Commandos: Behind the Enemy LinesGenre: stealth-action
PC/developer: Pyro Studios
MD/developer: Dragon Co.
MD/publisher: New Game, most likely...
Year of release: 1998
Media: 2 MB cartridge, SEGA MegaDrive compatible
Additional peripherals supported: SMDII joypad
Okay, you may say your one-liners now: 'Why is this game is reviewed in a blog that actually reviews the console ports of PS games? This game has no console port at all!' Well, I'm not going to rush at you but the actual reason I'm writing this article is that Commandos: Behind the Enemy Lines actually got a console port. No kidding, because I'm gonna show it to you right now. Wanna know on which platform it is? SEGA Genesis/MegaDrive! Gyaaaaah.
Of course, many of you would probably start digging a Wikipedia article on this game, glance through the platform list, then stare at me and say: 'NO IT'S WRONG!' But what I'm gonna tell you now is that... Wikipedia covers only the official list of platforms. The MD version is a mere bootleg. In other words, a pirate original. Didn't see THAT coming, huh?
Instantly, after reading this paragraph, you're starting to guess on who made this game. Well... obviously... Chinese? But when you look at the screenshots, another thought will be stuck in your head... RUSSIAN. But actually, every average, for example, Englishman or American will think that way because he will see symbols that really-really-really resemble the Russian ones on the screenshots. How would a Russian guy think about it? Well, he simply reads out all the briefing text and finds out that this game's Russian suffers from:
1) not really regular word order;
2) lots of grammatical mistakes in the words;
3) using the feminine adjectives all the time (like if the first word in a phrase 'German army' was feminine and the second one was masculine. Pointless, ain't it?).
So, we see that a regular Russian guy couldn't make such a fucking huge of typos and mistypos, so it's possibly Chinese who made it. Also, additional trivia: this game's Russian suffers as badly as in another good pirate port, Barver Battle Saga, which was rehashed into Final Fantasy 5 (which itself is nothing else than a redrawn title and lotsa dialogues translated crappily).
So we got into the fact that this port came from China. But who ACTUALLY made it? I may say it now. Dragon Co made it. Is that enough? NO?! Okay, let me bother with expanding this article so it would have 1000 more symbols.
Okay, about who the hell is Dragon Co. A little group of bucaneer developers that started making their own games for the famiclones. The lead programmer of this gang was Tommy Xie a.k.a. TomSoft, who made a little SDK for writing NES games, before the actual work on their creations. As a result, we get an ultracrappy Lion King 3: Timon & Pumbaa (first game, loosely based on the animated series with two latter characters), ultraturbocrappy Wait and See! (which has Warner's Bugs Bunny and 'Nu, Pogodi!'s mistranslated title, ultramegafuckingcrappy Tom & Jerry 3 (again, based on the cartoon, but on the series from Chuck Jones's era) and good-looking but still crappy in controlling Felix the Cat [by Dragon Co] (the particular episode with Gelie the Goose. Somehow works.). Anyways, somewhere around the new millenium, Tommy released another SDK, but this time, for doing MegaDrive games (get it HERE). And, actually, every single game compiled with the help of this thingie bears a 'TOMSOFT SDK' title in the header, so does our today's victim. You're not able to see Tommy Xie in the credits, however. But Li Meng, the guy who did 'music' for all the above listed Dragon Co games, 'did' the music for this game too. Second proof already, ahoy?
So, let's say that Commandos has been ported to MegaDrive by Dragon Co for ex-USSR audiences only (and that's the thing I'll probably never get) somewhere between the years 1998, when the PC version was released, and 2003, when this particular port was reviewed in the Great Dragon magazine.
Okay, Commandos on MegaDrive is not a really good idea.
But these guys did the impossible.
...After sacrificing a lot of stuff, of course. So let's see if it still works anyway.
Technically, it retains only five missions from the PC game, all the characters (apart from the driver) and, perhaps, most of the graphics and gameplay features. That's it. No saving ('mission select' disguised as a 'Load Game' menu is here instead). No dialogues. Several shortcuts present in the original are gone. Still, it's Commandos on the big screen which has some interesting stuff to mess up with though. It may be Commandos on a handheld too, if you waste some money and buy a Megadrive Portable with this cartridge or just load the ROM of it into PicoDrive, no matter if you have a PDA or PSP. And the lack of driver is not such a big deal anyway.
Interface. Pretty obvious change, because if in the PC version you had an inventory with 'backpack layouts', in the MD bootleg, you get a sidebar, similar to C&C on the PS. Also, you can't really activate the 'ray' which points the enemy's head position at the moment. No, it's still possible to see where they look, but only by looking at their pixelated heads. Be extremly careful when you try this port out!
Graphically, this port is tolerable... For a console like this, of course. There, we've got no zoom function or seamless animation, but yeah, you couldn't really expect more from Dragon Co. The only thing that really bothers me is that how in world Dragon Co managed to pick such a suitable color palette for the entire game, so it looks damn accurate to the PC original, even if MD could do really more than this. What you couldn't really expect from them is that there are even footsteps that every character leaves on the ground shown!
Controls are actually pretty easy for a game like this (worst part, however: no mouse support, even the bootleg one from these 'educational' systems): even if you don't have the SEGA MegaDrive II, it won't be a real problem to find the functions that are actually binded with X, Y and Z keys (grab the item, draw a pistol and get up/crouch respectively) on the sidebar. The only thing that will actually make even more problems is the cursor speed. Moving from one horisontal edge of the screen to another takes two seconds by default, but when you get a shitload of sprites on just one screen, this amount of time may increase to ten or more. Additionally, giving orders is fucked up. Like, you can't make a normal 'get there and kill the enemy' one-step scenario for your guys. INSTEAD, you do, like, order him to go there first and only then, you order him to kill an enemy. Will be a real bother, but sooner, you'll get on with it... Maybe.
With all the above factors (no saving, no head tracking thing, laggy controls, removed shortcuts) and one more: if any of your dudes gets killed, that automatically means you have to restart the mission you were playing! And this is on all five missions. The gameplay becomes just a pure trial-and-error experience, akin to the one in I Wanna Be The Guy (you don't have to restart the whole area or entire game in that case, however). The first mission won't be a bother if you know what to do. The rest will be a one big A.S.S., because, for example, in mission 2, you are forced to kill the convoy nearby the nazis' base if you don't want to get fucked up while in the original mission two, you just could get on the ladder and get into the base without killing anyone outside. MD version omits this shortcut for some unknown reason. Dragon Co. had no idea about it?
Additionally, the gun combat part is really fucked up there. If a nazi spots you, he'll kill you in 4 seconds. If you have got a pistol drawn already and if you'll start shooting at him repeatedly, be prepared to lose about 80% of your health. Explosive barrels sure do help, but if a barrel explodes and the soldier spots you at the same time, he'll start blowing you up and... 'Argh.' That's 30% off. Stupid pre-death lag, LAWL.
The game speed is kinda slower than in the PC version. Not only the characters move slower but the program itself lags like hell. From what we get it are REALLY huge maps and a lot of sprites on the screen (pretty similar to TomSoft's beta of Command & Conquer port. I'm still wondering if that mysterious Da Ne mentioned in credits IS Tommy Xie...). But okay, it's a mere MegaDrive which even wasn't able to replicate Populous II without little or just unbearable lagging, so that may be excusable, but the fact that the game LAGS is the fact. Especially with a lot of dead soldiers on one screen and with decoy sound bleeping.
Talking about the sound and music... Well, apart from the menu sound effect copied from the PC Commandos directly, neither of SFXs has anything to do with their original game's counterparts. The music, however, does, even if there are five looped 10-second digitized samples (in other words, mere extracts).
As for me, I have beaten the final mission of this game. Without beating the previous ones, of course. Just wanted to see the ending of the game.
I have disabled a lot of guards (especially ones inside the base with a simple decoy+dynamite trick performed nearby a black Volkswagen (or whatever it is), which created an ULTIMATE LAG... As well as ultimate death, 9 soldiers in one explosion.), blew the radars up, made the base completely desolated, stole the truck, messed up with controlling it, then got away, and... Stats screen. Got three stars for beating it. When I select the 'Next Mission', it just throws you to the... Title screen. My eyes became popped at that moment. No 'The End' screen, no credits, nothing! It just resets the game. Nevertheless, I give credit to the creators that they have put effort into porting Commandos to SUCH a weak console like MD. No kidding, this is their best creation ever. Period.
Dragon Co took a really complex game to port. Lots of obvious flaws and annoyances there, but nevertheless, it's stealth action. Not your cheap platform gamie which have been (re)created over millions of times before. Dragon Co was a part of this process as well, creating a lot of cartoon-based platformers with fucked controls, but a strategy game is not what I have expected from these guys! And they've kept most of the stuff alive, what's really important. So, if you're looking for a really good unlicensed game for your MegaDrive, take Barver Battle Saga and this. Also, [pointless cursing mode on] if you think that 'those mothertrucker pirates' just CAN'T MAKE a good game, shut your fucking monkey ass up and stop treating this game like a douchebag. Go do something more useful, like, comparing two ports of Westwood's Lion King to the NES: licensed one by Dark Technologies and pirated one by Super Game, wontcha?
Such a NICE title screen... spoiled by a Russian title below.
I use to laugh SO much at this Russhen.
Let's go heavy machinery!
Sin City coloring method makes this building look like an evil genius's lair...
...I swear, this mission has HORRIBLE difficulty... still haven't beaten it.