3DS Virtual Console | Nintendo | 1 Player | Out Now | $2.99 / £2.70
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15th March 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Much like Nintendo's own Game & Watch series of arcade titles, Radar Mission is split up into two game modes: Game A and Game B. So first of all, Game A is your standard option of play where players will take turns trying to pinpoint the location of enemy ships for destructive purposes. Gameplay is based off of the original pen-and-paper game where players arrange a fleet of ships on a hidden grid and the last player with ships leftover is declared the winner. Using 8x8, 10x10, or 12x12 grids, commanders will duke it out for supremacy of the sea with the Circle Pad or the +Control Pad controlling a cursor. Left to their own devices, players would be quick to view Radar Mission as little more than a digital fix of a game that doesn't carry much weight in the long-term. It shouldn't come as a surprise, though, that Nintendo has included their own twist on the formula to make it somewhat more engaging than it otherwise would've felt.
The first of these is the Aircraft Launch system where, after a certain number of turns have passed, a jet fighter will be added to the list of things you or your opponents need to sink. This transport won't do much for you in terms of stacking attacks or anything like that. It basically just gives you a free unit (see: decoy) that can actually prove to be a real safeguard when your opponent has sunk all your other ships. The catch? Although it automatically moves every turn, it can only travel to spaces directly adjacent to the carrier, so if an opponent discovers the location of your largest unit, they can eliminate that unit by process of elimination. Until this comes into play, Radar Mission feels no different than any other straight digital translation of Battleship you've surely encountered in the past.
Added onto the Aircraft system are a host of special attacks that can cut down the turn count by a good amount. If you manage to fire a missile at one of the hidden Lucky Shot spaces, you'll be given either a White or a Black Star that can give you an edge over the computer player. The former will allow you to cross up to nine spaces off your checklist at once (depending on the size of the grid), while the Black Star completely sinks any ship that touches a square of your choice along with any other ships close to it. It's actually more common for the computer player to get these, so with this in mind, it's good to develop a strategy in placing your ships with such foresight that you'll be somewhat protected against the effects that these two items produce.
One other key system that has been put in place involves the use of sound effects. If you hear a brief "ding ding ding" noise after your shot misses, then you'll know that there's a ship residing on one of the spaces directly next to it. When this feature is enabled, it actually takes away some of the monotony that can come about through the ample guesswork that's involved to progress. Plus, these audio clues make gameplay a slightly more strategic affair to the benefit of the player.
There are multiple stages you can plow through if you manage to defeat the enemy more than once, and as you do, the size of your fleet will increase and the computer will resort to more special attacks. On that note, there are actually three different AI personalities you can play against, each with their own different play styles in the way they perhaps group fleets together or spread them apart. In nearly all cases, though, I found the CPU's to be challenging in their own right, especially when playing without the bonus systems that Nintendo put in place here.
The special features outlined above make it that much easier for players to regroup and compile strategies as things happen, and though they may not be that substantial, they are still very much worth noting for the manner in which they raise the bar a tad. When choosing to play the game under normal circumstances, it's quite defeating to fall short, not from something that was a fault of your own, but often because of the luck factor involved in progressing. That's something that not everyone will be okay with.
Moving away from Game A now, the second gameplay option you can choose from is more in line with Steel Diver's Periscope Mode. You will be tasked with engaging in a real-time, first-person battle against the enemy's fleet. Enemy ships are quick to respond (particularly those on the front lines) and often appear unexpectedly, making this mode quite challenging to play. Prior to the start of this quick action event, you'll be given the opportunity to spend money on power-ups that will accomplish one of three things: improve your missile attack power, increase the speed at which your submarine moves, or enhance the sonar. As you move left and right across the watery plane, you'll press the A Button to fire one or two missiles at enemy ships off in the distance, and press B to spray a few bullets directly in front of you. Pressing Down on the Circle Pad or the +Control Pad will cause your submarine to dive underwater, activating a radar that shows the approximate location of all remaining ships. This does add a small bit of depth to the gameplay, but for the most part, Game B is a straightforward mode.
Presentation-wise, the game adheres to the simple graphics template seen in most games from this era without it coming across as bare. Different animations and sprites are used during gameplay to portray exploding ships and planes soaring above the ocean. In Game B, these animations have slightly more depth to them since there is more movement taking place on-screen, especially with the added ability to submerge underwater.
The best part about the game's presentation is the audio. I've already gone into a bit of detail about the usefulness of sound effects, but the main tune that oversees gameplay has an adventurous feel to it that resembles that of the classic Pokémon titles in some respects. Also, when you're down to a single unit and are in danger of having your entire fleet wiped out, the music will change to a looping, suspense-filled track that actually does a good job of adding an additional level of tension. So overall, while Radar Mission isn't the most impressive Game Boy game out there, it does have its moments.
As per the 3DS' Virtual Console format, players have the ability to create Restore Points that they can come back to next time they boot up the game. Although you probably wouldn't see a great need for a save system in the main game to begin with, it is nice to have that feature built-in. And speaking of features, one other thing that Radar Mission included in its original form was a two-player mode for both Game A and Game B. Sadly, this emulated version for the 3DS does not make this feature available, which is a shame since the main game would boil down to alternating play.
Looking at gameplay as a whole, it's kind of neat to see how this little game from 20 years back managed to capture feelings of tension in a bite-sized package. By the same token, don't expect to derive a great thrill out of playing. I can't see many having a drive to continue playing the game after the first couple tries -- not even in short bursts. Radar Mission is hardly worth getting excited about going in, and you certainly won't feel very satisfied coming away from it either. It won't take long for a person to feel like they're done with the game for good, so if you're looking for good value in your purchase, you may be disappointed if the game doesn't click with you.
What Radar Mission does to create a more strategy-focused atmosphere than one dominated by luck is somewhat interesting, but I can't say the game is worth spending money on. $3 may not seem like much to ask, and to be perfectly honest, it really isn't. But at the end of the day, Radar Mission doesn't do anything spectacular or majorly impressive that merits your attention.
17/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Plays out like a game of Battleship, systems added to emphasize strategy over guesswork, action battles to be found in Game B
Presentation 7/10 - Simple animations that are interesting, fun tunes that add to the feel of the game, good use of sound effects
Enjoyment 2/5 - Both modes are challenging, the game is neither thrilling nor satisfying, losing can be frustrating at times, doesn't feel special
Extra Content 2/5 - Multiple levels in Game A, Game B offers a different style of gameplay, value isn't bad, 2P Mode disabled, lacks long-term appeal
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System