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Postmortem: Capcom/GRIN's Bionic Commando Rearmed
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Postmortem: Capcom/GRIN's Bionic Commando Rearmed

January 26, 2009 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

[In this in-depth Gamasutra postmortem, Capcom's Ben Judd analyzes work on 2D downloadable update Bionic Commando Rearmed, which debuted on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and PC in 2008, examining everything from pricing to online play decisions.]

Bringing a franchise back from the dead is never an easy thing. There are probably more cases of games that have gone horribly wrong than games that have done it right. In the case of Bionic Commando, we knew it was a franchise that had a small cult following but wasn't even really financially lucrative back in the late '80s when it was originally released in the arcades and on the NES.

Before development on the 3D game even began I know there would be two major groups of consumers that we needed to consider:

1) Hardcore fans

By "hardcore" I mean people who would be so caught up in the nostalgia of the original game that any minor change from the original scenario, design, or graphics would immediately incur their wraith on message boards and throughout the gaming community.

2) Average (not-so-super) Joe gamer

Since the series is over 20 years old, most gamers who started gaming in the PlayStation era would have no idea what Bionic Commando was or why the people in the first group were so fond of it. Trying to convince these consumers that Bionic Commando would be a great experience would be very similar to pushing an original title (i.e. the name brand value wouldn't help out much).

Unfortunately, there just aren't enough fans of the original to make a full-fledged AAA 3D Bionic Commando a "can't miss" success, so we needed to make choices that would get someone excited about the game from the ground up.

Too many inside jokes would alienate the people who were considering picking up Bionic Commando. Too few would alienate the fans. So the big question was "what line do we walk in order to get both sides excited?"

The answer ended up being a very reasonably-priced digital download title based totally on the original game -- Bionic Commando: Rearmed.

What Went Right

1. The Announcement Trailer

Sometimes if a trailer is good enough, it can get everyone excited about a game right from day one. It was the perfect example of Capcom Japan and GRIN working together in the best way possible. Ideas on both ends were considered and in the end I still think it is one of the best digital download trailers you will find.

We started with the key idea of showing a transition of the original game into Rearmed. The obvious thing that makes Bionic Commando special is the swing mechanic so we asked GRIN if they would be able to do a transition from the original game into Rearmed in mid-swing.

Not only did they pull it off with flying colors, but Simon Viklund, the director and sound director, blended the original music into the new remixed music so well that we received requests from fans asking for that version of the stage 1 music.

Also, I'd like to say that even though we made the initial game announcement at IGN, both 1UP (bows head in moment of silence), and GameSpot allowed us to put the taglines from their reviews of the original game into the trailer as well which really helped the trailer stand out.

Of course, the other thing I'm happy about is the final communicator text, which talks about being able to use the retro costume in the 3D version if you own Bionic Commando Rearmed. We knew the trailer was going to get a lot of views, so we wanted to get the word out that for those fans who were having a problem with the 3D version's character design that there was a way to play as the classic Spencer.

Ultimately, if you are a fan of the original game then you would most likely buy Rearmed, since it is total fan service. So this way, if you bought the 3D version you'd get to play it "retro-style" as well. Getting that information out to all of the Bionic Commando fans was key, and this trailer allowed us to do it in a really great way, including the classic "Get the heck out of here you nerd" line.

Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

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Nestor Forjan
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Kudos on the post-mortem. It's rare to see one of those things where the writer not only begrudgingly confesses to making mistakes, but also presents them as a learning process and a game of juggling double-edged swords so clearly.

Shawn Yates
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Great post-mortem. I appreciate his honesty about some of the issues they faced during development. It goes to show how things decided early on in development end up having massive repercussions near the end like shipping multiple localized versions for NA, Europe and Japan.

Nestor Forjan
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Shawn Yates: Also relates to Riccitiello's recent remarks about improving pre-production processes to create better results. Interesting.

Pete C
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Is there still going to be a trophy patch for the PSN version? Or is that not happening anymore?