Rebelstar: Tactical Command
We take a look at the quality budget strategy game from Namco.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So, what happens when you "imitate" X-Com: UFO Defense, of PC gaming fame and bring it to the GBA? Well, if you do the great job Namco has done with Rebelstar: Tactical Command, what happens is a whole bunch of awesome. A turn-based strategy game in the most traditional sense, Rebelstar delivers a great deal of gratifying and surprisingly addictive gameplay and does it with a unique flair that makes it a title that stands out on it's own. For the level of quality you get with Rebelstar at the attractive price it's debuting at (MSRP is 19.99) it's definitely a strategy title that fans should add to their libraries.
Set on a future Earth that has been overtaken by an alien race called the Arelians, Rebelstar has players in command of a group of human rebels fighting to stay alive. The Arelians make use of the Zorn, another group of aliens known for their brutality and efficiency at ruling over the cockroach-like humans with an oppressive hand. Playing predominantly as Jorel, a new recruit to the rebel forces, you watch the progression of his ascension to commanding the retaking of the planet Earth. Yes, the story is nothing new, but it does serve its purpose. The tactical elements of Rebelstar are familiar and easy enough to pick up. Each mission is broken down into a series of turns that alternate from the player to the AI. Commands to your squad are issued during the turns. Everything team members do is pulled from a pool of action points, or APs. Moving, shooting, rummaging through inventory; everything costs AP. The amount of APs at each characters disposal depends on an array of factors,such as personal stats and amount of equipment being carried. Different actions cost different amounts of AP, so, for example, taking an aimed shot at an enemy will cost more AP than taking a "snap" shot.
There is quite a bit of flexibility in how your team can be used while on the field. Aside from their basic combat and assistance abilities, you can interact with elements of the environment to help you complete your objectives. Walls can be blown apart with explosives, allowing you to rob enemies of their precious cover so you can mow them down in typical Commando fashion. Barrels and fuel tanks are scattered about some levels as well, so luring a cluster of enemies around a nice juicy tank of gas and shooting it is always a gratifying tactic.
One of the most appealing aspects of Rebelstar is the mission variety. While the core mechanics are always the same, there really isn't any feeling of recycled mission objectives. There are an incredibly diverse set of objectives that change from mission to mission, and while challenging, most of the time you'll complete them just before they become monotonous. Strung together quite well with the games plot, missions have you doing everything from retreating back to a fortifiable position, acquiring a set of battle droids that you must then equip with weapons and defend from oncoming enemy forces, and of course the oh-so dramatic rescue sequence.
As the game progresses and your troops chalk up more kills they acquire skill points that can be allocated to a small pool of abilities. These
abilities range from your standard combat-relative faire, such as rifle and heavy weapon skill, stealth, medic efficiency, and so on. Some characters are better suited for upgrading certain abilities over others, so as you move forward in the game each team member definitely acquires a personality and effectiveness all their own. This is definitely a huge factor later on in the game, where efficient use of your turns and AP use become even more crucial, so getting a solid feel for what each member of your team can handle is a great element that really ads a lot of depth to the game.
Rebelstar definitely disappoints in the multiplayer department. The only mode offered is via the game's Skirmish mode, which in order to have two humans play (read: real-life humans, not Arelian-oppressed game humans)requires you to hand off the GBA after every turn. No offense Namco, but what year is this? These aren't the days of Scorched Earth, where two players have to take turns passing a grimy Dorito-littered keyboard back and forth. We now have system links to handle that, so you can game with your friends and stand a couple feet away as to not have to suffer through their stench. Luckily, Rebelstar contains such a solid single player game that the lack of multiplayer is forgivable.
The most charming aspect of Rebelstar: Tactical Command is the way it makes such great use of limited resources. In all honesty, there isn't a lot of variety in this game as far as your troops, enemies or mission environments go, but when you get down to the game's core there's never a point where you notice any of this. The title remains consistently fun, supported by familiar and solid game mechanics fortified by a great deal of variety in the single player missions. If you are in the market for a solid tactical game, the budget-friendly Rebelstar will more than satisfy.
What's Hot: Incredibly addictive and gratifying turn-based gameplay.
What's Not: No head-to-head multiplayer. Can get repetitive.