(Commando, November 1986, Capcom)
As a whole, the medium of video games can be responsible for one thing even if many of us are unaware of it and that is the suspension of disbelief. If faced with a swarm of highly trained soliders, could one Altair really take them all out with the fine tuned precision he is known for? That is just one example of hundreds as we all know that video games are an escape but sometimes, we trick ourselves into thinking a game is "realistic" when all it takes is a deep breath and a fraction of brain function to prove ourselves wrong. As a child of the 80's, nothing forced this suspension upon your senses like the good ol' Nintendo Entertainment System did. Case in point is today's title with one super solider's quest to simply blow alot of shit up while taking on an army the size of Australia's population for no apparent reason, Commando!
Did someone drop the ball on one hell of an obvious licensing coup? Methinks yes.
A very influential title that doesn't get it's due, Commando was one of the forefathers for the "run n' gun" genre of games that later spawned such inspired classics as Contra and Gun.Smoke. The gist of Commando is to take control of a solider who after being fucked with one too many times about being named "Super Joe", decides to show the his dicklick heckling comrades what's what. Armed with a machine gun that can apparently form an infinite amount bullets via his special mutant power, Joe is dropped off by a helicopter in the middle of a jungle to save a few hostages from an army of about 300,000. Now I know I normally give this section to game's history and backstory but this game legitimately has no backstory, so I'll roll with bitter nice guy who has been ridden WAY too hard and just wants to get away from it all by watching fellow human craniums explode. From what I gather via the manual, Super Joe is dumped in the wild to rescue hostages and stop an army from taking over the world. That's it. God bless the 80's.
Sometimes, the game pulls a dick move, like spawning me directly in front of a deadly ditch. Wait...what?
The gameplay is frantic, balls-to-the-wall and most importantly, damned fine fun. Your hands never have time to steer from the controller for even a second or you're pushing up the daisies, which is great for this type of game. The action drives forward at a frenetic pace and more times than not, I had that awesome gamer feeling of panic as I blasted my way through jungle hell at its 8-bit finest. Super Joe's main weapon is akin to having the machine gun in Contra at all times, able to fire in all eight directions and lightning quick controls work wonders when you have bullets trying to seperate you from your senses at every passing moment. I sincerely heart games with a high level of control as when I died, it was usually due to poor judgment or paused for that tenth of a second that I should've been unleashing hell. Joe is also armed with a limited number of grenades which, unlike the trusty SMG, can only be thrown upwards and are tons trickier to get good aim with. More than once, I had the field cleared and my next targets dead in my sights and wound up lobbing a grenade clear over their heads.
What in the name of the Blue Balls of Arthur happened here?
Levels are split up into a convienient 4 worlds with 4 blocks each. There are no real bosses present but each stage ends with a stream of baddies itching to paint their uniforms red with some perferated Super Joe organs. These sections are far easier than the levels personally because the screen stops and lets you gain your bearings for a moment. Throughout the levels, there are hostages clad in blue who by the magic of a touch, will be free to flee to safety holding a sign giving out bonus points. Again, SERIOUS suspension of disbelief was crucial in our era of gaming folks. If you are a freak at games of this nature like some, you'll enjoy the fact that there is no shortage of hidden bunkers and sewers to find. At one point, in the blink of an eye, I went from trading ammo with the unnamed evil army to finding myself in a room packed with pissed off snakes. I've been told there are glasses that Joe can find to reveal all the secret areas but sadly I never came across them. The graphics can be repetitive but for the most part, you're battling an army in a jungle so the color palette really isn't required to go apeshit is it? The music and effects are neither here or there except for a break in the music where it hits a tiny military style drum number that brings a smile to me everytime it tickles my eardrums.
Seriously, how awesome would it be if you got a kill in Halo and instead of the death scene, your downed foe ran off-screen with a sign touting your kill count?
THE FINAL VERDICT
7/10 An ambitious title that feels grossly overlooked as one of the pioneers of the genre it helped to elevate. Hectic isn't the word at times and the degree of difficulty can be overwhelming if you're new to this type of fare. As with most of the merciless library of the NES, a little practice and figuring out the timing is the key here if making it to the Engrish section of the game is your final destination. Capcom = too cheap to hire proper translators until the 90's!
Nintendo never could make up their fucking minds on the smoking/religion policy could they?
While alot of gamers, myself included, thought Bionic Commando was a sequel, it was actually a 1991 title named MERCS though Super Joe himself makes cameos throughout the Bionic series. Another title, Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 was released on Xbox Arcade and PSN in 2008 to fair reviews. Turns out our Commando has an actual backstory as well! His real name is Joseph Gibson and his received his moniker by holding the rank of "SUPERvisor, Joint Operations Executive. Neat shit no?
Super Joe in the upcoming Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2. Looks more like Mike Haggar's non-roided up older brother
Wanna see one of the most awesome uses of Engrish ever? Feast your eyes upon the ending of Commando. Another notch in my hard motherfuckers beaten belt.