Capcom Games of Yesteryear: Bionic Commando

Jun 28, 2011
2011 Jun 28

In the coming days, we will also be streaming sweet, sweet footage of this wonderful classic in action. Stay tuned for that.

Also, don’t forget that the excellent remake,  Bionic Commando Rearmed,  and the excellent remake’s excellent sequel,  Bionic Commando Rearmed 2,  are currently on sale on the PSN store. If you don’t have ’em already, now’s definitely the time!

Now then. 

Bionic Commando–The Best Game Ever.

Well, that may not be entirely accurate, but Bionic Commando was the first game that I was consciously aware of being truly “outside-the-box”, subverting players’ most basic expectations. It was a one-of-a-kind affair whose greatness still holds up today, some twenty-five years later.

At first glance, it was another Contra. But then you turned the game on and realized that, unlike Contra, there was no spastic flipping. Not even any hopping. You walked to the right as you’d been trained to do with every game prior to that point. A red man appeared, and you processed this as a threat as you’d been trained to by books and cartoons and movies and  real life scenarios   which featured red things as threats. Unhesitatingly, you hammered down on the B button a few times, again as you’d been trained to do by other games. The game affirmed the validity of your intentions with obedient response: large bullets zoomed out of your cannon. The red man flew back as if he’d been hit by a tank slug, cascading off the screen, into NES game abyss. You came to a barrel blocking your path. Instinctively and without stopping, you pressed the A button, having theretofore been raised on the nearly impregnable mantra, “A is Jump and B is Kill.”

Rad Spencer’s feet never left the ground. Instead, a long, snakelike clamp shot out of his arm emitting a burst of sound not unlike the cry of twenty-five simultaneous backpack zippers at the commencement of a show-‘n’-tell.

Startled, you stopped pushing any buttons. Perhaps you even dropped the controller. “What the hell is going on?” you stammered.

“Look at the freaking game box,” your friend, Kevin, advised. “You’ve got a bionic arm.”

“Then how do I jump?” you asked. 

“This ain’t Contra,” Kevin said. “This ain’t nothin’ like you’s ever  seen,  young’un.” 

Kevin locked you in a dead gaze as a single bead of sweat trickled down your forehead and you realized for the first time–finally–the full weight of this experience.

“I. . .I. . .” you stammered, your voice a mere whisper.

“Hook onto the platform overhead.” 

With exponents more caution than before, you pressed the A button again. Your snake arm shot out again, this time diagonally upward. It clamped onto the platform above with a satisfying metallic crunch like the sound of a robot chomping down on a tin-foil-and-microchip sandwich.

“Whoa,” you said. Kevin reached over and tapped the D-Pad Right directional button with an overextended index finger. Accordingly, Rad Spencer swung into action, back and forth with expert deftness, his feet leaving the ground for the first time since parachuting into this sea base war zone. For awhile, you just watched him sway.

“Whoa,” you eventually said again. “So the A button isn’t Jump? Next thing you’ll tell me Start isn’t Pause.”

“Well, now that you mention it,” Kevin said, a glint of mischievous domination in his eye, “Start ain’t Pause. Also, I used to be a woman.”

These first moments of awkward bewilderment would eventually melt into the confident, fluid fusion of physical action and digital response. You, the player, would grow to love Bionic Commando’s novelty, and it would guide you to perfection. Soon you would be wielding your snake arm like it was an extension of your body–because it was.


You’ll remember this.

So began the unforgettable journey of Bionic Commando, one which was consistently creative, memorable, and manageable throughout, all the way to its exciting climax where you are given a single shot to hit the cockpit of the boss’s getaway vehicle  in mid free fall   and then vertically escape a self-destructing facility as a bionic lummox attempts to impede you. Bionic Commando is a game that remains irreplaceable to this day, even if it’s just to watch those glorious four frames where  the boss’s face explodes  like a godforsaken cherry pie.