(VC Arcade / Virtual Console Arcade)

Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando (VC Arcade / Virtual Console Arcade)

Game Review

Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed


General William T. Sherman is popularly credited with coining the phrase "War is Hell", but we don't think he ever got the chance to play Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando. If he had, he surely would have said, "War is kind of dull, and a little crappy."

Originally released to arcades in 1985, Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando (herein referred to as "Commando") accomplished the extraordinary feat of making a visit to the arcade less exciting than a solid night of homework.

Actually, that assessment might be somewhat unfair, as it was probably pretty impressive for its time. Today, however, it does not hold a candle to its classic-era arcade brethren. Like Pac-Man, Galaga or Donkey Kong, Commando might retain all of the mindless simplicity of its time, but it has none of their charm.

Players take control of "Super Joe," a character only slightly more creatively named than "Army Person" would have been, and which is certainly less creative than, say, "Rusty McShrapnel." Across endless, vertically scrolling battlefields, you must manoeuvre Super Joe – who often looks like he's crawling thanks to the perspective – past enemies and obstacles on his way to... something. Victory, we guess. Against... erm... the bad guys, maybe? Who knows? The game doesn't seem to care, so why should we?

Super Joe can move and shoot in eight directions. He can also lob grenades, which clears out a larger area than bullets do, but not by much, and they also move slowly enough that they aren't particularly reliable. Along the way you can earn points by gunning down enemy soldiers, picking up gold bricks (as any good soldier is wont to do) and freeing prisoners of war. This latter option, however, is performed just by gunning down more solders, so don't expect it to spice up the gameplay much.

The experience of playing Commando is not a particularly bad one, but it sure feels unrewarding and kind of wasteful. We'd like to believe this was some kind of postmodern critique of warfare in general, but then we remembered that the game kind of stinks and we stopped caring. Super Joe controls like he's wading with iron boots through a sea of maple syrup, and it's something of a relief when he clumsily fails to meander out of the path of a stream of marshmallow-sized bullets.

At the end of each level, Super Joe will have to defeat a wave of enemy soldiers that pour forth out of a gate. Theoretically these take the place of boss battles, but aside from the fact that the screen stops scrolling, these sequences don't feel any different from the rest of the game. If anything, the lack of movement makes them even more tedious.

The visual presentation of in Commando is quite good, however. Everything important is clearly defined, and it's easy to recognise each object as what it's meant to represent. This would come in handy if the game were a little more exciting, but as it stands it seems that this graphical competency is going to waste on a game that doesn't quite deserve it. There are a few problems with clipping, which result in Super Joe getting stuck on invisible parts of trees and archways, but once you get in the habit of cutting your turns a little less tight, it's not much of a problem.

The audio is likewise quite good, though not particularly memorable. It's all perfectly serviceable, meaning that the game must either succeed or fail on the strength of its own core gameplay. That's as it should be, but with core gameplay this weak it won't leave many people satisfied.

Commando might be one of the few examples of the stripped-down ports actually being stronger than the original game. These later ports added powerups, better music and depth to the gameplay that are all sadly lacking in the arcade original.

As an artifact of a bygone era of gaming, Commando might well be interesting to a certain subset of gamers. Interesting, however, isn't the same thing as enjoyable, which is something this game never quite manages to be.


Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando is an example of a strong framework in search of a better game, and it's less bad than it is consistently unimpressive. The thrill of battle is dulled by sluggish movement and general gracelessness, and no real sense of urgency or addictiveness ever sets in. It's an exercise in passable mediocrity, and while that might have been worth a quarter or two in the mid 1980s, it's much easier today to find far better receptacles for your Nintendo Points.

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User Comments (25)



Bass_X0 said:

Still more fun than Gun.Smoke, barely. I am a fan of Capcom but not of their early arcade games. Arcade Mercs is good though.



Scottie said:

I still may get this as i loved it back in the day. Tough as they come.



JebbyDeringer said:

This was a popular game back in the day but it is normally overrated. Most of the joy that comes from Commando is the C64 soundtrack not present here. I had this game for the Atari 2600 I believe it was the first game I got for it. It was crap but I still played it. I believe it deserves slightly higher than a 4 but there are so many games that came after that did a better job. Jackal is one of them.



Varoennauraa said:

No!!! No Bass X0! Gun Smoke is still a very good game, even the Nes version!!! This wasn't good even back then(although, I still have to listen Commandos C64 versions music regularly). Please Capcom, release the arcade Gun Smoke on VC.



Golgo said:

I loved this game in the arcades as a kid. Yep, I knew it was always . OR, maybe I was at it. Never mind, there was always Yie Ar Kung Fu.

Still, way to wreck a child's gaming memories! Go Nintendolife...!



StarBoy91 said:

I concur with Bass, the sequel Mercs is miles better. Commando is okay, just not worth replaying much.
Good review, Brutus.



Sean_Aaron said:

I prefer Taito's Front Line to this one - the tank bits gave more variety.

This game is hard as hell, but like a lot of old arcade games that are objectively crap I have a nostalgia bug for it so naturally I bought it for my Japanese Wii.

Also picked up Black Dragon this week, which is a million times better and had damn well better score at least 8/10 here!



DrCruse said:

I was just playing this a few days ago on Capcom Classic Collection (PS2). I think it's a great game.



Digiki said:

I've played it a little bit, wasn't bad from what I played. $8 is far too much though.



SwerdMurd said:

Black Dragon is genius.

But yeah--this game sucks, even if it was one of the first in a genre I rather enjoy. Still good to see support for VCA.



Mayhem said:

I guess me and Corbie are going to sit alone playing this then... it's still a great game imo.



Ristar42 said:

I remember playing the arcade years back and more recently have played most of Capcom's VC line up on their already available and cheaper compilation discs for x-box / ps2. Its difficult, but a classic.
I really want Super Hang-On to come out in the EU before all of this Capcom stuff though, as there is a game that is not so easy to play in its orignal arcade form...



KrazyKain said:

looks really good to me, reminds me of Mercs.. and did someone say they didnt like gunsmoke? blasphemy!



Blister said:

Sigh. My childhood memories also trampled by the low score. Played this to death on my Acorn Electron back in 1985ish. It was one of the few arcade ports available. Even then, I had, it seemed been passed off with the BBC Micro tape by mistake which ran criminally slowly on the Electron. Many hours spent dodging the marshmallow sized bullets though...



trikxy said:

just because something gets a poor score doesn't mean it's a poor game. commando is a blood pumping classic, aged, yet still of quality.

reviews are highly subjective.

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