Game Play with “The Claw”
Bionic Commando is unique for an action-platformer. As the game opens, players must navigate a numbered map by helicopter, avoiding enemy trucks, and descending to each section. The game has two different perspectives: overhead encounters, and 2D platforming. When Spencer’s chopper encounters an enemy truck, he must battle his way through enemy territory. These mini sections are done in overhead perspective; players can shoot down enemies in order to obtain eagle-shaped markers for extra continues.
The 2D platforming begins when a chopper stops on a numbered space. The game contains two different areas: combat areas and neutral zones. When entering combat levels, players can select Spencer’s weapon, ‘armor,’ a specialty weapon, and a communication device. Once he descends, Spencer must navigate enemy grounds, grappling through with his bionic arm and mowing down enemies with his gun in the process. As gamers forge on, they must find communication rooms to reach members of the Federation for assistance or to ‘wire-tap’ for enemy intel. It is imperative to reach every communication room in order to progress with the game. At the end of each combat zone, there are final “bosses” protecting a mechanical core. Once the core is defeated, Spencer will receive an item – whether it is a gun, a communicator, or piece of armor.
Neutral zones are levels where gamers can collect information or items. Since these zones are ‘combat free,’ if Spencer fires a couple rounds, he will be attacked immediately. Of course, if an Imperial solider attacks you, none of that will happen. So…I guess they are ‘selectively’ neutral. It’s important to explore every area in the game to find Super Joe, gather all of the items, and to really master Spencer’s bionic arm.
Overview: The Best and The Worst
Bionic Commando’s game play is incredibly fun. While there are moments that are ‘Nintendo Hard,’ it isn’t impossible to beat. There are some fairly challenging levels and the bionic arm mechanic adds a certain level of puzzle solving to the scheme. The bionic arm can go one of three angles: overhead, directly across, or 45 degrees. This provides a bit of a challenge when navigating the levels. Re-spawning enemies is also a thing; some levels have enemies continuously dropping from the sky. Regardless, the game has a nice amount of challenge. On a side note, the NES release was ‘re-balanced,’ and some of the areas were re-worked on a lower difficultly level. So, if this game was ‘too easy’ try the Famicom version!
The Sounds of War
One of Bionic Commando’s best features is the music. It really adds layers to the game, providing an upbeat and memorable soundtrack. Junko Tamiya helps set the tone for the game. It adds layers of tension and desperation that perfectly suit a war-themed narrative.
Bionic Commando is considered one of the best NES titles of all time. While it has a few remakes and an indirect sequel, it will never match the nostalgia of the good ol’ NES version. It’s one of those classic games that players remember fondly and wish to pick up again and again. Seriously, pick up this blast from the past and kill some Nazi—I mean, Badds. You’ll be happy you did.