Radar Mission
  • Genre:
    • Strategy
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 10/23/1990
    • US February 1991
    • UK 1991
Score: 60%

This review was published on 04/22/2018.

Radar Mission is a video game developed and published by Nintendo for the original Game Boy. It was originally released in Japan on October 23, 1990, North America in February 1991, and Europe in 1991. Designed by the late inventor of the Game Boy, Gunpei Yokoi, this is one of the earlier games in the portable's gargantuan library. Along with stuff like SolarStriker, Nintendo released a lot of odd, obscure little titles for the Game Boy during its first few years on the market, many of which were either partly or wholly designed by Gunpei Yokoi. One of those games is Radar Mission. This game is pretty different from most of Nintendo's usual stuff, as it's the first military based game released for the Game Boy. It's really more like two games in one, because it has two modes that play like entirely different games. Unfortunately, neither mode is all that compelling.

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The first mode is referred to as "Game-A," and it's very similar to the pencil and paper game called Battleship. The original Battleship was published in pad and pencil form by various companies in the 1930s, and Milton Bradley created a plastic board game version in 1967. Battleship is essentially a guessing game between two players. Each player has a grid with a fleet of battleships on it that are visible to them but concealed to their opponent. Players take turns taking "shots" at each other in an attempt to destroy the opponent's battleships. Every shot only covers a single square on the grid and most ships are comprised of multiple squares, so it usually takes a couple of turns to sink a single ship. Victory is awarded to the player who successfully sinks all of their opponent's battleships. Radar Mission's interpretation of Battleship is slightly different, but not by much.

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Before you play Game-A, you'll be presented with a menu that has a few options you can change. The first option lets you change the size of the grid so that there are more squares for ships to hide in. The second option toggles whether a player's aircraft carrier will launch a plane in fifteen turns, which then occupies a random space on the grid as if it's an extra ship. The third option allows you to enable or disable the "Near Miss" feature, which causes shots adjacent to ships to display a larger splash and play a chime to notify the player that an enemy ship is close by. Enabling the "Lucky Shot" feature hides bonus spaces on the grid that players can hit to get special shots. Black colored Lucky Shot spaces allow players to launch a single missile that instantly destroys the ship it hits and any other ship touching it, whereas white colored Lucky Shot spaces let players shoot a silo of either five or nine missiles. All these options add some twists to the typical Battleship formula, but it's still just a digital version of Battleship.

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In addition to the different difficulties, Game-A has three stages. The enemy has different ships in the later stages, and even has tanks on the final stage. The only real difference between ships is their size; smaller ones are harder to hit, but take fewer hits to destroy. On the higher difficulties, you also get fewer ships to work with on your side, making it somewhat easier for the enemy to take you down. Once you complete all three stages, you'll get to see a small ending scene. It's not great, but these goals help make Battleship a little more endearing for solo play.

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The second mode is known as "Game-B," and it's a bit more exciting than the first. Game-B has nothing to do with the Battleship board game, and instead has you controlling a submarine in real time; no turn taking. Your objective in this mode is to either destroy the enemy fleet or the enemy submarine. Likewise, you lose if either your submarine or entire fleet is demolished. Action is viewed from a first-person perspective when your submarine is above water, but you see a sonar map when submerged. You're unable to attack while submerged, but being underwater allows you to evade enemy fire. The controls aren't too complex; pressing up on the d-pad makes you surface, pressing down makes you submerge, and left and right steer you in those directions. As for offense, the B button makes you fire bullets whereas the A button causes you to launch torpedoes. This mode is a little more enjoyable than the Battleship knockoff, but it's still kind of dull due to how slow paced it is.

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Similar to Game-A, you'll be able to change a few options on a menu prior to playing Game-B. Besides altering the difficulty level, which changes how big the enemy fleet is, this menu screen lets you purchase power-ups for your submarine. There are three power-ups: one to enhance your movement speed, one that enables you to fire two torpedoes simultaneously, and one that improves your sonar. However, there's a catch. Whenever you get damaged, these power-ups will fly out of you in the form of money bags, and you must shoot them with torpedoes in order to reclaim them. It's a little on the annoying side, but it does give you a greater incentive to avoid taking damage. In between stages, you'll also be given the opportunity to buy more power-ups, but you must have enough money to do so. While the power-up system adds a little more depth to this mode, the whole thing still isn't too interesting.

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When you get right down to it, there's not much to say about Radar Mission. It's basically a compilation of two unremarkable games, one of which is just a digital version of Battleship. Both games can be played with two players if you link up two Game Boys together with the official Game Link Cable, which is slightly more entertaining than playing with the computer AI. However, when it comes to the Battleship portion, it's more convenient to just go with the real board game. For its time, Radar Mission wasn't an entirely bad package for a portable platform such as the Game Boy, but it's pretty mundane by today's standards.

Word Count: 1,052

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