Capcom ported over two of their 1991 arcade beat ‘em ups, King of Dragons and Knights of the Round, to the Super Nintendo in the spring of 1994. A three year gap was an unusually long time for an arcade game to be ported back in those days, so both conversions were a pleasant surprise. Arcade translations typically came out a year (or two) later. Well, Capcom one upped themselves when they released yet another 1991 arcade brawler, Captain Commando, to the SNES in the late summer of 1995. Coming out a whopping four years later from its original arcade release, Captain Commando was an aging relic at a time where beat ‘em ups had lost a lot of their luster. Because it came out so late in the SNES’ lifespan, it never really got the attention it surely would have gotten had it came out three years prior in 1992. A bit of an ill-timed release, Capcom nevertheless forged ahead. And quite frankly, I’m glad they did. While it is a watered down version of the arcade original (as most 16-bit ports at the time were), Captain Commando is a reminder of the early ’90s when side scrolling brawlers ruled the scene. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start back at the beginning…
Captain Commando (geddit?) served as sort of a mascot for Capcom. He made his debut in 1985 in the Ghosts ‘N Goblins manual.
Then he began thanking you for buying Capcom’s games. This comes from 1987’s Mega Man instruction manual.
He showed up once again the following year in the sequel, Mega Man 2, thanking you for your purchase and support of Capcom. As you can see, he has altered his look over the years. Gotta keep up with the times, eh?
Captain Commando disappeared from making instruction booklet cameos by the time 1990’s Mega Man 3 rolled around. Then in 1991, it happened. Captain Commando received his very own game. Final Fight was a huge success in 1989 so Capcom was hoping for more of the same magic with Captain Commando. Fast forward to 1995. At last, Capcom converted Captain Commando to the SNES. Sacrifices were made but we’ll get to that later. For me, it was just good to finally see the good Captain and his unusual friends beating up hoodlums in my living room.
THE STORY GOES…
Taking place in the far flung future of 2026 (which is currently only 8 years away), Scumocide and his cronies are looking to rule over Metro City. Fun fact: this is the same Metro City from Capcom’s first beat ‘em up, Final Fight.
Captain Commando can electrocute bad guys and set them on fire. Yeah, he’s pretty bad ass. Ginzu the Ninja capitalizes on the obsession with ninjas back in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Captain Commando doesn’t feature your prototypical cast. Look no further than these two. Mack is a mummy-like alien that looks more like one of the goons rather than one of our heroes. Baby Head is a a super genius baby who fights riding on an advanced mech suit that he himself built. Now that says it all, does it not?
MISSION 1: THE CITY
Captain Commando features 9 stages. The first one takes place in the City. I love little details like being able to shatter the store windows.
Enemies come bounding out of the sewers similar to the Foot Soldiers from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time. Too bad you can’t fling the manhole covers back at them, though. On the bright side, unlike Turtles in Time, there’s no danger of falling through the manhole and losing precious life.
Rushing attacks are nice. I like how this first stage scrolls downward a bit. It’s a small touch that I appreciate, especially seeing as how most beat ‘em ups simply go from left to right with zero variation.
Hammer time! If you zoom in or squint, you can see a statue of Haggar there. As stated earlier, this is Metro City in the year 2026. The first boss is Dolg.
Cosplaying as a lost member of the Road Warriors (AKA Legion of Doom), Dolg is more bark than bite. When in a pinch, use Mack’s special spinning attack to clear the room.
MISSION 2: THE MUSEUM
Breaking the glass isn’t necessary — it’s mandatory. You’re then dropped into the bowels of this shady museum where you’ll run into savage neanderthals with names like Samson and Organo. I’m not ashamed to admit that the creepy lifeless family that stares at you in the background slightly gives me the heebie jeebies.
Barrels can be a lifesaver. Save the meat until your health is low. The oddly named boss here, Shtrom Jr., looks like a Radiation Ranger reject from Toxic Crusaders.
MISSION 3: THE NINJA HOUSE
Moving on to the Ninja House, you’re greeted by the heel wearing Mardia, a formidable female fighter who assuredly has never skipped leg day. Don’t forget to watch your back or else those knife throwing thugs will make you pay. A less muscular female attacks with stun rods. I like how this stage transitions from the city to a rural dojo.
Ninjas ruled the day back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. This game has them well represented. Not only can you BE a ninja but you’ll fight lots of ninjas, too. If the action gets too hot, try using the laser gun.
Musashi makes quite the entrance. Two questions: Is this Ronin 47 and where’s Keanu Reeves when you need him? Later on, more ninjas attempt to ambush you.
Crowded? Use your special move to make room. Watch out for their shurikens!
Luckily, this is just a (brilliant) fake out scene. You escape by the skin of your teeth without having to fight them.
However, going inside isn’t much better. Meet Yamato, a kabuki warrior wielding a halberd. He reminds me of Kyoshiro from Samurai Shodown fame, or should I say vice versa.
MISSION 4: CIRCUS CAMP
Ahhhh, the Circus. Where you can obtain fancy art and set folks on fire. Fun for the whole family!
Wookys (gotta love that name) are so fun to beat up. I’ve come to learn that any door brandishing the word DANGER on it is not playing…
Shatter the glass on your way to the boss whose name is “Monster.” Real creative there, Capcom…
Things got a little too hot for Mack so in comes the Cap! I love how he can set enemies on fire as well as electrocute them. Look at Dr. Tea Water getting all bent out of shape there.
MISSION 5: SEA PORT
Bailing so fast, Doc? This surfing bit adds some variety to the gameplay and helps to break up the monotony. Pick up a machine gun and let ‘er rip! Where do you think 1993’s Surf Ninjas got their inspiration from? Ah hell if I know.
Careful trying to jump kick those billboards. In this case, sometimes boards do hit back. But you know what — or who — doesn’t? Poor ol’ Dr. Tea Water that’s who!
MISSION 6: AQUARIUM
Electrocution vs. fire… who’s going to win? Fire, I see.
Wookys come out of the woodwork. Break the blocks there to reveal a gun. Shockingly, it does little damage but what great fun you’ll have shooting it.
Mysteriously named Z, he knows how to reach out and touch somebody. Unleash the Captain Corridor when you’re surrounded. Such a basic yet cool looking move.
Temporary invincibility is granted whenever you lose a life. I love the double and triple vision that this effect produces.
Somebody’s gonna get fired for attacking the wrong side! I love when games allow enemies to hurt their own kind on accident. It somehow makes the game feel a little more realistic. But best of all, it’s simply a hoot to see!
Remember Shtrom Jr.? Now meet his dad and his dad’s right hand man. Use Baby Head’s Knee Rocket to even up the odds.
MISSION 7: UNDERGROUND BASE
Beware of falling barrels. Give it your best Macho Man Randy Savage elbow drop impersonation. This is another level that scrolls downward. Nice.
Hitting a baby seems so wrong on every account, and that includes genius babies riding mech suits. But I suppose when a baby hits you in the face with a knee rocket, all bets are off (even though technically you should be dead).
Ginzu’s the name and slicing and dicing is his game!
Surrounded by two towering thugs? Hit them with the Smoke Bomb.
Originally named Blood, he’s been renamed Boots. Lame. Speaking of lame, the big brute blows up his desk to reveal a tunnel hatch where he attempts to escape. Fall down the rabbit hole and make him pay.
Captain Commando to the rescue!
MISSION 8: ENEMY SPACESHIP
Certainly will keep you on your toes. Hasty players may get zapped.
Assassin by day, hooker by night. They can even zap their fellow enemies!
“Thanks for the help, fat boys! Now my turn to give y’all a gift in return.”
Doppel replicates himself into all versions of the Commando team. You must beat all of them to defeat him.
MISSION 9: CALLISTO
Callisto, an enigmatic planet somewhere in the cosmos, is the site of the final battle. The first boss is back to exact revenge. Although it teases a possible boss rush, it thankfully isn’t. Check out the creepy (and probably wealthy) monsters in the background with babes hanging on every which side. It has a Mos Eisley Cantina vibe (from Star Wars fame). I almost expect Harrison Ford to come bounding in any second now as Han Solo!
Defeat Dolg and the hideous picture lifts, revealing Scumocide’s home base.
Heavier than a tank and taller than a mountain, Scumocide is a suitably intimidating final boss. Where’s The Hulk when you need him?
Whether he’s freezing your ass into a block of ice or incinerating your flesh, Scumocide doesn’t mess around.
Everyone has a weakness, even big badass warlords. Grab him, smash in his coconuts and finish him off with a piledriver that would make Haggar proud.
YOU’RE WELCOME, MARVEL
Scumocide defeated and world domination thwarted, Metro City celebrates its freedom and victory. When out of nowhere the good Cap appears on the screen to give the city a brief message. When asked who he is, he responds in dramatic fashion. It would have made Tony Stark himself blush. Hey where do you think Iron Man got its ending from?
As was the norm for arcade ports on the SNES, there’s an obvious drop in visual quality. But surprisingly, the sprites in the SNES port aren’t much smaller if at all. The colors aren’t as vibrant but the core basics are there. At least they are for the most part, anyhow.
One of the biggest differences is the toned down violence. Ginzu could slice enemies in half in the arcade version. Obviously, Nintendo was not going to allow that for the SNES port. It’s a bummer for sure but for me not a deal breaker.
Arguably the biggest omission however is the lack of robots to ride.
The other big sacrifice of course was going from 4 players in the arcade to only 2 players in the SNES port. But seeing as how there is no beat ‘em up on the SNES featuring 3 or 4 players co-op (I don’t count Peace Keepers since that was a special mode and doesn’t involve enemies), this shouldn’t shock anyone.
WHERE HAVE I SEEN THAT BEFORE?
Konami you sneaky bastards. Contra III: The Alien Wars (1992) is one of the best SNES action games ever made but damn if that intro doesn’t resemble Captain Commando (1991).
Shtrom Jr. and the Radiation Ranger (from Toxic Crusaders) bear more than a passing resemblance to one another.
Maybe it’s just me but the burning animation in Captain Commando reminds me of the burning scenes in Halloween II (1981). Especially the end where Michael Myers falls down on his knees before flopping face first.
Fans of Captain Commando would have to wait until Marvel vs. Capcom (1998) to use the good Captain once again.
His next appearance came in Namco x Capcom (2005). However, he did not return in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (2011) or its follow-up, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The next time we would see Captain Commando, or his costume anyhow, came in Street Fighter V as a costume unlock for Charlie Nash. The world awaits his next return. Or at least, me and four others, anyhow.
You wouldn’t know it if you’ve only played the censored SNES version but the universe of Captain Commando is quite barbaric. The arcade original was gruesome especially for its time and that violence is reflected in the manga series.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Captain Commando didn’t get much pub in the press because it came out fairly late in the Super Nintendo’s lifespan. That and I think because it was a port of an arcade game four years old, it never received the press it would have had it come out a few years prior. EGM, GameFan and Super Play didn’t review it. As for SNES players, it’s got something of a mixed reputation. Of course it’s been watered down in its arcade to home translation, but some still find it pretty fun. Others can’t overlook all the censorship. Whatever the case may be, copies of this game currently fetch triple figures online. Most SNES games now go for a pretty penny and this is certainly no exception.
People can hate on this port all they want, but I love the fact that Capcom gave it to us, period. They didn’t have to. After four long years they had every right to make other games for the SNES — a system that was inching closer and closer to the end of its glorious run. And yet Capcom didn’t. It’s far from perfect and sure, I’m as bummed out as anyone that the gore was removed and especially the robots to ride. But at the end of the day, those are only small components to the game. The question is, does the game itself still play well? And my answer is a semi-resounding YES. I love a well made beat ‘em up and while this isn’t the pinnacle, it’s still a pretty solid example of the genre.
Graphically, it’s far from Capcom’s best. The visuals even appear a bit drab in places. But I feel it fits the game; there’s sort of an appropriate bleakness to future Metro City where Scumocide and his cronies (attempt to) rule. The sound effects unfortunately are not up to par by Capcom standards. Punches and strikes don’t have that satisfying OOMPH to them. Enemies also sound weird and off when dispose of. But the most important aspect of any game is how well it plays and Capcom did a good job there. The game is easy to pick up and it’s enjoyable especially if you don’t obsess over what it’s missing from its arcade original.
You still get all four Commandos and I like this cast of misfits a lot more than I do many others. I mean, you got a mummy alien and a baby genius riding a mech suit that he himself built! It’s bonkers and I love that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. A post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi atmosphere runs rampant throughout. Sometimes the action and enemy clones in these type of games can get rather repetitive but for me that’s not the case here. The enemies are just so wonderfully bizarre, despite the obvious tropes. The stages aren’t overly long nor is the game overly hard. It doesn’t wear out its welcome and is something you can pop in for some quick mindless action. I still play it randomly once every few years and it always leaves me with a smile on my face.