Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Military Madness: Neo Nectaris review (iPhone)

2010/02/08 [iphone] [1] Military Madness: Neo Nectaris

Nectaris is a venerable series almost as old as Nintendo's Wars series.  It's another wargame-lite style game that isn't as complex as a full blown wargame, but makes up for it with creative and strategic missions.  This game is a port of Military Madness 2 for mobiles, which itself is a port of the 1994 Neo Nectaris for the TG16, making it the first time Neo Nectaris has been available outside of Japan.

The campaign is made up of 48 missions, which is a good amount of content for a $5 game.  There's a tutorial to walk you through the basics if needed.  The difficulty is aimed at an intermediate skill level.  There's only one difficulty mode so if you're not fairly experienced with the genre you might want to look for an easier title.  Some of the later maps can be huge and missions can take up to 30 mins on the first try, so if you like Military Madness there is lots of it to be had here.  There are a wide variety of unit types available, including creative units like flying blockades to prevent enemy movement, placeable time bombs, and artillery that can only fire with an allied infantry nearby. That must have been pretty cutting edge stuff back in 1994.

There are no funds or unit production, instead you rush to capture factories that have units inside them, which usually decides whether you win or lose the mission.  The mission strategy is mostly about rushing to capture factories and retreating your injured units into factories to be repaired, which can get boring if you don't find the game a challenge.  Like the original Neo Nectaris, surrounding an enemy increases the damage done to it.  Zone of control is in effect in this game, which adds to the depth.  The combat formulas are fairly luck based.  Sometimes you'll get the full terrain/gang up bonus, and sometimes you won't get anything.  Quicksaving is available and it's possible to save/reload spam until you get the results you want.  I found that isn't necessary at all though since the difficulty level allows some leeway for mistakes or bad luck.

The game has a real-time timer which measures how long it takes you to complete each mission.  This is an interesting concept but the game doesn't really do anything with it.  The time taken is sort of meaningless without other stats like units lost or turns taken, which the game doesn't record, although you can take a screenshot to record it manually.  At least there's some kind of stat tracking going on here.

I'm not sure why the developers removed multiplayer for this port but it's a disappointing omission considering the iPhone's connected nature.  Interestingly, the original Neo Nectaris had multiplayer support with 5 maps to play on.

The UI is mostly context sensitive which is good, although you have to touch the 'abort' button to move into enemy attack range without attacking.  Some very basic features remain missing like unit numbers next to each unit on the map, or damage numbers appearing above the units after combat.  The original Neo Nectaris for TG16 was like this as well, but that doesn't seem like a good reason to leave those basic UI features out.

The graphics look quite dated as you might expect.  The units look decent with good detail but the terrain and some icons are low resolution, making for an ugly mix.  There's no music and the sound effects sound like they came from the original TG16 version.

Strategic Depth: Low-medium.  No unit building, gas, ammo, etc. but there is a fairly wide selection of units.
Strategic Difficulty: Intermediate.  If you capture more factories than the CPU, you win.
Overall Score: 7.5/10.  Good value for $5 if you like the series and don't mind the repetitive strategies.