Bionic Commando (NES)

Bionic Commando Box Art

Bionic Commando

System: NES

Release Date: December 1988

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Genre: Platformer/Shoot ‘em Up

Capcom comes in with a big holiday release with Bionic Commando. You could pretty much be secure in Capcom releasing decent games at this point. The story is that of an evil empire led by Generalissimo Killt has found some secret plans of the Nazi… errrr… Badd’s and are going to execute said plans to rule the world. The good guys sent in their hero, Super Joe, but he failed in his mission, so it’s up to you to save him and the world.

You’re equipped with your trusty gun and what puts the bionic in Bionic Commando, a super sweet grappling arm. There are five different guns that you earn through the game. In addition to the single shot, you get the wide gun, which shoots in a spread pattern. The rocket launcher, which is super powerful, and is my main choice for weapon. The 3-way gun, which shoots forward, up, and down and is pretty explosive, but surprisingly weak against the computer. And the machine gun, which I hoped would be good, but really wasn’t.

You don’t have the ability to jump, so the grappling arm is your main means of conveyance. It’s also the main gimmick of the game. You have to platform from the beginning of the stage to the boss battle at the end of the stage. In between there will be plenty of enemies to destroy and communications rooms to enter. The communications rooms give you an idea of what you need to do to succeed in later levels. At the end of the levels, you receive some sort of prize, whether it be a better weapon or an item that can be equipped.

You need to go through the levels to unlock items to be able to get through other levels. It’s pretty linear though, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost or stuck. The map screen has levels numbered 0-19. Levels with a white background are your typical platforming levels. Levels with a red background are neutral cities. If you shoot your weapon on these, you will be attacked by the residents until you leave the screen. These cities have items hidden in buildings that will help you on your way. There are also green trucks patrolling the map, if you run into one, you are sent into a shoot ‘em up level in the vein of the original Commando.

The end goal of each stage is a computer room that you must destroy. These are guarded by bosses that range from simple to pretty indestructible. Getting to the bosses can be rather challenging. Some of the levels feature platforming that requires very precise timing. If you’re off by a hair, you’re dead. An important piece of knowledge is if you press Start+Select+A in a level, you can immediately teleport out and try again. This is useful if you’re low on lives and are taking a beating. Once you move through the final level, Generalissimo Killt is flanked by the one and only Adolf Hitl… I mean Master-D. This is the second game where the finish is blowing up Hitler’s head. My kind of game!

Graphics: 3.0

The art direction is good: there is a variety in colors, portraits are neat.

Sound: 3.5

I hadn’t played Bionic Commando in decades, but I knew the music before playing. It sticks with you like most Capcom games.

Gameplay: 3.0

The grappling arm being the main gimmick of the game is fine, but the swinging can be very imprecise.

Difficulty: 3.0

I think you get enough lives and continues to make it through on your third or fourth try. Some of the hook jumps you need to make are ridiculous. And don’t get me started on how long it took me to get the pattern on the final boss…

Fun Factor: 3.5

This is definitely a fun game that can be enjoyed multiple times.

Overall Grade: 3.2

Bionic Commando earns a B+. Capcom released another hit with this one. It can be difficult in some places, but your perseverance is rewarded with an actual ending that wraps things up nicely. Definitely play this one.

Bionic Commando Video Review on YouTube