Review: Dai Senryaku VII: Modern Military Tactics (XB)

Game: Dai Senryaku: Modern Military Tactics
System: Microsoft XBox
Genre: Modern Turn-Based Strategy
Developer: Kemco
Publisher: Kemco
Release: 2/15/05

There are a lot of different genres of games on the XBox in this country today. Platformers, sports, FPS games, puzzle games, party games, racing games, RPGs, etc, etc, etc. However, we haven’t seen any sort of game that involved turn-based strategy in a modern war-campaign setting. Luckily for XBox owners who are interested in such a genre, the wait is OVER! One has finally hit the XBox in the form of Dai Senryaku VII: Modern Military Tactics.

When I first heard about this game, I was really intrigued. I don’t go for military-based games often, but the turn-based aspect made me want to play it. I’m always up for playing games outside my true areas of expertise, and this one looked to provide a grand experience. I popped the disc in, and began to take part in some glorious wartime campaigning.

After spending a good amount of time with this, I came to the realization that…I sucked at turn-based strategy games involving realistic military vehicles. I thrust my army into the fray and had my capital captured in no time flat. Yes, I’m that bad. However, I’m fully capable of telling the difference between the quality of the game and the quality of my game-playing skills. Which leads to the question of “Will fans of this genre like this game?” Read on, and find out!


STORY/MODES

There are two main modes of gameplay that players can take part in: Mission and Free Play. These two comprise the “meat” of the game content.

The Mission option is the closest mode I can find that has any semblance of story. And even then, all you get is what is said in your mission briefings. To be honest, it really isn’t that story driven at all. You’re always the “Blue Army”, your enemies are (mostly) the “Red Army”, and the game will refer to these sides only by the colors of the army. The vehicles you control will be country-based, however.

In any case, Mission Mode is your basic single-player experience. You are given over 20 scenarios to complete with specific objectives, such as “Capture the Enemy Capital”, or “Capture All Factories”, or even “Last This Many Turns”. Within the missions, you are given a certain number of vehicles to command, spread across the land, sea, and air. All vehicles are placed strategically around the map, and only rarely will you get to create your own. (The same can be said for your enemies as well.) You’ll receive a grade for each mission you complete (A, A+, etc) based upon how well you completed the task. The grade revolves around how many enemies you defeat, how many you lost, and how many turns it took you to finish, among other things. You’ll also be able to unlock various vehicles to use in Free Play.

The Free Play Mode removes the restrictions set forward by Mission Mode, and allows you to create your own conditions for each battle. It can also be enjoyed by up to four players. You can pick which countries are involved (US, China, Russia, Israel, Japan, Germany, France, and the UK), the amount of monetary funds available, the amount of fuel you have, and whether two countries are allies or not. You also get to pick from 60 different maps, each ranked on how difficult they are, with even more to unlock as you progress in Mission Mode. Plus you can choose how smart the computer is by selecting their difficulty levels. This is easily one of the most customizable modes I’ve seen on the XBox console.

But perhaps the maps in Free Play aren’t enough to satiate the appetite of your average tactical strategy fan? Well I’m pleased to report that there is also a Map Editor you can play around with. Here you can create your very own campaign map, complete with mountainous terrain, lakes, islands, deep seas, and whatever else you heart desires. YOU place the capitals, the cities, the factories, the airports, the docks…the world is at your command!

Of course one cannot enter a game without fully understand what he or she is doing. (Instructions are a MUST for this game). So, if you’re too lazy to sit down and read the manual, the game has supplied you with a Tutorial containing a plethora of…um…tutorials to help you understand the game better. There are quite a few, but they are highly recommended to anybody who doesn’t have the knowledge of how this series works. Needless to say, I found them VERY helpful.

All in all, there is a LOT to be found crammed into the main modes of play. And you can easily get lost within the customization aspects if you’re not careful.

Story/Modes: 7.5/10


GRAPHICS

This game was originally released in Japan over 18 months ago. The graphics reflect the length of time very well, I’m afraid to say. The maps in the gameplay mode are very simplistic at best, with each piece of equipment and each map location represented by simple blue/red/etc polygons. It’s as if the world were a board game, and all the pieces looked to like tiny plastic miniatures my cat could swallow if we don’t put them away. Luckily when you highlight one of these plastic pieces, you’ll get to see the vehicle’s name and look at its stats, so the general field isn’t entirely ambiguous.

Still, when two units engage in battle, you get to see them close up. And this time, each unit is pretty detailed. Well, as detailed as they can be for 2D models. Still, each vehicle has its own model, so its not like you can’t distinguish two different model tanks from each other.

Graphics: 5/10


SOUND

When I think of the music and sound in this game, the word that mainly comes to mind is “unimpressive”. The music in the game feels like it’s just…there. There are a few different tracks you can choose to play during your campaigns, but they begin to sound generic after five minutes. Then they fade into the background as you move your pieces around the map.

The sound effects don’t really grab me either. You have your little explosions, your machine guns, your missile whistling (you know what I mean), etc. They seem to be just there to fill a soundless void. They serve their purpose, yes, but there’s nothing that will jump out and grab you.

In any case, the sound category may be somewhat lackluster, but it can work to your advantage while you play. Games can go on for quite a while, and you’ll need your concentration in order to plan your attacks. The sound is unobtrusive, which allows you to not be distracted by outside influences. It works for this particular game, but its still not all that good.

Sound: 4.5/10


CONTROLS/GAMEPLAY

Before I go any further, I will say that the game is deep, involving, and complicated. If you’re not willing to take the time to learn, you shouldn’t even look at this game. If you are willing, however, by all means continue.

Battles are conducted on a gigantic hexagon grid. You’ll also be controlling one country’s military forces at a time. So if you take the role of China, let’s say, you can’t take command of any UK hardware. Another interesting twist is that you are operating under what is called the “Fog of War”. You are only aware of the environment your units can see, so not all of the enemy units will be available to you. You’ll need to advance your units far enough in order to see some.

To begin with, you’re going to need a bunch of units to command. Now, the game will give you a set amount of units in Mission Mode most of the time, but in Free Mode, you’ll have to make your own. You start at your capital with limited budget. (Depending on the campaign, you might also have access to factories, airports, and ship docks as well.) From your capital, as well as other locations, you’ll be able to build military units of varying sizes, power, and abilities. There are many different kinds of units to create, and you’re going to need to build a well-balanced team in the process.

Plus, different units do different things. Sure you can build 17 fleets of the same high-powered tank, but that’s not going to win you any battles. You’ll need to pool the talents of literally HUNDREDS of different vehicles in order to succeed. Recon vehicles are weak, but they can advance deep into enemy territory to see where hidden enemy units are hiding. Combat vehicles can attack in different ways, as some come with cannons that can attack vehicles a few hexagons away. Support Tankers are mobile resource replenishers. The game even contains Infantry units that, although slow, can take over territories quickly and painlessly.

Each unit created (or given to you) is divided into smaller sub units. Smaller vehicles usually come in sets of ten, while larger units (such as stealth aircraft) come in sets of two. This is very important to remember when you engage in combat. The more subunits a particular unit has, the stronger it is. Eliminating all the subunits in a unit will destroy that unit completely. Luckily if you are low on subunits, you can replenish them at any city/factory/airport/dock you currently control. Plus, if one unit kills enough subunits, they will level up in battle. This usually means increasing their accuracy rate, as well as defense.

Speaking of cities and the like, your main objectives will usually involve capturing them. Here is where your unit building needs to focus around. Only certain vehicles have the ability to “capture” neutral and enemy territories. So strategy usually revolves around sending pure combat units into battle, and keeping your capture units healthy. While Infantry units can move around the map and capture places the same turn, other vehicles will have to wait another turn in order to take that action.

One of the main things you have to worry about is the fact that each unit you control comes with a limited amount of resources. For example, you can only use a weapon X amount of times before you run out of ammunition. You also have a set amount of fuel for each unit to move with. Not taking care of your units in battle will usually result in them becoming useless, sitting ducks for your opponents to pick off. And more often than not, you probably won’t be paying too much attention to these stats once you really get into the campaign. Again, docking your units in a city or parking them next to a Support Tanker will refill their reserves and recharge them for battle. Still, you usually find out you’re running low on things when it’s too late to do anything about it.

Another thing I found rather odd is this: after you finish moving a vehicle, the game will not allow you to take that move back. You choose the place you want to move, you move there, face the direction you want, choose to attack (if that option is available), and then you can’t do anything else with that unit for the rest of the turn. If you forget to attack, or even press a wrong button during this phase, you’ve basically wasted a turn. It’s annoying as hell in certain spots, but at least it keeps you on your toes.

Now, these are pretty much the basics of any particular campaign. There’s so much more specific material to sift through that it can overwhelm those who are not familiar with these types of games. I know I was confused for the first few times I played, and am still quite fuzzy on several of the mechanics, such as whom certain aircraft can attack, and the concept of “marching”. I’m able to get through missions via the basics, but I know that it has hindered me on more than one occasion as well. It is a DEEP game, yes, but its also one you’re going to have to learn backwards and forwards in order to be constantly successful.

Controls/Gameplay: 7.0/10


REPLAY VALUE

Don’t let the fact that there are only two main modes fool you. There is a LOT of stuff here that makes you want to come back. After the tasks in Mission Mode are done, you can create your own unique campaigns in Free Mode. Campaigns that are SO different, you’ll probably never play the same mission twice. Plus, there are multiple strategies you can take in order to get through a single mission. Run over the enemy forces with pure offense? Go for it! Position your forces to bait the enemy line for sneak attacks? Why not? You’ll get plenty of mileage out of these modes.

I’ve heard that some people are disappointed that XBox Live support was not included in the transition from Japan to America. To be honest, this could be a double-edged sword for this particular game anyway. For example, as I’ve gone through the game, I noticed each mission takes an awfully long time to complete. I’ve spent at least 45 minutes to an hour on each mission thus far. Customized campaigns are sure to take longer as well. And this is only on single player. Imagine having to sit in front of your XBox for minutes (possibly hours) at a time waiting for someone online to finish his or her turn. Yeah, I’m not that patient either. Still, multi-player wasn’t totally excluded, allowing for up to four players to participate in a campaign on a single console. Plus you can save your progress at any time (unlike online games), so that is a particular plus.

Replay Value: 8/10


BALANCE

The one thing about these types of games is that there is an automatic wall players MUST overcome before they can enjoy the game fully. They’ll have to familiarize themselves with the basic mechanics found in the tutorials, and even then, they’ll have to proceed through each mission through trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t. You just can’t “pick up” the game and master it in a couple of hours. This is one that requires TONS of involvement. Hell, I fully recommend looking up a strategy guide on the Internet or something in order to help you out.

But once you overcome the mandatory wall, you’ll find the game is pretty evenly balanced in all facets. The single-player missions get progressively harder as you go along, and there really is no huge “jump” in between the difficulty of any two missions. Free Play allows you to make the missions as easy or as hard as you like, including adjusting the computer settings for each CPU army. So at the end of the day, it’s hard to get into, but evenly balanced afterwards.

Balance: 6/10


ORIGINALITY

There aren’t too many games of this type out on consoles these days. In fact, this is the first time the XBox has this type of game period. Kemco is trying to tap an untapped market here in the United States, and so far is doing a pretty good job.

On the other side of the coin, however, take a look at the game’s title. See the “VII” there? Dai Senryaku is a long running series in Japan, spanning all the way back to 1986. It has gone through a number of renovations over the years as it hit different consoles. So while we have seen very little of this series stateside, we really can’t call it “new”.

FUN FACT: The Dai Senryaku series only made one other appearance in the US. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It was a little something on the Sega Saturn that Working Designs translated. I think it was called Iron Storm

Originality: 6/10


ADDICTIVENESS

Like I said before, I’m not that good at this game. I found myself the target of more enemy ambushes than I could shake a stick at. (How shaking a stick would help, however, is beyond me.) Still, I found that even though my skills are relatively sub par, I still came back to try new strategies and the like. It’s nowhere near the caliber of a game that you spend 6-8 hours without eating or bathing on, but it’s quite a nice game to pull out every now and then to experiment with.

Addictiveness: 7/10


APPEAL FACTOR

Once again, Kemco is going for an untapped market by releasing the game on the XBox. And doing so can present a pretty big risk. On a system that appeals mainly to FPS fans, fighting game fans, and sports gamers, Dai Senryaku is going to stick out like a sore thumb on any store shelf. People might look past this game simply for the fact it takes so long to get into. It’s almost as if the game has everything working against it…

…except for the price. Kemco decided to release this with the budget price of $19.99. Such a marketing maneuver might appeal to the same crowd and make them think twice about trying something new and different for their particular system. Lets hope that the scenario I described holds true…

Appeal Factor: 5/10


MISCELLANEOUS

Being the first of its kind on the XBox, Dai Senryaku: Modern Military Tactics is probably going to turn many people off initially. It’s requires lots of learning, manual reading, and patience in order to enjoy. Some might not have the time, while others will simply spend their money on a more popular game. However, I say to everyone to give this game a chance. Sure you have to learn a bit, but once you get past that roadblock, it’s a great way to spend your time. Especially if you’re into the same type of game on other systems or the PC.

Miscellaneous: 7.5/10


THE RATINGS:

Story/Modes: 7.5/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 4.5/10
Controls/Gameplay: 7.0/10
Replay Value: 8/10
Balance: 6/10
Originality: 6/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 5/10
Miscellaneous: 7.5/10

Overall Score: 63.5/100
Final Score: 6.5/10 (ABOVE AVERAGE)