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Bionic Commando

Year released: 1988
Company: Capcom
Genre: Action

Sometimes games like to take the path less traveled. Titles like The Guardian Legend and Strider come into mind when we think about games that broke conventions. Bionic Commando is yet another entrant into the innovation department, and I believe it pulls its quirk off better than any other game. Why? Because not only is it supported with all-around quality, it also acknowledges its differences and in turn lets you learn from them. What happens when a game gives you such opportunities? It becomes an instant classic.

It's not as if you're going to get used to our hero's Binoic arm in a hurry. In fact, it can take players weeks, even a month to finally figure out how to work the blasted thing. However, once you do get the hang of it - and believe me, you will - you're going to be swinging like Tarzan in no time flat! The controls besides the arm are all extremely responsive. The hit detection is solid, and the player moves quite well, despite the massive recoil you take when you get hit. However, speaking of the recoil, there aren't many places when you'll have to deal with both enemies and acrobatics at the same time, so it doesn't present that much of a problem. The arm controls are also very precise. Pressing the A button alone fires the arm at a 45 degree angle so that you can swing across pits. My only real gripe is that this maneuver can't be used as a weapon - swing into enemies and kill them. Oh well, you can't have it all.

One thing I especially admire is the fact that this game has about as perfect a learning curve as one could hope for. The first level is relatively easy, but as time goes on you're going to come across numerous obstacles, such as bouncing on springs or running through corridors and avoiding barrels which you can't grapple over. Along the way, you'll be able to bulk yourself up by grabbing bullets, which raise your energy level when you collect enough of them. It's certainly a challenge once you get to the end, but by that time you have enough weaponry and stamina to level the playing field.

I also admire the plot quite a bit. For one thing, it progresses as you go through the game and tap into the communication buildings located in each level. It isn't all laid out to you in the beginning, and that makes the game all the more interesting. The overall plot of an enemy army trying to revive someone from the dead adds a bit of science fiction to the storyline, and surprisingly it fits in very well. The original idea of trying to save a colleague tends to get lost in the middle of the action, however, and by the end it becomes completely forgotten.

The game's overall presentation is nearly flawless. The graphics are well-detailed and very colorful, and there's minimum flicker, which helps a lot in areas where there are a lot of enemies and bullets to keep an eye on. The animation is well-detailed, especially with the hero and the numerous types of enemies in the game. The soundtrack is nothing short of superb. All of the music fits in brilliantly with its surroundings, from the heroic theme of the first level to the dramatic tunes of late levels. The sound effects themselves are quite realistic - from the clink when the arm attaches to something to the roar of the bulldozers, you'll know exactly what's going on simply by what you hear.

The final question, regarding the game's playablilty, can be answered with a resounding yes. The only frustration you'll ever experience with this game is when your bionic arm doesn't quite work the way you want it to, and in the end the impact this has on the game is pretty small. The well-developed challenge and the opportunity to earn scads of continues (by playing the overhead levels) will ensure that you'll be entertained for hours when you play it and months when you own it. If you ever get tired of playing Mega Man, Metroid, or any standard soldier shooter, this should be the first game you reach for.

As far as I'm concerned, This is the second best pre-1989 game there is on the NES. (The #1 game? Adventure of Link.) Not even Mega Man 1 or the Super Mario games could compare to the absolute excellence that Bionic Commando possesses. It's a difficult game to find - it took a year and a half before I came across it - But if and when you do find it, it's well worth the price you pay for it.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 15
Thrill: (Frustrating)
Aesthetic Score: 21
Overall Score: 86%

You are now listening to the Stage 1 Music to Bionic Commando.