Super Battleship
by Ed

Super Battleship

There are some board games you can't really put into video game form. Battleship is not one of them. I mean sure you can't really play it multiplayer unless it was on a Game Boy or whatever, which is why Mindscape decided to come up with a more interesting twist on the Battleship mechanics when they created Super Battleship in 1994. I mean sure there's the "Classic Battleship" option but who wants to play that when you have the "Super Battleship" mode?

Anyway Classic Battleship is pretty much just that, putting ships on a grid and then firing blindly until one fleet remains. Super Battleship is a lot different, combining turn-based strategy with a First-Person artillery sim. In fact the first half of the equation would later be resurrected for Hasbro's Windows '95 version of Battleship, however that game's form of Super Battleship was confusing as hell and nowhere near as much fun as this one (plus I think they called it "Ultimate Battleship" which is a little silly). So enough history lets get to the hot ship on ship cannon action.

Super Battleship presents us with hypothetical World War II combat in which the player commands the Blue Fleet (hereafter referred to as The Allies) against the enemy Red Fleet (hereafter referred to The NazisAxisBadds). Noticeably all the ships in both fleets are named, though also noticeable is that there is no clear naming schematic among ships of the same class and sometimes you'll get friendly ships and enemy ships that had the same name as a ship in the last mission, only now its on the other side. I guess this could be explained by the fleets replenishing their losses by using clandestine commando raids to steal ships, but wouldn't you just rename them anyway?

In any event Super Battleship mode expands on the various subclasses of each type of ship (although Aircraft Carriers are noticeably absent). There seem to be at least 3 types of cruiser, 3 types of destroyer, and a couple types of battleship, in addition to the patrol boats and submarines you can also get control of. This usually slightly alters the armaments and attributes of the ship under your command. For example, Battlecruisers carry cruise missiles but Light Cruisers and Heavy Cruisers do not. And yes I said initially this game approximated World War II navy battles but I forgot about the cruise missile, perhaps in part due to it being so rare that if it were more common it'd probably break the game.

Speaking of combat, I haven't quite touched on that yet. Well now's as good a time as any. Typically the fleets move about on an overhead map, until they finally get an enemy in range of one of their four weapon systems. Depth Charges are of course only good against subs, so usually you'll be using your main guns, your torpedoes, or your missiles (if you happen to have them). When you move the weapon's aiming cursor over an enemy on the map, it shows you the odds of getting a hit. If you do get a hit the game switches to a pseudo-3D view of the ocean, with the opposing ship away from you by a certain distance depending on how close you are to them on the map. They of course will be firing back (unless incapable of doing so due to damage or being out of ammo).

When using cannons you use the D-pad as if it were a typical aiming setup, firing when you think you have a good shot lined up. When using torpedoes you can use up and down on the D-pad to adjust the spread, and fire them off one at a time in an effort to hit the enemy vessel before it sails past you. You can also switch between these two weapons on the fly during a battle phase, although you have to wait for the shots already fired by your current weapon to hit or miss before you can do so. This tends to be annoying especially if the hostile vessel is easily outclassing you and hammering away at your ship to the point of it being disabled or worse. of course you can also quit the battle phase and avoid taking further damage at any time, which offsets the problem of being outclassed. This can only happen after one salvo of fire has been exchanged, however.

Cruise Missiles are a bit different, in that when you fire them you switch to a pseudo-3D view of the map as the missile flies overhead, and you're manually controlling the missile at its target. All you have to do typically is keep the ship in your view as you quickly approach it, then hit the d-pad left or right to make sure it flies in to hit the enemy ship as soon as it starts to go on its final dive inwards. A missile will always sink a ship in one shot if it hits. Always. Hence why I said it'd be a gamebreaker if it appeared on more than seemingly one version of the cruiser.

Depth Charges work by having a little side-scrolling battle engage between you and the enemy sub. You need to set the detonation depth and then fire off the charges, hoping to at least get one or two solid hits in to bring down the sub before it slips past. The other problem, of course, being you have to get directly over the sub in order to fight it, which can be tricky since you can't move and shoot in the same turn. Also there's no easy guide for figuring out what depth to set the charges to, so you have to figure out somewhere in between 10 and 166 feet to release them at, and you may only get one shot at it depending on depth. I was lucky enough to get one for screenshot purposes, and of course the ROM was a little glitched so we have all those lines in front of it.

Anyway ships obviously take damage during battles, and can be hit in a wide variety of subsystems including the turrets, the sonar system, the rudder, the engines, and so on. Damage to subsystems will affect the ships performance instantly on the battlefield. You can however assign repair crews to one subsystem per turn, to repair it fully by the next turn. This doesn't take the place of your regular action (you can only move or fire during one turn, not both), so it allows fights to last longer than one would think, which is somewhat accurate to the way a lot of naval battles in the Atlantic Theatre of War went.

Lastly I guess I should mention just what the super Battleship mode is all about, game wise. You play as the Allied fleet commander against The Badds in about 20 different scenarios, mostly dealing with sinking a certain number of vessels or all enemy vessels in a certain number of turns. Somtimes you have odds in your favor, but most of the time you're outnumbered or outgunned and have to resort to tactical thinking to defeat the enemy. This is evident right from the second mission, which is called "Mosquito Boat Attack" where you and your fleet of high-speed PT boats need to take out a far supeiror force of crusiers, destroyers, etc. It's surprisingly deep for a 16-bit game, and is enough to keep one playing it even as some of the later missions get a little frustrating.

All in all I like Super Battleship, despite the lack of multiplayer (which is strange because you can pretty much see everyone's moves anyway) its fun and engaging while at the same time forcing you to actually be tactical. As I said they later seemed to use the turn-based part of this game in the Windows '95 version of battleship, but it was done in real-time, was a lot more complex, and sadly, badly executed. Still, we have this gem. It's better than the Windows '95 "reimagining" of the game...

but probably not nearly as good as Radar Mission for the Game Boy.

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