The Game Boy Advance was, and still is, a fantastic machine for retrogaming enthusiasts. The hardware architecture of the machine meant that developers could easily bring classic games from the 16-bit era bang up to date with remakes, updates and reboots. While this was all fantastic, gamers shouldn’t forget that there are also some excellent original games available on the Nintendo portable console. One of these games is Rebelstar: Tactical Command, an underrated little turn-based strategy game with a healthy infusion of RPG. Developed by Codo Technologies (headed by the Gollop brothers), Rebelstar also harks back to the classic 8/16-bit era with its influence taken from games such as the Gollops’ very own Rebelstar Raiders, Laser Squad and X-Com series of games.

The training missions are incorporated into the plot of the game

Set in the 22nd century, the game’s plot involves the invasion of Earth by an alien race known as the Arelians. The Arelians, with the help of their henchmen-like alien race, the Zorn, enslave the human race and have implants inserted into every person, with the purpose of keeping track of them all. And in a plot unlike the classic sci-fi movie, Logan’s Run, all adults that reach the age of 30 are taken away not to be seen or heard of again. For many, they accept this fate, but some have fought back, rejecting their brain implants, either through natural rejection or surgery. These are the people who are joining small groups of rebels around the globe to fight back against these aliens and learn the truth about what is happening to the human race.

The plot is advanced in between missions with some fine anime screens

Rebelstar’s gameplay takes place in battle scenarios, with each mission requiring the completion of specific tasks, including elimination of aliens or rescue comrade. The player controls a small group of soldiers, each with their own skill set and limited amount of action points to carry out moves. Every movement, from walking, turning and shooting, requires a set amount of action points which are reset after the end of every turn. Once the player ends their turn, the aliens then carry out their own turn, which will invariably involve trying to hunt your squad down, patrolling a specific area or other task. And this will continue until the conclusion of the mission.

With the color coding, players can work out their next move with regards to possible routes and overwatch availability

There is a varied amount of weapons that the player will be able to use throughout the missions, including hand guns, assault rifles, sub-machine guns, sniper rifles and grenades. These weapons shouldn’t be used recklessly as they are best used with a character that is trained to use them, plus ammo is limited, so adopting a strategic approach to weaponry is vital to progressing through the missions. At the other side of weapons is the medikit, which can be used by a character trained in healing to revive another character’s health by a certain amount.

Each character comes with their own set of skills and abilities

Each character will gain experience points through a variety of actions throughout their missions, which will then increase the character’s attributes: strength, speed, perception, dexterity, intelligence, courage and leadership. Every time a character levels up, they also earn a skill point. These skill points can then be used to learn a new skill or improve an existing one, such as heavy weapons, hand guns, medicine or stealth. This lets the characters grow stronger in their chosen skill sets as the game progresses.

Boom! Splat! A grenade does short work of these two droids

With the design of the game, Rebelstar eases even the more turn-based strategy novices in with several in depth tutorial missions, which gives the player an overview of how the controls and functions work. Here, the game’s mainstay features, the field of vision and overwatch, are explained as well as use of action points. The field of vision basically means that your characters will only be able to see any enemy if they are within the 45 degree angle in front of them. This feature, which was introduced in the Gollops’ own Laser Squad in 1988, gives a realistic feel to each mission: what lies ahead, around that corner or through that door? Overwatch is achieved by leaving a character with a set amount of action points before the end of a turn will allow them to use this almost ambush feature. This means that when an enemy unit crosses the path of your character, they will use the remaining action points to shoot at the enemy.

With experience in the field, characters will level up on their skills and abilities

Everything in Rebelstar is spot on, from its plot to the game’s difficulty curve. For later missions, other characters will join the squad, the player will get to choose from many weapons and be able to style their character’s skills to produce a finely balanced team of soldiers. The cut scenes, displaying charming Eastern style anime, successfully advances the storyline in between the missions and bit by bit reveal more and more about the aliens’ true purpose. While the visuals are not exactly Rebelstar’s greatest asset, it’s the gameplay that is the meat and bones here, and it doesn’t disappoint.

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Game Name: Rebelstar: Tactical Command
System: Game Boy Advance
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Codo Technologies
Online/Multi: Single-player and Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
Release Date: 2005

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