War Of Nerves!

War Of Nerves!The Game: You’re the commander of a small squad of robots, and your opponent – be it a second player or the computer – is commanding a similar platoon o’ droids. Your job is to avoid the enemy’s robots while you wait for your robots to See the videoreach the enemy commander. Of course, the enemy’s robots could reach you first, but that’s another story. The only control you have over your robots is to press the action button and call them toward you. The robots fight hand-to-hand, rather than shooting, and your robots may become incapacitated. You can leap into the fray and touch one of your malfunctioning robots to repair it and return it to the fight, but in so doing, you run a risk of being captured by enemy robots. (Magnavox, 1979)

Memories: This is a game about the Arnold Rimmer vision of combat.

In the Marooned episode of Red Dwarf, Rimmer says “Generals don’t smash chairs over people’s heads. They don’t smash Newcastle Brown bottles into your face and say ‘Stitch that, Jimmy.’ They’re in the nice white tent, on the top of the hill, sipping Sancerre and directing the battle. They’re men of honor!” Which is pretty much your function in this game. Continue reading

SimCity

SimCityThe Game: Players start with a blank slate of a land mass, a budget, and their hopes and dreams. The building of a city begins (usually with a power plant of some kind), a delicate attempt to balance residential, commercial, and industrial space, transportation systems, demands from the public, and tax rates. The city will flourish, stagnate, or empty out and completely fail depending upon the player’s mayoral choices. (Nintendo/Maxis, 1991)

Memories: SimCity started out as a computer game, with all that implies – mouse control, keystroke commands, and complexity that shouldn’t be that easy to boil down into console form. This console port for the SNES, published just a few years after the original DOS PC game’s popularity explosion, is more faithful to its source material than anyone had any reasonable chance to expect. Continue reading

Space Battleship Yamato

Space Battleship YamatoThe Game: Players assume the role of Susumu Kodai, a hot-headed young recruit unexpectedly thrust into a leadership role on a mission to cross the galaxy and procure a device that can restore planet Earth’s war-decimated ecosphere within a year. As if crossing the Milky Way and returning within a year wasn’t enough of a formidable task, the Space Battleship Yamato faces stiff opposition from an alien race, the Gamilas, determined to seal Earth’s fate by bringing the last-ditch rescue mission to a halt. Kodai and the Yamato’s ailing commander, Admiral Okita, must decide where to commit their forces for maximum effect. Large squarons of Cosmo Fighters can be dispatched to take the Gamilas on head-to-head on the on-screen grid, but Yamato herself can also be ordered into the thick of the action (a strategy that puts the entire mission in jeopardy if the battle is lost). Success means fighting through the Gamilas’ offensive front and reaching planet Iskandar. Failure means death for all humankind. Pick your battles wisely. (Interbec, 1992)

Memories: Space Battleship Yamato is, to this date, one of the best anime series that anyone in Japan has yet produced. First aired in 1974, its meaningful, carefully-paced tale of duty, honor, sacrifice, compassion and rapproachment is one that remains nearly unsurpassed. It’s like the best war movie ever, except animated. The series very carefully laid out the tactical stakes of its frequent battle scenes, and showed how both sides planned their next moves – it’s a fertile breeding ground for tactical action games. And yet, of the few video games based on Yamato, fewer still have done the action and adventure and drama of the series justice. In a nutshell: the games aren’t as fun to play as the show is to watch. Continue reading

Dune II: Battle On Arrakis

Dune IIThe Game: Three Houses – Atreides, Harkonnen and Ordos – converge on the planet Dune, intending to consolidate their power and eliminate one another from the business of mining the spice melange from the planet’s sandy surface. Players pick a House and then take command of both the mining and military efforts, directing and managing each, and facing stiff opposition from the other Houses. As long as spice is being extracted from Dune, the player can summon or build whatever resources are needed to continue the mission and crush the opposing forces. The only path to victory is the destruction of the other Houses and complete control of the planet. (1993, Westwood Studios / Virgin Interactive)

Memories: The first console adaptation of Westwood’s genre-defining point-and-click real time strategy game released in 1992, Dune II has a strong game as its inspiration and, on the Genesis, a decent platform to bring it to life. The only way Westwood could screw it up would be in the execution – mainly the user interface. Continue reading

Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Command & Conquer: Red AlertOrder this gameThe Game: It’s the Cold War all over again – but worse. Tampering with the timeline has wreaked immeasurable damage with the development of technology, and the result is a new wave of deadly weapons, including Tesla tanks and turrets (which discharge immense electrical energy at their opponents) and Chrono-tanks (which can shift their position on the map instantly for a brief time). You must build and protect your base, produce units necessary to defend and attack, and orchestrate an invasion of enemy territory – all while accumulating as few casualties as possible. (Electronic Arts [developed by Westwood Studios], 1996)

Memories: Westwood’s real-time strategy classic is a major evolutionary leap from the original Command & Conquer, with vast improvements in the artificial intelligence used by both your soldiers and by computer controlled enemies. And it’s a tough game! It’s pretty common practice for me, despite a couple of years of playing Dune 2000 (a later Westwood game which is built on the same engine as Red Alert), to build up quite a nice base and then get my ass kicked big time. Continue reading

Dune 2000

Dune 2000Dune 2000Order this gameThe Game: The Padishah Emperor has declared open season on the planet Arrakis – better known as Dune. With no rules and no limits, the Houses of Atreides, Harkonnen and Ordos are cordially invited to mine the precious Spice from Dune’s subsurface strata – and smash each other into smithereens with any and all weapons and technologies available. (Electronic Arts [developed by Westwood Studios], 1998)

Memories: Dune 2000 is an updated version of the Dune 2 computer game that has been around for a few years. I’ll warn you right now, and I’m only doing this See the videobecause I feel it’s a valid warning…Dune 2000 is extremely addictive. It’s right up there with SimCity and the Ultima games – proving that complex computer games can eat up just as much time as any ultra-simple arcade-style action game. Continue reading

Star Trek: Starfleet Command

Star Trek: Starfleet CommandOrder this gameThe Game: As the captain of one of Starfleet’s ships of the line, your assignments range from routine patrol duty to full-on combat with Klingons, Romulans, Hydrans, Lyrans or Gorn. You may eventually even attain control of a small fleet, issuing orders to each ship in turn to accomplish your mission. Standard 23rd century armaments like phasers and photon torpedoes are at your disposal, as are other offensive measures as sensor decoys and suicide shuttles. But remember, since Starfleet’s the good guys, the enemy will always have more wicked weapons than you. Stay on your toes, Captain. (Interplay, 1999)

Memories: How close did this game come to being classified as a Retro Revival? It’s based on a pencil-paper-and-dice turn-based tactical game that’s older than even Pac-Man. We’re talking, of course, about Star Fleet Battles, which served as the inspiration for this really snazzy bit of Trek gaming. Who doesn’t remember the 20-sided dice, the hex-grid maps, and the starship markers and miniatures with the hexagonal bases? I’d go so far as to say that Star Fleet Battles kept the Trek franchise alive in the minds of fans the same way that Kenner’s action figures kept the faithful adhered to the Star Wars saga, even after the third movie passed with no signs of a seuqel or prequel to come. Continue reading

Lego Rock Raiders

Lego Rock RaidersOrder this gameThe Game: The Rock Raiders are zipping through space, looking for another planet to explore, when a gigantic wormhole opens up and whisks them into the next galaxy. Before you can say “Mister Paris, engage!,” Chief and his crew are already scouting out new worlds to mine. One planet seems like a particularly promising candidate, but sensors detect other life forms there. Your job is to help various members of the Rock Raiders crew perform mining, exploration and rescue tasks on the surface of this strange new world as safely as possible. (Lego Media, 2000)

Memories: This may be just about the coolest game I’ve seen on the Playstation since MTV Music Generator. Now, you’re probably already laughing it up, wondering why in the world someone who’s pushing 30 is playing a game where the protagonists are well-rendered little Lego men (yep, just like the ones that come with the toys). But believe it or not, despite the exceedingly simple early tutorial missions that kick things off, this is actually quite the crafty little real-time strategy game. Continue reading

Star Wars: Force Commander

Star Wars: Force CommanderOrder this gameThe Game: Brenn Tannor, Imperial Army officer, is in command of the might of the Empire, enforcing the Emperor’s will across the galaxy. From the safety of his Battlefield Control Holographic Interface, Tannor directs Stormtroopers, mighty walkers, and other exotic weaponry into battle. But as he becomes aware of the true nature of the evil Empire, Tannor struggles with a decision that could land him in the camp of the Empire’s most hated enemy, the Rebel Alliance. Will Tannor help the Empire enslave the galaxy…or help the Rebel Alliance free it? (LucasArts, 2000)

Memories: The long-anticipated real-time strategy game set in the Star Wars universe is finally here. After three years in development, Force Commander is on the shelf and armchair Imperial Warlords and Rebel Generals everywhere finally have the chance to see what they’re made of. Continue reading

Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront IIOrder this gameThe Game: Fight on the front lines of the Star Wars galaxy’s biggest battles. Choose your weapons or take control of a battle-ready vehicle. Battle across the ice fields of Hoth, the forests of Endor, the swamps of Dagobah, the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, the searing lava flows of Mustafar, and in the vastness of space. Play as a Clone Trooper, a Super Battle Droid, a Stormtrooper, a Rebel Soldier, a Jedi, and more. (Lucasarts, 2005)

Memories: This sequel to last year’s Battlefront promised a lot of improvements over that first game and whole new elements. The game delivers admirably on both accounts. Continue reading

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