Sunday, October 29, 2006

Battalion Wars: moving out

I've set up my GameCube temporarily, so have spent this evening playing through some games that have hardly ever been touched, if at all. Sonic Gems was a great diversion for an hour, playing through the first level of Sonic CD, Sonic R, Sonic 2 for the Game Gear and Sonic Drift. I'd forgotten how confusing Sonic CD was. If I'd got it when it first came out, and had devoted as much time to it as I did to Sonic and Sonic 2, I'd know my way around all the levels, knowing when to time travel and so on. But only getting it six years ago meant that it's not had the time it deserves, and I don't think it ever will, unless all my other games mysteriously combust.

I played Ikaruga - fun but too hard for this evening; Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg - great and I've got the theme tune in my head now; Viewtiful Joe - again, too hard for this evening; and Battalion Wars.

I'd not played Battalion Wars at all; I bought it in a sale a while ago but after my GameCube had been packed up for the move. This evening I've played through and cleared the first four missions, and ... well, it's excellent. It's an action game first and foremost, but in the last mission I played the strategy crept back in, to the point where I was commanding other units rather than firing at the enemies myself.

You can see the Advance Wars influences, with strategy requiring you to command bazooka units to attack tanks, and infantry to attach bazookas, and so on. There's a clever paper-scissors-stone feel to many of the battles, and victory relies on you sending the right group in to do the job. Of course, in these early stages there's a lot of hand-holding, but it's done in a immersive way, with your brigadier (Betty) letting you know where the enemy's coming from and what units they've got.

The last mission was well-structured, too. It involved busting into an enemy camp, rescuing two scouts and driving them off in a recon vehicle, avoiding bazookas and missiles all the way home. Once hom, you had to defend against a retaliatory force. They may have killed a lot of my units, but I managed to last it out, using an airlifted-in tank to destroy their vehicles.

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