The Super Days of NES: “Commando” (1986)
You’d figure they’d send more than one guy. But that’s not how we did it in the 80s. Rambo didn’t need a platoon. He was the platoon. And Arnold? Well there wasn’t any number of bad guys that made him stop and think, “I’m gonna need some back up.”
When Commando started up on my Nintendo, I was on my own. The helicopter carrying the lone soldier I would control came in over the desert. I’d hop out and look around. Soon it became clear there was no turning back. I couldn’t move the screen backwards. There was no retreat, the only way was forward.
Up ahead was a whole army of enemy soldiers. My job was to vanquish them all. Armed with a machine gun and grenades I’d do my best to advance. But it was dangerous terrain. There were enemies hiding in the weeds, hoping off of hills, throwing grenades from motorcycles atop bridges. They were everywhere!
What made this game playable though was that the bullets were big round circles. And they moved slow enough that they could literally be avoided while in flight. I suppose being able to clearly see a bullet coming at you and then sidestep it probably didn’t lend itself to reality. But did I mention that this was the 80s?
While shooting back my bullets fired out in a similar slow moving manner. But the enemy was not as deft as me in simply getting out of the way when they could. And when they died they looked like they were trying to frantically make snow angels in the desert sand. It was sad, but hysterical.
As difficult as it was to make your way through the game, everything else paled in comparison to the end of each round. These final sequences are where most of us would die. And there was no shame in doing so.
When you got to the end of a round the screen would stop scrolling up as you approached a fortress. After a brief pause, you’d hear a whistle. The doors would fly open letting out a ton of enemy soldiers creating a mosh pit of death. You could stand and fight. Or you could run for your life. The best thing to do was a bit of both and hope for the best.
For about 45 seconds the constant barrage of enemies and enemy fire would not let up. I’d often die. It was just too much. But sometimes I’d get lucky and make it to the end of the round only to find myself back on the helicopter to start another battle.
The job was never done. Which is probably why they’ve made five “Rambo” movies when they easily could have stopped after two. They’ll always be bad guys, and one man who can stop them all.