird on it, but I don't know how to open it. My available moves are rather limited...

13 - Well, fell in the water and lost all my lives. I think I can actually skip level 1 for now, so let's try that!

14 - I can go to either Area 13 or 4, hmm... 4 is lower.

Bionic Commando Grappling Hook

15 - Don't know what this means but a truck intercepted our helicopter!

16 - Bionic Commando has turned into a top-down shooter! I plow through the enemies, getting shot once means you're dead. The last time I died I actually fell off the cliff, a hilarious little sprite of my character appeared to signify me going WAY down. Let's see if I can get to Area 4 before the truck does.

18 - Nope! Here we go again!

19 - Uhh... so that time I just ran and only shot guys directly in front of me, as soon as I reached their base I was done. That was a lot easier. Woah, I'm in a cave and it is really dark, the game went black for a moment and I thought I would have to navigate with like flickering light, but in a rather well done effect, it's like my character's eyes adjusted and I could just barely see.

21 - Found a computer room in the cave, time to check in and wiretap.

23 - Ugh, death by spikes, Game Over. Let's try out Area 13.

Bionic Commando top Down Shooter

24 - A guard here tells me (after I tried to shoot him) that this is a neutral area.

25 - Well, that was boring. Heading to Area 5.

27 - I don't know how to proceed, can't go any further left or right and heading up is out of the question as the nearest hook attach points are too far away. Maybe I need a longer grappling hook?

28 - Never mind, you can grab on to these standing lights, nice!

29 - Died after minutes of climbing... back to the beginning!

30 - Well, hey! I'm actually getting pretty good at this grappling hook thing! I made it to Area 5's computer room in just one minute. Pat myself on my back as the first half-hour of Bionic Commando on the NES runs out of time.

Bionic Commando Knee High Obstacle

An early warning sign to Gears of War and its knee-high obstacles.

Bionic Commando
Bionic Commando Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
Genre Unadventurous redo
MtAMinutes to Action 7
Keep Playing? No
Buy from Amazon

Minute by Minute

00 - I select Single Player and the first half-hour of Bionic Commando on the Xbox 360 begins. Some lovely piano music was playing on the title screen. The loading screen let's me test out buttons and see what they do. Oh, here we go, the opening cutscene. Capcom presents...

01 - Ascension City, we're miles above it with a satellite's eye view of it getting nuked. Ouch. A man begins narrating and describing the past. Some fascist government was taking over, but the original(?) bionic commando saved the day.

02 - But soon bionics were not considered heroes, but outlaws, and they were purged. The original hero was killed on death row. Modern day now, a bionic has guns pointing at him but he's missing his bionic arm.

03 - I guess some politician got him out of death row, but he's not very grateful. He's briefed on the latest nuclear attack, and is the country's last hope. Rogue bionics have joined with former ex-Imperialists to make up the new terrorist group.

Bionic Commando Xbox 360 Hero Trees

04 - The politician has a bit of leverage over Spencer, our one arm bionic: his former lover, Emily. She's gone missing and he has information. Spencer agrees to help and gets his beefy left arm back.

05 - Some aircraft fire two non-exploding missiles at the city, maybe Spencer was in there? More loading. Oh, one was Spencer and the other was his bionic arm! Haha, we have to retrieve it.

07 - I've got control and try out the buttons, seem normal enough. A guard approaches, but then the game offers up a Blood Trial challenge. Kill 10 grunts and I get the Hip Shot. I guess the challenge is automatically active? I take out the first guard from behind with a few shots. The reticle is HUGE!

09 - I hide behind a wall but the second grunt manages to see me. I take him out quickly though.

10 - Three guards go down but not before a bit of taunting first. They accuse me of killing hundreds.

11 - The game definitely feels like Lost Planet. Oh oh, the building rumbles as the lights go out in the office I'm searching. Where's my arm?

12 - There are two Pepsi soda machines in the next room... yeah. Make that three. I zoom in on a guy and get the Close Up Achievement after killing him.

Bionic Commando Xbox 360 Hero Explosion

14 - 8-bit collectibles are scattered around the level, I've found 4 of 5 so far. As I enter a room, a cutscene kicks off as Spencer finds his arm and attaches it. That thing is gigantic, but no reason I couldn't have had it attached earlier.

15 - Spencer sees a vision of Emily, but then she runs off. Then he's beating up some bald, white dude.

16 - The original Bionic Commando is describing how to use the arm. I'm controlling him now in a training area. The game tells me I'm a great swinger because I released at the right time (that's what she said?).

18 - Now I'm taught to steer clear of irridiated surfaces, what is this, Fallout 3?

19 - I have to admit, stringing together a series of swings is very fun.

21 - A computer teaches me some more moves like Rip and Death from Above. Should be useful. You can also toss items that you have your arm attached to.

Bionic Commando Xbox 360 Grappling Hook

24 - Now that I'm done with the tutorials... what do I do?

26 - Okay, totally lost. I'm just going in circles through the same cooridors. Oh! I had to hack the computer again and select Exit Tutorial. Yeah, thanks.

27 - A cutscene of Spencer blasting someone in the face with his restored arm, ouch.

28 - I'm looking out at the city now, it sure doesn't look like it's been bombed. Some helicopters fly by, and the game encourages me to take a leap of faith and jump off. Wow, the game makes me feel like Spider-man as I swing around the skyscrapers.

29 - I head down underground through an uprooted sewer pipe.

30 - All right, now the city is looking a bit more messed up. The roads are destroyed and a skyscraper just toppled over in the distance. And that's the end of the first half hour of the new Bionic Commando.

Bionic Commando Xbox 360 City Jump

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 1 and 7 minutes

Would I Keep Playing? No and no, but for different reasons.

I'm vaguely interested in continuing the original Bionic Commando, if only for historical reasons and to say, "yeah, I beat that." But I don't know how much fun I would actually be having in the process. Yes, the actual gameplay is pretty good, as long as you're careful about where you're walking and always have a finger on the fire button, but I can see it being supremely frustrating with only three lives available for the entire game. Plus the game seems somewhat built on trial and error of which stages to go to next, and I just don't have time these days to play that type of game. I could save state scum my way through it, but I watched friends do that with Ninja Gaiden on the NES and they just about went insane, and all so they could say they "beat it."

I'm completely disinterested in continuing the new Bionic Commando, this was one of those titles where you're staring at the clock waiting for the hour to be up, and I was only committing to thirty minutes! I didn't find the character or story engaging at all, and the controls just aren't that great. There was some hint at a bigger game with the city reveal right at the end of our time together, but even that is not going to get me to stick around.

Not a very successful first hour, but Nate enjoyed Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 and convinced me to buy it when it was on sale, so I will be returning to the series at some point in time.