Blast From The Past: Battle City (Famicom)
Way back in 1985 Namco released the popular Battle City on the Famicom system in Japan. The popularity spawned two successor titles, Tank Battalion and Tank Force as well as various clones. The multiplayer shooter was one of the first games of its time to allow two players to play simultaneously and introduced a friendly fire system which would result in a player, who had been shot by a teammate, to be stationary for a short moment but would still be able to fire at enemies. It was also one of the original third generation games that allowed players to create custom levels, but sadly couldn’t be saved.
While playing the game as a single player campaign is still fun and challenging it was clearly designed for two player co-op. The player, or preferably, players control a tank and are tasked with destroying 20 enemy tanks per level while defending the home base. Various power-ups are available allowing better weaponry, quicker tanks and different elemental abilities such as the capability to cross water terrains. While technically a shooter the game adopts a primary tower defense element by having to protect your home base. This often outs you in a scenario where you are put in to a situation of choosing between attack and defense. Depending on the level some choices are more difficult to make than others.
The Battle City visuals are what you’d expect a game worth its salt of this era to look like. Simplistic, practical and well-presented taking the hardware limitation at the time into consideration. What really brings the game to life are the accompanying sound effects and music that go hand-in-hand with the gameplay and visuals. Unique sounds are emitted when projectiles hit different surfaces and the title screen intro tunes makes you want to sign up to the army straight away.
When playing co-op you can either be a great partner or a careless traitor. The player to get the most kills gets an extra 1000 points, which could potentially cause some bickering between players. There is also the race to the differing power ups that makes competition between the two players challenging while taking out enemies as well as ultimately looking after the base. Different enemies have different aspects to them. Some move quicker than others while others are heavily armored and take a good few shots before being destroyed. The thing all enemies have in common though is that their AI is totally unpredictable and often quite pitiful.
If you can get hold of a copy of Battle City or had the pleasure of playing it in the past you’ll know that it is one of the standout co-op games from the 80’s. Fierce battles with folks that build friendship and then break them down with a single stray bullet. All levels are accessible from the title screen presenting you with various challenges straight off the bat and the level customization will test both your skill and creativity.