Skip to main content

Battle City: War is fun

Battle City was a Famicom sequel to a 1981 arcade game called Tank Battalion. I don't know why it wasn't brought to the US because it's super fun!

The gameplay is simple: you control a tank and have to destroy the enemy tanks while protecting your base. There are 35 levels, which loop if completed. There's good variety in the levels; there are forest tiles that obscure tanks, brick walls that can be destroyed, water, and unbreakable walls. As a fun Easter Egg, a few of the maps form an image.

Recognize this guy?

To clear a screen, you must destroy twenty tanks, up to four of which appear at a time. Some can be destroyed with a single shot, whereas others are heavily armored. They move around more or less randomly, while making toward your base, which has only a brick wall for protection. If your base is destroyed, it's an instant Game Over, so you have to keep one eye on it constantly. You can only shoot one shot at a time (like in Galaxian), so the best strategy is to shoot at tanks when you're close, ideally perpendicular to them so they can't shoot you back.

Sometimes a tank will flash red, and if you shoot it, a power-up appears somewhere on the map. You can freeze all tanks for a few seconds, get an extra tank (life), erect a temporary unbreakable wall around your base, and even destroy all tanks on the screen! The most useful item is a star that lets you shoot faster, and two of them stack to let you shoot very fast. This is incredibly useful, especially since it carries over between stages (until you get blown up).

The gameplay is spot-on and holds up perfectly today. Even the later levels aren't especially hard, so I found it more fun to start over from level 1 each time (rather than continue) and try to rack up a high score. A nice touch is that when you set a new high score, it puts it up in giant flashing numbers. My first time playing the game I kept at it for almost an hour because it was so fun. Of all the arcade-style games I've played so far, Battle City is the best and probably the only one I'll keep coming back to.
The Famicom cartridge of Battle City

As if that all wasn't enough, it even has a level editor, so you can make your own maps to play (as in Wrecking Crew and Excitebike)! It's a crying shame this didn't come to the NES. I can't understand why Namco passed it over. (Despite making an abundance of Famicom games, they only brought eight to the NES.) If it had come to the US, I think it would be remembered as an early classic.

Grade: B+

Gameplay: Hours of fun for almost anyone (20/20)
Theme: Interesting concept and characters, if generic (16/20)
Controls: Controls are smooth and let you do what you want (15/15)
Difficulty: Goldilocks: Not too hard, not too easy (15/15)
Graphics: Good-looking if a bit lackluster (12/15)
Sound: Music is repetitive or generic (9/15)

Stats
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco
Genre: Shooter
Famicom release date: September 1985
Extend: 20,000
My high score: 40,600

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mysterious Murasame Castle: Non-stop ninja frenzy!

The Mysterious Murasame Castle is a bit of a lost treasure. It's a frenetic samurai-and-ninja game set in feudal Japan. The real mystery is why Nintendo didn't bring it to the West (until 2014), where I'm confident it would have been a hit remembered alongside Ninja Gaiden . Look familiar? This game is a sort of fraternal twin to The Legend of Zelda . Both were made from the same game engine, and it really shows. They both launched on the Famicom Disk System in early 1986, taking advantage of its save feature. However, whereas Zelda is an open-world game with nine dungeons, The Mysterious Murasame Castle is stage-based. You control Takamura through four pairs of two levels each: an above-ground section followed by a castle. The ninth and final stage is the titular Murasame Castle. Although there are branching pathways, stages are mostly linear, like the dungeons in The Legend of Zelda. The Mysterious Murasame Castle Famicom disk The main gimmick of the game is that, wheneve

Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels: Mario misstep

Given the enormous success of  Super Mario Bros. , Nintendo naturally wanted a sequel. It seems they wanted it so bad that, to quote Dr. Ian Malcom, they "were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." Super Mario Bros. 2 landed on the Famicom Disk System in June of 1986, a mere nine months after the original. In English it was later given the name The Lost Levels since it was never released on the NES. The prematurity of the sequel shows as soon as you boot the game. It looks almost exactly like the original, down to the same title screen (with a 2), same sprites, and same backgrounds. There are a few visual tweaks, such as new ground tiles and faces on the clouds, trees, mushrooms, and moving platforms. The game has no new power-ups or enemies (except more aggressive red Piranha Plants). There are a few new elements, but they aren't very good. The Poison Mushroom hurts Mario (or Luigi); Super Springs propel him far ab

Mappy: A great mouse detective game

Next up in my list of Famicom games is Mappy, a cat-and-mouse game. Mappy first landed in American arcades in 1983. It must not have been very popular, as few people today seem to remember it. Mappy is similar to Pac-Man in that you move through a maze-like structure (a house), collecting items (stolen goods), and avoiding enemies (cats called Meowkies). Even though Mappy is a police officer, it kind of feels like you're the one robbing houses, taking electronics, paintings, and safes! The most distinctive part of the game is that Mappy can't jump, but instead bounces off trampolines. These function like elevators and are how you get to the different floors. While bouncing, Mappy is immune to enemies, even if they are bouncing with him. Avoiding the enemies thus involves strategic use of the trampolines. The goal, of course, is to get as many points as possible. One way to do is this is to take out enemies by opening flashing doors. This releases a pulse that moves along that f