Review by buruburu1

Reviewed: 11/17/08

Until X-Com gets ported to a handheld....

Graphics (20/30, judged by era)- Portrayed from a 3/4 overhead view, most of the game is pretty well-drawn and clear. It utilizes the X-Com method of rendering the world into a tiled game board, with walls that obscure (occasionally annoyingly so) and such. The environments themselves change fairly often, and when the areas are outdoors, the game starts to actually look attractive. Indoors, it can be fairly dull. There are a number of character and alien types, with decent animation, but the entire thing seems to be stuck in mud—likely because the AI is fairly complex, the game chugs quite often, which seems almost inexcusable for something that isn't all that visually impressive.

Between levels there are short stills, rendered in a somewhat jarring anime style that doesn't seem to jive with the in-game presentation, and looks more like Namco (the publisher) putting a Japanese coat of polish on the game.

Sound- FX/Voice (7/10) Decent sound effects are presented throughout, including footsteps that indicate the type of surface being walked on, doors opening, weapons discharging, and badly-recorded moans and screams when characters or enemies die. While nothing to write home about in terms of quality, the sound is actually helpful to the gameplay. For instance, since much of the game is spent with enemies hidden by "fog of war," being able to hear the various sounds gives you an indication of what is going on—for instance, you'll hear if an alien opens a door or walks across certain kinds of floors. Given the tactical nature of the game, this sort of aural heads-up is very helpful, and so you'll want to play with the sound up.

Sound- Music (3/10) Though not terrible, there is very little variety of in-game music, and what's there is hardly memorable.

Gameplay- Length/Replay (15/15) The full campaign took about 24 hours to complete, although it's difficult to say exactly because there were some failed scenarios that needed to be played more than once. This actually felt a touch on the long side, unfortunately. Perhaps because the game strips out many aspects of X-Com's battle system, there isn't enough left to justify the length.

Gameplay- Story: (3/5) Doled out in conversations between characters between levels, the story here does an ok job at giving the player motivation. More importantly, it sets up the coming levels, giving them context.

Gameplay- Game Design (24/30) If you don't know what X-Com is, and you like turn-based strategy games, you should probably stop reading these reviews and track down a copy of it. While X-Com is an utterly fantastic and involved game, the designers here have lifted out the battle portion of a much more complicated title, and made a short game out of it. This isn't a bad thing—X-Com's battle system is very well designed.

You lead a squad of persistent troops, who gain levels and abilities, into urban and outdoor settings, where your job is usually to dispose of all aliens present. Occasionally other goals present themselves, but the game is at its best when it is a kill-everything mission. Each character has a certain number of movement points (MP) to use for any sort of action, and if you have any left over, that character will be able to react during the enemy's turn due to not being "tapped out." Positioning all your characters such that they make the most of cover, visual field (peeking out of windows, for instance), and have some MP left over becomes the main strategy each turn. Once you have the enemy in your sight, actual combat is fairly realistic, with accuracy depending on the type of shot you take and your character's level. The enemy AI is decent, and because of these variables above, plus the aforementioned Fog of War, you'll find the game a bit tense at times, which is a good thing.

Weapon variety is good, from stun guns to rocket-launchers. War is not a pretty thing, and some of these weapons have area damage that can easily decimate your own team members if you're not careful. Heaven forbid a unit gets felled moments before tossing a grenade, which will then go off where he lay—potentially taking out his nearby buddies. The tense mood is relayed to your characters, too—they each have morale, and when things go bad units may panic, drop their weapons and run away, sometimes getting themselves into worse situations than before. Or, they may go Rambo and start firing wildly out of fear, which can also be terrible in a crowded area of allies. Lastly, with psionic attacks later in the game, they may be possessed by the enemy (and you may be able to do the same to them).

Enemies are a varied mix of aliens, but unfortunately the bulk of the variety is crammed into the back half of the game, with your run-of-the-mill "grays" being your primary target for the early stages.

Items and inventory are also persistent, and so you'll be doing a fair amount of equipping at the start of each level, balancing firepower against weight, which reduces the MP of each unit. When enemies are killed, you can raid them for their weapons and technology, which is often better than what you're bringing.

It should be noted that I ran into a bug in one later level that prevents you from finishing the level without quitting out and starting again. If it happens to you, the guides here at Gamefaqs will point out what to do to avoid tripping it. It's just on one level.

Final Thoughts: Really, the main reason I'd say to play this is because you loved X-Com and want a little bit of that experience again on your handheld. For that sort of player, this is a worthwhile revisit to that gameplay style. If you have not played X-Com, I cannot recommend this game in the light of the vastly superior and more complex PC title. Play that first, then come back to this.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Rebelstar: Tactical Command (US, 09/06/05)

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