|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Atlus USA||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus USA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 13, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
There are a number of excellent turn-based strategy titles (both current and soon to be released) on the handheld market, but the majority of them are skewed towards the tastes of hardcore players. They frequently feature more mature fantasy or military themes and a steep learning curve. Some younger players who might otherwise enjoy the genre may not possess the patience to dig into the complex systems in games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Front Mission, and Panzer Tactics.
For the kids who've missed out, Atlus' Drone Tactics possesses just the right amount of wacky Saturday morning cartoon flair to hold their attention long enough to hook them with its sound strategic gameplay. The game's outlandish story is certainly different from what you might expect in such a title. A bunch of bug-loving kids come across a pair of talking insects from another planet who whisk them away to their home world where an intense war is being waged between insect factions and humans who are controlling giant, robotic bug-mech things called Drones. Summoned for their abilities to use ancient "Master Card" technology, the kids help the bugs by turning them into their own army of giant Drones to mount a resistance. The premise itself is not quite as bad as the way it's presented. Characters in the game are pretty shallow, and much of the dialogue falls into the "hey dude, let's go kick some bad guy butt" category. This essentially amounts to a whole lot of obnoxious drivel. Not to insult the intelligence of younger players, but it's the kind of story only an eight year-old kid would love.
Controlling a force of giant, robotic bugs on the battlefield is another matter altogether. Despite appearances, the turn-based strategy gameplay found in Drone Tactics is actually quite good. At its core, the game has many of the typical elements of others in the genre. You'll take turns with the enemy moving a group of units around an isometric map grid, making use of terrain bonuses and special map features when planning your attacks. Most of the missions you'll encounter are of the search and destroy variety, but they're reasonably engaging nonetheless. Each level also introduces new gameplay elements and mechanics at a reasonable pace to coincide with progression in the story.
On the isometric strategic map, the colorful robo-bug armies are rather adorable, and they feature nice animations. Don't be fooled; when you get up-close and personal in combat, these cute critters turn into brawling bug beasts armed with saw blades, battering rams, machine guns, cannons, missiles, and other damage dealing devices. The highly detailed, fully-3D animations during combat are really impressive, and they contrast sharply in nature with the cartoony feel of the rest of the game - in a good way. It's great to see Atlus taking the high road by beefing up the visuals in this area, when so many other turn-based strategy titles don't push the envelope graphically. Production-wise, these scenes make the game standout.