Title : Desert Commander
Publisher : Kemco
Developer : Kemco
Genre : Turn-based Strategy
Players : 1 / 2 Players
Release Date : 1989
Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $7 - $10
Oh, Monday. How I despise you. We're probably all back at work today, sitting at our desks, wondering why we haven't won the lotto yet. Speaking of which, everyone be sure to play the damn power ball, and if you win throw a few $$ my way, all right? Well, Monday, I'll suffer through you as I enjoy my coffee and toasted bialy with butter, all while writing up a review for the next NES game on my massive list, DESERT COMMANDER.
It ceases to amaze me how many decent turn-based strategy games there are out for the original Nintendo, and DESERT COMMANDER just happens to lie at the top of the list of underrated games. Especially when you can take the helm of the US forces through the actions of good old General George S. Patton! Oh, and yeah, the axis powers too. But who wants to play as the bad guys? UM - everybody?!
As you guessed it, this game takes place during the height of World War 2, so you may be asking yourself "Wait a second? World War 2 was in Europe. What Desert in Europe allows this game to have the title Desert Commander?" HISTORY LESSON TIME! Apparently, good 'ol Mussolini was obsessed with taking over Egypt across the Mediterranean and attempted to invade. Not like the British would allow that, so there was a very large confrontation in northern Africa about who would gain control - Axis or Allied powers. Hence the title, DESERT COMMANDER.
Now that class is over, how bout you we play the game, eh?
I can go on and on about how much I loved ADVANCE WARS for the GBA. To this day, it is still one of my favorite strategy games that Nintendo ever released. But you know what, there were a few NES games that reminded of Advance Wars, one of them being CONFLICT, but DESERT COMMANDER takes the cake as being the TRUE predecessor to Advance Wars. I'm talking extreme similarities to the point where the games are absolute copies of one another. Of course, you've got plenty of more options in ADVANCE WARS, but the combat, and unit control are downright identical.
Sure you can't buy units, and build new ones and the ones you choose at the beginning of each mission (of which there are only 6...bummer), end up being the only ones you can use, but the units are very much the same. Tanks, Infantry, Anti-Air, Transport Units, Supply Trucks, Helicopters, Jets, etc. You name it, it's available.
In each of the six scenarios the game has to offer presents you with a different amount of units that you are able to control. You'll need to choose wisely however, and basically strategize based on the terrain, mission objectives, and enemy units. You don't want to have an army of tanks, when the enemy has a majority of bombers on their side or you are going to be obliterated.
Sure...you can cheat because in a one player game, the second controller can change units for the CPU, but HEY...don't cheat - that's not fun.....sometimes.
Once you lock in your units, you'll be sent to an overhead map where you'll start out at your own HQ (which in a way, is it's own unit because it can attack as well when it's under attack). Now, depending on the difficulty level you chose, the CPU will either have the same number of units as you, or a lot more. Obviously, the harder you set it as, the more units they have, but fret not it's not like they become any smarter. Nope, you'll be able to come up with your own plan of attacks to sucker the enemy into traps. Hence the term strategy game. Do not let the enemy numbers deter you!
Although there are 6 missions, there is no variation between all of them. Each has the goal of destroy the enemy HQ. Whoever destroys the opponents HQ first, is declared winner. Easy enough right? Well, you do have a lot of obstacles to contend with, including maintaining supplies, dealing with treacherous terrain, as well as the enemy units. So while you may be flying over a mountain range with your aircraft, they might run out of fuel before they reach their destination, so be sure you plot the paths accordingly so you can refuel and resupply and designated locations on the map.
Sound familiar? ADVANCE WARS! Even when you confront enemy units on the map, the screen will transition to a battle format which you'll witness the units duke it out, and based on random die rolls and strength equivalence determined by the units, a victor will be decided.
DESERT COMMANDER proves that the NES is more than capable of creating a superb strategy game, despite the fact that it is insanely short. At 6 missions, you'll find yourself craving more by the time you get to the last one, but you can always replay them at harder difficulty settings to pump up the challenge factor.
You can't really base this game on it's visuals, or it's audio, because honestly neither are very good. The maps are generic, as are most of the battle sequences. Although the cinematic battles involving buildings and bases appear more detailed, the ones involving units left a bit to be desired. Still, it doesn't deter the game from being amazing when it comes to the actual gameplay which is spot on.
You cannot...repeat..cannot pass this game up if you are a fan of the ADVANCE WARS series. The nostalgia factor will kick in full force, and you will find yourself wishing for a sequel to this game. A true gem for the strategy genre on the NES.
Final Score (out of 5)
Until Next Time, Keep On Gaming!