Here for you is the 20th entry in my critically acclaimed Beat ‘Em Up Retrospective! Many people would have gone insane after ten, but I’ve hung in and maintained a bit of sanity－most beat ‘em ups are terrible. I’m giving Cpt. Commando a play using some of my last remaining shreds of clarity. Capcom’s failed mascot has entered the petri dish and will undergo a close study of what was and what used to be.
Captain Commando was released on the Super Nintendo in 1995. It was a popular time for beat ‘em ups. Developers, trying to capitalize on the environment, were trying to produce as many as possible, and that meant a lot of shortcuts and ports. When a video game is ported, or made to look and play just like a game from an arcade cabinet, it’s never a good thing: the console versions must be stripped down due to the storage capability of the home machines－lack of capability that is. The multiplayer suffers, and the little nuances that give the arcade game its charm and feel are left out. Gamers－used to－complain about the limited number of enemies on screen while playing the home ports. Fighting one or two bad guys then walking to the next screen a hundred times wears down a person’s patience fast, even faster when the player is familiar with the arcade version.
It’s not exactly fair when an early console game is compared to its big brother from the arcade. So I will give the Captain a fair chance by taking my pill and erasing my memories of the original coin operated machine.
Captain Commando’s identity is that of a modded Final Fight. Saying it’s a clone would be too loose of a description. The game has four characters to choose from, but unlike every other beat ‘em up in history all four play the same. The appearance of the sprites is the sole difference.
The game uses the Final Fight Formula. If you’re not a regular reader of mine－why not?－then I should explain the term. After Final Fight was released every beat ‘em game that followed used－copied－it’s control scheme. Captain Commando is no exception. It has all the goods: a kick, a punch, a grapple and a special move. No fan of side scrolling brawlers will dislike the controls.
We get a hover board stage, it’s a nice change from the expected and usual beat ‘em up gameplay. It reminded me of the Ninja Turtle classic fighting games, and that’s not a bad thing. The controls are responsive, so playing the game is fun while it lasts. It’s short. I’m not counting that as a flaw, it works in the game’s favor because it prevents us gamers from getting annoyingly bored while playing it.
The game does veer off course. A story would have been nice. I don’t know what the hell is going on in this one. It’s up to us to piece together why there’s a baby in a mech suit punching and kicking their way through a series of random stages. That’s right the game gives us an assignment. The enemies are repetitive throughout the game, and most of them have stupid names. One villain is called Shtrum. I zoned out and forgot about the on-screen action because I became obsessed with pronouncing the names.
Captain Commando’s lack of setting makes it a forgettable experience, the baby character is the most memorable thing about it. The game has one frustrating thing that happens: when the enemies get hit they sometimes fly off-screen, it takes a while for those jerks to reappear, causing the pace of the game to slow down to a sloth’s pace.
Captain Commando isn’t the worse beat ‘em up ever. It ranks in the middle somewhere. Capcom was right to focus on their other franchises and leave the Captain in limbo. He doesn’t belong on a console, but he does belong in the history book as being a contributor to the watering down of the entire genre, and ultimately its collapse. Lets not take it too personally, he was doing what he thought was right.