When I was a child, I was fascinated by television shows that depicted aliens, UFOs, and abductions in the middle of the night. Part of that fascination was the fear that it could happen to me. Sure, there have been some decidedly stupid shows regarding aliens (*cough*Alien Autopsy*cough*), but as a ten year old, the thought of extra terrestrial contact had me up late at night, watching far more television than was healthy for my adolescent mind.
While I have left my belief in alien abductions at the wayside, it still influences me today: my literary genre of choice is science fiction, which teems with life on other planets. I also seem particularly inclined to play games that involve fantastical things rather than the mundane; I would much rather pick up and pay a clopy of Tie Fighter rather than GTA.
My background ‘involvement’ with UFOs and aliens had me particularly interested in playing Rebelstar: Tactical Command. Knowing that it had everything to do with my childhood passion had me frothing at the mouth for Namco’s tactical offering. When I received it, I tore into it and quickly powered through the first seven levels, which consist of ‘basic training’. At this point, the story seemed a tad reminiscent of Chris Carter’s X-Files. The Arelians, a race of telepathic aliens who look remarkably like the typical gray, bulbous-headed, large-eyed movie renditions (think Roger from American Dad), have invaded Earth, and are governing it. For the most part, the Arelians take a back seat and allow the human populace to continue on with their everyday lives. The two major exceptions are that everyone has a chip implanted in their head at birth (think tracking chip), and that every adult is abducted on their thirtieth birthday and never heard from again.
Like any good science-fiction story, there is a Resistance. Some people reject their chips, other have them surgically removed. All of these people join the rebels. They fight the Empire…I mean, the Arelians, in hopes of driving them off the planet in time for afternoon tea.
The game begins with Jorel, who shares a name with Superman’s dad, starting off as a new recruit in basic training. We quickly find out what Jorel and the other members of the resistance are capable of. While anyone can learn any skill, each person has a direction in which the game ushers them. Some of these include Medic, Sniper, Command, etc. I personally found it easier to assign roles to each of my grunts so as to make them more effective in the long run. Multi-tasking is possible, although it really cuts down on the effectiveness.
Addressing each and every facet of Rebelstar’s gameplay would take an epic length poem. There are pages and pages of material that I could cover concerning the intricacies of combat found in the game. Cover and partial cover can be taken behind flora, sandbags, and walls, which can in turns be destroyed. Yes, terrain is destructible in this game, especially if it is near an exploding barrel.
Accuracy and damage is predictably reliant on the level of a particular skill, and range is taken into account when firing at a distance. The primary improvement I would have made is the inclusion of an accuracy percentile based on how far away an enemy is. I want to know if I can hit that Zorn half way across the screen. Instead, Namco included a percentile with an unknown basis that is viewable before you fire your weapon. This does not take into account cover or distance, although if it is 100% or higher, it will hit if within range. This is a thinking man’s strategy game: easy at some points, but damn hard in others. You will see this in the Abduction level.
One complaint that may come to light is the pace of the game. Granted that it is a strategy game, you’ll find yourself doing an inordinate amount of waiting. Transferring between characters can take a while. Even though it is somewhat expedited by hitting the ‘L’ button, cycling through upwards of ten characters can take quite a while. If you are patient, this should not even be an issue. However, do note that you will not be playing at speeds even comparable to Advance Wars or Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
Rebelstar is not particularly very graphically imaginative. All of the sprites look the same. The only way I could differentiate without highlighting them was by the weapons they were holding. Unique sprites on this magnitude are possible. It was accomplished in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. I see no reason to explain why it was not done here.
The graphics during the ‘cutscenes’ were not particularly spectacular either. While I do realize the limitations put on the developer by the GBA’s processor and cart size, I found myself thinking that Namco could have done better with the drawings during the cutscenes. Some games will have several different portraits of varying facial expressions; Rebelstar has a single one for each character. With that said, the graphics in this game are not a hindrance whatsoever to gameplay. Here, we see a classic example of function before fashion.
The sound is something else entirely. While there are only really a few tracks on the cart, they are great pieces that accentuate the mood of the game perfectly. Put yourself in the shoes of what may as well be the Rebel Alliance, a ragtag bunch of people banding together to bring down a much larger, more technically advanced superpower. How would you feel? Light hearted? Bzzt! Try again. How about, ‘Crud, we’re gonna die!’? The music adds of a bit of gravity to the atmosphere of near despair and flickering hope found throughout the game.
The sound effects are of a slightly lesser quality than the music. In all honesty, they very nearly remind me of the weapon noises my friends and I used to make when playing with our toy guns. I can almost hear each character saying ‘Crack!’ at the sound of a rifle going off, or a ‘Peee-yoooooo!’ for a laser weapon. Like the graphics, the sound effects are not terrible, they are functional.
Rebelstar gives us a rather different, if not roundabout, method of allowing us to enjoy the game once again. There are several avenues we could take. First off, there are twenty-five levels in the single player campaign. Once you finish the last one, The Sand Pit becomes unlocked, but as of this writing, it has yet to be completed. From what I’ve read, this was an easter egg included in the game as a reward to those who finish it, though it seems unfinished because it doesn’t seem to be beatable.
The Sand Pit level is just the tip of the iceberg. There is also a skirmish mode in which two players share the GBA whilst fighting through any level of the game. The kicker? You can choose any side you bloody well please, as well as arm them any way you like. Choices include the Rebels, Zorn, Freylar, and the Arelians. Good times were had by all.
In addition to the two player skirmish, a single player can play through any map in the game at any point. Want to play a favorite level earlier in the game? No problem. Load up skirmish. Want to practice for later on? Again, no problemo! Simply load up skirmish. It’s all good. The obvious downside is that if you do this before you begin the campaign it will spoil the levels for you.
Mankind has often looked to the stars for navigational purposes, inspiration, and wonder. With the possibility of species like the Arelians out there, now we have a new reason to turn our collective gazes to the stars: fear.
-Originally Posted by Getahl