Military Madness: Nectaris
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-10-03 Xbox 360 Strategy E10 (Everyone 10+) Backbone Entertainment / Hudson

Military Madness made its first appearance on the TurboGrafx-16 back in the late 80's. It reappeared on the original Playstation, and it has arisen once more in the form of an arcade title on the Xbox 360.

Your basic turn-based strategy title, Military Madness: Nectaris positions you in the role of a military commander overseeing the Allied-Union forces in a battle against the Axis-Xenon, a group of riotous prison inmates sent to the moon to undergo forced labor due to the overpopulation of the Earth.

The rest of the story, if it can even be called such, is lifeless and bland, which seems to be a running theme throughout Nectaris.

Each of the game's maps is viewed from above, and split into a hexagonal grid. Your cursor moves throughout the environment via the D-pad, and with a few simple taps of A, your individual units are sent into battle against the opposing army.

Gameplay is slow moving in the single-player campaign, and is only timed (in terms of both actual time and how many turns one can take) in online matches, that is, if you can actually find another human online (I never did).

Combat is fairly straightforward: position one of your units in any of the hexagonal spaces surrounding an enemy and you can challenge them, with terrain, unit type and troop number (each unit starts out with eight individual troop members) determining the winner.

Instead of simply beating each other senseless, one can attempt a sneakier offensive by sending a smaller troop of on-foot soldiers into the enemy base, thus seizing it and claiming victory in the match, or by gaining control of factories placed on the maps which allow you to heal and control additional units.

All of that being said, Nectaris is incredibly challenging. After making my way through the first four or five missions with little difficulty, I was suddenly met by a brick wall in the form of a heavily armed outpost of enemy troops, which could be replenished thanks to the faction's factory.

And while there is the theoretical possibility of surrounding opponents or using the terrain to your advantage, most of these instances will never play out as the AI is continually one step ahead of your every move, and is normally better equipped and positioned from the start of the match, leaving you forever in an uphill battle that you'll seldom win, and only then by a stroke of dumb luck.

Let me reiterate, Nectaris is hard - pull your hair out, throw a controller across the room hard. Just when you think you've finally broken through your enemy's defenses, you're blindsided by a handful of fresh factory units or are invaded in an area that you simply lack the manpower to defend - not because you've been killed off, but because the game left you at a disadvantage from the start.

It's also unfortunate that the game lacks a tutorial feature, which is a terrible oversight to say the least. For strategy veterans, a tutorial may not be necessary, but I have never claimed the genre to be my forte, so I was forced to backtrack and read dozens of pages of in-game text before I felt comfortable enough to tackle the game on my own.

And the hits keep coming. The graphics are incredibly bland, thanks to the gray setting of the moon and a lack of intricate detail, with blue and green troops being the only real color on the board. The music is repetitive and inconsequential. Most of the sound effects seem like afterthoughts and come in the form of a small "poof" when a unit is destroyed or a random assortment of gunfire during combat.

It's one thing to create a game that harkens back to past installments of a franchise. It's an entirely different thing to ignore all potential modernization in your attempt to stay true to the brand. The difficulty level here is downright infuriating, leaving the game seriously lacking in the entertainment department and to put it simply - Military Madness is lacking almost entirely in redeeming qualities and should be avoided at all costs.

Special thanks to Jean Son and Hudson for providing a copy of this title.