In the world of video games, war wages on eternally, and Hudson now attempts to give Wii owners more of what they hunger for. Military Madness: Nectaris is a turn-based strategy game for the WiiWare platform, but is it a battle worth your 1000 Wii Points?
You may remember Nectaris from many years ago on PC, and this latest remake was also recently released for Xbox LIVE Arcade and the PlayStation Network. The premise of the game’s story is that a prison colony on the moon has revolted and is now determined to destroy all life on Earth. The game is set far into the future, and there’s a slight Starcraft vibe to the different squad types you’ll control throughout the campaign. Though there is a story, it’s compacted into a few lines of text and still images. Nectaris’ gameplay is at the forefront of the package, with very little scenery to enjoy along the way.
It is, therefore, a shame that the gameplay isn’t all that compelling or fun. The story mode is barebones, and the online component was pretty much dead on arrival. To be fair, the game does have a few unique and interesting strategy features, but they’re not elements that stand out in any groundbreaking, new way.
Let’s talk about the good, though. If you’re familiar with the Advance Wars series, you’ll be able to jump right into Nectaris – no problem – and that’s a good thing too, since the game offers zero in the way of in-game instruction. Even if you have past experience with strategy games, you’ll still want to log onto the WiiWare channel to view the game’s sizeable manual, as there’s quite a bit of technical info to soak up. Each squad type has unique move and attack abilities, and there’s a surprising amount of complexity on the battlefield overall.
Similar to Advance Wars, you and your enemy will take turns commanding squads of units. You can command as many squads as you want per phase; factories and bases can be captured to allow you to heal squads, and squads are made up of multiple units that essentially represent your squad’s health, damage, and armor.
The system is old hat for strategy games, but it still works quite well. In terms of tactics, Nectaris tosses a few unique features into the mix that make the formula feel at least moderately fresh. When you capture factories, for instance, you also capture and gain control of any squads that were camped inside, and certain squads can even move after attacking, something not generally found in the Advance Wars series.
Where Nectaris really falls short, however, is in its presentation. It’s easy to forget just how dry strategy gameplay can be without a cause driving you onward. Missions are devoid of character or plot development, and the maps are ho-hum landscapes littered with generic-looking squads. It’s difficult to tell your squads apart from the enemy’s unless you hover over them with your cursor, as the color scheme is made up of a whole lot of grey.
Control is also lackluster, making use of only the Wii Remote turned sideways. Rather than utilizing the remote’s I.R., you’ll have to scroll across entire grid layouts to get at the squads you want to command. It’s a tedious system and a missed opportunity. Being able to control squads with the remote’s pointer functionality likely would have added an interesting level of interaction to this otherwise bland gameplay experience.
There are 16 maps total for the campaign, and they get challenging fast. Additionally, there are normal and advanced difficulty settings. Nectaris offers a competent war game, but it’s as lifeless and uneventful as the surface of the moon.
When you’re done with the single-player offering or simply want to take a break from going it alone, you can jump online for a bit of head-to-head action – that is, if you can find anyone to compete with. At the time of this review, the leaderboards listed a total of 30 players, and finding a match proved to be nearly impossible. There is no lobby system, so there’s no way to tell if waiting for a game is even worth your while. To make matters worse, the match-making system splits players into groups of people who are starting games and those looking to join a game, rather than simply connecting available players. With so few people playing online, good luck getting a game started.
If there is one saving grace for Nectaris, however, it is the game’s local-multiplayer component. You and up to three other friends can choose between a variety of maps, and certain options can be tweaked to customize each skirmish. Just like the single-player campaign, there’s nothing snazzy about multiplayer skirmishes. With a friend who shares your appreciation for methodical warfare, however, this is where Nectaris’ true value lay.
When it comes to production values, the game isn’t at all ugly, but it greatly lacks ambition, both in terms of its art style and technical prowess. The menu screens are slick and attractive, and the in-game texture work for environments is surprisingly smooth for a WiiWare title. However, the units lack detail when seen up close, and the maps all look basically the same. There’s also very little visual panache, and generally speaking, Nectaris is a boring game to look at. The sound effects are a mix of satisfying and slightly annoying, while the music is almost nonexistent during gameplay.
Military Madness: Nectaris is a solid strategy game that might offer mild entertainment for fans of the Advance Wars series, and it could actually prove to be a fairly decent value to anyone with a friend or two heavily into competitive strategy gameplay. To anyone looking for a truly compelling piece of entertainment, however, the title feels like a complete dud. The game offers a clean, if not completely sterile, presentation, but there’s absolutely nothing here to enjoy outside of its dry and less-than-innovative gameplay. If you’re the type who enjoys slowly sipping wine as the hours whittle away quietly, I say, consider giving Nectaris a try. Most everyone else, though, would be wise to simply let this one pass right on by.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Nectaris has a clean, current look to it, but it lacks detail and personality. 3.5 Control
Control works fine, though the process of commanding units feels more tedious than enjoyable. Leaving the Wii Remote’s pointer functionality untapped for this game is a missed opportunity. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Some squads sound cool when moved around maps, while others are grating. The music is decent when present. 3.0
The single-player maps are competent and challenging, though lifeless and bland. Online multiplayer offers little promise, though local play pieces things together to give Nectaris at least moderate value for your 1000 Wii Points.
3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.