Back when Hudson Soft was still an independent videogame publisher and not just a subsidiary of Konami, they put out a game on the TurboGrafx-16 called Military Madness, or in some parts of the world, Nectaris. Along with the Advance Wars predecessor Famicom Wars, Military Madness was an early example of a great console turn-based strategy game. However, while Nintendo’s franchise flourished, Hudson’s went somewhat dormant. Now, Military Madness is back on several platforms, including the iPhone. But has its time passed?
The plot is standard Japanese sci-fi nonsense, with some sort of political struggle over ownership of the moon in 2099 being your excuse to send troops into battle. Luckily, the story’s not important. All that matters in Military Madness is the quality of these lunar battles, and it’s pretty high.
A hundred on green.
Instead of rows of squares, the gray moon maps are grids of hexagons, allowing troops to come in from several angles. Tapping a unit brings up its range of movement, and double-tapping a location sends the unit there. To activate a battle, you tap a unit and then tap an adjacent enemy unit. Turn-based strategy games, with their emphasis on slow management rather than fast precision, work great with touch controls, and Military Madness is no exception.
One potential fault of Military Madness may be that it doesn’t stray too far from the basic strategy gameplay it helped to create. Sure, the fundamentals are still fun, but nowadays games need a hook.
Military Madness does have a few clever details. Rather than encouraging one-on-one combat, the game rewards surrounding your enemies by increasing your firepower. Different terrain also affects your stats in various ways, by buffing defense or movement speed. The more action a particular unit sees, the more experience it gains, making it even more useful in battle. Finally, while taking over factories adds new units to your collection, units cannot be created, making every one count.
Stay off of my hexes!
While the gameplay manages to hold up pretty well, the graphics and sound feel like relics of 1989. The standard array of infantry, tanks, and missile launchers don’t look bad, but they do look dull and a little generic. We are glad for the ability to turn off battle animations, which greatly speeds up the long 48 mission campaign, but we would have loved a multiplayer mode.
Military Madness: Neo Nectaris is an enjoyable, above average turn-based strategy game. In fact, if it had hit the App Store early on this would be the one to get. But with better games like Mecho Wars, Rogue Planet, and Transformers G1: Awakening beginning to crowd out the competition, Military Madness: Neo Nectaris becomes a bit of a tougher sell.