Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bionic Commando: Elite Forces

I love the original Bionic Commando. It is one of my favorite NES. Swinging around with the grappling hook is just so fun and it was done amazingly well in a game that came out in 1988. The game had a Game Boy sequel which I also have fond memories of, though that may be purely notalgia as I haven't played it in awhile. This then, is the third Bionic Commando game as is the only one developed by Nintendo (their American NST division) rather than Capcom. It is kind of an odd synchronicity since Capcom developed the Game Boy Color Zelda games.

I actually only ended up playing this game because I forgot to charge my DS the night before I left. Thus, it's battery light went red about 2/3 of the way through my trip. Fortunately, I had also brought my GBA with me and so I stuck in Bionic Commando: Elite Forces.

I had played this game about three years ago. I didn't get very far because the used copy I had picked up had the save glitch that many copies of Bionic Commando: Elite Forces are known to have. Basically, if you save the game then it will freeze up next time your helicopter encounters a truck. Because of that problem, I gave up on playing the game despite the fact that I still loved Bionic Commando. A few months ago, I found a complete in box copy of the game for super cheap so I grabbed that up.

I still didn't know if the new copy I had possessed the save glitch or not. So I decided to try to play through the game without saving. After all, there aren't that many stages and I'm a hardened old school gamer. I actually learned within the game that every time you do a truck encounter, you get an extra life at the end. So, much like the original, you never need to start over at the beginning. However, I didn't really feel like grinding out lives so I decided to test my chops and just see how far I coud get.

I managed to get up through level nine or ten or so before finally dying. I enjoyed my time, but I didn't feel eager to jump right back in. Some of that was surely reticence to repeat all the stages I had gone through before. But even so, part of the reticence is that the experience hadn't been that great.

It had been fine. Being able to choose between a male or female commando was a nice touch, but didn't make any difference as far as I could tell. While the game seemed like less of a straight port than the Game Boy version, most of the items, weapons, and concepts were the same.

The biggest issue was that the game just didn't seemed to be designed to the size of the screen. The Game Boy (and later Color) screen was not large and could handle significantly fewer pixels than the television. This meant that some games attempted to have as large sprites as on the television making the viewable area of the level much less. This appears to have happened here. The original Bionic Commando had a few leaps of faith, but even in these cases you usually had enough time to react with your bionic arm. In this game, many of the objects you need to grab onto are just off screen and so when you swing toward them and the screen finally scrolls so you can see them, you have a split second to grab on or you will miss your target. Fortunately, most of the levels have been designed so you don't die when this happens, but it often means you fall a great distance and have to begin a long ascent anew. And that's not too fun.

I did enjoy my time, just not greatly. I'm sure with a few more play sessions I can finish the game. Or even quicker if I dare test if the cartridge can save properly.

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