Reviewed: September 24, 2005
Released: September 6, 2005
Rebelstar: Tactical Command is a fresh new strategy game from Codo Technologies. Think of this game as Final Fantasy Tactics meets Aliens with guns. You are in command of the missions and itís your job to eliminate the enemies. You are equipped with modern day weaponry (grenades, rifles, pistols, and so on.) and are in command of a unit. Itís going to take all of your strategic ability to stop the aliens from enslaving the earth, welcome to Rebelstar: Tactical Command.
The year is 2117. The evil Arelian Empire has been in control of planet Earth for 70 years. Initially, the Arelians brought peace and prosperity to a world ravaged by war, disease and ecological devastation. Later, they controlled Earth's inhabitants through fear, using their henchmen, the Zorn, to abduct people when they turn 30. Now, a band of rebels rises up to fight against the Arelians. A new recruit, Jorel, quickly advances through the ranks and becomes their leader. He organizes the rebel forces and builds a powerful global army. Soon, he'll challenge the Arelian Empire for control of planet Earth.
Rebelstar features three play modes; Campaign, Skirmish, and Hotseat, all using a nice turn-based strategy design with destructible environments that can actually factor into your strategies. Characters can face and move in 8 different directions and follow true line of sight rules using stealth or just blow stuff up. Use smoke grenades to provide cover from enemy fire or use "opportunity fire" to automatically fire on enemies who pass through your line of sight... during you opponent's turn!
The turn-based combat system allows you to build a crack squad of rebel soldiers to command combat. Capture weapon technology from your alien oppressors and explore a variety of exciting battle tactics. Interact with the members of your squad, spend skill points earned in battle to develop each character just the way you want them, then equip your soldiers from a huge arsenal of weapons and equipment, including sniper rifles, missile launchers, chain guns, laser rifles and a variety of explosives.
The game starts out with a story and from there you are thrown into a multitude of training missions that go on for over an hour (depends on if you die or not). The training missions get more difficult and complex as you proceed through the story which is given to you piece by piece after each mission.
The missions are fun and educational at the same time. Everything is explained well by your superior and you are able to try things on your own after you learn them. The menu is also nice and during the training missions it tells you what to select.
Although the campaign mode starts out with you controlling the main character (Jorel) mainly through training missions, youíll eventually be commanding six or more men. Youíll get a set number of action points (for each unit) that you are able to allocate however you wish each turn. You use the action points to move your units, fire weapons, reload weapons, and use equipment.
For instance, you move 2 squares and have several action points left, you can then fire a weapon at the enemy. Itís an interesting concept because you have to figure out how to conserve your action points along with being able to get into position to kill the enemy. Thereís no undo feature after you move your character so itís important to take your time.
I found myself making critical decisions too quickly and suffering the consequences after Iíd used up all my action points and found my back turned to the enemy. After you use up all your points you must end your turn. At that time the enemies are allowed their slice of the action.
The AI is pretty good in this game and the enemy takes every opportunity to kill or retreat and regroup as necessary. Youíll find yourself loosing track of the enemies all the time because in this game you must see the enemy (in your direct field of vision) in order to see them on screen. Otherwise they are invisible until you locate them, but that doesnít mean you canít kill them without actually seeing them; thatís still possible.
For instance, in the early training missions you sometimes canít see the enemy, but have been shown their location ahead of time for training purposes. One enemy was hiding behind a brick wall and I hurled a grenade at the wall blowing it up and revealing the enemy. I then used my remaining action points to hide behind a wall so the enemy couldnít see me and on my next turn I moved in for the kill with my rifle.
While the game may sound action-packed when I put it like that, itís not. The action in Rebelstar is slow paced due to the huge strategy factors involved. I was hoping for a simpler game that had a quicker pace to the action and would allow me to make fast decisions. Thatís not the case here because you must carefully plan each move and understand all of your options ahead of time, very much like chess.
I found myself having difficulty beating some of the later training missions which quickly got me to change my playing style to a much slower and careful approach. This is definitely not a fast paced game, but one that requires a lot of forward thinking. At some point you will get tired mid-battle, but thanks to Codo Game's forward thinking you can quit at anytime.
Thatís right, you can save at any point in any mission and when you return youíll be placed at the exact same spot you left. Itís great being able to save in the middle of a mission, especially on a handheld system like the GBA; a system that was designed for quick game fixes for on-the-go gamers. Without this feature, this game would be painful to play through because missions can take over 30 minutes to complete.
The controls are dead on for a strategy game for the GBA. Codo Games has done an amazing job utilizing every button the system has to offer and doing so in an uncomplicated manner. After the training missions are over youíll be able to manage your units with ease.
Graphically, Rebelstar succeeds in being a colorful, fun, strategy game that portrays an almost 3D look by using an isometric view. The main character and enemies are 2 dimensional and relatively simple looking while explosions and smoke bomb effects are marginally good.
Backgrounds and still animation shots look good and show that the artists took their time when creating the look and feel of the game. The characters in the cut-scenes use different animations to display their emotions, but their facial reactions are extremely limited. Overall the game looks nicer than most of the games the GBA seems to be getting lately.
The music isnít half bad for a GBA game. Unfortunately its flaw is the same as every other game, it gets repetitive. The theme and battle music fit the scenarios well, but it continually repeats itself restarting at the beginning of each stage. Most people should head this warning and plug their headphones into their MP3 player, otherwise the soundtrack may turn you away from the great gameplay.
This is not a short game that you can finish in just a couple hours. Finishing the entire campaign will take you a long time to complete while the single player skirmish mode will keep you busy for a month.
Thereís even a two-player skirmish mode for tactical battles against another player using the same GBA system. Youíll take turns handing the GBA back and forth. This style of multiplayer is more feasible (and affordable) than requiring two players to have own a copy of the game and link up their systems.
Rebelstar: Tactical Command is a hard core, straight up, turn-based strategy game thatís got a lot of depth. The story is surprisingly entertaining and your main character is dead set on killing the aliens (or what they call Arelians).
Strategy fans will totally dig the deep thought process which is required to progress through this game. Rebelstar is a big game wrapped in a small package and the best strategy game to hit the GBA since Advance Wars or Fire Emblem. If you enjoy slower games that require a lot of forward thinking, then Rebelstar is definitely one for your collection.