Commando is an exciting new action game this holiday season for the NES. It marks one of the first from Nintendo’s new third-party licensee program. Longtime arcade-goers may recognize the Capcom name, but for home consoles the company is new to the scene. This game has been in arcades for the past year, but having never played that version, this is my first experience with Commando. It should also be noted that this Game Pak marks the first 1 megabit (1024 Kilobits) cartridge for the NES, which in theory should allow for better graphics and sound. Is this extra space put to good use? Read on to find out.
The headline on the box reads ‘Destroy the Enemy Army!!’ and your objective is exactly that. You play as ‘Super Joe’ a one-man army armed with a sub-machine gun, unlimited ammo, and a small supply of grenades. The game starts off with you being dropped off by a helicopter into hostile territory. You navigate vertically through the warzone and right from the beginning you are under constant assault. Attackers charge at you with knives, shoot bullets from all directions, launch explosives at you, and even attempt to run you over in various vehicles. Super Joe can shoot his gun in eight directions and launch grenades ahead.
Despite his arsenal of weapons, the playfield is always filled with danger. You have the option to kill as many enemies as possible, or to avoid combat and continue moving up the screen. Since you earn points for every soldier you take down, it might be a smart strategy to try and kill as many as possible to try and earn an extra life. If you make contact with an enemy or catch a bullet, you lose a life and continue a few screens back. Lose too many and it’s game over! At the end of each level, you reach a fortress, which is occupied by waves of attacking enemies along with one or more commanding officers. Defeat all of the bad guys to clear the area.
Throughout the game you’ll locate members of your own platoon taken captive. Rescuing them earns you extra points and is a rewarding challenge to the game. Commando is also filled with hidden locations, which can be discovered by bombing enemies hiding in trenches. When you enter these hidden bunkers you may find bonus items, captive soldiers, or just a horde of enemies waiting to ambush you. You are always on the hunt for additional grenades, but there are a number of other useful power-ups that can be discovered in buildings, hidden areas, or uncovered when firing a grenade. These can range from extra lives to bonus points, or even skill boosts. It often pays to explore instead of just plowing through the level.
The visuals and sound in Commando are average and unmemorable. It is brought down by the repetitive backgrounds and uninspiring character designs. The areas have scattered trees, tiny lakes, and small villages, but unfortunately consist mostly of brown desert. Most levels look similar, but thankfully the scenery becomes more varied toward the finale of the game. Some enemies will drive motorbikes and trucks, but nothing about their designs wowed me (and you cannot drive these vehicles). Due to an apparent programming error, every now and again enemy soldiers will sometimes vanish out of thin air.
The music is well done, but after hearing the same looping track over and over through the first three areas gets old. Different music plays in the final area, which is welcome relief. More varied musical tracks would have helped to differentiate the levels from one another. The controls are very smooth and responsive and it is a simple game to pick up and play. I had no problems with the NES controllers and even shooting diagonally was easy and responsive.
This is a 2-player game, but sadly you do not play together cooperatively. Instead, you take turns after a player loses a life, which can be a short or a long time depending on how good the other player is at the game. Commando would be very fun to play though with a friend, but that might eliminate much of the difficulty so perhaps it was best left as a single player experience.
You start the game with three lives. If you lose all of your lives your game will come to an abrupt end, but thankfully you have the option to continue from the start of the area. There are only four main areas, but they each have a respectable length to them. When you defeat the fourth, you start over at the beginning of the game and will go through the same levels again, except this time with increased difficulty and secrets in new locations. The game offers a healthy challenge, but with practice you can get very good at the game pretty quickly. However, if you are a sucker for high scores, like I am, you can replay the game over and over again to try and improve that number.
Commando represents a nice change of pace from current NES games available. It’s the first combat game on the system and it features scrolling levels instead of single-screen games many have become accustomed to on home consoles. It’s a solid first effort from Capcom, and I look forward to what they have in store for us in the future.
- Graphics - 5/105/10
- Sound - 6/106/10
- Gameplay - 7.5/107.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Commando is a very fun action-filled game for the NES and is certainly one of the best titles currently available. I had a lot of fun with it and recommend everyone give it a shot. If you can find it on sale for $29.99 or less it would probably be worth your time and money, but paying full price ($34.99 to $39.99) seems a bit high given its short length. The developer of Commando, Capcom, has two other games releasing this month for the NES, 1942 and Ghosts ‘N Goblins.
User Review( votes)
SECOND ACT – OTHER REVIEWS
Taken from the December 1986 issue:
Computer Entertainer awarded Commando 2.5 out 4 for graphics and 3.5 out of 4 for quality of game play and entertainment value. It received a Try Before Purchase rating.
Computer Entertainer Review Guidelines:
THE RATING SYSTEM:
4 SYMBOLS = EXCELLENT
3 SYMBOLS = GOOD
2 SYMBOLS = FAIR
1 SYMBOL = POOR
♦ = ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAMS (1st set of diamonds = quality of graphics; 2nd set = quality of game play and entertainment value)
Any program for a given system is compared only to other programs for the same system. In other words, all C64-compatibles are judged separately from Apple. Some programs, which are virtually identical for multiple systems, will be so noted. When we review software for more than one system, we will note differences and which system we reviewed.
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.