XBLA is typically where retro games go for one last hurrah with little to no improvement, a few achievements added because Microsoft demands it, and a bargain basement price tag. Occasionally a game is just as good as we remember it (Streets of Rage 2, Sonic 2), but usually it’s purchased, played for 10 minutes, and regretted (Joust, Root Beer Tapper, Centipede/Millipede). Bionic Commando: Rearmed doesn’t fit into either camp. It sells for $10 just like many of the full-featured XBLA games, and it’s completely worth it because you’re not paying an NES emulator running the original ROM image. BC:R is a brand new game coded from the ground up for XBLA, PSN, and PC. Most of the levels are obviously inspired by their NES counterparts, but the graphics are current, the gameplay is tight, and the game – from start to finish – is challenging and fun (even on the easy difficulty setting).
Bionic Commando: Rearmed has a story, but like anything from or based on the NES era it isn’t important. Games lived and died by their gameplay and fun factor then, and BC:R does the same now. The plot is forgettable, you won’t remember your chopper pilot’s name three days after beating it, and you certainly can’t base your master’s thesis on its narrative. What BC:R has going for it, though, is great controls and challenging environments and bosses to use them on. Your avatar, Rad Spencer, has a bionic arm and a glut of weapons with which to take on the Imperial army and rescue Super Joe. Along the way you will swing from platforms, spot lights, and rock faces. You’ll defeat enemies with a revolver, a rocket launcher, and a shotgun, and each weapon has a place and time in which it is most effective. Just because you’ve had your revolver since the game started doesn’t mean you won’t be using it in the last level. Each stage ends with a boss. Boss characters vary in size from man-sized to screen-fillingly gigantic. Each boss will force a new trick on you. In classic Capcom fashion this means learning the boss’s pattern and exploiting it.
Offline cooperative play changes things up a bit as boss characteristics change when another hero is thrown into the mix. An early boss, for example, can be defeated by one character by simply throwing a barrel and unloading on its backside. When a second player joins in, however, it become necessary to fool the boss with one character so that the other has an opportunity to grab a barrel and throw it at the boss’s weak point. Other multiplayer modes include standard deathmatch and A