I have revised this review, since my feelings for the NES version has changed dramatically.
While there are plenty of running and jumping games such as Pitfall, Super Mario, Mega Man, Ghosts 'n Goblins, and Contra to name a few, Bionic Commando is unique in that it's character inability to jump has been replaced with a mechanical grappling arm that he can use to grapple on to something and pull himself up. This grappling and swinging technic adds an interesting twist to the game-play mechanics of what would otherwise be another run and gun game. However, this ingenuity also is the games weakness, since the games physics are at best lacking. An example of this is when you try to swinging yourself from one platform to the other, and instead of throwing you towards the desired landing point the gravity pulls you straight down where ever your swinging ends. No forward inertia.
In the NES version, while there was a lot more diversity in level selection, there was no sense of accomplishment when you beat a level because there was nothing that indicated you beat it. Once you finished a level you kept whatever weapon you gained from that level, but that was it! The Level didn't gray out on show any sign that you had been there, and if you revisited it again there was no indication that you had been there before. All the enemies had re-spawned that you had killed (even the boss). The dialog options were the same, the level designs were the same. It was like the place was left untouched. In the arcade version the levels are linear from start to finish, so there is no back-tracking and you could only progress forward.
The arcade version had its share of flaws, though, most noticeably it physics when you were swinging, but also in its re-spawning points. You always re-spawned as a para-trooper from the top of the screen floating down. This allowed you to skip some of the most challenging platforms, because if you died you could just re-spawn at the top of the screen and skip the whole platform all together. With this in mind, you could fly through the whole game by just pumping quarters into the machine and re-spawning at the top of the screen every time you died.
Even with these flaws, the game was still enjoyable, though I'll probably never go back to it again. But it was time well wasted.