With Tecmo Bowl, Splatterhouse and Bionic Commando getting revivals, 2008 suddenly feels like 1988. Capcom is going one step further with the Bionic Commando franchise by looking backwards. On top of developing an all new entry in the series they are transforming the NES game into a 2.5D digitally distributed game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A distinct platform change from Capcom’s small library of 2.5D remakes, which currently reside on the PSP.
I asked Ben Judd, Producer of Bionic Commando: Rearmed, about a possible PSP version among other things. Things like the multiplayer mode, gameplay changes and how the humorous plot of Bionic Commando: Rearmed ties into the upcoming console game.
How long has Bionic Commando: Rearmed been in development?
About 10 months.
Why did you decide to keep the humorous storyline with the Imperials and Badds? Has anything changed from the original plot?
Because even though the dialogue itself was riddled with spelling errors and mistranslations, the cheesy tone of the game was one of the things that made the title cool. We want to tap into that 80s action hero humor since the title is supposed to be an homage to the original.
Will Japan get a different version with the World War II references and Hitler as the last boss?
To keep everything consistent and since the US market is the core market for the game, we are syncing everything to the US canon. We certainly wouldn’t want to create multiple sets of textures, models, and backdrops as well since the game is already quite a bit over what we expected to spend.
I remember reading the storyline in Bionic Commando: Rearmed ties into the new Bionic Commando. Can you elaborate on this?
They are both part of the same world. The 3D Bionic Commando takes place 10 years after the events that occurred in the original game. We really wanted to have a powerful dynamic character who goes through a major change in his life. Since Spencer is pretty much the king of the hill by the end of the original Bionic Commando (seeing as he took on a whole army by himself), we wanted him to have a fall from grace. How this transpires is still a unannounced by fans will be able to get a clue in the serial web comic book “Chain of Command” that we are releasing on the community site. The story ties the 2 games together.
One of the creative features in Bionic Commando: Rearmed is you can unlock content for the PS3/Xbox360 game. What kind of content can you unlock? Are there any items that can only be unlocked with both games?
As shown in the announcement trailer you will be able to unlock a original Spencer skin and be able to play the 3D game looking like how the original character did from the NES days (sunglasses and all). But there are a few secrets in Rearmed that you much collect in order to open up a few more things in the 3D Bionic Commando. We aren’t saying what they are yet, but they are very cool.
While Bionic Commando: Rearmed is a remake there have been some gameplay changes to the core game like the addition of the shotgun. Which change do you feel improves on the original the most?
The new weapon system. The fact that you can switch weapons in real-time and that enemies are weaker to some weapon types and stronger to others adds in a sort of Megaman vibe to the gun play in the game. If you ever did play the original, it was pretty much the second you got the bazooka, that was the only weapon you used so it was kind of a broken system before.
Multiplayer is one of the biggest additions to Bionic Commando: Rearmed. How does it work and why did you decide to add it in?
There are 4 different characters with unique parameters. 10 different stages with Bionic Commando specific backdrops and props. 8 different items and 3 different modes of play. We decided to add this in because we felt that the swing mechanic was just too damn fun to keep confined to single player. It’s fun to swing around on these different stages but it’s even more fun to swing around while shooting at another opponent in deathmatch.
Of course, this is only a digitally distributed title and the Bionic Commando franchise never really had a lot of different characters to begin with so we have kept it on a small scale but so far just about anyone who has played multiplayer has really enjoyed it. There are just quick down and dirty matches based around swinging and shooting.
Which of the four characters in the multiplayer mode is your favorite to use? Why?
I like Super Joe. There is something about the fact that he is the “old hero” of the bunch. He’s got history in Capcom games and I love the art that “Shinkiro” created of him. Then again, the fact that he is only character that can throw 2 hand grenades at once is a nice advantage to have as well.
How come there isn't any online play in Bionic Commando: Rearmed?
The initial game was planned to be a single player game using 3D models. As we were building it out, one of the programmers tried throwing in second model and when the developers played around with it they realized co-op was a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, since the game was never intended to have co-op or multiplayer we were stuck with a tough decision—either cut co-op out so that people would not complain about the lack of online, or keep it in there as a nice little bonus mode. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand that a majority of XBLA and PSN games come with some form of online in them so we may not have hit that standard, but when people see just how much game they are getting for 10 dollars, I think they will be pleasantly surprised. Actually, I personally had a lot of fun with Smash Brothers on the Game Cube. It may be last gen but it didn’t need online to be something lots of people really enjoyed.
Can you give us a clue on how to unlock some of the Xbox 360 achievements?
No, but I can give you a hint. Let’s just say “You can’t do that on television”.
The PSP has been the usual home for Capcom's 2.5D remakes with games like Mega Man X: Maverick Hunter and Ultimate Ghosts 'N Goblins. Are there plans to sell Bionic Commando: Rearmed as a PSP downloadable title on the PlayStation Store or on a UMD disc?
I have been pushing for this for a long time but unfortunately Rearmed is based on GRIN’s next-gen engine. Without some major modifications, it wouldn’t fit the PSP scope. I mean, if you look at the game, you’ll see that it actually uses some of the in-game effects from its big 3D brother. It really is one of the most powerful games you will play on XBLA or PSN.
There have been lots of requests for Bionic Commando on the Wii whether it's a port of Rearmed or even the classic NES game. Have you considered making a WiiWare version of Bionic Commando: Rearmed or maybe an all new Bionic Commando game for a Nintendo system?
Certainly. The gears are always turning but there is only so much Ben Judd to go around (thank goodness for small miracles). Also, CAPCOM really doesn’t know how well Bionic Commando will do as a franchise.
I am fortunate that they have supported this endeavor this far and allowed GRIN to do both the 3D and 2D versions but in the high-stakes world of video game development, you really have no idea whether you will have a hit or go bust when it comes to a legacy title like Bionic Commando. I can say that if I did do it, I certainly wouldn’t do a port. Just like the PSP, Bionic Commando wouldn’t fit within the Wii-ware specs and rather than lessen the play experience I would much rather create something that was custom-tailored for the Wii’s controller.
Images courtesy of Capcom.