The Nintendo Entertainment System is the cradle for many fantastic games and since I did not have the privilege of owning one, I missed out on a lot. Capcom’s Bionic Commando was one of those missed opportunities. To be perfectly honest, I never even heard about Bionic Commando prior to the announcement of the remake, Bionic Commando: Rearmed. A platformer which didn’t have jump function, but employed an effective and fun swinging mechanic? Alright. That sounds a bit crazy, but I’m willing to put down $9.99 CAD for it and now that I’ve played it, I believe all of you should too.
As soon as I started the game, it clicked. The sepia toned still images and text crawling on the screen wrapped with an 8-bit-esque soundtrack convinced me that this game is starting off on the right foot. The setup for the game was quite simple: as Spencer, you must rescue the FSA’s hero, Super Joe, and help stop the evil Leader from resurrecting World War II’s greatest evil. Oh, and you have a bionic arm. I’m glad they kept the story simple.
Of course, I didn’t have a legitimate frame of reference and thus certainly didn’t know all of the differences between the original and its reincarnation nor did I care too much. The colors may not be as vibrant as the original, however its use was liberal and kept each of the twenty areas unique as possible. What Simon Viklund did with the soundtrack was masterful as well. It’s a perfect blend of the source material with a modern twist. Just like the rest of the game.
One of the more significant changes introduced with Rearmed was local cooperative play. Not just two players on the same screen, but a dynamic horizontal or vertical split. I actually finished the game through the local co-op feature and for the most part, it works well. The framerate takes a slight dip, but that’s insignificant when you’re looking at the big picture. Being able to wander as far as you want without being constrained to a single screen sounds great on paper, but in practice, it could be better. The splitting can be a bit jarring at times and the lack of screen space can make platforming harder than it really is. On the flip side, coop play introduces small twists in combat scenarios and it does help curb some of the game’s difficulty. (Tip: Use one player as an unofficial checkpoint.)
If you asked me if Bionic Commando: Rearmed was a difficult game prior to the last two levels, I would have said: “No. You just suck.”. If you asked me now, I would still say “You suck.”, but I will add that the difficulty ramped up quickly with the last two areas. The lack of jumping took about 30 minutes to get used to, but once I did, I didn’t miss it. I can’t remember the last time I felt the gratification of successfully traversing from point A to point B. Bionic Commando’s take on platforming isn’t just a gimmick. It works and it works extremely well.