Game Review

Commando: Steel Disaster Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Steely gamers only

In the early 1990s, when the very idea of 3D polygons was beyond most imaginations, 2D run-and-gun shooters were popular amongst dedicated and skilled gamers. Titles such as Contra on NES, Gunstar Heroes on Mega Drive and Metal Slug on the Neo Geo meant that most console owners experienced, and often loved, the genre. Commando: Steel Disaster borrows from most of these classics, and arrives on DSiWare – over three years after a retail release – in an attempt to bring this retro gameplay back.

Like many of these titles, Commando: Steel Disaster's storyline is fairly nonsensical. The basics are all that you need to know: a nasty villain is trying to take over the world and you’re the plucky, wise-cracking hero called Storm who has to stop him all by yourself. It’s all presented through static character portraits and some questionable script writing, but it shows some effort from the developers to capture the tone of the genre.

Gameplay is king, however, and this title is a distinctly mixed experience. The main positive is the intuitive and well-implemented control setup, which you’re able to customise from the start. Three buttons are used for firing the main weapon, throwing grenades and jumping, with a nifty forward roll executed with Down and jump: it’s all effective and smooth. A tap of the left shoulder button alternates between two primary weapons, varying from the default unlimited-ammo gun to limited-ammo rockets, electrical beams and more. It adds a tactical element to the basic rule of shooting everything in sight, as it’s important to preserve powerful weapons for boss encounters at the end of each stage.

The action itself varies from enjoyable to infuriating: at its best your character charges along gunning down enemies, with the action flowing nicely. At moments, however, the experience takes a nose dive due to questionable design decisions. One example is that your default weapon can’t shoot diagonally while the upgraded machine gun, for example, can do so. If you’re being attacked by an aerial enemy with your default weapon you’re forced to run directly underneath while shooting upwards: why can’t Storm shoot at an angle with all weapons? Another major issue arises in the final stage in particular, with platforming sections — it becomes difficult to distinguish between background and foreground objects, which can be frustrating while being bombarded by enemy projectiles.

There will be plenty of enemies, and their weapons, to avoid through this title’s five stages. Blasting through all stages without any deaths will take less than an hour, but the lack of content is countered by a relatively high difficulty and a cruel decision that one death means restarting the entire stage: there are no checkpoints. Skilful gamers should be able to get through the game with a handful of restarts, with replay value being restricted to attempting the ‘Hard’ setting. Unfortunately, it’s practically impossible: the screen is flooded with enemies making damage inevitable and, even worse, causes drastic drops in frame-rate. Only the most masochistic gamers will get through the first stage alone, so much of the replay value is lost.

This is typical of the flawed, unfinished nature of the title. A short campaign with a poorly balanced difficulty setting and no high-score system, achievements or any replay incentive, combined with a few design errors. The presentation follows the same trend: fairly bright pixel-based graphics are let down by repetitive music and sound, with the music completely stopping during the final boss fight. We assumed this was a glitch, or it was a strange choice from the developers. Another mysterious design decision is that the gameplay action is restricted to the bottom screen, with the top screen showing a rather pointless map: opportunities for epic dual-screen boss-fights, for example, were clearly overlooked. With these mis-steps in mind, and even with consideration that this was once a retail title, 800 Nintendo Points seems like a steep asking price.


Commando: Steel Disaster is a competent run-and-gun action title that has its bright moments. It’s unfortunate that for every fun boss-fight and well-designed sequence there are flawed levels, unreasonable difficulty and strange design choices. It’s a title worth consideration for those who love the genre and is full of the right intentions, but its problems are difficult to ignore.

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User Comments (20)



Ren said:

so sad. it LOOKS awesome, but alas.
I hate that. oh, well, guess I'll save my eight bucks. I'd almost try it anyway, it looks so cool, but at 8 bucks and 5 , 1 time play levels it seems just not worth it.



alLabouTandroiD said:

Damn my huge backlog but i'm not sure if i already have the retail release. Being so much like Metal Slug 7 doesn't help either. I only hope that it will still be available as DSiWare once i have / take the time to search through my games.

Anyway, i guess i'll never cease to love good run-and-guns. More brand new titles of the genre as well as classics for download / as collections on Nintendo platforms would be hard to resist.



Nintendawg said:

@Thomas This game is fairly similar to Metal Slug in many ways. One of them being the INability to shoot diagonally with your main weapon (I also hate that). But, at least in this game, once you get the machine gun (or any other upgrade) you can shoot diagonally continuously, unlike Metal Slug. Those who have played Metal Slug know exactly what I mean. So, in comparison, Metal Slug's controls were a lot more handicapped. I chose M.S. as a benchmark of sorts, since it seems to be widely popular.
Not to mention that the forward roll gives you momentary invulnerability, enabling you to survive intense battles practically unscathed.
I very much doubt that any seasoned gamer can get through all 5 stages in less than an hour as you claim, but oh well.
You're right about the platforms mixing in with the background objects in the first part of the final stage (it's not too much of a problem).
There are a few extra stages to be unlocked if you manage to recover all the Data Discs (shooting at various hidden spots to reveal them), which requires quite a lot of exploration. I do prefer this game to Metal Slug.
I'd give it at least a 7 in all strictness.

@battLeToaD "Damn my huge backlog but i'm not sure if i already have the retail release."
...come now...



Spoony_Tech said:

Yeah this game does look good. To bad about the game play since that the other half of what makes a game good.



ThomasBW84 said:

Nintendawg - Thanks for the views, opinions are wonderful things

Just to clarify, I didn't say seasoned gamers would blast through the game in under an hour, but that beating all stages with no deaths could conceivably be done in under an hour. I went on to say that deaths are inevitable, the difficulty adding some playtime (which is a good thing). The lack of checkpoints is cruel but, ultimately, adds game time.

Also, I mentioned three run-and-gun games at the start as this title draws influences, to varying extents, from them. I wasn't directly comparing to Metal Slug but taking the game on its own merits, so complaints I made weren't with a mindset it's 'x compared to Metal Slug'.

It's a tough game to score, though I plumped for 5 as 'average'. Metacritic reviews of the retail release show this game can split gamers, with the odd score seven and above and lower scores thrown in. I enjoyed moments of it, but it frustrated me on occasions as well.

For those who love these games and see the issues with difficulty or controls differently, like you do, then it's worth thinking about, certainly.



alLabouTandroiD said:

@StarDust: Because a copy of Disaster: Day of Crisis won't run on an American Wii, huh ? To anyone that's restricted to a Wii, wants to see Ninty take a more adult oriented direction and can even enjoy flawed games i'd say go ahead and buy it. It's dirt cheap in the UK right now. And while this may not motivate many to get it i'd say it's got many things in common with Other M.

@Nintendawg (3.): Can i interpret your come now as a lighthearted you've got my sympathy ?



Nintendawg said:

@Thomas BW84

"Nintendawg - Thanks for the views, opinions are wonderful things "

ain't that the truth!
and thanks for not wording it like Dirty Harry...

About the lack of content... that goes for pretty much any shooty platformer out there, doesn't it?
It's the (arguably) high level of difficulty that adds longevity, not the scenario or the huge amount of levels (that would get tiresome in this type of game). That being said, I myself can blast through all stages of Contra (4) or Metal Slug 7 (or Commando Steel Disaster) in a lot less than an hour, but that's never bothered me. I always find myself going back for another quick fix of pure shoot 'em up mayhem. The point (?) of those games is to give you an adrenaline rush, to get you pumped, but that's about it. Like a short but strenuous workout, if you know what I mean.
You forgot to comment on the Data Discs. Finding all of them in order to unlock the extra stages (added content) can prove rather challenging and is quite an achievement in itself. For what it's meant to be, I think what this game does it does well.
I'm just trying (perhaps in vain?) to understand why it is you'd review a game such as this when you're clearly not a huge fan.
anyway, cheers for the conversation!


Why, of course I meant that you can't be serious that you no longer recall which games you own.
Even if you own well over 200 DSi games like me.
But, if your room is in such a mess that you cannot sift through your games anymore, yes, you do have my sympathy!



ouroborous said:

This game basically IS METAL SLUG. So if you're nuts about MS then you will definitely like it. It should be noted that this game was an actual DS release as well. Honestly, for most people, it's in no way worth the $8 or whatever it costs on the 3DS virtual console.



ThomasBW84 said:

@Nintendawg - I actually like run and gun games and the genre as a whole, particularly Contra in my case. That said, being a fan of a genre isn't grounds to review a game, our role is to review all games as fairly and objectively as we can when they're assigned to us. All the reviewers on this site are dedicated gamers, but we won't score an average platformer, for example, as a 9 just because the reviewer may like that kind of game.

So although I like the genre, I thought this was a pretty average title, for the various reasons I outlined in the review. While Contra Rebirth and Gunstar Heroes, for example, bring me back due to tight gameplay and exciting level design, this title didn't achieve that. There were questionable parts of the design that let it down. It has some positives, and as I said in the review fans of these games may be happy to overlook some issues.

I didn't mention the data discs because I didn't encounter them, despite playing levels multiple times. They weren't mentioned in the manual, unless I missed it, and in the mayhem of the levels I didn't know they were there or how to go about unlocking the additional stages. Frankly, they must be well hidden, and the lack of a mention in the manual or some kind of visual indicator (saying x discs found, or something similar) in-game is another design flaw, in my opinion.

Hope that clarifies



Supremeist said:

It does look pretty cool, but that doesn't mean the game is good. That's a disappointment.



micapple said:

Commando: Steel Disaster is challenge when you get to level 3 the game freezes.Then there is no safe your game, Sucker, you start all over again,And not worth 800 points, it,s worth 200 points.



barneygumble said:

Im Level 4 and no freezes, you might check your 3ds @micapple.

Two things i realisted : Point is I played the Ds retail game a lot earlier, so Im glad to get the game on my 3ds via cheap download. But there are quite some differences between the retail and download version.
The retail version was very hard ( as this review mentioned ) like one enemy hit takes 25% of your lifeline. New Download version : By far easier, one hit takes just about 10% of the gamerslifeline. Especially the superhard endbosses are quite easy now as it seems the need less hits too.

One other point : in the new Dsi Ware Version the levels are different. The first level of the retailversion started with the snowmobile racingstage, the Dsi Ware Version starts with Level 1-2 and each Stage is now In 3 Parts ( 1-1, 1-2 and 1-3 is boss, 2-1, 2-2. 2-3 Boss etc ) means more splitted and more safepoints.
The hidden "discs" from the retailversion are gone in the Dsi Ware release, instead you get more ammo (= game is more easier, you almost always have specilguns now )

Im not sure if you guys tested the retail or Dsi Ware release, but for me the game got more playable then before and is by far better then Metal Slug 7 Ds or about same quality like Contra 4



unrandomsam said:

This game is really good. (Closest thing you can get to Metal Slug as a download onto your 3DS).



unrandomsam said:

(I prefer Metal Slug to Contra for the most part). I really like Genesis Hard Corps but that is the exception.

I think this Metal Slug 7 and Contra 4 (Other than length) are about as good as each other.

(None are as good as Gunstar Heroes / Contra : Hard Corps or Metal Slug X / Metal Slug 3 / Metal Slug 6).

(Not played the PS3/360 Hard Corps so cannot comment about that).



unrandomsam said:

I have finished this already so thought I would look for a retail copy for the harder difficulty. But it is only available for £50 on ebay.

There is not many games that are junk that cost most than RRP.

(Most of the time regardless of the quality stuff in the shmup / run n gun genres ends up dirt cheap. You could get Metal Slug 7 / Contra 4 and the Dsiware version of this for £50)

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