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Platform

GameCube

 

Genre

Strategy / Action

 

Publisher

Nintendo

 

Developer

Kuju Entertainment

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

September 19, 2005

 

 

- Pleasing art style

- Good action and strategy elements

- No "silver bullet" solutions

- Overall control is good

 

 

- Music becomes repetitive in long stretches

- Strategizing on the fly is disastrous

- A few extremely tough missions

 

 

Review: Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)

Review: Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders (XB)

Review: Resident Evil 4 (GC)

 

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Battalion Wars

Score: 8.5 / 10

 

War is Hell.

 

Except if it’s full of cartoony weaponry and characters to mask that Hell.  Really, if war was really like the conflict portrayed in Battalion Wars I’d sign up without a second thought.  But cartoony as it is, Battalion Wars offers a solid action/strategy hybrid the likes of which haven’t been seen much on the GameCube.

 

battalion wars review          battalion wars review

 

The game begins with the Tundran Empire (masquerading Soviets from the Red Alert series) and the Western Frontier locked in a bit of a stalemate.  That is, until all Hell breaks loose and a third faction enters the fray and the Tundran Empire and Western Frontier are forced into a marriage of survival.  It’s hardly Shakespeare or even Cussler for that matter, but it sets up the 20 single-player campaign missions. (Sorry, no multiplayer.)

 

Like most “overhead” real-time strategy games you can leap around the battlefield issuing orders (with presses of the X and Y-buttons), setting up ambushes or just clumping all your units together and running forward to accomplish a number of different objectives – usually with the aid of some large explosions.  You’ll control everything from the lowliest rifleman to powerful (but slow) artillery to aerial units.  This all happens in a 3D space more akin to an action title.  Though the game has a nicely sloped learning curve – introducing new units and basic control functions over a few missions (and new units keep showing up until about halfway through the game).  It had the potential to be completely overwhelming.  That said, I didn’t have a full handle on things until probably five or six missions along.  Much of the 

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on-the-fly unit swapping is performed by flicking the C-stick to select a unit (or group) then pressing the Z-button, which is great when you have time to think but during battle it’s almost always a recipe for disaster.  There’s no micromanaging a battle – you just hope you’ve picked the right targets for your units and start to run and gun with whatever unit you’re controlling.  However, when you have time to arrange the offense/defense a bit more – you know, strategize, look at a map – Battalion Wars is a rewarding experience.

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Though there are “only” 20 missions of varying length to play through, some of them are so difficult you’ll wonder if completing them is even possible.  Sometimes it comes down to a matter of strategy – send out a smaller strike squad to eliminate the initial resistance then bring all the units forward, taking position on a hill, blowing up an ammo dump, free POW units – or approaching the map from a different tact.  Many of the maps are wide-open expanses with many tactical advantages available if you take some time to find them.  There’s no “magic bullet” solution to the missions – there are dumb ways and smart ways and it’s made pretty clear which path you took when you receive your grade at the end of a mission.

 

battalion wars review          battalion wars review

 

Battalion Wars features an extremely likable style.  The unit design and solid colors remain appealing throughout the game.  It might remind you of Conker’s Bad Fur Day (N64) in its depictions of war situations – though without the gore – because everything is fun to look at.  The music and voice-over work is good, though the music can become slightly tiresome in long sittings.

 

I racked my brain trying to think of a “like” title appearing on GameCube but I can’t.  It might be because action/strategy games are such a tricky genre to excel at.  Looking at the current generation of consoles, there aren’t many games to appear that could be placed in the action/strategy genre.  In fact, the only title that springs to mind is Kingdom Under Fire: Crusaders and its recently released sequel, Heroes, on Xbox.  So, competition in the genre is nil – by default this makes Battalion Wars at the top of the heap on GameCube.  Fortunately, it doesn’t rest on the fact it’s the only action/strategy game to carry it – it’s actually a good game.  The control aspect takes a bit of practice and some of the longer, tougher missions take a bit of patience to replay a few times to find the best points of tactical advantage, but Battalion Wars succeeds on being both an action game and a game of strategic pondering.

 

Worth the bucks.

 

- Omni

(September 27, 2005)

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