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  • Bionic Commando Retrospective

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    Hello retro gamers of the world! Welcome to the Nostalgia Train, the monthly installment that takes a look at older video games and really basks in how amazing or horrible the past truly was. This month’s installment is none other than the puzzle-platformer Bionic Commando. Originally release as ‘Hitler’s Revival: Top Secret’ or Hittorā no Fukkatsu: Toppu Shīkuretto in 1988 for the Famicom, Bionic Commando for the

    .Bionic Commando, Opening Scene, Federation, Ladd Spencer


    Ladd Spencer is a futuristic solider for the FF Battalion equipped with a gun and crippled by his inability to jump. No worries about jumping though; Spencer has an awesome bionic arm with a grappling gun. He can swing himself across the screen, grab items, and stun enemies with his handy robotic appendage – so who needs jumping?

    The Dossier: Finding Super Joe

    on his journey to save the Commando Super Joe from a thinly veiled futuristic Nazi-like regime. (Yay, censorship!) It’s the Federation pitted against the “Badds” Empire. The Federation gains the upper hand after discovering an unfinished Imperial project by the name of “Albatross.” The Empire’s lead general, Generalissimo Killt, is planning to finish the project. Super Joe (named for the 1985 Commando title from Capcom) is sent on a secret mission, but he ultimately fails. It is up to Spencer to rescue Super Joe and uncover the secrets behind project Albatross.  Bionic Commando’s story is relatively simple, like most games back in the NES era. It’s a basic war scenario; our hero is against some steep odds, but eventually comes out victorious.

    Censored!  Nintendo Says No

    [caption id=attachment_3033" align="alignleft" width="469]Master-D, Bionic Commando Gasp! How dare they![/caption]


    This daring mission pits gamers against a recognizable pure evil. However, pure evil wasn’t exactly something Nintendo wanted to sell to audiences back in the day. All Nintendo games were heavily censored for violence, sexual connotations, religious implications, profanity, or a number of other nonsense reasons.  Despite all the censoring, it’s painfully obvious that the Empire is based off Hitler’s Nazi regime. The “Badds” are original called the “Nazz,” the Swastika insignia are replaced with eagles, and the end boss Master-D was originally named Hitler.


    [caption id=attachment_3031" align="alignright" width="128]Graphic End, Hitler, Bionic Commando But we can't call him Hitler![/caption]


    Also, I guess it was okay that the villain shouts a single profanity and meets a gory end.  It seems random that these aspects would be left in the game after considering all the work done to alter all of the other references and plot points.  The plot itself is nothing spectacular, but that is de-emphasized by game play.

    Game Play with "The Claw"

    Bionic Commando is unique for an action-platformer. As the game opens, players must navigate a numbered map by helicopter, avoiding enemy trucks, and descending to each section.  The game has two different perspectives: overhead encounters, and 2D platforming. When Spencer’s chopper encounters an enemy truck, he must battle his way through enemy territory. These mini sections are done in overhead perspective; players can shoot down enemies in order to obtain eagle-shaped markers for extra continues.


    [caption id=attachment_3041" align="alignleft" width="360]Bionic Arm, Swinging, Ladd Spencer I came in like a wwreckinngg baalll![/caption]


    The 2D platforming begins when a chopper stops on a numbered space.  The game contains two different areas: combat areas and neutral zones. When entering combat levels, players can select Spencer’s weapon, ‘armor,’ a specialty weapon, and a communication device.  Once he descends, Spencer must navigate enemy grounds,

    through with his bionic arm and mowing down enemies with his gun in the process. As gamers forge on, they must find communication rooms to reach members of the Federation for assistance or to ‘wire-tap’ for enemy intel. It is imperative to reach every communication room in order to progress with the game.  At the end of each combat zone, there are final “bosses” protecting a mechanical core. Once the core is defeated, Spencer will receive an item – whether it is a gun, a communicator, or piece of armor.


    [caption id=attachment_3042" align="alignright" width="421]Nerd, Empire, Badds, Bionic Commando Words cut deep, too![/caption]


    Neutral zones are levels where gamers can collect information or items. Since these zones are ‘combat free,’ if Spencer fires a couple rounds, he will be attacked immediately. Of course, if an Imperial solider attacks you, none of that will happen. So…I guess they are ‘selectively’ neutral. It’s important to explore every area in the game to find Super Joe, gather all of the items, and to really master Spencer’s bionic arm.

    Overview: The Best and The Worst

    Bionic Commando’s game play is incredibly fun. While there are moments that are ‘Nintendo Hard,’ it isn’t impossible to beat. There are some fairly challenging levels and the bionic arm mechanic adds a certain level of puzzle solving to the scheme. The bionic arm can go one of three angles: overhead, directly across, or 45 degrees. This provides a bit of a challenge when navigating the levels.  Re-spawning enemies is also a thing; some levels have enemies continuously dropping from the sky. Regardless, the game has a nice amount of challenge.  On a side note, the NES release was ‘re-balanced,’ and some of the areas were re-worked on a lower difficultly level.  So, if this game was ‘too easy’ try the Famicom version!


    [caption id=attachment_3039" align="alignright" width="1600]Communications, Bionic Commando, Level 1 I'm sure it's fine.[/caption]

    The Sounds of War

    One of Bionic Commando’s best features is the music. It really adds layers to the game, providing an upbeat and memorable soundtrack.

     helps set the tone for the game. It adds layers of tension and desperation that perfectly suit a war-themed narrative.

    Final Thoughts

    Bionic Commando is considered one of the best NES titles of all time. While it has a few remakes and an indirect sequel, it will never match the nostalgia of the good ol’ NES version. It’s one of those classic games that players remember fondly and wish to pick up again and again. Seriously, pick up this blast from the past and kill some Nazi---I mean, Badds. You’ll be happy you did.Level, Core, Badds

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