Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Revisiting Project Albatross

Some 18 or 19 years ago, I was still in Elementary School, with my days mostly spent playing videogames on my trusty old Family Computer, or at places called video game rental shops.

These places would not rent out the cartridges for you to bring home, but had TVs with Family Computers hooked up to them. You pay P10 to play for an hour there, from B-Wings to Rockman 2 to pirate multicarts. I relished being in school because it meant that I had lunch money to spend for an hour of play on games that I cannot buy (or borrow).

One of those games was Top Secret, known to the world as Bionic Commando.

The first time I saw the intro screen accompanied by a catchy military-inspired tune, I was hooked. As time went by, I had the chance to finally try the game. The bionic arm with the grappling gun was the bigger "hook" for me.

Who else can forget the applause track while the villain proclaims victory on a podium flanked by two massive Nazi banners? Of course it was not until later that I actually understood the game's plot, because back then we had Japanese versions of games, with the odd Back to the Future cart.

It was insanely difficult. No thanks to the Japanese text on the only version available at the time. Even when I prepared for 3 or 4 hour marathon sessions, I still would only manage to finish half of the map. Later, when technology allowed me to revisit the experience on my PC (through emulation), I was able to finish it with some tweaking.

So when I learned that they were remaking it for the PC, I had to get a copy.

Now I am having the familiar feeling of telling myself to give "just one more try" in finishing a stage.

Bionic Commando Rearmed is a worthy remake, and more. It bumped the difficulty level up a notch - seeing that they remade the boss levels, and changed Wiretapping to a 3D puzzle mini game. Most of all, they changed the physics for the grappling gun - it's more realistic, to a fault. I cannot chain-grapple as fast as I used to.

But notwithstanding that minor quibble, the sound and graphics are excellent. The theme for Area 1 has always been a favorite, and the updated version holds its own compared to the original. Areas have ditched their drab backgrounds (due to limitations of the NES) to more appropriately detailed backdrops.

GRIN has done a great job putting a new coat of paint on a 21 year old game. I wish they made more games like this again. I would recommend you try it especially if you share my preference for old-style 2D NES-style gaming.

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