Across half a dozen games, multiple game titles and nearly a dozen different platforms for over 20 years, the series that leads up to today's Bionic Commando is one of the most celebrated - and most convoluted - in all of gaming.

Commando, known in Japan as Senjo no Okami (literally, "Wolf of the Battlefield"), was first released in Japanese arcades in 1985. The game marked the first appearance of the titular commando Super Joe, who would go on to appear in several titles, and whose latest appearance in the next-gen Bionic Commando must mark him as one of the longest-living characters in gaming history. Wire-swinging gameplay was added to the series in 1987, when the foundation for the game fans now know was released in Japanese arcades under the title Top Secret. The game starred Super Joe, who this time brought with him a wire gun that allowed him to swing through stages - which was useful as he couldn't actually jump. This game was introduced to arcades in the West as Bionic Commando, the first use of the title, with Super Joe again the hero. This version was later ported to home computers such as the Commodore 64 and the ZX Spectrum.

The arcade game was brought to the NES the following year in a slightly different guise, released in Japan under the title Top Secret: Hitler no Fukkatsu. While still bearing many elements from the arcade original, this time Super Joe had been kidnapped, and a new hero - known only as Rad (or Radd, or Lad, or Ladd, depending on how it is translated into English) - had to swing in and save him. When released in the West, the NES version of Bionic Commando became the best-loved game in the series, although it is perhaps better remembered for its amusing translation and leftovers from the "unique" Japanese storyline. Gamespot later described the title as having "a slightly more mature tone than most games at the time--your enemies seemed more serious about killing you, the mission seemed more grim, and this was probably the first time gamers from this era heard cursing in a game". You damn fool! Although not one of the biggest selling games of the NES era, Bionic Commando was fondly remembered by almost all who played it.

The series resurfaced in 1990 when the sequel to Commando, Senjo no Okami 2, was released into Western arcades as Mercs. In the Western translation, Joe had lost his "Super" tag and his short-lived wire gun, but gained a surname, now appearing as Joseph Gibson, a member of a tough counter-terrorist team out to save a former President from the African country of Zutulu, along with Howard Powell and Thomas Clarke. The game was also ported to the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive.

In 1992, Bionic Commando went portable, appearing on the Game Boy where Rad gained a surname - Spencer. Settings and stories were once again changed around, creating a more futuristic look. However, after this port, the world of Bionic Commando went quiet. Super Joe, who had featured in so many of Capcom's early titles, was left by the wayside in favor of a new generation of heroes - Ryu, Chun-Li and pals. After 8 commando-free years, a new game, Bionic Commando: Elite Forces, was released by NST in 2000 for the Game Boy Color, again switching around the story and introducing a female commando as a second playable character. But despite positive review scores, it failed to establish a new market for the game. Fans hopes for a sequel looked to go unrealized until the announcement of the next-gen Bionic Commando, the first true sequel to the NES game's storyline, and the release of Commando 3, the downloadable new entry in the Commando/Senjo no Okami series - a double-whammy for fans who like to go commando.


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