Created by Nostalgia in 2015, Commando Arcade is a reworking of the original C64 Commando port by Elite, but with completely new graphics, sound, and levels. So, rather than it being written from scratch, the game was built around the framework of an existing game.
You can actually choose to play with original graphics and sound if you like (or a combination of new and old), but when a remake like this is so good there isn’t much of a reason to go back to the old version. Most people who remember the original C64 port of Commando will at least be curious to see what the new graphics and sound are like. Those who’ve never played the original are more likely to play the new version.
In Commando Arcade five completely new levels have been added, bringing the total number of levels to eight (like in the arcade original). The downside to that is that the game is now multi-load, where it wasn’t previously, but that’s a small price to pay, and unless you’re playing it on real, slow hardware, that really isn’t a problem. Most people playing on real hardware these days will use an Easyflash cartridge anyway, which makes loading much quicker. In an emulator, it’s not an issue at all.
Another significant change made to the original is that in this version of the game you can choose to throw grenades by holding down the joystick fire button. In the original conversion you have to press the space bar on the keyboard to throw grenades, which is a pain in the butt. Although holding down fire does mean that you’re not firing bullets, it makes throwing grenades a lot easier.
Commando Arcade is a perfect example of what modern coders can do to ‘hack’ or change a game beyond its original scope. Elite‘s Commando was notorious for being a bare-bones, rushed game, even though it was still considered a good game back in the day. The guys at Nostalgia obviously realised that, with a bit more time and effort, Commando on the C64 could be made to mirror the arcade game more closely, which is what they set out to do. And they succeeded brilliantly.
Commando Arcade is available to download and play for free from CSDb, as are the various other releases from Nostalgia (including the amazing homebrew version of Atic Atac, which I’ve already covered on this website). For their efforts, they should be applauded.