Commando for the NES is a classic run and gun style game that was developed and released by Capcom in 1985. It was originally titled Senjō no Ōkami and was released on numerous platforms, including arcade, Atari, Intellivision and various other home consoles. The game would show up again in various game anthologies for modern systems as well as the Wii Virtual Console.
In Commando, you take control of Super Joe. Super Joe is a soldier that was dropped off in the jungle via helicopter. His mission is to “DESTROY THE ENEMY ARMY!!” and has to fight single his way through the constant onslaught of enemy attackers. Super Joe has his work cut out for him with intense action and a dangerous jungle to traverse. Despite it’s name, it doesn’t have any relation to do with the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger “Commando” movie. The game and movie do share in that 80’s action magic, though. There is also a 2 player mode, though it isn’t simultaneous co-op. Instead you take turns each life and are competing for the highest score.
The game is played from a top down view as you move Super Joe up the maps. You can move in all directions and have access to two different actions. Action 1 is a machine gun which has unlimited ammo and will fire in the direction you are currently facing. A turbo controller could be useful since you aren’t concerned with running out of ammunition. The second action is a limited supply of throwable grenades. The grenades only ‘throw’ vertically on the screen, no matter which way you are facing. They also have a specific ‘arc’ distance that will likely take a few shots to get used to. When a grenade lands, it causes an explosion and enemies immediately around it are killed. This can be useful for large groups of enemies and for hitting enemies hiding behind cover.
Each stage involves making your way through various layouts of enemies, spawners, trees and other obstacles. At the end of each stage you are faced with a final wave of enemies to kill before you can move onto the next stage. During your journey through each stage, Super Joe has the opportunity to find various items and save other soldiers taken hostage. Many of the items provide extra points, while some do have some other benefits such as extra lives, grenades or even armor to absorb some damage. Extra lives can be gained at various point levels as well. Levels also contain hidden rooms, usually found by killing enemies behind sandbags before they run off. These secret rooms contain a few enemies to fight and another item. There is even a binocular item you can find to locate these hidden rooms (though I never found the binoculars).
The controls are tight and responsive, though you aren’t a particularly quick soldier. This can be problematic at times since there can be a large amount of enemies on the screen at a time. It is easy to get backed into a corner or to be hit by one of the many bullets flying around. There are also some obstecles that you get hung up on, such as leaves on trees. It can happen when you least expect it and combined with the one-hit death (usually) – you can burn through a bunch of lives quickly.
Sound and music are sufficient, though nothing particularly special with this early NES game. The music repeats and the peppy ‘army’ music can begin to get old after time.
Graphically the game is very basic. It doesn’t stand out with any memorable artwork, other than the cut scenes can contain ‘interesting’ views of Super Joe. Their are a few variants of enemy sprites, though none are all that detailed. The backgrounds work, but like everything else aren’t special. There is quite a bit of sprite flickering, a problem that usually plagues all NES games in some form. It happens when there are too many sprites on the screen at a time and this game is probably the worst I have seen. There is nearly always too many enemies on the screen, which causes the entire playfield to be in a sort of constant state of flickering. Capcom seems to have over extended the graphical capabilities in this game. That said, if you are used to it (from playing tons of NES games) or can get past it, you can understand the need. The game isn’t notably deep, the fun comes from the massive amount of enemies and bullets to avoid.
Overall, Commando is a fun arcade style game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It isn’t distinctly strong in graphics, sound or music, but it is an entertaining action game to sink a few hours into. The excitement around besting your last high score can be addicting.