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Interview: Capcom's Rey Jimenez on Bionic Commando Rearmed 2


You can jump in Bionic Commando Rearmed 2. We know: Weird. You want to know why? So did we, so we caught up with producer Rey Jimenez. We also asked him the second most pressing question: Is wife arm making a comeback?

So, right off the bat, I played [Bionic Commando Rearmed 2] earlier today, and one of the first things I noticed is that the character has been redesigned. Is it the same character from the first game?

Yeah, it's definitely the same character from the first game. We kind of changed his look a little bit, to kind of put him in between Bionic Commando Rearmed 1 and the 3D release that was done a couple years ago. [turns to PR to confirm when Bionic Commando came out (2009)]. So we kind of put him in between that. He's got the more modern-looking arm, but not the dreadlocks. He still has the orange hair, the green suit, so it's definitely in between.

Is the game itself, is it a continuation of the first game? Is it a remake of any one of the older games, like the Game Boy games?

Nope. it's a sequel of BCR 1, so it takes place a couple years after that.

So these are all original levels?

Yes. All original levels. New characters, new enemies, new bosses. The only thing that's the same are ... Spencer, basically. There are some support characters you hear from during the course of the storyline you may recognize, like Super Joe and maybe a character or two from the full 3D game.

It's being made by Fatshark, and I know that GRIN made the first one, and then a lot of those team members went on to make Might&Delight. And it says right on their page, "The team that brought you Bionic Commando Rearmed." Are there people from the original team that are working on this sequel?

That's a bit of a misnomer I think we should clear up for the sake of Fatshark, because they deserve a lot of credit for this. Might&Delight has three people, while most of the team from BCR1 went on to Fatshark and is working on this project. So I think that's something that's been misconstrued or misunderstood. Might&Delight do have very talented guys and they did contribute a lot to the title. But most of the core team, including the designer, has moved on to Fatshark.

Obviously the big change -- and this is really even how you announced it all -- is obviously [Spencer] can jump now. And I guess first of all I want to know where that decision came from, if it was maybe pressure from Capcom to make it more accessible. Was it Fatshark's idea? Where did it come from?

It came from the developer. It came because, you know, as you move out and begin the second one, they realized we're not constrained by the limitations of the original NES game. In the original NES game you couldn't jump, so in Bionic Command Rearmed 1 you couldn't jump. But [Fatshark isn't] constrained because it's a remake, so they wanted to [make it] a little more new, a little more contemporary. I mean, jumping is such a basic function of any game, any platformer especially. And we feel that Bionic Commando is defined by the hook and the arm and traversal, not by the ability to not jump. So what we wanted to do was introduce the jump in there and be able to vault objects, make the game less frustrating for people, make it more intuitive. Because you naturally think, you say, "Hey, there's a little ledge there. I'm a bionic marine. I should be able to get up that little ledge." So he's able to do it now, but the game design has been adjusted to compensate. And it's still definitely a challenging game built around swinging.

This is the cranky old game nerd in me, but I noticed that some of the controls for the swinging itself have changed.
You have to press a button to release the claw, instead of just holding down forward and things like that. I felt like it kind of changed the flow of it a little bit. Where did that decision come from?

So this is the same team that also worked on the full 3D game. [In the 3D game] there was a lot more freedom in the ability of being more predictable -- about when you're going to release when you're swinging in that game. So they wanted to bring that kind of motion into BCR2. I also played BCR1. I played a lot of it, and I was pretty good at it, but there were a lot of things about it that were kind of frustrating. Like sometimes you would unhook when you didn't mean to because you held the button just for a little too long, or maybe you pushed it down when you didn't mean to. Hitting walls and disconnecting and falling to your death. So we wanted to take out the things that made the game unnecessarily difficult or awkward, and we felt that hitting B to disconnect -- it allows you to choose your point when you can disconnect. I think before it was just hitting down at the right time. So it's kind of the same thing [in Rearmed 2], you're just hitting B.

On that note about it being maybe kind of frustrating -- the accidental disconnects and things like that -- [GRIN] actually worked those into the challenge levels in the first game, where [you were] learning to disconnect at just the right time and things like that. Are those challenge levels coming back?

Challenge levels are coming back. The ones in the first game are very centered, well they were only about traversal and how fast you could do it. We're still doing that but we're also incorporating the weapons that you're getting the game and using it as a method to teach the player how to use them and what situations to use them at. So, not only will it just be running around, getting from point A to point B as fast as you can, but it will also be about using your weapons in a smart way to get from point A to point B as fast as you can. And there will be some just straight traversal ones as well.

How far along is the game in development? It seems like this is a fairly early build out there. The menus aren't done and things like that, and it's slated for 2011. How far along is it?

It's about 50 to 60 percent. Most of the levels that are further along the way are still not ready to show here. Of course, there's still a lot of debugging that needs to be going on but, visually, the levels that we're showing are hitting the target bar we're looking for.

The first game was pretty well catered to a lot of older core gamers. It had a really big challenge, especially when you cranked up some of the difficulty level. I still haven't gotten past the last level on the highest difficulty level.

On the Albatross?

Yeah. It's a pain.

It is hard. It's hard.

So, I think there have been some changes made this time around that make it more accessible, or at least more familiar to today's gamers. Like just being able to jump, I know that's very strange for some people, not being able to do it in the first game. So how do you make it so that it's available to a wider audience -- maybe people who didn't play the first game, maybe people who played the 3D game -- but also appease some of those core gamers who are kind of cranky and they want things the way they want them.

So there's a lot of things we had incorporated from Bionic Commando Rearmed. There were a lot of requests about the difficulty and things that they asked to change, and we actually patched that into it. A lot of things are rolling over to [Rearmed 2]. The jump is one situation. Releasing the hook by a button is also another, because people instinctually hit the button to release, even in BCR1 people did that, they still did that. So we just made it an actual function here. But the game design actually will lend itself very well to challenging gameplay for the hardcore gamers. The controls itself will lend itself more -- I don't want to say "lend itself" to the original games, but make things lest frustrating. I think the core IP and what it's known for will still attract a lot of the hardcore pro gamers, the NES guys, the guys like you and myself that really like games hard. And I think the controls will help alleviate the problems that the newer gamers have.

I wanted to ask about the soundtrack. The first game had a really phenomenal soundtrack. I think it was Simon Viklund who did it, have you gotten him back?

He was one of the guys that went over to Fatshark, so yeah, he's working on the project doing the music and also design. Not to single him out at all. Besides the GRIN folks, there are many talented people at Fatshark that were already there that contributing to the game as as well.

The first game did a really good job of taking the original levels and adding some secret areas to make them feel new. Are we going to see things like that in the sequel.

Yes, and a lot of the secret areas ... before it was just like use the grenade or maybe jump off a blind cliff, really old classic ways to trying to get secrets. We'll be incorporating more of the new abilities that Spencer has. The arm movements, like especially "death from above," which is basically a ground pound, using it as a way to get access to new areas. So yeah, they'll definitely be in there, and you'll be using more of your arsenal for that.

Speaking of the power ups, or the upgrades -- I'm not exactly sure how the system works -- they showed a couple out there, the grenade launcher, a health regenerator. And you access them by entering a room and choosing them. Do you get these permanently, or is more of a strategic choice as you're playing the game?

It'll be a strategic choice. The upgrades you have, the active component, we're actually calling them components -- the active components which are offensive, and the passive which is like the health regen -- you can only select one of each. So, it's going to be up to the player, "Do I want to have health regen?" or some other unannounced passive component. And which active component, being an arm-related move -- I think we showed the uppercut and the grenade launcher. You can only have one, so it'll be up to the player what he wants to do. And you'll need different components for different enemies. Some enemies will be easier with some components, but you can only get certain secrets if you have certain components on you. So it'll invite revisiting a level. It's like, "Hey, I played this level, I can't get here" and later on you'll get a weapon and it's like, "Oh, I can use that here" and you'll go back there.

How many different components are going to be available in the game?

Let's see, the active and passive ... I think at least a dozen total. But there's more and they'll all can be upgraded, and the upgrades are some of the items that you find, so you'll have to search through the levels to find the upgrades.

Does the game have the somewhat nonlinear approach that the first one did, where you choose your missions on the map?

Yeah, it's definitely like that. I mean, the progression will be linear, but then your ability to go back is not linear, but it's not like you can jump around in the first one. We kind of wanted to avoid that kind of gameplay.

Is this actually built on the same engine as the first game.

Same engine with improvements. I don't know if you noticed, the visual part has been enhanced, so we're using a brighter color system. A little more effects, a lot more background and foreground effects going on. Before, the last game was very flat, which isn't a bad thing. I mean it was very dedicated to the original game, but this game is definitely more of a 3D game, but really stuck on the 2D plane.

The first game had a pretty good value. It was a pretty long, big game. Are you shooting for a similar length?

Yeah, you'll find that the length of the game will be very similar. It shouldn't be any shorter or longer. The number of levels is roughly the same.

The co-op in the first game, you know, it was an interesting idea but I don't think a lot of people got to experience it because it was local only. Is that making a return and can you play it online?

Unfortunately, we'll not be having online play. It'll still be offline two-player co-op. We wanted to concentrate on the actual game itself rather than adding new features to it.

Are there any changes to the co-op, any new modes or anything we should know about?

The modes remain the same, but you'll find that as you play the game -- I don't if you got to the sniper section in the jungle area -- but that will serve as a dual role purpose when you get to co-op. One person will do the sniping and one person will be running around. So the game won't totally be just two players running around the game, which is great in itself, but it will be like filling roles for the players in certain areas.

I'm curious to know what the reaction was to the 3D game basically being outperformed by Rearmed. And now we have a sequel to Rearmed, whereas everyone knows what happened to [the 3D] Bionic Commando.

Uh huh.

Was that something that anyone was expecting?

I don't think anyone was expecting that. I mean, that's kind of how the business goes. Some do well, some don't do well. But I think the success of Rearmed really testifies how much Bionic Commando really fits that 2D arcade gameplay. So we want to just continue that plan.

One more question they wanted me to ask you, the [Joystiq] team. Is the Bionic Commando arm ... is that your wife this time around?


No, I think we're not touching that part at all. It's not the ... "Armily" is the joke I like. Because her name is Emily?

Armily, that's good!

You can quote that. But, you want to look out for it -- I've got to say it -- Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is coming out on Xbox Live, PSN Q1 2011.

Thanks to Mr. Jimenez for talking with us!

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