It’s quite an odd idea to create a film of Hasbro’s Battleship board game, yet somehow Hollywood managed it and even more amazingly shoehorned in an alien invasion to the naval strategy game. With the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game adaptation of the film, Activision obviously felt that they’d go one step further away from the board games and create a first person shooter. With the Nintendo versions of the game on the 3DS and Wii, developer Magic Pockets have created a title that somehow feels like it could have been adapted directly from the board game when compared to the other versions.
The game doesn’t seem to have much connection to the film beyond the central plot of alien battleships invading earth. The plot is pretty straightforward as you take command of the US fleet in order to destroy the invading fleet. There’s a brief introductory mission, detailing the general gameplay mechanics, then aliens jam the fleet’s communications and the real story begins.
Anyone who’s played a Fire Emblem or Advance Wars title in the past will instantly be at home with the turn-based strategy gameplay on offer here. The aim of each mission is generally to wipe out the enemy alien fleet, with occasional side objectives such as capturing a port or rescuing a stranded friendly unit. At the start of a mission there will be a certain number of ships of differing types that must be made use of to complete the task at hand. Although it’s possible to occasionally call in a limited amount of reinforcements at a controlled harbour the game places emphasis on surviving each mission with the forces you begin with, rewarding a much more careful and thoughtful playstyle than simply throwing every ship into battle without regard for strategy.
Each ship type has varying mobility and firepower as they move around the grid-based battlefield. The smaller ships come in a variety of different types from scouting boats that have high mobility to scope out incoming enemies yet limited firepower, to the slower armoured ships that can sustain and deal out more damage. Once a ship is moved there’s the option to defend against enemy attacks in the next round, attack another ship, retake a point of the map or repair and replenish the supplies of a friendly unit depending on the position placed. The commander can also execute special moves which give the fleet stat boosts although it’s entirely possible to progress without making use of them.
There’s also the larger ships which can engage in a ‘duel’ with enemy ships of a similar size, allowing the player to control an on-rails shooting segment in order to deal out much greater damage output than a standard attack, at the risk of also being hit a lot harder by enemy attacks placing a greater focus on the player’s efficiency to take out targets on-board the enemy ship.
The different role of each unit rewards more cautious and strategic play as not all ships are self-sufficient meaning that in later missions it’s imperative to protect the supply ships as they repair any damage done to the rest of the fleet. Retaking ports also allows more units to be sent out against the enemy.
The game feels somewhat sluggish to play on the default settings as units move around the map quite slowly and the frequent action scenes as ships combat each other soon become tiresome. Fortunately the game allows you to turn these sequences off and increase the movement speed of each ship, creating a much tighter experience.
Controlling the fleet with the D-pad and face buttons is fine but feels like a little bit of a step backwards when compared to similar titles like Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon on the original DS. With its newer console, Nintendo have made the bottom touch screen area far less desirable space for the action to take place thanks to the widescreen stereoscopic display above. It may not make the game any less enjoyable, but it certainly makes the experience a lot less smooth when compared to the instant taps of the stylus. The only time the touch screen is in use is when engaging a duel with a larger ship which does make it a little bit of a pain getting the stylus out for these brief sections, but fortunately it’s possible to not have to begin these confrontations to progress.
The game is fairly lengthy although not really suited for long play sessions as the lack of any real variety in locations or tactics employed makes the title more suited to shorter play sessions. There are almost 30 missions overall which do ramp up the difficulty quite nicely, although at times can severely punish mistakes on the player’s part perhaps a little unfairly.
There’s almost no replay value once the story missions are completed. There is the option to play as a different fleet commander in cleared missions but beyond a different special move there isn’t any real difference to each scenario. There are also some in-game achievements that don’t unlock anything outside of beating the challenge offered which doesn’t really encourage unlocking them in the way that Kid Icarus Uprising does.
Visually the game is pretty basic and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say the graphics are bad, they certainly aren’t of the quality many other titles on the system are. The pre-rendered cut-scenes aren’t even compatible with the 3D effect of the top screen. The bombastic military score and sound effects are serviceable, but once again not anything exceptional.
Overall, Battleship for the 3DS is a game that far exceeds any expectations you could expect for a game based off a film that’s bewilderingly based off a board game. In short bursts the game offers satisfying strategic gameplay, although doesn’t hold up for more extended gameplay. For those waiting on Fire Emblem: Awakening or the next Advance Wars to show up on Nintendo’s still-young portable, this game can make do in the meantime.