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Military Madness: Nectaris

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4; (2 - 4 Online)
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Military Madness: Nectaris is more of a novelty than a must-play title. Not only is it a turn-based strategy game - a rarity on any console other than the DS - it is a port of a nearly twenty year-old TurboGrafx-16 (anyone even remember that system??) game. The obvious appeal is to retro-focused gamers, and that's basically the only group that will enjoy it.

Nectaris looks and sounds dated. A little polish has gone into the visuals, though this is still little more than a cleaned-up port. Units are blocky and their design is a bit archaic. It's great if you're a fan of older style graphics, but even people who usually don't think of graphics as being an important element will find little to like here. On the positive side, it is really easy to identify units and determine factors like height at a glance.

Sound just is. There's a generic military score accompanied by battle sounds like cannon fire and explosions. It isn't annoying, nor does it overpower anything, but at the same time, it is very nondescript and bland.


Gameplay:

Military Madness: Nectaris has done the rounds since its original release. After its start on the ill-fated TurboGrafx-16, it made its way to the PSOne in the late 90's and even made a stop on the Wii. Now it's on XBLA only to disprove Indiana Jones. It isn't the mileage, but the years.

In the late 22nd Century, the nations of Earth establish a penal colony on the Moon. Apparently, the distance between the two was comfort enough, resulting in lax security for the colony. The prisoners eventually rioted, overthrew the guards and dubbed themselves the Xenos. Playing as a commander for the Earth Union, your job is to quell the threat before they can launch an attack on Earth.

Both the structure and gameplay are as basic as can get in an turn-based strategy game. Each side has a base on opposite sides of a small map and a handful of units. Your goal is to either wipe out all of the enemy units on the map or take over their base - whatever comes first. Some missions throw in factories, giving you the option to create a few new units. These give you something else to fight over and offer whoever controls it a slight advantage in battle.

The same style of play carries through both single and multiplayer game types. The only major difference between the two (beyond a human opponent) is the option of point-based victories, turn limits and some minor customization options for your command unit.


Difficulty:

Military Madness: Nectaris's simple gameplay gives the impression of a simple game. This isn't the case. Nectaris is a challenging game and only gets harder the deeper you delve into the campaign. Combat mechanics are simple, but the A.I. is really solid and will regularly throw new looks your way. Trying to figure out what the A.I. is doing is half the fun. Well, it's most of the fun because Nectaris is, despite the complexity of the A.I., easy to figure out. Yes, A.I. is tricky, but it does become a bit predictable. Infantry is always priority one, mainly because they are the most versatile units in your army. Take out all the Infantry and a victory condition goes "poof."

Nectaris also tends to toss slight advantages in the A.I.'s direction. Sometimes, its close proximity to a factory, other times it's a special unit type. Even with the advantage, the A.I. tends to get a bit predictable, but at least you'll have to die a few times to figure out how to approach each mission.


Game Mechanics:

The included documentation/ tutorials are terrible. There are no tutorial missions, so just dropping into a mission without digging through the static tutorial screens is frustrating. Simple things like moving to another grid space are counter-intuitive and abilities aren't explained well enough - so figuring out what you're doing is more than half the battle.

Button placement isn't where you would expect at first. It begins to make more sense the longer you play, though I'd personally rather a scheme I didn't have to grow into. The scheme could have been much easier than it is and made more sense, possibility resulting in more people seeing the game through the demo. Why can't I use the Left Analog Stick to select where units move rather than the D-pad? I couldn't figure out a logical reason for most placements and as a result, I didn't like the game as much.

When it comes to combat, Military Madness: Nectaris is, again, simple. All units have a "Paper-Rock-Scissor" relationship combined with bonuses like terrain and proximity to other units. Then again, this is where Nectaris gets you. As shallow as combat feels, you can't charge into combat without an endgame in mind. You're given a handful of units each mission and even with a factory, every battle counts. Jumping into a battle just to wear down an opponent isn't a good idea. You'll lose units in the battle and if you make even the slightest miscalculation, you'll dig yourself into a hole you can't escape.

Military Madness: Nectaris is great if you're a fan of older strategy games or still laboring under the delusion that every game you played as a kid was superior to what's out now. The dated mechanics and difficulty won't win over fans of "newer" strategy games, nor will it turn a non-strategy player into a fan.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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