Desert Commander
Reviewed 01/09/00

I originally bought this game because, for one, it was complete, and also, it was made by Kemco/Seika, developers of the fine NES strategy game North and South. I was let down. This game falters on almost every aspect.

Starting out, you can choose between 5 seperate scenarios, which get increasingly harder. After you choose your scenario you then arrange your force, you have a set of 9 different types of units to choose from and a predetermined number of maximum units. You can mix and match however you want as long as you stay inside the limit. When the gameplay begins, your side is on one end of a huge grid map, with the enemy forces bundled together on the opposite end. Both of you have one headquarters unit, and the goal of the game is to destroy it. All units have thier strengths against certain other units, and are very indefensable against others. If this sounds cool, its not.

First off, the only way the CPU makes the game harder in the more difficult maps is by increasing the ratio of enemy units to yours. So in the easiest, the enemy has just a few more units than you, and in the hardest, the other side has triple the amount of units. There is no variance in AI. Also, you have no control at all over the battles. Position a unit horizontally or vertically next to an enemy unit, and the battle begins. In battle, both sides start out with 10 vehicles, and each vehicle on the attacking side fires one shot, which may hit or miss, and then the surviving members of the defending unit do the same. There's really no substance to the gameplay, and there are inconsistencies. Sometimes when I've fought, my unit has taken out 8 enemy vehicles, and then when I pit the same 2 types of units against each other again I only destroy 3! The worst part is that one turn takes minutes, sometimes 20 minutes+, and while it is the CPU's or the second players turn, there is nothing you can do but just wait.

If you're thinking the graphics may offer some saving grace, think again. They're very basic, and very bland. Each unit is a simple looking square, every rock or tree looks the same. Well, to be fair, the menus actually look pretty good, and there's an OK opening cut-scene and one for when you win the battle. Not some of the worst I've seen, but bad.

The game gives you a choice of musical tracks to listen to while you play out your turn. These all sound pretty good, and range from very heroic sounding to more dark and foreboding, but all go along quite well with the war theme. My biggest gripe is this, the enemy's music is the heroic sounding track, when they have a perfectly good dark and gloomy one to use instead! But I guess the music is done the best out of all of the aspects.

Even after all of the bad, I am still able to enjoy the game if I try hard enough. It is a very big challenge to beat the most difficult scenarios, and I had to come up with sub-genius strategies to do it. If you are a fan of strategy games, or are looking for a challenge, you may want to try Desert Commander, but for me, I just didn't have enough control over the gameplay for me to seriously recommend it.

Graphics 4
Way too bland, its as though they didn't even try
A couple good cutscenes
Sound 7
The most well done feature of the game
Its not that important in this type of game
Innovation 7
One of a few pure strategy games on the NES, and its not made by Koei
Gameplay 5
A great challenge
Otherwise, it lacks in every area
Replay Value 3
You will need to play a lot to beat all the scenarios
After you do that, you will want to burn your cart and never have to look at it again

Overall Score