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Bionic Commando in the Faxanadu Mission

by Carmine Red - February 21, 2012, 2:48 pm
Total comments: 1

This batch of virtual console games contains two Game Boy classics now available on the 3DS, and an NES title that bears a striking resemblance to Zelda II.

Didn't own a Game Boy growing up? Looking for a NES retro classic but don't know where to start? The NWR staff continues to pick through Nintendo's Virtual Console library, finding the diamonds in the rough... or maybe just the rough.

This time around both Neal and J. P. had to sacrifice a dimension on their 3DS systems to play Game Boy Virtual Console releases. Will both Maru the Ninja and the Bionic Commando emerge unscathed? Then Andy digs deep and returns to the World tree in Faxanadu, a game that he reports has a lot in common with Nintendo's own Zelda II.

Bionic Commando

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy

ESRB RatingEveryone 10+
ReleasedSep 1992

In Bionic Commando's version of action platform gameplay, you traverse levels using your character's grappling hook, without the ability to jump. The GameBoy version of the classic features a total of 15 levels, although some are simple combat-free "neutral" areas where your only goal is to find and acquire an item. You can move between all the levels on the map freely, but a lot of the levels require a specific item which forces you into a pretty linear path.

This is a pretty difficult game, especially early on. Better weapons and a larger health meter you get from collecting components of defeated enemies make the game more manageable later on. Even so, the save state feature of the Virtual Console can come in very handy. If you don't want to use that, the game is very generous about handing out continues. In addition to the difficulty, the game is pretty complex for a Game Boy game of its era, with three action buttons and a somewhat obtuse interface. I had to consult the manual several times to figure out some of its eccentricities.

Despite all that, the levels are very well-designed, and contain a variety of enemies and boss fights. The grapple-only mechanic provides for a gameplay experience you won't really find outside of this series, and it feels great to string together a series of grapples and then take out a bunch of enemies. If you enjoy classic action platformers, this is a must-own on the 3DS Virtual Console.

Recommended for Fans

- J.P. Corbran

Maru's Mission

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy

ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedMar 1991

Maru's Mission is a deliciously weird game. You star as Maru, who seems to be a ninja but I'm not entirely sure, and you have to go find his girlfriend Cori who has been captured by monsters. From there you proceed to go through a variety of locations, ranging from the absurd (Romania with Wolfman and Dracula bosses) to the ridiculous (Brazil, where you fight Hydra and Cerberus for some reason). The gameplay is also odd, as your character has an absurdly floaty jump and a projectile attack. Occasionally, you pick up power-ups that give you bombs and other attacks. It never really feels right, as it doesn't even seem to be tuned to the flow of the game.

The way the game flows is just preposterous, as you finish a level and are then treated to an interstitial scene saying "Let's Go To Egypt" (or wherever the next level is set). Sometimes you have to cross a river to get to next area, but these are just short segments where you shoot sharks. The final boss even urges you to write Jaleco USA.

Maru's Mission is just an odd game. If you're curious about a weird Jaleco-developed curiosity on the Game Boy, it's worth checking out. However, it's definitely not a diamond in the rough. Only check this out if you're ready to laugh at a game's goofiness more than you admire the quality of its design.

Not Recommended

- Neal Ronaghan


SystemVirtual Console - Nintendo Entertainment System

Cost500 Points
ControllersWii Remote,Wii Classic,GameCube
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedNov 16, 1989

The first thing that you would have noticed about Faxanadu, had you played it on the NES all those years ago, was that the game was clearly marketed at Zelda fans. The cartridge label was very Zelda-esque, containing a shield and words that read "Daggers and wingboots, mantras and monsters await you."  The rest of the similarities to the Zelda series can be noticed by anyone playing the game on the Virtual Console; the game has much in common with Zelda II, including detailed side-scrolling stages, weapon power-ups, and an epic soundtrack.

The game takes place in the World Tree, which has been overrun by evil monsters (referred to as Dwarves).  You start as a wandering traveler coming home from a long journey to the trunk of the tree. After being informed of the dangers about, you are implored by the king to do something about it.  Aside from some gold to buy supplies with, the game sends you off with little direction or guidance.  Most of the passage to new areas can be purchased from "key shops" but not before specific items are obtained or goals are completed. 

The game is certainly very challenging, partly because you need to interpret poorly translated hints from townsfolk for guidance, but also because the combat itself can feel very stiff.  Your hero only has one sword attack (forward slash) and cannot duck or aim upward, though the presence of projectile magic helps keep the combat interesting to a certain extent.  Also, the game will have you desperately seeking better gear and magic as you get further into the adventure.

Although the game is not perfect, it's a game that many people have never experienced, and definitely worth checking out. If you're a fan of side-scrolling adventure games, especially ones with an open-world element, give Faxanadu a try.

Recommended for Fans

- Andy Goergen


MagicCow64February 22, 2012

I would add that Faxanadu has a really addictive leveling up system for a 2D NES game, and further emphasize that the music is great.

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