Bionic Commando Rearmed hit Xbox Live and PSN last week, so in honor of this special occasion, this week’s $20 GOTW and Lost Classics will take a special look at the new game, as well as a previous entry in the series. Enjoy!

In 1987, Capcom released an arcade game called Top Secret, which we over here would know it as Bionic Commando. It was a side-scrolling platformer in which the protagonist used a grappling arm to traverse the game’s 4 levels. It wasn’t a terrible game, but it was nothing special. When an NES sequel, which was known in Japan as Top Secret: Hitler’s Revival was released the following year however, that was when the series really took off. Players took control of Nathan ‘Radd’ Spencer, who was sent behind enemy lines to rescue Super Joe from the Imperialist Nazis who sought to resurrect Adolf Hitler. Players traveled through several stages to uncover the enemy’s plan and stop them.

Even though the game was separated into different levels, it was a little less linear than most action games at the time. Players selected stages on an overworld map, although they still had to pass the current stage to move on. There were neutral areas where players can gain information, and there were several hidden items to discover which would help players out on the mission, not unlike Metroid. Running into enemy trucks forced players to fight through a top-down overhead level in order to progress any further. When the game was released over here, the Nazi references were removed (due to Nintendo’s strict censorship policies), ‘Hitler’ was changed to ‘Master-D’ (who strangely enough, still carried his likeness), and the Nazis were changed to ‘Badds’. Even with the censors, the game still became a favorite amongst American players, although the extremely punishing difficulty kept all but the most skilled from progressing very far.

For more than 2 decades, the most we would ever see of the series is a Game Boy remake, a Game Boy Color spin-off, and the arcade game’s inclusion on the Capcom Classics Collection discs. However out of nowhere, as part of a revival of several of its key franchises, Capcom announced that the game will be getting a next-gen sequel. Even better, the original NES game would receive a next-gen makeover, in the form of Bionic Commando Rearmed. BC:Rearmed hit Xbox Live and PSN this week. So how does it play? Lets take a look.

Bionic Commando Rearmed (Xbox Live Arcade, PSN)
Capcom/GRIN hit us out of left field with this remake. This is more than just a good way to tide fans over until the new game is released. It’s the perfect homage to one of the greatest titles of the NES era. It brings back every thing older gamers loved about the original game while at the same time presenting Bionic Commando to a new generation of gamers. The plot is the same. Nathan Spencer is sent behind enemy lines to rescue Super Joe, and makes use of his Bionic robo-arm to do the job. Most of the levels are the same, as is the overhead map, and enemy transports. However, while the developers have mostly stuck to the original NES design, they have also took some liberties with some sections of the game, and added several enhancements. For instance, the arm can be used to grab and throw barrels, and enhancements allow players to use enemies as human shields. There are also several different interchangeable weapons, each having their own strengths and weaknesses. While you can still hack enemy lines to intercept communications, you have to play a 3-d block sliding minigame to make a successful hack. Perhaps one of the biggest changes of all, the one/two hit system has been replaced with a life bar, making the game slightly easier, and I place emphasis on the word slightly. The game is still as challenging as you remember, and new boss battles force players to use strategy in order to defeat their enemy. Also in the mix are several co-op and competitive multiplayer modes, and the AI changes up to accommodate the extra player. Several challenge and training rooms allow players to home their skills.

The $10 (800 MS points) price tag might be a bit steep for some, but this is easily one of the best downloadable titles on PSN or Xbox Live. Weather or not you remember the original NES game, this title is a must have. Bionic Commando is the perfect combination of old-school game play and new school flash.

Bionic Commando Elite Forces(Game Boy Color)

In 1992, Capcom released a Game Boy version of Bionic Commando. Other than new manga-style cutscenes and a sci-fi makeover, the game was pretty much the same as the NES version. This isn’t the game I’m talking about. In 1999, Nintendo developed and published a semi-sequel/remake for the Game Boy Color. It had a new plot. You play as either a male of female Bionic Commando as you save the land of Karinia from the Avars, an evil army lead by a dictator known as Arturus. The game features rotoscoped graphics, battery backup saving, and shooting sequences. Since at the time there was no chance of getting an actual sequel (for Playstation, N64 or otherwise), Nintendo did the next best thing, licensing the rights from Capcom and creating a solid game for Game Boy Color owners. Of course like most GBC games, this one will be a bit difficult to find. Game like this are a reason I wish Game Boy games were available on the Virtual Console. Be that as it may, Bionic Commando fans who still hold on to their Game Boy Colors or Game Boy Advances will want to seek this game out. People who like good side-scrollers will think highly of this game as well.