Retro Gaming: Bionic Commando (Nintendo Entertainment System – 1988)

Bionic Commando is an action-adventure game that was loosely based on the 1987 arcade game of the same name. The protagonist is known as Radd Spencer, a commando equipped with a bionic arm that enables him to grapple ledges in order to traverse over gaps. This is one of the few instances where a jump button was not included in an 8-bit game.

Radd Spencer is sent in to investigate the disappearance of the Federation’s best soldier, Super Joe, after they find out of the Empire’s plans of constructing a weapon known as the Albatross. This premise sends our hero through 19 areas throughout the game. However, certain areas are locked until you can locate specific weapons to access the area.

The game begins at a stage selection map where you can decide which areas to tackle in any sequence (although it is mostly a linear progression). From there, you can load-out your weapon selection before beginning the level, but some weapons are better than others in certain areas so you need to choose wisely. There are two level types to Bionic Commando. The first is a side-scrolling action-adventure game filled with many objectives: various enemies to eliminate, platforming areas that require your grappling hook to swing across, communications terminals that need to be hacked in order to obtain useful information, and level bosses that incorporate a certain strategy to defeat. The second level type is a top down view, similar to the original Commando game. These levels require you to get from point A to point B as you defeat hordes of enemies and dodge incoming fire to reach your goal.

Bionic Commando was remade just recently for the XBLA and PSN, and while the remake was great, the original is the one to play to fully experience the gamelay, along with its engaging music and cutscenes. What’s interesting is that the Japanese version of the game included a revived Adolf Hitler as one of the main villains, but was renamed “Master-D” in the American release. However, the Hitler graphics were never changed, and a “gory” cutscene of his face exploding was shown. An image that was unheard of during the NES era. I was certainly surprised when I viewed this scene after playing it for the first time during my younger years.

Bionic Commando was a fantastic game during the 8-bit era. It’s a rare gem and true classic of old-school gaming…especially after you get used to not being able to jump.

Do you remember playing Bionic Commando for the NES? If so, comment and share your memories with us about the game!