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Garry Kitchen's Battletank (NES)

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MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.6
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Matt Neuteboom (941)
Written on  :  Apr 24, 2006
Rating  :  4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars
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Summary

An amazingly advanced tank simulator for the NES generation

The Good

While I was searching through my old NES collection, I came upon this particular game. I always remember ignoring it as a kid, mainly because it was harder than Hell, and it never ran well. So, as I always do when I come across an old game that I couldn't beat as a child, I popped it in and tried it out.

Right from the start I was amazed at how advanced this game was for its day. Right away I noticed it was in first-person view. I couldn't believe my eyes. I was literally sitting in the driver's seat of the tank. Out in front of me stretched a vast field. The learning curve was easy, of course, with just two buttons. But I was playing in a 3D realm, with 2D graphics. I moved the tank, and before I knew it I was moving, and the ground under me started moving as well. I turned left, and my left tank tread moved backwards and my right tread moved forward to show I was going left. And not only, but the land began to shift around me. I was in awe. How could I have missed this as a child? This was a 3D simulator game in a 2D realm, just like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, but this of course came out 2 years before those games.

But this was just the beginning. I soon discovered many other things. Not only could I drive in the 4 cardinal directions, but in a full 360 degree circle! By having good timing on the directional pad, I could turn in a full 360 sweep. I could do the same for speed. I pressed it harder to get faster and eased off of it to go slower. Reverse was possible too. In fact, I could reverse and turn at the same time. All the while the land was shifting and moving around me. It gave me the complete illusion that I was in a 3D realm the entire time. Not once did I remember this was a 2D game.

As I moved a bunch of instruments on my panel changed. On my left my tank fuel went down. The faster I traveled, the fasteer it went down. On the top of my screen I had more instruments for measuring my target distance, and there was my health. I had ammo to worry about. On a nice convenient panel I had radar. Different statistics to worry about. All this in one tank simulator from 1990.

So as I gently move up to an enemy, he begins to shoot at me (no doubt). So I take out my cannon and plug a few into him. However, this proves more difficult than it sounds. The tank moves past me and swerves as I attack him. After I get him once or twice, he wizens up and he begins to retreat. But as he slips out of sight, I watch my radar and trail him until I see him just on the horizon. I shoot, but no hit. So ingeniously, I raise my turret to aim at him. I take a shot. I hit him, but he still not down. I take a few more shots, but alas, he is out of range. Annoyed, but not defeated, I take up to my .50 cal machine gun and plug away at him. I notice that I am able to move the machine gun and down fluidly on the screen rather than the set in positions of the turret, and wit the ability to turn my tank I could aim the turret in a pinpoint precision all over the battlefield. I miss the tank a few times, but just as I am about to get him the gun overheats. This surprised me beyond all belief. Not only do I have to worry about everything else including ammo, fuel, speed, angle, aim, health, and distance, but not I have to worry about overheating my guns. Annoyed now, I switch back to my cannon. I fire as he comes in closer, but since my cannon was raised from before, I miss and shoot over him. As he starts shooting, I plug him with one last cannon shot. He dies in a fireball and I move on. I had now moved a quarter of the way across the map. Now only 2 more tanks to go.

After this I was hooked. I could not believe games like this were possible back then. Heck, most of the time modern games don't even offer this type of stuff. But I was soon going to be shocked even farther beyond belief.

Soon I beat the level. The only music in the game starts playing, but that one song is catchy. Even for the limited music making capabilities of the day, it is tense and carries a nice tune. It is a perfect war song, especially for this game. Just to spite my enemies, I hum it along during the next battle.

As I entered my third stage (me now being much better than the previous attempts), I could then down tanks like Rambo on steroids. I head over to what I looks like a tank trap on my in game map (by pressing select you can get a complete map of the battlefield). A helicopter entered in my site on screen. So aim at him with my cannon, but the thing is too slow, so I grab my .50 cal machine gun. I get an amazing amount of shots in before he flies over my tanks and slips off screen. I try to turn around, but he is too fast for me again. I try to shoot him, but the gun overheats in the process. Knowing that the cannon won't do me good, I switch to something on my panel called "WIRE". I only had 2 of them, so I assume it must've been important. I fire, and of course I miss. I switch back to the .50 cal machine gun, determined not to waste another one on an airborne target. But soon the bullet comes rushing back on screen right from the direction I shot it in. The bullet rams into the helicopter and it blows up. Wait a sec.... a HOMING MISSILE??? A tank simulator game in 1990 comes with homing missile capabilities? But I was soon to be amazed some more. Different buildings to attack. Besides the added threat of minefields, I was tasked to destroy power plants and fuel dumps. Also, there was a friendly re-supply depot for me to refill on fuel and ammo at. All of this added up to be one amazing simulation game.

But the last shock came to me as I was beating the third mission. As I killed the last tank, a message appeared to me to go to an area to destroy the final target. So I head there, and lo and behold I am faced with a boss. After everything else the game had offered me, it gave me bosses. I stood still as I aimed my turret all around the screen. I had to attack certain areas on the tank in order to defeat him. It was reminiscent of older games where bosses had to be shot in certain positions in order to be killed. As I fired the last shot on him, I got a good mission complete. This boss was one of the most interesting enemies in the game, to say the least. He provided a real challenge while actually being fun. I got farther ahead and apparently there are more bosses. A tank hangar, a refinery, a train depot and even a nuclear power plant stood in my way of victory.

Now imagine all of this fun stuff on a 3D battlefield. It gives you a great simulation with a first-person view from the driver's seat of the tank. No top-down or isometric view here. Just a wide view of the battlefield. It has ever-changing statistics and strategic things to worry about, like ammo, overheating, range, angle, and fuel. It has a 3D environment that moves with you, and enemies that respond to your moves. It was a great experience that I will definitely look forward to time after time again.

The Bad

The one major problem that bugged me is that the only two enemies were tanks and helicopters. Troops would have the made the game VERY interesting, and things like artillery and bunkers would have made things even more strategic. Also, destroying the buildings served no major strategic purpose.

I also could not find any real good use for smoke screen. Because I was moving around, it became a distraction for me rather than the enemies. Also, AI wasn’t particularly that advanced during that day to detect smoke screen. So I usually left it alone.

The Bottom Line

For most of my life I've been convinced that anything this advanced wasn't possible before Goldeneye. But I've been proven wrong. Battletank offers amazing strategic elements like overheating, ammo, and fuel, all the while still keeping my attention with plenty over-the-top battles and boss battles. This never was a big attention getter to me like Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda, but now that I've played it I keep going back for more. It gets me down that a diamond in the rough such as this isn't up there with Mario or Zelda, because its definitely one of the best games I've played on the NES. If you can get yours hands on a copy, I recommend grabbing it.