The Turbo Grafx 16 classic returns!
I have a confession to make: I had never actually played Military Madness until Hudson sent over this wireless port for Modojo to examine. For most gamers this wouldn't be a confession at all - Military Madness was a hit when it was released in 1989 on the Turbo-Graphx 16, but it still appeared on a platform that never came close to NES-levels of success, and the game itself maintained more of a cultish popularity, never truly breaking into the mainstream.
The reason I feel like I must confess my MM virginity is because I consider myself a bit of a strategy gaming nut. I've devoured Nintendo's Advance Wars and Fire Emblem franchises, and have been known to lose hours (days) in SRPGs like Disgaea and Final Fanasy Tactics, and even enjoy realtime strategy titles like Warcraft and Starcraft. Military Madness is considered by most to be one of the fathers of the strategy genre, and for this reason I almost feel like I should have played it before now.
MM's futuristic campaign put gamers in charge of an army of ground and air units as you attempt to retake control of the moon, which has been taken over by (of course) an evil organization. There is some variation in the levels, but the victory conditions are always the same - either capture the enemy HQ or route all its units. As you progress new units are introduced and you'll experience large and small battles, but even the game's most epic missions never felt like much more than skirmishes. You'll never see a mission where the map is filled with enemy and friendly units, all jockeying for position.
This lack of scope and level variation is tough to hold against the game, however. It is a port of a 17-year-old title after all. And therein lies my dilemma, as a reviewer. On the one hand MM's interface is clunkier and gameplay less polished than what can be found in Glu's Ancient Empires II and the game's other peers, but is it really fair to compare the titles side-by-side, when MM was originally released in the decade that brought us leg warmers and Rick Springfield? Still, mobile gamers deserve to download the best experience they can, regardless of whether it's a retro port or newly-developed title.
Even though MM shows its age in some aspects, it's remarkably progressive in others. Your attacking units are given a bonus if another friendly unit is on the backside of the enemy (IE if you have the enemy surrounded). Terrain bonuses also make an appearance, giving a significant advantage to the unit that has the high ground. Features such as these (and others) appearing at a time with Mario Bros. was still considered revolutionary is no small feat.
In the end, all my previous strategy experience with Advance Wars and others made it hard to get the enjoyment out of this mobile port that I undoubtedly would have gotten if I'd played it the first time around, in the late 80s. If you're a gamer with fond Military Madness memories, it seems this mobile port is a faithful and loving translation, and you'll undoubtedly get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Other gamers would have more fun with a more modern entry in the genre, however.
What's Hot: The oldschool strategic experience holds up rather well, overall
What's Not: Certain elements do feel dated