Simply for the record, I've played the original arcade, the original NES, and Rearmed. The arcade game was fairly shallow, though it did feature the much vaunted (and highly playable) swing mechanic, though with some minor annoyances that were weeded out in later releases.
The NES game was really quite good. Those minor annoyances I just mentioned went away (for instance, the default behavior of the grappling arm was to extend horizontally rather than diagonally, which made frantic ?grapple-swing-release-grapple...? sequences harder). What the NES lacked in raw processor power was compensated for with sheer good game design. The story was expounded upon (adding the ever hate-worthy Nazi Menace into the mix, which was subsequently neutered by Nintendo Of America?s censorship policies), and we were given a much better sense of the game as a whole experience, rather than simply a sinkhole for quarters. The music rocked, and the difficulty curve went from hard to merciless. I played the heck out of it as a kid, and never did beat it (until emulation brought it back to playability, years later). Great game.
There was one thing in the original review posted above that did ring true; so true, in fact, that it almost overshadowed the shallow tenor and bleak nature of the rest of the article. Mr. Pitts refers to Rearmed as ?lovingly-crafted?. Aside from an unnecessary dash between those two words, this statement couldn?t be more accurate. Rearmed was designed by fans of the original game. Not casual players. Not people who had seen it in the arcade or at a friends house. This game was made by people who were infatuated with the original. Every aspect of Rearmed, from the music to the graphics to the hilarious dialogue is steeped in the warm glow of nostalgic affection, married with acute game-design talent. No, that dash was not superfluous.
It is true that the grapple mechanic is slightly different in Rearmed. All that means is that veterans will need a short period of adjustment before they get ::ahem:: into the full swing of the game. Apologies. As for new players who have nothing to compare it to, well, the only comment they might make is something akin to ?Gee, this is kinda hard.? And it is. And it rocks. Remember, three permutations ago, Bionic Commando was an arcade game. Be glad that continues don?t cost $.25 apiece.
If I were trying to review the game formally, I would probably talk about the great soundtrack, or the fantastically upgraded graphics. I might mention the hilarious meta-humor that the re-translation features. I could probably make quite a fuss over the fact that some absent elements of the original Japanese release (removed to make the game easier for Westerners to play) were re-introduced. I would definitely mention how many neat upgrades were added for your weapons, and how cool it is to never again get half way through a stage only to find I had brought the wrong communicator chip. I?d conclude by saying that this remake succeeds in its fundamental goal: to bring the original game to a new audience while maintaining the things that made it great to begin with. I wouldn?t mention how much 2008 sucks compared to 1987.
Finally, if I were trying to review the game formally, I probably couldn?t get away with saying this: I couldn?t find anything to dislike about this game. Sure, it was fairly short, but a quick hop around the net found me more than one speed run of the original completed in under twenty minutes. It?s longer than that, at least. Add to it the extra challenge rooms and you?ve got even more for your ludicrously reasonable financial investment. And if you value your time as much as I do these days (full-time job, part-time school, martial arts, new apartment with the girlfriend), then you?ll actually appreciate a game that you can play in manageable, bite-sized chunks. Some complain that it isn?t more than a weekend?s worth. I applaud a game that fits into my busy lifestyle but still manages to give me a great time. Even when it makes me want to throw my controller at the wall.