Fun(?) fax: the DSiWare version of Commando: Steel Disaster is an unfinished prototype of the game

Commando: Steel Disaster was a Chinese-developed Metal Slug-clone released in 2008 for the DS. It got mediocre reviews from the few outlets that bothered with and came and went completely unnoticed, so much that it wasn’t released in Europe. However, publisher Cinemax released a DSi version of the game in 2011 and while the DSi store has been taken down, it’s still downloadable through a 3DS.

Being a big fan of run & gun games, I picked up the game two days ago and started playing it today. The game had some really odd quirks and polish issues, the biggest of which was the complete absence of any soundtrack beside a single unfitting, repetitive level theme endlessly looping on every stages. I remembered WiiWare (and by extension DSiWare) had some very strict filesize requirements that forced developers to cut fat and took to Youtube to see if the DSi release hadn’t cut the soundtrack for the sake of releasing it on the service.

Well, not only was my suspicion was confirmed, I found it was much worse than I imagined. The DSi version of the game is missing a tons of stuff:

1: Levels are missing sections; The first level on the retail version starts with an autoscrolling shmup section on a snowmobile: the DSi skips that entirely and starts on the 2nd section of the level. The 2nd level begins with a section in a jungle, then a tunnel, then a city. In the DSI version, you start in the city so the stage is half as long, etc.

2: Soundtrack. The retail build has a fairly normal soundscape with menu music, different level themes, boss themes, short victory jingle when you complete the level, etc. The DSi version has no music before the aforementioned level theme.

3: Sound effects. The retail version has a lot of sound effects not in the DSi build, like distinct death cries for the ninja-type enemies, alarm sounds for the robot sentry enemy, etc.

4: Difficulty levels. In the retail build, there’s an Hard mode selectable on the main menu. This is missing in the DSi version.

5: Disks. The retail version has a sidequest where you pick up color-coded flopp disks hidden in the levels to do… something (the one longplay of the game on youtube doesn’t show what completing a set does and the menu description isn’t self explanatory). Of course, this is entirely absent on DSi.

6: Other, more minute differences like differing enemy placement, no hitflash on certain objects, etc.

There’s no substantial footage of the DSi version uploaded online but comparing this longplay of the retail version v. this gameplay of the DSi version will exhibit many of the things I mentioned.

I think the publisher was given/picked an unfinished build of the game instead of actively making changes is the nature of the differences. Beside the really big stuff, a lot of what’s missing are last-pass kind of deals. It would make no sense to actively remove a hitflash on a specific boss battle (instead of it simply not being coded yet) if your objective was to meet a filesize requirement.

Funny thing is, I found no sites on the english internet reporting this, which isn’t that surprising considering the game is very obscure and had like 10 copies printed. Gotta say, the whole deal is interesting enough that I don’t feel too gipped about the fact I objectively got ripped off, lol.

A huge number of DSiware games are just cut down versions of retail games, so that makes sense.

It’s why some people’s claims that the DSi had ‘500 exclusives’ or whatever are not really true, it was just a new distribution platform but there was very little substantial actual exclusive content as so much was already available on cart in fuller form. There were a few phone games ported too but some of these were already ports of DS games too!

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Makes you wonder what the original 2008 release’s file size was. The 16MB file size limit for DSiWare games might explain some of the cuts?

The game is crazy expensive complete on ebay, worth picking up a cart only copy for play if I enjoy Metal Slug?

For what I played of the incomplete version, I’d say it’s ok and worth checking out for hardcore (and I mean hardcore) genre fans.

Ok, thanks!