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Awhile ago, more like 4 FUCKING YEARS AGO, hold up, let me check my depends, god I hate growing old, I remember being interviewed with Devices In Shift by some crazy UTEP journalist who kept plugging his band every other question. In that interview he asked the typical, what bands do you listen to, what music inspires you bullshit. First of all, I really hate that question so I decided to answer by throwing him off and referencing my love for video games as a kid. Which is somewhat true. When it comes down to writing music, I don't think it's premeditated but I do feel I owe a bit to the sounds of 8 bit masterpieces that took up so much of my childhood. So they weren't what made me want to pick up a guitar and shred, but they were integral. I remember Manny the guitarist, throwin me a look like what kind of answer was that, but I'm sure his story of playing along to Nirvana songs while singing through his stereo with a cheap ass radio shack mic, taped to some makeshift microphone stand would have really made the ladies cream. Nirvana man, really? So anyway after finding out Bionic Commando from back in the NES days would be remade and then listening to the remixed soundtrack, it just solidified my answer and fully justified it. If you have ever played the original Bionic Commando on NES this new mix is note for note, instantly recognizable and should bring chills down your spine the first time you hear it. It fits in so well with the new visuals and cements the idea of not fucking with a good thing. Oh and it's up on Itunes so go check it out.
Bionic Commando: Rearmed
There are two versions of Bionic Commando being remade at the moment. The 2D classic side scroller downloadable version Bionic Commando: Rearmed (PC, PSN and XBLA) and the 3D next-gen version simply titled Bionic Commando (PC, PS3 and Xbox 360). The one currently eating up jizzloads of my time, and my lady's thanks to a kickass two player co-op mode, is Bionic Commando: Rearmed. Oh it's also the only one that's released at the moment. The 3D version is set to come out this fall and kick all sorts off ass. We'll see about that.
Back in the 8 bit days, games were quite simply about gameplay. If there was a story it was simply to give some kind of explanation as to why a plumber would shoot fiery red balls from his hands after eating a red plant that mysteriously sprouted from a golden block with a giant question mark on it. Yeah, exactly. As a kid tho I could give two flying fucks, you only notice this stuff once you get older and see Nintendo repeat this over and over again. The interesting thing about Bionic Commando is, like many other games that were translated from Japanese, the characters and story were almost always different, grammatical errors were rampant and censorship played a huge role. The Japanese version was titled Top Secret: Hitler's Revival, and for good reason, the main villain was Hitler and the cannon fodder were Nazi's. Not only that but swastikas were all over the place. So it was quite disappointing to find the US version replaced the Nazi's with "Badds" and Hitler with Master-D. You still blow his head to bits in gruesome detail, yet they can't name the guy Hitler. Interesting. Rearmed pokes fun at plenty of the grammatical errors and censorship from the previous games and only refers to the main boss as The Leader. Oh and yes you still blow his head clean off, if you're good enough to get that far that is. It simply boils down to your character Radd Spencer, that really is his name, tasked with finding Super Joe and taking out The Leader. Couldn't help but notice that the main bosses are all mdigets, and I don't mean the nice Little People Big World midgets, I'm talking straight up mean little fuckers. Either way point, shoot, grapple and repeat.
Back when the NES was balls deep in platformers it was pretty ballsy of CAPCOM to push a game like Bionic Commando because it was a platformer WITH NO JUMP BUTTON. You read correctly. NO JUMP BUTTON. Instead you get this grapple arm that takes the place of your left arm and shoots out at a 45 degree angle by default. If you've never played this game before, as I witnessed playing along with my lady, it can be a bit jarring. Although she only complained once then got the hang of it pretty quick, so I've got some faith that anyone can jump in and start swinging around like Jenna Jameson after about the first or second area. There is a basic tutorial which is crucial if you wanna get the subtleties ironed out but as I mentioned with my lady, not entirely necessary. There are three different control scheme configurations. I played this on PS3 (Remote play FTW, I'll get into that in a bit) but the mapping is the same so you should get the basic idea. The Left analog stick and/or the D-pad are used for movement, I prefer the D-pad since the directions are more precise and I find the D-pad on the Xbox 360 gamepad, even after I modded mine, to be undeniably inferior to the DualShock 3. By default your grapple arm is mapped to CIRCLE, your weapons to X and your grenades, which you acquire a bit later in the game, is SQUARE. I use the third configuration which maps grenades to CIRCLE, weapons to SQUARE, and arm to X. I like to think of the arm as jump so X works for me. Later in the game you unlock new weapons such as Super Joe's Machine Gun, a reflective laser gun and ofcourse the all powerful rocket launcher. In the NES version once you unlocked the rocket launcher that was all you needed, however in this game all the weapons have pros and cons. The splash damage of the rocket launcher can kill you with one shot if you don't use it wisely. In a two-player co-op game this can be extremely difficult to manage, but with some communication it's all good. Certain weapons work better on some enemies than others so it does encourage experimenting. Switching weapons is done on the fly with L1 cycling backwards through your inventory and R1 cycling forward. Once you memorize which weapon comes after the other it comes in super handy. Some enemies rarely give you a chance to breath so the quicker you can memorize patterns the better. When you reach the command computers you have a chance hack the enemies network and intercept their radio transmissions which usually provides you with some much needed info on the weakness of each boss in that area, as well some in games jokes that result in a few chuckles, that is if you get the in game humor. I'm looking at you Kel.
The game supports a two-player co-op mode which, thanks to some split screen innovation, they pull off unbelievably well. Normally in a platformer like this with two characters on screen, one player is usually always ahead of the other almost always resulting in the "impatient" player falling off an edge or running into some unforeseen obstacle. As the players split up the screen pans out, if they spread out too far the screen splits automatically either horizontally or vertically depending on the layout of the level. It may sound confusing but it works rather well, except during the top down levels. There is no reason the screen should spit up during those areas. The only thing I have against the single player campaign and co-op is that progress in one does not carry over to the other. However it's not so huge a problem that I would never play this game through again. Quite the contrary it's begs for multiple playthroughs, and that's only the campaign. There are multiple challenge rooms which exist for bragging rights on who can get through certain challenges with the least amount of time. To give an example the first challenge room can be finished in about 2 seconds flat. I spent about an hour with that one challenge room alone and the quickest I could pull it off was 2.302 seconds. I think that speaks volumes. The leaderboards show you who has the quickest time and keeps you going try after try resulting in nothing but failure. Who are these freaks with 1.5 second stats and what the fuck do they do in life?
There's also a combatitive multiplayer aspect to the game which is reminiscent of Nintendo's Super Smash Bros Series. You basically go about blasting each other deatchmatch style. There's also a mode called Don't Touch The Floor in which you're weapons push you and your enemies off ledges so mastering the grapple arm is of absolute importance.
I haven't quite had a chance to tryout remote play since my PSP went out on me not too long ago. The simple fact that it's supported though is hella rad. I don't expect it to play perfectly tho since there will undoubtedly be some lag and in a game like this it's almost impossible to play without good timing.
The co-op and multiplayer are local only, no online here folks. The good thing about that is you can chug your controller at your couch buddy having their face break the impact of the controller rather than the wall if things go a bit awry.
Graphics and Sound
Rearmed, as I've gushed about plenty has a sick, sick, sick remixed soundtrack that is nostalgically titillating. I think you'll only really appreciate it if you're a geek like me. Simon Viklund the games composer and director is to be commended. As for the games sound design everything fits in place. Explosions are visually and audibly meaty. If you have a powerful sound system push it. No excuses just do it.
CAPCOM, to think you almost didn't allow Ben Judd to remake this classic, it's unforgivable. I bought this game without hesitation and at $10, it's worth every penny. With games like this, Warhawk, Pixel Junk Eden and Siren up on PSN, my decision to back Sony as having quality over quantity is fully justified. Yes I know Rearmed is up on XBLA also but it's one gem in a sea of bland HD repukes and casual assmats.
Unless ofcourse we are talking about Braid. That's up next.
Bionic Commando: ReArmed was developed by Grin and Published by CAPCOM. It's available for $9.99 on PSN, 800 Points on XBLA and $15 on PC (Steam, Direct 2 Drive). All screenshots courtesy of 1up.com. Until I setup my screenshot device I'm hoping they don't mind.