"Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology."
This week, one of the most beloved and classic games from the NES era is born again when "Bionic Commando Rearmed" arrives on Xbox Live, Playstation Network and PC. Developed by GRIN and published by Capcom, "Bionic Commando Rearmed" (BCR) is more than just a remake of the original, with enhancements and features added to almost every aspect of the NES classic.
For those not familiar with the original, "Bionic Commando" debuted on the NES in 1988, following the story of Radd Spencer, commando of the Federation. The Federation uncovered a Nazi plot to resurrect Hitler and sent in Super Joe (the main character of the Commando game) to stop the Nazis. Super Joe is captured, and Radd Spencer is sent in to rescue him. The US version of the game had most of the Nazi references removed when it was ported from Japan (they were renamed "Badds"), but the final boss (Master-D) was still recognizable as Hitler, and the finale of the game featured a very memorable scene of his head exploding.
The original "Bionic Commando" was lauded by fans and critics alike for its originality at a time where many platformers looked like clones of one another. "Bionic Commando" featured the ability to select stages, as opposed to playing in a linear fashion. The action took place in both scrolling and top down stages. And of course, the signature swinging mechanic that the game employed was hailed as one of the great innovations in console gaming.
Twenty years later, developer GRIN is making sure to preserve all of the elements that made the original great, while adding enough new features to offer a fresh experience to even the most hardened "Bionic Commando" veterans.
The story in "Bionic Commando Rearmed" mirrors the original game for the most part, as Nathan "R.A.D." Spencer is sent on a mission to rescue Super Joe from the Imperials (formerly the Nazis/Badds). Characters from the original game will be making appearances, and the locations and level design will be immediately familiar to fans of the NES classic. As one might imagine, the graphics have received a major upgrade, with what the developers are calling a "2.5D revamp." The artwork and character designs pay homage to the original, but are highly stylized.
The gameplay will stay true to the swinging and shooting that fans know and love, but some tweaks to the base mechanics will offer players more options. For example, Nathan can use his bionic arm to grab both objects and enemies, which can then be used as projectiles. His bionic arm will also have other abilities that were not available in the original game.
Two big additions have been made to the latest version of the game. The first is what's being called "Challenge Rooms." They consist of virtual reality style levels that players try and navigate in as little time as possible, earning points for the speed with which they finish.
The second, and perhaps larger addition, is the new multiplayer option. BCR will feature two-player co-op throughout the entire campaign, increasing players' chances of getting Super Joe out alive. There will also be a four-player deathmatch mode that is reminiscent of "Smash Bros.," where players battle it out on multi-tiered levels. While the multiplayer is offline only, there will be online leaderboards where players can see how they rank against the rest of the world.
The release of BCR is part of a larger plan by Capcom that will culminate with the arrival of a brand new version of "Bionic Commando," which is tentatively set for release in 2009 on the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. The new game will be a direct sequel to the original and will pick up the story ten years after the events of the first game.
"Bionic Commando Rearmed" will connect to the next-gen version, as players can complete areas in BCR to unlock content in the new game when it comes out. Among other unlockable bonuses is a "classic skin" that will make the next-gen version of Nathan Spencer look like he did in the original NES game.
Capcom is also branching out into other mediums to support the upcoming games, as well as build future stories in the Bionic Commando universe. At the official website, there is a weekly webcomic called "Bionic Commando: Chain of Command" that is serving to catch people up on what's happened to Nathan Spencer over the last ten years. Written by Andy Diggle with art by Colin Wilson, the webcomic debuted in March and is updated with a new page every Wednesday. Capcom also signed a deal in May with Devil's Due that will see several projects developed for comics. One of the properties in that deal is a Bionic Commando comic, which will be written by screenwriter Justin Marks ("Hack/Slash," "Street Fighter"). There is even a Bionic Commando podcast called Top Secret, which can be downloaded over at the website.
"Bionic Command Rearmed" arrives on Xbox Live August 13th and will cost 800 Microsoft Points ($10). The Playstation Network (US) and PC versions will be available the following day for $10 and $15, respectively. There will also be a demo available for those who want to try before they buy. Stay tuned to CBR for continued coverage of "Bionic Commando," including an interview with Capcom about the upcoming sequel.