I’m going to be honest here, which will probably lose me some of my hard-earned street cred. While I appreciate the 8-bit games of yesteryear as a good portion of my childhood was comprised of me playing video games every chance I could possibly get, there are a few titles that somehow fell through the cracks. After all these years I suppose I always took the original Bionic Commando for granted and despite having exploding Nazis drew a blank in my mind, perhaps I was too young to fully grasp what was before my eyes and let it slip by. Luckily in an age where retro is cool Capcom along with developer GRIN have given people like me a refresher course with Bionic Commando Rearmed, a remake that does well on providing the same gameplay, difficulty, and genuine appeal all the while staying true to the nostalgia factor. The people who have fond memories probably won’t be disappointed, but what’s in it for everyone else?
Like its NES original (not arcade) Rearmed still remains a platformer that lacks a definitive jump button, instead you’ll make due with a mechanical arm that serves as grappling hook that can latch onto platforms and be used as a way to swing over obstacles or be used to gain higher ground. Most of the action is centered on the acrobatics but of course you’ll be running and gunning (though more heavily later) through the same levels that stole your heart two decades ago, not only that but if you’re willing to look some nicely hidden secrets are cleverly worked in to the mold. On occasion you’ll have to undertake some hacking puzzles and top-down view objectives that add some mild entertainment into the mix, thankfully some of these occurrences can be avoided while other annoyances you’ll quickly have to endure.
Being an updated remake also means updated visuals and presentation, and Rearmed certainly doesn’t skimp on the subtleties. Graphic-wise everything is overhauled from improved character models to backdrops, though a simplistic design is present to accommodate the classic side-scrolling elements. The soundtrack practically stands out on its own with a pronounced synergy of modern and 8-bit combined; if you can recall the tunes on the NES classic then the music in this game serves as a deep homage itself. The less coherent alterations from stopping the “Imperialists” are some slight modifications with dialogue, you’ll notice that there is a bit more humor involved and even some scant terms like ROLF have made into remake and thankfully it isn’t a bad touch.
My Bionic Commando-obsessed fellow editors helped put me through my retro paces, and for those of you stomping through this adventure after 20+ years will want to know that certain gameplay elements have changed. While there’s still no true jump (thank goodness), the developers have added a few cool tweaks that should please modern gamers and even the most anal of purists. The bionic arm isn’t just good for helping swing across spaces or grabbing items, but like the upcoming 3D sequel, can now hurl barrels or even enemies into the abyss or be used to attack the relentless swarms of bad guys. Its a nice touch, and helped newbies to the franchise like myself really get into the swing of things – no pun intended!
Content isn’t in short supply as the challenge modes are the most engaging offerings with over 50 levels to test your gaming skills and can provide bragging rights if aiming for that better time on leaderboards, and frankly they are by far some of the more difficult tasks to conquer in any downloadable game I have yet played. That said some of the challenge comes from the controller itself as you’ll soon figure that some precision is required and anyone playing this on Xbox 360 should aware that the D-pad isn’t the best method of operation. The analog stick is better but more precise timing is a must. This really isn’t an issue on the PlayStation 3 version thanks to a superior D-pad configuration, but for all you players brave enough to give the PC version a chance make sure you’ve got a decent control pad. Two-player co-op is surprisingly entertaining and both players aren’t restricted to stay close if the action gets spread out, and a four-player free-for-all mode is interesting to say the least.
It’s no surprise that Capcom/GRIN has not only gave the masses a competent remake but have also retained the classic formula and have manage to pay homage to a true classic all at once. Imperfections are present with control movements being the most-prevalent, but these issues are counted with enough content to keep you playing and a difficulty that is rewarding. Bionic Commando Rearmed is perfect for the old-school gamers and should properly taunt newcomers with confidence, and with a price of 800 Microsoft points or $10.00 on PSN with included PSP Remote Play, and $15 for the PC option. There is pretty of appeal here to go retro once more, or if you’re like me another chance to correct some long-overdue exclusions.