Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bionic Commando: Rearmed

Over the course of the past few days I have been playing the remake of Bionic Commando (Rearmed) for the PC. I picked this title up from Steam last January during Mid-week Madness for the very low price of $4.99. Capcom released this updated version in 2008 & it is based on their popular 1987 arcade classic.

I remember playing the old version when it became available on the NES in 1988. This was one year after the title was coming off of a very successful year as Capcom's first arcade title. I was ten years old & at that time the simple prospect of having a bionic, grappling hook for an arm and swinging off of shit while fighting robots was the best concept ever.

This new version Rearmed comes packed with updated graphics as well as more depth in terms of customization. For example, I don't recall having near as many item slots for upgrading armor, weapons, etc. in the old NES version. Despite the added depth one of the best features is that this new rendition stayed true to the roots & retains the trademark, side-scrolling gameplay from the old school NES version. This includes the mini-levels that encompass the Shoot em' up style of gameplay. These decisions connect old players with the nostalgia of playing the original version as children even though the adventure is in fact, entirely new. This is also a definite contributing factor as to why this side-scroller has a respectable metascore of 86. I am having a lot of fun traversing this tricky little game full of puzzles & often times, death being narrowly avoided by a well-timed grappling hook. Rearmed is not to be mistaken with the other updated 3-D version which was also released by Capcom one year after Rearmed. That 2009 version shares an identical title with the original, simply called "Bionic Commando" but it only resembles the original in terms of concept. That version is an entirely updated 3-D game & is not similar at all in regards to gameplay when compared to the original arcade, the NES version or "Rearmed" which does in fact retain a lot of the old school controls & gameplay.  One year after Rearmed was released, the 3-D version was released for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 & Microsoft Windows but for the most part received mediocre reviews. The more I play Rearmed the more I can actually see myself purchasing the new 3-D adventure as well despite the low scores.  Even though the 3-D version has a metascore sitting at 69 I think I will just wait until the title goes on sale, at which point swinging around in 3-D will be worth every penny.

I think one of the reasons this game has a cult status with 80's kids is that not only was the gameplay addictive in the 1988 release but the storyline was actually entertaining & in fact quite controversial. The Japanese Famicon version had the enemy bearing the Nazi Swastika, which was later changed for the North American NES release to the new, friendlier Avian symbol.  The fact remains though, you are indeed fighting the Nazi regime! Coincidentally the Japanese were allied with the Germans alongside the Italians in World War II. It didn't hurt that this game was also released at what some would call the peak of Arnold Schwarzeneggers' career. In fact, his hit movie "Commando" was released two years prior to the original game & "The Terminator" was actually released in 1984, three years prior to the video game. If you were to combine the Terminator with Commando what would you get? Bionic Commando, why of course!!  The game had some major changes when it was localized to North America from the original version released in Japan. However, the characters remained the same for the most part with the occasional logo switch & name change.

The following two quotes from Wikipedia nicely outlines the general controversy over Bionic Commando's backstory:

"One of the most prominent differences involves the ultimate antagonist of the game, who is meant to be a revived Adolf Hitler in the Japanese version (hence the title). For the English version, the character was renamed "Master-D", but his likeness to Hitler was unchanged. There is a notably gory ending sequence in which Hitler's face explodes, which was kept intact in the English version."

"The new version - Bionic Commando Rearmed borrows its plot largely from the Nintendo Entertainment System version of the game. In keeping with the North American release of that version, the references to the Nazi party found in the original Japanese title are not featured in Rearmed. However, as is the case in the original, the final boss of the game still clearly resembles Adolf Hitler, and is referred to as "The Leader".

As for the actual concept of swinging off of rafters with your arm, if you watch this old trailer for the movie Commando you will even see one stunt at 01:35 seconds where Arnold travels from a mall balcony on to the top of an elevator utilizing something that looks similar to the grappling hook from the Bionic Commando game. So it is easy to see where some of the modern influence was coming from without question. Regardless, as a massive fan of these action movies being released at the time (Predator, The Running Man, Conan the Barbarian, Total Recall) I naturally gravitated towards this video game as a young child & it didn't disappoint. Thankfully, neither does the remake!

I would definitely recommend this game to anyone but I would specifically aim my recommendation towards an older player that has experienced the first release back in the NES days. Though the game is probably quite nice as a first experience to a new player I think that connecting to the game through childhood has given this title a niche in my heart. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug!  As well as a constant challenge this game also carries an odd sense of humor that keeps you guessing at each turn. The dialect alone is so outlandish that you burst out in laughter on occasion. Check out this recent screenshot - "What?! A dwarf straddling a huge metal...thing!"

Keep your eyes peeled for this title during Steam holidays sales. I was able to snatch it at a discounted price and I have noticed that select titles seem to repeat sales on Steam. Perhaps this title will go down again in the near future, so when it does make sure that you have your grappling hook ready to snatch this title and swing into some old school action. (Oh yes I did!)

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