For all the talk about Xbox Live Arcade and Wii Virtual Console simply re-hashing old franchises, it’s funny to watch gamers get giddy about Capcom’s announcement that it’s updating Bionic Commando for the current generation of consoles. A 20-year-old, eight-bit game, being re-mastered for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and PC? Yep. And gamers couldn’t be any happier.
Capcom is bringing Bionic Commando Rearmed to all three systems later this spring, as well as a true sequel, simply called Bionic Commando, that’s being developed for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC and will release later in 2008. However, for all the malcontent that gamers appear to have for “old-school rehashes,” Bionic Commando Rearmed is causing quite an ironic stir.
As you can see from the images in this preview (and those in our Bionic Commando Rearmed Screenshot Gallery), the classic Bionic Commando look and feel are intact in the updated game, a fact that provides both a sense of nostalgia and immediate familiarity. Bionic Commando Rearmed includes some nice updates, most obviously upgraded visuals that include dynamic shadows, particle effects and environmental damage. However, the style of the game still screams “1988,” which isn’t a bad thing in this era of me-too Unreal Engine 3 clones.
Other updates include new weapons and re-mastered music, but the most notable is the addition of a two-player co-op mode. This is a nice nod to the gamers who remember playing Bionic Commando on the original NES and are now older and crave co-op modes. To add icing to that competitive cake, Capcom is also including online rankings in Bionic Commando Rearmed, further stoking the competitive fire in all of us.
Like the graphics, the gameplay in Bionic Commando Rearmed is immediately familiar. Why? Because it’s driven in large part by players’ use of the Bionic Commando’s grappling arm. Sure, the recent slew of Spider-Man games may have honed the art of wall climbing and verticality, but Bionic Commando really started it all, and his grappling arm is in full effect in this updated version.
With a true Bionic Commando sequel in the works for later this year, it’s easy to think Bionic Commando Rearmed is a simple marketing tie-in. That’s not an entirely fair judgment, considering the work Capcom is putting into it, but it’s also not entirely inaccurate. One of the technical features in the game is “cross-game interoperability,” a fancy way of saying “unlockable content in Bionic Commando Rearmed includes info about the characters and plot of the next-gen Bionic Commando sequel.”
So is Bionic Commando Rearmed an homage to an old franchise? Yes. Is it a vehicle for Capcom to capitalize on the profit potential of Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network? Yes. Is it a marketing tie-in to the real Bionic Commando sequel releasing later this year? Yes. But the most important “yes” of all is the answer to the first question gamers should ask: is Bionic Commando Rearmed going to be fun? And to that, all indications are positive.