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Back in the 1980's, every 6-year-old who grew up playing with model soldiers and combat toys always wondered what it was like being in the army. When Namco's Battle City game was released in 1985 for the Nintendo console, these long hidden desires finally had an outlet. What could be better than commandeering an awesome tank, blasting away enemy invaders, navigating through rough terrain, and defending the freedom of your base, all in the comfort of home? On top of that, the game also came equipped with 2-player mode to double the action and enjoyment, as well as a construction editor that enabled players to create their own maps, a novel concept at that time. This was truly one of the influences on modern shooters.
This is a fairly straightforward game, but quite entertaining nonetheless. The objective is to defend the base, depicted as an eagle located at the bottom of the map, from enemy tanks. There are four types of enemy tanks, each one varying in speed and firepower, which spawn in three different locations at the top of the map. The player goes around the area blowing up opponents until he defeats 20 of them, signifying the end of the level and the start of the next. This is much harder than it initially appears, especially in later levels when tanks begin to distract the player and attack his base simultaneously. It's "Game Over" if the player loses all his lives or if the base is destroyed.
To balance things out, power-ups appear whenever a glowing enemy tank is obliterated. These power-ups come in the form of grenades which destroy all visible enemies on the map, timers which freeze enemies temporarily, helmets which grant the player a few seconds of invulnerability, shovels which add a short-lived steel shield around the base, tanks which give the player an extra life, and stars which upgrade the player's tank into a more powerful one.
In contrast to the power-ups, the game is made more difficult by terrain obstacles such as brick walls which can be easily destroyed, steel walls which can only be destroyed if the player has collected three star power-ups, trees which hide enemy tanks, water which creates an impassable barrier, and ice which causes tanks to skid. Playing the game becomes easier with two people, as one can hunt down enemy tanks while the other defends the base, but the game adds a friendly fire concept to the mix; whenever a player accidentally hits his partner, the unfortunate recipient's tank becomes momentarily paralyzed. It's a subtle addition that makes the gameplay more challenging than it already is.
The massive popularity of this game is a testament to the creative minds behind it. Although limited in graphics and audio, Namco was able to produce a timeless classic. With the availability of Battle City online, there is no doubt that it will continue to attract more followers in generations to come.
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