Friday Flashback: Bionic Commando (NES, 1988)

I love Bionic Commando. I have probably beaten it 100 times and booted it up to play a bit tens of thousands of times. From Grinding in the first cave to the frustrating power lines swing near the end of the game, from the guy who charges you in the so-called safe zone, to the mostly overly easy bosses. I love Bionic Commando. But what is the game all about for the 3 people who don’t know?


You play as Ladd Spencer, a hero with a gun and a bionic arm that can stretch out and

grab things and people. You are trying to rescue the hero of your people, Super Joe and in the process, you find out about his mission and something called Project Albatross. You explore the map in pretty much any why you want, as each area has a number, but you will not progress in a strictly numerical fashion and can go to almost any level you want.

On the map are trucks that if you encounter while traveling, have an overhead fight. These fights are not always to be avoided, as they are the only source of continues in the game if you lose all your lives. Normal stages are a side scroll affair, where you can shoot, or use your arm. No jumping, just swinging provided your arm connects with something you can grab. Interestingly, the who game was originally about the rise of a new Nazi army and a cloning of Hitler, but most of this was scrubbed for releases outside of Japan.


As far as the meat and potatoes of gameplay for Bionic Commando, you go through levels that have both vertical and horizontal sections and might progress in both left AND right directions. Madness I know. You gain a variety of weapons and special items in the game, but the catch is you must pick what gun and special item and communicator type you want when you deploy. You can not change once on the ground. The communicator matters as you need to hack enemy communication rooms in some levels to progress,

and to get valuable hints. If you have the wrong communicator type then all you get is a garbled mess. There are hints and clues as to what communicator type to use in what level in both other communications, and by talking to people in the neutral areas. You also gain character levels as you adventure. Enemies drop items you can pick up that look to me like spray paint cans. As you collect them, you get more hits before you lose a life. You start with one hit, but the first few are fairly quick to get. I usually grind in the first level to get 3 or 4 hits. It takes about 10 minutes in the right spots to do this.


The controls of Bionic Commando are solid and once you get the hang of how the arm behaves can do all kinds of swinging action. The shooting is basic, just straight ahead, or duck and straight ahead, but the enemies, for the most part, are also limited to this, so it is fair. The hit detection and platform detection works great. Don’t recall ever feeling like there was a jump or shot that missed when the graphics appeared that I hit.

The graphics and sound in Bionic Commando are great for the NES. Everything is clear as to what it is, and the color palette is bright and clean. The music and sound work and I can actually hear the soundtrack for stages in my head right now. Not something I can do for just any game on the NES.




I really like Bionic Commando. The only downside I see is the lack of saves or passwords. Modern remakes fix this and it is a minor gripe as the game can be beaten in an hour or two once you have it done. The gameplay is fun, the design is good, the graphics are great, the sound is good. The game is awesome!


Here is the NES Action! I did on the game a while years ago.

NES Action!

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