With Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 just around the corner we at XBLA Fans thought it was a good time to revisit the first XBLA game in the series. Itself a remake of the fondly remembered NES game the original Rearmed was hotly anticipated upon it’s announcement in January 08. Since XBLAFans was not around to review it at the time we take a look back for our first Rewind Review.

Bionic Commando Rearmed was released August 13, 2008 for 800MSP.  It was developed by the now-defunct GRIN, which would later have many of its employees transfer to Fatshark, who developed Rearmed 2.  It follows Nathan Spencer, an operative for the Federation who is equipped with a bionic left arm.  His mission: To rescue Federation hero Super Joe from the clutches of the evil Empire and assist him with destroying their experimental superweapon known as Albatros.

So here’s what we liked:

Faithful to the original, but with upgrades – Rearmed recreates every environment, every character, every action with pinpoint accuracy.   Those who fondly remember the original will be able to jump in and feel right at home, making every swing exactly like they did some 20+ years ago.   GRIN did, however, make enhancements over the original to freshen gameplay up a bit.  Spencer can now carry and toggle through all of his weapons, can carry and throw barrels, grapple enemies and use them as human shields and more.  Challenge rooms were also added to the game which provide virtual reality simulations for Spencer to train with his bionic arm.

Superb visuals – One of the first things players will notice when they jump into the action is how 3D and lifelike this 2.5D game is.   The environments provide a realistic sense of depth with their foreground and background models and colorful palettes.  The character models are just as eye-popping with animations that feel realistic, yet stay true to the classic feel of the game.  Even the menus and in-game dialogue have unique, colorful looks to them.

Groovy tunes – All of the music in the game was remastered and enhanced by GRIN composer Simon Viklund.  Like everything else in the game it has an absolutely amazing modern feel while retaining the things that made the original so great.   Rearmed also hits the mark with all of its other sound effects.  The arm, Spencer’s weaponry, even enemy vehicles all feel spot on.

Cooperative and competitive multiplayer – Yet another bit of icing on the cake is the game’s multiplayer.  Two players can play through the entire game in couch coop, and the game adjusts difficulty to compensate for the second player.  Additionally, up to four players can play in one of the game’s three versus modes.  While it won’t be something that keeps players interested for years to come it’s still a fun diversion from your typical multiplayer games.

And here’s what we didn’t like:

Couch-only multiplayer – As fun as the multiplayer is, don’t expect to sign on to live and play through the campaign or engage in a versus match with your friends.  Although the reasons for the exclusion aren’t entirely known, GRIN and Capcom really missed a great opportunity to provide some online social gaming to their loyal customers.

Occasionally frustrating controls – Let’s face it, the Xbox 360’s controller is no NES gamepad, and while it’s technologically superior in almost every way, it just can’t match the original feel of the NES pad.  Owing more to the poor design of the 360 controller’s D-pad than anything else, you’ll occasionally want to throw your controller from repeatedly missing swings.

Bionic Commando Rearmed is a game that appeals to not only the NES generation, but any generation who loves a great game.  With all of the challenge and charm of the original mixed in with the content, visuals and social aspects of modern games, GRIN and Capcom redefined what a good Xbox Live Arcade title is.   Add that to the game’s low cost of 800MSP and you have yourself an absolute steal.

Score: Buy