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Virtually Overlooked: Bionic Commando


Welcome to our weekly feature, Virtually Overlooked, wherein we talk about games that aren't on the Virtual Console yet, but should be. Call it a retro-speculative.

This is the second time that Bionic Commando has been the inspiration for a Virtually Overlooked column. And just like the last time, I'm not really going to talk much about Bionic Commando's gameplay! As well-known as this masterpiece is, I may as well be describing an obscure Russian game about making horizontal lines out of falling blocks. You've played Bionic Commando. Dude with metal arm swings around, shoots soldiers. Nerds get the heck out of the way.

Instead, I'm going to focus on the issue of its absence from the Virtual Console, and a possible (sensationalist) reason for that omission: A reason called Adolf Hitler.

That's right, Hitler. Or, as he's known in the American version, Master D -- who just happens to be a fascist dictator who looks exactly like Hitler. It took me a few years to discover the terrible secret of Bionic Commando (which isn't much of a secret anymore!) simply because it took me a few years to finish the game on the NES, and there was no Web at the time to spoil the ending. Now, though, everybody knows about the final boss. If you didn't, here he is! Enjoy the ending to Bionic Commando. Which, by the way, was called Top Secret: Hitler no Fukkatsu (Hitler's Revival) in Japan. Just in case the game wasn't Hitlery enough.

Now that you've seen that clip, you see why the game isn't available on the Virtual Console. That's just Hitler. Even if Nintendo somehow let a Hitler clone slip by in 1988, the Nintendo of today would catch that right away. And that's not the only issue relating to Hitler's appearance that would hold up a Virtual Console release. The animation of Hitler exploding into mush alone would push the game into an M rating, now that we have a rating body. There are currently no M-rated games on the Virtual Console.

If the hexagram portals in Devil's Crush had to be edited (for some reason) before that game could be made available, how do you think Nintendo would react to a scene of history's most infamous dictator, exploding? That's a lot of editing to do for a Virtual Console game -- more than the simple name changes or tiny background elements we've seen so far. Basically, in order to render Bionic Commando suitable for a re-release, they'd have to either edit that scene, or -- hey! Why not edit the whole game, right? That's Capcom's extravagant solution to the problem of how to release Bionic Commando on other systems. It may seem like Bionic Commando Rearmed is an attempt to modernize the 2D classic for HD consoles, but it's really just an excuse to go in and Master D's appearance (actually Generalissimo Killt! We don't know what Master D will look like yet). Capcom continues to acknowledge the head-explody in the new game, even if it's a different-looking head.

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