A jab at gaming – with love

BBQ Sauce- Bionic Commando

By Brian

Ah, nostalgia.  I have to admit, I am a person who is completely enthralled with it.  It’s the reason I game, the reason I still read comics, and the reason I collect those delightful Transformers from the past.  I am the epitome of the Toys R Us kid who never wanted to grow up.  I thank my parents for giving me a wonderful childhood that is worth remembering, and also for not throwing away any of my toys or comics during the few short years I thought they were “uncool” and decided to chase girls instead.  However, while there are items and activities that can bring on a rush of nostalgic memories; occasionally nostalgia takes you on a bad trip.  Or in some cases a bad fall.  But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

In the 80’s, almost any novel idea, no matter how ludicrous, could be used to make a game.  Forget market studies; if it was a crazy idea, you had a game.  Robots playing baseball?  It’s a game!  Gorillas kidnapping girls only to have them rescued by construction workers/plumbers?  It’s a game! Maybe it was the simplicity of game design and it’s addictiveness, maybe it was the skill of the programmers, but more often than not these crazy games actually turned out to be… well, fun.  So when you hear about a game that has a soldier who has a prosthetic arm, and somehow that arm instead of being a liability is actually a ultra futuristic war machine, you have to give the game the benefit of the doubt that it’ll actually be good.  Throw in the fact that he’s in the middle of a war between the Federation and the Empire (totally not a ripoff), and you have the making of a great 80’s game. 

*Editor’s note: Capcom wishes to direct you to ignore the Han Solo handsome looking fellow depicted on the cover.  Again, this is totally not a ripoff or a simple color swap.

Bionic Commando for NES was in fact a good game.  You took on the role of Ladd Spencer, who used his bionic arm to swing around the 2D screen and battle Imperial Forces with ease.  Interestingly enough, the Empire in the original Japanese version was depicted as a Neo-Nazi group, complete with Swastikas.  When the game came to American shores, however, these references were changed.  The gameplay was fun, the swinging mechanic was innovative and new, and the series gained decent reviews and a lot of fans.

Knowing the following the original NES game had, Capcom decided to reintroduce the franchise to eager fans and newbies to the series alike.  Their first attempt, a downloadable game called Bionic Commando: Rearmed in 2008, actually received favorable reviews.  It was essentially the same gameplay from the NES version, with updated visuals.  Their next release for the IP would not be nearly as well done or received.

The Bionic Commando released in 2009 was a full-fledged game for PS3, 360 and PC which brought the game into the modern 3D environment.  While it achieved some positive reviews, most were more critical and the game currently has a score of 69 Metacritic.  The game was not a big seller in any sense of the term, and prices plummeted to the point where they eventually reached Bargain Bin Quickie review levels.

I bought the game knowing full well the criticisms of most of the reviews.  However, a part of me hoped that the reviewers were wrong and some of the original NES game’s charm and character were still present.  The first 20 minutes or so of the game actually fueled my optimism.  The graphics were decent.  The gameplay and shooting were fun.  I started to wonder why some people had such a problem with this game.  And then… it happened.  I finally got to the first area where the swinging mechanic was introduced.  For a series that was originally built almost entirely on the simple gimmick of swinging by your mechanical arm, you’d think a lot of attention and work would be put into ensuring this aspect of the game would remain fun in every iteration of the franchise.  Sadly, that isn’t the case.  The nostalgic rush and optimism that the first few moments of the game had instilled in me were quickly taken away. Unfortunately, with so much of the basis of the game resting on that sole swinging mechanic, it being broken pretty much means the entire game is broken.

At times, it’s difficult to see where your next place to swing to is located.  Sometimes it’s just extremely finicky to get to where you want even when you can see your correct path.  And most of the time, it’s just the frustration of not being able to lock on to structure you want to swing from because the game somehow imagines it to be JUST out of reach…  so you fall.  There is a lot of falling.

Perhaps the move of the franchise to full 3D was too much of a challenge.  Perhaps more development time or funding could have alleviated some of these problems.  Or perhaps the developers just did a crappy job.  It’s hard sometimes to pinpoint the exact reason why a game fails to deliver.  Thankfully for me,  it’s a lot easier of a task to let you know that even in the price range of $5 to $15 Bionic Commando currently goes for,  you need to skip it.  Trust me.  If nostalgia is getting the better of you and you feel the urge for some more bionic-limbed gaming, please instead download Bionic Commando: Rearmed or Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 (just released Feb of 2011).  Both of which are immensely more satisfying.


2 Responses to “BBQ Sauce- Bionic Commando”

  1. What’s ironic is that Rearmed 2 probably costs more than the Bionic Commando on disk right now 😛

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