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Video Game / Bionic Commando

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Our hero Ladd Spencer, as he fights the evil imperialistic forces of Master-D (clearly not Hitler with a fake beard and sunglasses.)

"They lost their hero to the enemy. They went looking for the perfect soldier to rescue him. They found some guy who couldn't even jump."

"Let me tell you about the man I met when I was still young..."

Bionic Commando is a platformer series by Capcom. The original title was an arcade game released in 1987, starring a soldier who must fight his way into enemy territory to destroy their missiles. At first sight, Bionic Commando seemed like a conventional platformer, but there's a catch: there is no jump button. Instead, the protagonist is equipped with a grappling hook to swing and climb places. The game was marketed outside Japan as a sequel to Capcom's earlier arcade game Commando (hence the similar titles), to the point that the English promotional flyer claimed that the game's protagonist is none other than Super Joe himself, although the two games were not connected... At first. It was ported to a variety of home computer platforms following its release.

A follow-up for the NES was released in 1988. The console sequel not only refines the wire swinging gimmick of the arcade game, but also fleshes out the rest of the game with an added emphasis on exploration such as the addition of a life bar that the player can extend through bullet collecting, the procurement of items and weapons (which are chosen at the start of each mission) which help facilitate the player's mission, and the ability to communicate with friendly agents and wiretap enemy conversations for additional information. The game now starts in an overworld map in which the player uses an helicopter to not only transport the protagonist to enemy areas in any order (although some stages required proper equipment in order to be explored), but also visit neutral zones to meet up with allies and enemies alike, and even engage against enemy convoys through optional top-down scrolling stages akin to the original Commando.

The NES Bionic Commando also featured a much more fleshed out plot than its arcade predecessor. Rad Spencer (also known as Ladd Spencer in the original translation, later renamed Nathan “Rad” Spencer), a bionic arm-equipped One-Man Army working for The Federation, is sent to infiltrate Imperial territory in order to rescue his missing comrade Super Joe (fortifying the title's otherwise tenuous ties with the original Commando) and find out what he knows about the stolen top secret Nazi project codenamed Albatross. After rescuing Joe, Spencer discovers that Project Albatross is an abandoned weapon that the Imperials now seek to complete by reviving the project's originator - Hitler himself (hence the game's Japanese title, meaning Resurrection of Hitler).

All references to the Nazis were edited out from the NES version's overseas release, with Hitler himself being renamed Master-D, although the controversial dictator's likeness was left unchanged (making it obvious who he is meant to be), along with a particularly gory death sequence..

Despite this, the NES version of Bionic Commando was a cult success and the game inspired a few remakes and successors throughout the years, including a book in the Worlds of Power series, most notably a 2009 sequel again titled Bionic Commando for seventh generation consoles, which was developed by the now-defunct Sweden-based developer GRIN. The 2009 incarnation of Spencer also appeared as a character in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, with the Rearmed rendition as an alternate DLC costume in the former.

The Rearmed 2 website can be found here.

List of titles:

  • Bionic Commando (arcade, 1987) - Titled Top Secret in Japan.
    • Ported to the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Amiga and Atari ST in 1988.
    • Included in Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 1 for PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2005, and Capcom Classics Collection: Remixed for PlayStation Portable in 2006.
  • Bionic Commando (NES, 1988) - Titled Hitler no Fukkatsu: Top Secret in Japan.
  • Bionic Commando (Game Boy, 1992)
  • Bionic Commando: Elite Forces (Game Boy Color, 1999)
  • Bionic Commando Rearmed (Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3 / PC, 2008) - Titled Bionic Commando: Master-D Fukkatsu Keikaku in Japan.
  • Bionic Commando (Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3 / PC, 2009)
  • Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 (Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3, 2011)

Featured Tropes:

  • Adaptation Expansion: In both the original NES game and Rearmed, Area 12 features "Master-D" launching the Albatross after killing Generalissimo Killt. In the NES version, the Albatross is just a screen-sized gunship that Ladd has to Colossus Climb to reach the core of. Rearmed has a cutscene showing the launch of a Floating Continent-sized Albatross at the end of the stage, and the Airborne Aircraft Carrier is an almost completely new final level by itself. The final attack on "The Leader"'s helicopter was also expanded into an actual Boss Battle in Rearmed, as well.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: The ending to Rearmed 2 has a lot of this, with Super Joe remarking that none of the game's villains were bad people, just decent folks who ended up doing bad things due to a series of unfortunate events. It also includes a Heel Realization by Super Joe, which somewhat humanizes his previous portrayal in the next gen game.
  • All There in the Manual: In the sequel, lots of background info is buried in the files you unlock, and the incident leading to Spencer's incarceration is only covered in a webcomic that wound up being packaged as a print comic as a Pre-Order Bonus.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore:
    • The Japanese version of the arcade game had characters with wider cartoony eyes.
    • The cover art for Rearmed 2 seems to be a deliberate aversion of this trope, as it can only be described as deliberately goofy.
  • Anime Theme Song: "Bionic Commando" (sometimes called "Go! Go! Bionic Commando" or just "Go! Go! Bionic!") sung by the inimitable Ichiro Mizuki of JAM Project fame. (There's a song on the Bionic Commando Rearmed OST called "Go Go Bionic," but it's nothing but thirty seconds of a Japanese guy saying "Go! Go! Bionic!" with the NES game's Area 1 tune in the background.)
  • Art Evolution: Although the overall world's art style is similar (enemies with ridiculously colorful uniforms, walking mechs, etc.), the character design has changed drastically from Rearmed to the sequel. Super Joe now looks like Jack Nicholson in full Joker mode (sans makeup), although the change is somewhat believably attributable to 10 years of aging and a desk job. There's no plausible explanation to how Spencer went from a red-haired Duke Nukem clone to a grungy rock band frontman who could double for Ronan Dex, though. Humorously, Gottfried Groeder looks exactly the same as he did in Rearmed, albeit 20-30 years older (guess the years haven't been kind).
  • Attract Mode: The game has a rather lengthy intro sequence when left running at the title screen that explains most of the story and gives demos of the gameplay.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: Inverted; a couple of notable sub-bosses and bosses also have bionic arm weaponry, and yours is largely useless against them (but they can still knock you around with theirs).
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: "This base will explod in 60 seconds."
  • Book Ends:
    • The game begins with Joe telling the story of a man he met when he was young. It ends with him finishing it, and hoping it will be told for a long time.
    • "Damn rookies."
  • Bowdlerise:
    • All references to Nazis were edited out of the game and replaced with Nazz/Badds, and there are No Swastikas. For a more complete list of changes, see this game's entry over at Wikipedia. Oddly, Hitler's visage remains untouched (and seeing as his mustache is a relatively iconic feature, it draws attention to the censorship more than it would otherwise).
    • What's sort of ironic is that the Worlds of Power book based on this game is one of the few in the series where people actually died.
    • Rearmed is mostly unchanged in the Japanese version, too, making this somewhat of a Recursive Import.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • If you played the demo version of Rearmed instead of purchasing the game, the first boss will fail to load its attack patterns, saying you need to buy the full version of the game. Your character quips, "Aww, but I really wanted to fight you! Please..?" as well.
    • The sequel has a couple of these too: "Is that a long health bar, Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?"
  • Canon Welding: The arcade game was not originally connected to Commando at all in Japan, but the NES game's inclusion of Super Joe means the two series are canonically part of the same universe.
  • Composite Character: The 2009 sequel establishes that Super Joe was just a codename used by a certain Joseph Gibson. Joseph Gibson was one of the playable character in Mercs, the sequel to the original Commando.
  • Company Cross References:
    • Rearmed lovingly reminds you of its roots on a regular basis ("Get the heck out of here, you nerd!") Also, the characters strenuously avoid using Hitler's name to the point of (intentional) comedy.
    • The 2009 game has large signs for TriCell all over Ascension City. There are also several smaller posters of Dark Void here and there, and once in the game you can spot a large billboard with a Tron Bonne minion robot on it.
    • In Rearmed There's a challenge run called the "Dragon Run" which is a reference to the Mecha Dragon Boss of Mega Man 2.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: In the sequel, discovering that Nathan Spencer's missing wife... Was taken by TASC and had some part of her uploaded or fashioned into his bionic arm! ...How Evangelionesque. Surprisingly, THIS twist is rather subtly alluded to, making several seemingly-inconsequential comments much, much more meaningful. Mind, after The Reveal, they really sledgehammer it in, and yet he inexplicably doesn't get it (or is hugely in denial).
    • It's denial. It finally sinks in during the last cutscene, when Emily Spencer confronts her husband about his avoiding the issue. Nathan finally faces the facts.
    • It's also potentially because she may not be dead, because while a section of her is inside his arm if she is dead or if the process is reversible is never commented on.
  • Cyborg: Yes indeed, although the sequel tries to real-physics it up a bit.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • The sequel is much, much more grim and apocalyptic (most of the game takes place in a nuked mega city) than any of the prior games, including the company's own remake of the NES game. Super Joe's is shown to be an ass, but then again so has Spencer. Spencer spent a better part of 10 years in prison, without his bionic arm, after witnessing the death of two rogue bionic agents. Ten years after the Master-D mission, The Federation has turned into a cruel and cynical the-end-justifies-the-means regime. The terrorists opposing it are even worse, nuking a capitol city IN THE BEGINNING OF THE GAME. Oh, and apparently Spencer got his bionic arm by said federation possibly sacrificing the life of his wife to make it. Whether all this is good or bad is up to you.
    • Considering the arcade version was a very cartoony game to begin with and the NES version was about blowing Hitler's head off, the NES game itself could be considered a Darker and Edgier version of the arcade game (although, not to the same extent as the 2009 sequel).
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Initially, Rearmed gave you the usual finite life stock for each stage, however a later update gives you infinite lives. Which doesn't necessarily translate to an easy win, because you still get tossed back to the last checkpoint after dying.
  • Determinator: Spencer doesn't like to give up. Even when faced with impossible odds, he just sees it as a challenge. Try to (and almost succeed in) kill him, and he'll make you suffer for it. It's almost to the point of psychopathy: the guy does not, cannot, and will not lose if he can do anything about it.
  • Difficulty by Region:
    • The NES game had some changes to difficulty scattered about from the Famicom version. Rather than making the entire game easier or harder, they change the difficulty of certain segments — generally speaking, the earlier parts of the game are harder and the later ones easier in the NES version.
    • In the original arcade game, the International version lets you keep your weapon between levels, rather than reverting you to the default weapon at the start of every level. Additionally, the helicopters in the International version are lesser in number, drop fewer bombs, and will eventually stop chasing you if you avoid them for long enough.
  • Disc-One Nuke: In the NES version, you get the rocket launcher, which is supremely overpowered compared to every other weapon, fairly early in the game (at about the 40% mark). There's only one level (the one with helicopters) where you'd even possibly want to use another gun — in this case, the three-way. The choppers still aren't around enough to make it worthwhile. It retains its power in Rearmed, albeit with the slight downside that you can kill yourself with it if you're not careful. It still makes most of the early bosses a complete joke.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Spencer was on death row, just cause he didn't follow one single order. Surely such a stunt would just have him stripped off of his Bionic Arm and position within military? The online comic reveals that "one single order" was murdering two bionics who didn't want to be stripped off of their life-supporting implants. He was put in jail because he didn't kill the two bionics, he let another one escape (Mag), and he killed an entire force of Federation troops when they tried to kill the two bionics. He also found out about the heavy crackdown on bionics, which ultimately led to the creation of BioReign (Bionic Resurrection Initiative). He was imprisoned for insubordination and treason.
  • Divided States of America: The nation was initially unnamed, but in the Rearmed duology, the 2009 sequel and comic interquel, it's called the Federal States of America - the result of a political and economic balkanization of the United States of America in the early 21st century, reformed by a hardline government that eschews all libertarian values to maintain law and order.
  • Downer Ending: By the end of the game Mag is apparently dead, Emily has been revealed to have been changed in an unknown process into Rad's bionic arm, Super Joe is a (dead) scumbag, and the last we see of Rad is him plummeting from several thousand feet up.
  • Down the Drain: Area 2 is an underground chemical waste dumping site.
  • Easter Egg: An interesting case of Throw It In happens when you re-attempt to fight The Mohole after dying. It only occurs the second time.
    Super Joe: "Spencer! There's no way out! You'll just have to fuck it!"
    Spencer's voice actor: "Um..."
  • 11th-Hour Superpower:
    • You have Super Joe's machine gun for the final three levels of Rearmed, and the upgraded rocket launcher only for the final boss fight.
    • You supposedly receive the special bazooka at the end of the original NES game, but despite three levels of explaining how powerful it is, it's exactly the same as the rocket launcher you've been carrying since Area 5.
  • Engrish: The NES game's engrish is legendary, inspiring a number of memes. Rearmed makes several humorous references to it.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Super Joe in the 2009 game, where he's the Big Bad.
  • Fake Difficulty: Not being able to jump and no air control introduces a certain amount of this, but the original arcade game was teeth-gnashingly difficult due to sluggish response to the controls and not allowing you to use your bionic arm in the air.
  • Fast-Killing Radiation: In the 2009 game, several parts of Ascension City are highly irradiated, and staying in them for too long (a couple of seconds) will instantly kill Nathan "Rad" Spencer.
  • Faux Action Girl: Mag, in the modern sequel. Introduced as a possible rival or boss, she then does nothing of import, and gets Hitler'd by the Big Bad.
  • Feed It a Bomb: After Spencer kills Groeder by shoving a grenade in his mouth and kicking him off the high point they were fighting on, just to make sure he doesn't return again:
    Spencer: Try coming back from that!
  • Final Boss: Hitler (aka The Leader or "Master-D") in the original and remakes, Arturus in Elite Forces, and Groeder in the 2009 sequel.
  • Floating Platforms: Averted; just about everything Spencer can attach his arm to is conceivably attached to the ground in some manner (for example, the various poles scattered across the stages).
  • Gorn: In the NES game, and both Rearmed entries, enemies just die or explode fairly normally without a single hint of blood, and the games even take steps to have surprisingly family-friendly content despite all the people and stuff you take down, complete with ragdolls in Rearmed just comically flopping around. Then you finish off Hitler- I mean, Master-D, with a rocket to the cockpit. Even in the NES game, you get to see his head graphically blow up as his eyeballs fly off, and the Rearmed equivalent even does a Repeat Cut followed by a slow motion close-up of the chunkiness just to bask in recreating the infamous moment. This single scene earned the otherwise fairly-tame remake an M rating, even despite arguably making the game Denser and Wackier.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: An enemy soldier in Area 16 will tell you to "Get the heck out of here, you nerd!"
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Your bionic arm functions like one, which you have to get a lot of mileage out of since there is no jump button.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • In the NES version, the player can abort a mission by pressing Start+A+B simultaneously and return to the map screen. This would've come in handy if you enter a stage without having the proper equipment... if it weren't for the fact that the manual doesn't tell you this. Because of this, many first-time players often reset the game when they enter Area 6 without the Rocket Gun.
    • Also in the NES game, acquiring Joe's machine gun. You have to talk to the correct person. If you talk to the wrong one, a machine gun still appears in the room, but taking it does not add a weapon to your inventory. Because the game gives no indication you've done anything wrong (or that there was even a test you could fail,) it simply appears that the item is bugged and unobtainable. Just to add insult to injury, when you do get the right one, it's a piece of crap that's worse than your starting weapon.
  • High-Tech Hexagons: As of Rearmed, a 5-hexagon symbol is the predominant logo. In-universe, the hexagons are part of the logo of TASC, the Tactical Arms and Security Committee supervised by Super Joe that first commissioned bionic technology; Spencer's shirt has the hexagon logo in the 2009 game.
  • Hit Points: You start the game as a One-Hit-Point Wonder, but by grabbing items that various Mooks drop, you can gain more hitpoints to start out with, up to a maximum of nine per life if you're dedicated enough to get 300 of them. (Of course, you still die instantly when you fall in one of the game's many Bottomless Pits.) No longer the case in Rearmed as you get the Hit Points meter to start. It does get upgraded, but only once.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Intercepting enemy communications in Rearmed requires you to play a short mini-game; in the full console sequel, you just grapple the computer and hit B (or "O," or whatever the action button is for the PC version). In the original game, simply having the correct communicator will allow you to listen in to enemy chatter (though they may detect you and attack as soon as you're done listening). Justified in that spies specifically tune the various communicators to the enemy frequencies.
  • Idiot Hero: For the most part, Spencer is a fairly competent guy. But in the sequel, how in the name of all that's holy did he NOT get that his bionic arm has his wife's in it?! Partially justified, due to the fact that this comes from denial. We never see his wife interacting with him except when he was asleep.
  • Inconsistent Dub: When the Nazi references were rubbed out of the NES localization, the manual went with "the Nazz" while the intro uses "the Badds" in-game.
  • Interquel: Rearmed 2 takes place between the NES game / Rearmed and its 2009 sequel. Among other things it shows Spencer and Magdalene working together and sheds some light on the reasoning behind the "Bionic Purge."
  • Instant-Win Condition: In the NES game, the objective of every area except the last is to destroy the reactor. Bosses can be completely ignored in just about every level, and the two levels that have the boss that cannot be ignored can still be completed easily if you're willing (and able) to take a couple of hits.
  • Invulnerable Civilians: Averted — it's very possible to shoot innocent civilians in a neutral area; you'll just set off alarms and the peacekeeper forces will attempt to kill you. Played straight in Rearmed; opening fire in a neutral zone FSA camp doesn't trigger anything.
  • Jump Physics: Well, okay, more like swinging and arcing physics. But still.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Master-D is an obvious stand in for Hitler, especially since despite bowdlerizing all other Nazi references, they left Hitler's very recognizable face in the game. In Rearmed and the backstory presented in the 2009 sequel, he is known simply as "The Leader" (with his face is obscured by a breathing mask in the former, though you can still see the top of his iconic mustache poking out beneath it, as well as when his head explodes). Rearmed 2 gives us another antagonist, General Sabio, dictator of the island nation Papagaya threatening to launch missiles at the FSA. Obviously a stand in for Fidel Castro and Cuba.
  • Leap of Faith: A few notable instances in some parts of the game (particularly Stage 6). Also the title of one of the songs from Rearmed, appropriately enough.
  • Level 1 Music Represents: An odd case. The NES Area 1 music is iconic of the series to the point it makes up a large portion of the soundtrack in the sequel but it is in fact a rendition of the arcade game's Stage 2 music.
  • Lost Technology: In Elite Forces, Project Albatross is at first thought to be an ancient war machine created by earlier civilizations to repel an alien invasion. In the final battle, Big Bad Arturus reveals that the Albatross is actually a long derelict space craft that grants its controller monstrous powers.
  • The Man Behind the Man: In the sequel, Groeder is the last boss proper, but Super Joe is the actual mastermind behind the whole mess. Sort of a reversal of roles in terms of difficulty, though.
  • Mandatory Twist Ending: More of a twist rising climax in the sequel. Thanks a whole lot, Super Joe.
  • Man-Eating Plant: You get a slight rustling of leaves, and if you don't move, you're eaten.
  • Marathon Level: The Albatross in Rearmed is three times as long as most stages in the game, which makes it a lot more painful to get back to where you were if you run out of lives late in the level.
  • Meaningful Rename: Rearmed changes Hitler/Master-D's name to The Leader, the definition of the man's title of Führer.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The halfway point of Rearmed is interrupted by Spencer mentioning his missing wife to Haley. It's an important plot point in the 2009 sequel, but in Rearmed it came right out of nowhere.
    • While the sequel starts dark and gets darker, Spencer's sheer, unadulterated joy at being free and reunited with his bionic arm, even swinging through a hellhole of a city and viciously killing enemy troops, makes him appear almost sociopathic.
  • Mook Chivalry: Subverted in the sequel. BioReign soldiers duck and cover, attack in groups, spot you from long distances and try to kill you dead from that range if possible. The list of things they do correctly is astonishing, and it's clear from the get-go that these guys want to survive, go home, and see their families. Double Subverted in that none of this manages to accomplish a damn thing.
  • Mook Promotion: In the original NES game, the rival enemy bionic "Giant Soldier" were simply unnamed minibosses. In Rearmed, Gottfried Groeder took its place and served as a Recurring Boss and The Dragon to the Big Bad, and who returns in the sequel as the final boss.
  • Mythology Gag: Area 5 of Rearmed features safety posters reading ''Warning! Falling Objects! Wear a helmet!" depicting a Met helmet. In the same level, there are background decals of a hanging iron balls on chains, an irritating obstacle in the first game which is no longer implemented in the remake.
  • Nintendo Hard: This game is really difficult. Rearmed on the hardest difficulty cranks it up to eleven.
    • Stage 1 isn't too bad. The next few areas, while harder, are still reasonable. Stages 5 and 6 are really very hard.
    • Rearmed starts out harder than the later levels of the NES version, mainly due to intelligent enemies (they duck behind stuff to avoid your fire, etc...)
    • The 2009 game is notoriously difficult due to a mix of Spencer almost being a One-Hit-Point Wonder, big guns ammunition, and grenades being rarer than rare while your small gun eats through its own ammo like popcorn, enemies having Improbable Aiming Skills and Spencer having Super Drowning Skills due to the sheer weight of his bionic arm (although it doesn't explain why a trained supersoldier can only hold his breath underwater for ten seconds before suffering Critical Existence Failure). The Checkpoint Starvation, forcing you to go through whole levels again should you get killed inches away from your goal, and the Trial-and-Error Gameplay nature of certain levels don't help either...
  • No Swastikas: In the translation, the Nazis were changed to the Nazz/Badds, swastikas were removed, and Hitler was renamed Master-D. Strangely enough, his dialogue portrait, which clearly shows Hitler, wasn't changed at all. In Rearmed, the Nazis are simply referred to as "a long-dead military regime." What is strange is that there's symbols and power-ups scattered around in both the NES game and the updated remake which resemble the Imperial Eagle. That can't be coincidental.
  • Non-Indicative Title: There was nothing "bionic" about the unnamed protagonist in the original arcade game or with Ladd/Rad Spencer in the NES and Game Boy versions. The grappling hook they used to swing into places was just that, a grappling hook. Played straight with ReArmed and the 2009 sequel, in which one of Nathan's arms is replaced with a bionic one.
  • Not as You Know Them: Spencer and Joe in the sequel. In spades. Somewhat justified in that Spencer has been in prison for five years, just waiting to be killed, and Joe has become bitter and jaded from the events of the Bionic Purge, which he didn't entirely agree with but was forced to implement.
  • Nuke 'em: BioReign bombs entire Ascension City which is pretty much the game's equivalent to a New York.
  • Old Save Bonus:
    • If you own both Rearmed and the 2009 game on the same platform, you can unlock Spencer's "classic" Rearmed skin for use in the 2009 game. Which is a good thing too, when most players vastly prefer that look.
    • Obtaining a collection of secret items in Rearmed unlocks the "Prototype Weapon" for use right away in the 2009 sequel, which replaces the weaker standard firearm.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: In the Game Boy game, Director Wiseman's end game is to use the Albatross to blow apart the planet which will lead to everything getting destroyed which is better emphasized in the Japanese release.
  • One-Man Army: And Spencer is called out on this in the sequel. According to Armstrong, over 10,000 troops fought against the Imperials, but Rad Spencer and Super Joe got all the glory. For their part, the soldiers in Rearmed all say how much easier Spencer's actions are making the fight, and the Imperials are hugely demoralized because of how bad Rad is kicking their asses. Also the reason why he's pulled out of death row and sent to Ascension City in the sequel: Even after ten years in prison, he's considered so capable and uniquely adapted to the situation that he's the best shot the Federation has.
  • Palette Swap: Notably, the peacekeepers in the neutral zones are just white versions of the mooks from the rest of the game.
  • Powered Armor: About half the bosses of Elite Forces are guys wearing this. Also shows up in the sequel in several variants. Because they're not nearly as vulnerable as basic infantry, they need special tactics to take down. Or you can hit them hard with the secondary weapons, that works too.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: In the sequel, it's revealed that all bionic limbs are created an unknown process using someone with strong emotional ties to the person usually family or spouses. It's also a semi-twisted, semi-sweet take on The Power of Love, if you think about it.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: Super Joe, from the original Commando, appears briefly in the NES version.
  • Product Placement: In the first level of the 2009 game, there are intact Pepsi vending machines, ads for Nvidia and Alienware cards, and plugs for the then-upcoming Dark Void.
  • Puzzle Boss:
    • All of them. None of them can be taken down by direct fire. Instead, you'll have to listen to enemy conversations to figure out their weaknesses.
    • In the original game, more often than not, the puzzle is less about "how do I take this guy out" than it is about "how do I avoid this guy long enough to destroy the reactor and win."
  • Railroading: One of the most frequent complaints about the 2009 game was how poorly marked areas of radioactivity prevented players from exploring the levels.
  • Recycled Title: Bionic Commando is the localized western name of both the arcade and NES games, which are separate outside of the gameplay concept. By the Game Boy game, however, Bionic Commando began to be the series title in Japan. Bionic Commando is also the name of the 2009 sequel.
  • Reformulated Game: The NES version, which adapted the wire swinging concept from the arcade version into an entirely new game with selectable stages and more emphasis on exploration. To a lesser extent, the Game Boy version as well.
  • Repeat Cut: At the end of Bionic Commando Rearmed you use a rocket to [[explode Hitler's head]]. This moment is shown once at normal speed, a second time in slow motion, then a third time as a still image showing it in great detail.
  • Required Secondary Powers: In the sequel, Spencer is outrageously tough to kill, and can deal great heaping gobs of damage just by landing correctly (generally that means arm first...). Wholly justified — his body must be bionically reinforced to keep up with the rigors of his bionic arm.
    • Why yes it is. In the 360 / PS3 version, the in-game text actually outright says he possesses some kind of "bionic armor." This not only makes him highly durable, but also allows him to regenerate health. Also like his other bionics, over time he gets used to using it again and it gets stronger, or "upgrades" or whatever you want to call it. So yeah, apparently he is equipped with some kind of bio mechanical armor, presumably either under his skin or nanotech.
    • Still won't prevent him from getting killed with a couple bullets from even the lowest ranking Mooks; Spencer doesn't really take less damage than a regular human would, but he does have Regenerating Health.
  • Respawning Enemies: Averted and played straight — unless the enemy spawned from an opening / shutting door, most enemies will stay dead for good no matter how far you stray from them. However, if you leave an area through a doorway, then come back, the enemies will respawn.
  • Ret-Canon: The connection between the original Commando and Bionic Commando was originally an American invention for the Arcade game when they were promoting it, claiming that the nameless player character were controlling was actually Super Joe himself. The NES version added Commando like overhead segments and made Super Joe into a real character in the game. The Rearmed remake and the 2009 sequel retconned Super Joe's identity into "Joseph Gibson," essentially linking the original Commando with its sequel Mercs.
  • Right Hand of Doom: The bionic arm, not really noticeable when two pixels wide, was upgraded to a design worthy of a piece of farming equipment in Rearmed and the sequel. But damn if it isn't cool as hell.
  • Rogue Protagonist: Super Joe in the 2009 game.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: Averted in Elite Forces, which grants the player a choice between a male and female commando. The commando you don't choose must be rendezvoused with throughout the game. Though Areas 6 and 9 are different for each character. The boss and level reward in each are the same regardless.
  • Sequence Breaking: Mostly Averted in the NES version. Besides level grinding, There's nothing to stop you from playing any and all of the levels in whatever order you want but you won't get far in the later ones without the proper equipment.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better:
    • The '09 game features an anti-tank shotgun usually aimed at infantry: The Hiker fires nine super sized buckshot shells for clearing out armored enemies, and is, in fact, unstoppable against anything that isn't powered armor, while the last shot is specifically a super heavy armor piercing giant shell for use against armor.
    • The Rearmed shotgun is extremely powerful up close, beaten only by the rocket launcher and a full machine gun clip, but the range is so short, even with the range extending duckbill upgrade, that it's best used to get swinging again than as a weapon.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: As an Anti Frustration Feature, you're allowed to skip a boss' Boss Banter about how Spencer is just a pawn if you restart the battle enough times. This is represented in-game as Spencer literally telling him to shut the fuck up.
  • "Simon Says" Mini-Game: The Fabricator bosses have a phase where Spencer needs to stand in the center of an arch and block spikes launched in sequence, as indicated by lights around the arch. The Leader's helicopter also has a phase where it launches missiles in sequence, and the player has to anticipate which direction to block from.
  • Single-Use Shield: A pendant, which lasts one stage, and can block a single projectile, but also goes away if you die some other way.
  • Sniping Mission: Elite Forces adds this as a gameplay mechanic. Certain areas contain structures far off in the background that house patrolling enemies. Sniping them all within the time limit rewards the player with supplies.
  • Sociopathic Hero: When not angsting about his missing wife or that his country has betrayed him in the most vile way possible, Spencer takes a little too much joy in throwing people off cliffs and shooting them in the head.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • The music for the first level of the Arcade game is far too upbeat for the setting, especially considering the rest of the soundtrack.
    • Also, the music box lullaby after destruction of the Constructor in the 2009 version.
  • Spell My Name with an S: The NES version calls the main character "Ladd," while the Game Boy version uses "Rad Spencer." Rearmed and beyond rename the character "Nathan Spencer," but keeps "Rad" as his nickname. note 
  • Spikes of Doom: Deadly spikes do appear in the series, starting from the first game.
  • The Stinger: The 2009 Sequel. Gets bonus cryptic points for being in Morse code AND German!
    • Also gets points for Continuity Porn, since it says to activate "Projekt Albatros."
    • Also, the NES game. See Book Ends above.
  • Stupid Helicopter Hitler: Among other things, the Imperials utilize wired, cybernetic soldiers, experiment on plant life and bugs in Area 3 in the NES version, have mobilized droids in their ranks, keep their master in a status tube, and they also made the Albatross.
  • Translation Matchmaking: Originally called Top Secret in Japan, the arcade game was retitled Bionic Commando and marketed as a Commando spin-off.
  • Truce Zone: Various neutral zones in the NES and Game Boy games.
  • Ultimate Universe: Elite Forces seems to be this. It starts with a similar premise — long time war hero, Super— er, I mean, Commander Joe missing, etc, but everything else is just completely different. New fictional countries, no Nazis or Hitler, different villainous motivation, a whole bionic corp. Even the final boss seems like something out of an Ultimate book.
  • The Unfought: Killt is never fought in either the NES game or Rearmed, as he's promptly backstabbed by the revived Hitler before he can do anything.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: In-game, Spencer really enjoys his job, even though his job is killing a whole lot of people. For the player, the variety of ways in which you can utterly humiliate your enemies before killing them (or while killing them), lends itself to this trope.
  • Video Game Remake: The Game Boy version practically a port of the NES one with a change in setting. Elite Forces on the other hand, follows the same plot, but has completely different stages. Rearmed is a straight remake of the NES game with polygonal graphics.
  • Video Game Tools: In the NES version, communicators, flares, and even the bionic arm itself are necessary but not used to damage your enemies directly.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Spencer is weighed down by his bionics and can't swim. Further, he's even more susceptible to radiation due to the sensitive electronics keeping him plugged in and bionic. While initially only justifying Bottomless Pits, the radiation-cloaked Ascension City is a lot more dangerous for Spencer.
  • Wreaking Havok: Hurling around debris and enemy soldiers in '09. Spencer can throw real far and real accurate and real hard, making for some really satisfying takedowns.
  • Year X: Project Albatross was uncovered by The Federation in the late 1980's (specifically "198X"), leading to the Imperial Incident; however, in Rearmed, this was updated to the year 2029.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In both the original and Rearmed, Killt, having activated Albatross without the help of "Master-D"/"The Leader", decides he doesn't need him anymore. Unfortunately, Master-D then wakes up and kills Killt, declaring that Killt, having allowed him to waken, no longer needs to be kept around. Rearmed has "The Leader" say the phrase word for word upon his arrival, aimed at both Killt and Spencer.
  • Your Head A-Splode:
    • Hitler (aka "The Leader" or "Master-D"), when you destroy the helicopter he attempts to escape in at the end of the game. Quite gory, really, considering the Bowdlerization to the rest of the game. This is the only reason the Rearmed release has an "M" rating, as there's surprisingly little blood elsewhere.
    • In the sequel, it's the only way to make sure a bionic stays dead.