PSU Exclusive: Bionic Commando Rearmed Q&A

With Bionic Commando Rearmed nearing completion, PSU decided we’d poke our heads in and talk to Capcom about bringing the series back to life, and what gamers can expect from Rearmed. Our interview was conducted with Ben Judd, Capcom’s producer on Bionic Commando Rearmed.

PSU: How would you best describe Bionic Commando Rearmed?

Ben Judd: Without sounding too over-confident, I would say it’s the perfect mix between celebrating the original game and its fantastic 2D swing mechanic and updating the game so that it is user-friendly by today’s standards and full of enough new content to please old fans and new. Then again, I could say one of the best experiences you will find on XBLA, PSN, and PC and make a long story, short.

PSU: What were some thoughts or inspirations behind resurrecting Bionic Commando?

Judd: I loved the game and felt that the swing mechanic and also the ability to shoot while swinging needed to be revisited. It’s been 20 years and no game has done this successfully in 2D or 3D yet. Speaking of which, the swing mechanic is such an interesting movement mechanic that it warranted both a 2D and 3D version. Both stand on their own, are skill-based, and quite rewarding when you master them.

PSU: Graphically Bionic Commando Rearmed seems to be going for a 3D’ish 2D side-scroller look. What are some new gameplay elements you can now take advantage of with this new graphical enhancement?

: Other than the fact that it just looks good? I would say that having the 3D models instead of sprites, doesn’t really add anything to the gameplay necessarily. I mean, we had the option to move the camera all around in 3D space to make the gameplay more dynamic but the second you do that it no longer feels like the original 2D classic. So we made the choice to fix the camera angle and spend our time in improving the swing mechanic and wire gameplay in 2D space rather than playing around with the 3D in Rearmed. However, for those that like 3D, again, we have Rearmed’s older brother, the sequel which offers plenty of interesting gameplay as well.

PSU: Have you licensed or built your own propriety engine for Bionic Commando Rearmed?

Judd: Both games utilize the same engine. It is Grin’s multiplayer platform proprietary engine “Diesel.” Matter of fact, it is the reason why Rearmed looks so damn good. It uses many of the effects, textures, and lighting of the 3D version. Unfortunately, it is also the reason why a PSP port (among other things) would be near impossible.

PSU: How many weapons will we see in the final version?

Judd: More than the original.

PSU: How many levels can we expect to see in Bionic Commando Rearmed?

Judd: The original NES version had 12 “action heavy” levels (Areas 01 – 12) and 7 neutral zones (Areas 13 – 19) so it was quite a large game. I cannot comment on how many levels there are but I can say that you are “in for a surprise.”

PSU: How will the co-op system work? Will players need to be local or will there be online support to team up with friends?

Judd: Co-op is local only. However, in-game score (which has the player racing to get a through the level as quickly as possible, kill as many enemies as possible, beat the boss without taking damage, and successfully complete all hacking minigames) will be tracked using PSN and XBLA. Also, challenge stages will be tracked on leaderboards as well.

PSU: What are your thoughts on the Xbox Live Arcade game memory limit of 150mb? What file size are you nearing with the final game for Xbox 360 and PS3 versions?

Judd: Limitations can be good but in general, all developers want more space. We also want more money, time, and people but hey what can I say… we’re greedy like that.

PSU: Will there be any differences graphically or content-wise between the console versions?

Judd: Each version will have some minor unique content.

PSU: What are some unlockables we might see in Bionic Commando Rearmed? Could we see the original 8-bit version making its way into the game?

Judd: I really can’t go out and give you the specifics because that would ruin the surprise but let me say this, the game features more unlockables than most of the other XBLA/PSN titles I have seen. It’s one of the areas I am particularly proud of. It is worth it to put in the time to open up everything.

PSU: Anything else you’d like to add?

Judd: Yeah, without sounding like a PR mouthpiece, this game is risky in so many ways. Not only is it an obvious financial risk due to the fact that we have listened to our fans and priced the game at 10 bucks instead of 15 even though we are providing a lot of game for that price (I.e. it was not cheap to develop), but we have taken risks in other areas to ensure that fans of the original game will be happy.

One of the biggest things, is that we have kept in a certain “risky” scene in the game that has pushed the game into the 18 plus rating tier for Europe. This scene was removed, out of necessity, for the Japanese market which gave the game a B rating (roughly 12 plus) so we could have very easily put the game out for a Teen audience but decided not to. Again, the smaller your possible target is, the less units you stand to sell. But still, even though the scene in question is less than 20 seconds long, we felt that it had to be included so again we are running the gauntlet and hoping that enough people are supportive of the title to make it work. In hindsight, some of these choices were probably not the best financial ones but I’m no salesman… I’m a gamer at heart. And this game, if any, is a game for gamers by gamers.