Retro Game of the Day! Commando
Commando by Capcom, released to arcades in 1985, and on my NES in.. geez, 1986? 1987? What a horrible journalist I am. What do you want, I was just 12 at the time..
The prototype for "running and shooting" guys games, before our Commando became Bionic he was just. plain. But man, could he kill. He'd kill you for looking at his girlfriend, he would..! Never before had I played a game where the goal was to mow down as many enemies as possible en route to the level's end. Sure, games about shooting your foes were nothing new - but usually you were just a spaceship shooting other spaceships and monsters and things. Now you were a (relatively) well-animated little soldier with a whole Gee Dee army trying to do you in!
One of the first NES games I'd ever got my hands on, and one of Capcom's initial in their first round of offerings for support of that system - the others being 1942 (scratch scratch scratch) and of course everyone's favorite whipping boy, Ghosts 'n Goblins. All good games, but perhaps Commando was the most satisfying one of all - I mean, one could actually BEAT this game! In hindsight, Ghosts 'n Goblins has aged better (it's still a blast to play, if you don't mind the abuse) though I will always have found memories for Commando. 1942 - well, we aren't gonna talk about that today. Can't win 'em all, Capcom.
Anyway, for the uninitiated, the premise of this game (as noted) is that you're a soldier trying to defeat the enemy army, all by your lonesome. You've got a weapon which can fire in any direction, and grenades which you can toss northward. Pick up a machinegun to max out your firepower, and free hostages for bonus points. The game is short, and not much to look at now, but at the time Capcom was correct to promote the "high-resolution graphics." The arcade board looked markedly better, of course, but the game play was essentially the same. This game also tempted you to look for "secret areas" where you could free prisoners from underground dungeons. I'd be bombing away all afternoon "is there one there? How about over there? Huh, huh?"
Ultimately, Commando was a stepping stone to bigger things for Capcom. It created a successful new genre, one which ultimately gave us games like Contra and Ikari Warriors - not to mention a little title named Bionic Commando. It's not much to look at now, but at the time it was quite a blast that started to get people excited about what could be done on the NES beyond simple titles such as Urban Champion and Balloon Fight.