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Rebelstar Tactical Command

by Lasse Pallesen - October 14, 2005, 5:56 am EDT


Rebelstar Tactical Command proves that looks aren’t everything, size matters, and having fun is what really counts.

There is definitely a healthy amount of turn-based strategy games on the GBA. The most notable ones are published by Nintendo, but games like Shining Force and Tactics Ogre further prove just how well the genre fits the portable platform. Rebelstar Tactical Command is yet another example. It is made by the same developer behind the popular X-com series on the PC, which is apparent moments after you turn on the game.

The main menu shows a picture of a giant UFO. An exceptionally eerie and mysterious sci-fi tune sets the mood beautifully as you choose between the two modes on offer. Apart from a simple white select cursor, there are no visual effects used when navigating menus. There are no sound effects either. There are just two modes written with a text font that looks pixelated and old-fashioned.

This simple, retro style is kept throughout. The story is told through small text bits on static pictures. It revolves around Jorel and his attempt to gather a group of troops to fight off the evil Arelian aliens. The skirmishes take place on grid-based battlefields ranging from lush jungles to deserted cities and inside training facilities. You start by assigning weapons and other equipment to every unit, and then you place them strategically on the map. Already at this point, it’s a good idea to have a plan of action in mind.

The gameplay mechanics governing these battles are ultimately what makes this game so enjoyable. Every time you encounter an enemy, you’re faced with a huge amount of actions that need to be considered. Do you take him out with your sniper? Do you fire off a single aimed shot or two snapshots at the expense of accuracy? Do you move into close combat or select your mini-gun-equipped soldier? Perhaps hurling a grenade towards him and potentially hurting another alien in hiding is the best solution? Alternatively, you could play defensively by “overwatching”, thereby allowing your troop to attack in the enemies’ next turn.

These are just some of the possibilities available. There are some great RPG-inspired elements as well. Each character will level-up after gaining sufficient experience points, which are achieved from taking out opponents. You can then decide which abilities to improve upon – be it close combat, sniper rifle or leadership skills, for example.

The fact that an enemy needs be in line of sight before appearing on screen adds yet another level of tension and planning to the game. You constantly need to be aware of your surroundings to prevent an enemy from sneaking up on you from behind. Obviously, these rules apply to the opposing forces as well, meaning that the use of stealth is yet another possible strategy at your disposal.

Suffice it to say, Rebelstar’s complex gameplay can seem overwhelming for beginners. The game certainly lacks the instant intuitiveness and accessibility of, say, the Advance Wars games. The action menu alone fills up almost half the screen. Add to that a statistics display, status screens for each player, as well as a general menu, and you end up with a complex set of details to keep track of.

Fortunately, there is a fairly logical control scheme to help you out. Navigating menus is intuitive enough. Changing between characters is easily executed with a touch of a button, as is the ability to see a certain unit’s visibility range. On a side note, there appears to be a small lag every time you press a button. I don’t know whether this is a deliberate design choice made to support the retro style, but it certainly can be a little irritating.

Enemies are generally reasonably intelligent and have fairly unpredictable behavior. For example, grenade-wielders are good at maximizing the damage they deal by targeting an area where your units are crammed together. Other foes sensibly withdraw back to safety if they see that your army is too powerful. They don’t appear to be cheating either. They don’t suddenly see things outside their vision range, and they’re just as prone to panicking as your own units. Despite the quality in the AI, some missions sadly rely too much on trial and error. Knowing when and where a particular enemy tends to appear proves to be a little too beneficial in some missions.

The game never becomes easy, though. There are well over twenty hours worth of playtime in the campaign, and some levels are fiendishly hard – especially if you want everyone to survive and earn a good score. There is a skirmish mode too, which allows you to play a single match as any of the four races in the game. Matches can be played head-to-head as long as a player hands off the GBA to his opponent after each turn. The fact that the developers at Codo Technologies didn’t include link cable support is perplexing, though.

Another strange omission is one that will be mostly noticed by people that have played the X-com games. Those games had an extensive simulation portion in-between missions, in which you could build and manage a base as well as research alien technology. This aspect is entirely absent in this game, which therefore feels somewhat smaller in scope.

Still, Rebelstar Tactical Command has turned out to be a surprisingly solid title overall. It hasn’t got sky-high production values; it’s very slow-paced; and it’s not nearly as accessible as either Advance Wars or Fire Emblem. However, it’s big and challenging, and it has some great music and - most importantly - a battle system so incredibly deep that it ensures that the game cartridge will stay in your GBA for a long time to come.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
5 7.5 7 9 8 8

Kodo Technologies has embraced a retro look for this game. As a result, the visuals are functional, which is important, but also quite boring due to a simple color scheme, choppy animations, and a lack of special effects.


The tunes, of which there are very few, sound beautiful. They convey a sense of mystery and gloominess that goes well with the theme of the game. Sound effects are basic, and sometimes very weird, but they get the job done.


Due to the amount of options available to each character, the controls can seem a bit complicated at first, but eventually you’ll get the hang of them. There is a small lag every time you press a button, which is slightly annoying.


The high level of strategy and the sheer amount of actions available make the gameplay experience deep, involving and addictive. The level design and AI are satisfying aspects, too. Sadly, there are no simulation parts in-between missions similar to the ones in the X-com games.


The campaign is a lengthy and challenging one, and the skirmish mode boosts the lastability even further. There is a rating system too, which provides replay incentive for the hard-core gamer in particular.


If you were a fan of the X-com games, you can’t go wrong with Rebelstar Tactical Command. It may be stuck in the past in terms of presentation, but its gameplay is both deep and addictive. That’s what really counts.


  • Addictive and challenging
  • Atmospheric music
  • Carries a budget price of only twenty bucks
  • Deep gameplay mechanics
  • Respectable AI
  • Basic graphics
  • Success sometimes relies too much on trial and error
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Strategy
Developer Codo Technologies, Ltd.
Players1 - 2

Worldwide Releases

na: Rebelstar Tactical Command
Release Sep 06, 2005
RatingEveryone 10+
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