Published on October 24th, 2014 | by Michaela Buckley1
Rebelstar: Tactical Command
From the creator of XCom is this quaint little strategy game on the Gameboy Advance, it’s simpler, easier and damn, if it ain’t a little bit cuter too!
The first thing you’ll notice when you see this game is how different its overall presentation is in comparison to UFO: Enemy Unknown game on the PC as well as its modern rendition XCOM both of which use a typically western stylised visual aesthetic, but Rebelstar looks like it’s come straight out of Japan. With art done by Gez Fry, the anime-style characters are expressive and a lot more youthful than previous games.
The protagonist of Rebelstar is Jorel, a young man who has joined the rebel army in the midst of a struggle between the enslaved humans and the captor Arelians. Jorel and a handful of others have been able to reject the slave implants that subjected to all humans and are now on a mission to retake their planet and for Jorel, to avenge his parents’ deaths at the hands of the Zorn henchmen.
The game is a strategy game much like the original, but with the Gameboy Advance style visuals, it ends up looking and playing a lot closer to a Fire Emblem game than anything else. The game is purely action-oriented, there is no research or base-building features.The map is sorted into squares and is isometric in view, the characters start each mission with an objective such as to eliminate all hostiles or to reach a certain area. Anywhere outside of the characters’ line of sight is still visible but enemies there are not.
Gameplay involves taking turns with the whole set of characters each side, with limiting actions per character based on which class they are and what actions are taken. After this its pretty much manoeuvring around the map and exchanging fire.
At the start of a turn you can choose to use Overwatch instead of attacking, this feature allows that character to fire upon an enemy when they move into their line of sight, this is particularly handy for creating a variety of possibilities within a scenario, making it a fun, strategic dynamic core of the game.
The characters’ classes are in-built, such as heavy gunner and medic, but the weapons you give them are pretty flexible, although something like a medic can’t use a heavy gun. Guns have different accuracy depending on the conditions of firing and the positions of targets and all that jazz. After quite a way into the game the player can start using Psionics, a psychic power that can help in different ways, such as revealing enemy locations.
Levels are gained based on using the skills of the character, healing, damaging enemies and using the Psionic powers, once the character levels up, you can choose where to put the skill point gained, allocating it to things like melée or heavy machine guns.
Although the mechanics of the game are pretty solid, the engine is not. For a Gameboy game to have load screens it is pretty rare, but exceptionally still it actually takes a while for things to load, also visual hiccups occur frequently, with character portraits often looking glitchy and strange tears happening during movement. Despite the bugs, the game still soldiers on and didn’t shut down, delete saves or do anything else game-breaking.
Although rather difficult, the many features of the game can easily sway the tide of battle. Getting to grips with how to effectively utilise these methods and your arsenal is the real challenge behind this game, that’s not to say that it’s not easy to pick up, just punishing to master.
At times there were real frustrations when playing, it might feel like some of the missions hinged too much on luck and others played out too long with objectives that require more patience than skill. However, the engaging gameplay, colourful art and decent story are thoroughly enjoyable.
Despite its relative obscurity, Rebelstar manages to capture exactly all the aspects of strategy that I love in a Japanese game with some of the better pacing and interesting mechanics that come from the west.
A genuine but flawed game, Rebelstar makes an ideal gateway game for people who are interested in XCOM or strategy games in general.