To say I was obsessed with wargames as a young teenager would be an overstatement, but it’s still a little closer to the truth than I’d like to admit. Bolstered largely by a broadband connection on the family computer that allowed me to download games from the bereaved Home of the Underdogs at a screaming fast 40kbps and an endless supply of floppy discs from my mother’s day job as a TA, I could retreat back into my room and let my eyeballs degrade into the semi-worthless piles of jelly they are today while sampling the easily pirated highs and lows of the previous generation of gaming. While a good amount of my time was spent with the decidedly less bereaved Nintendo emulator NESticle (a pun that makes me cringe a decade later) I spent a fair amount of time with the various war games and RPGs put out by SSI. I soon came across a copy of Advanced Squad Leader, and was a massive fan of the loose computer adaptation Close Combat and it’s sequels. Even when my nerdiness abated slightly as I learned to drive and grow facial hair, I still regularly had a few books checked out from the base library that explained the ins and outs of effective wargame design, probably making me the only person in the history of Cabrillo High School to ever get chided in class for drawing morale charts when I should have been taking notes.
Something that almost all of these games seemed to have in common was an utter contempt for the concept of a learning curve. This is because learning these games is a bona fide hobby; the challenge of grasping and working within the rules was easily as important to the average grognard as playing the game. This aspect of games still appeals to me – being faced with a gordian knot of gameplay concept that can be savored as it’s torn through – but I simply don’t have the energy to parse through counter-intuitive rules that exist solely for the sake of separating the men from the men with neckbeards and questionable hygiene.
This is all a very elaborate way of saying that even if Super Daisenryaku weren’t buried under a thick ocean of kanji, I’d have no way of really understanding it. A new entry in the long-running macro-scale war simulator series, the game simply wasn’t even meant for weekend strategists like myself. And this isn’t something that changed over time – a few years back one of the entries saw a US PS2 budget release as Dai Senryaku VII: Modern Military Tactics Exceed and I have found myself unable to get through the first tutorial map. Not that Super Daisenryaku would be so kind as to have a tutorial, of course. Even the smallest map still sticks you with dozens of units, most of which can move further each turn than the screen can show. It’s a cluttered mess, and the fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
And while the game is elusive at best, there are some positive aspects. The music is fantastic, for one. Most early Mega Drive games tended to fall into two categories when it came to composition – muddy bombast or spirited synth-pop. Surprisingly, Super Daisenryaku went with the latter, giving the player the sense of self needed to lead a virtual army to a hard-won victory in only the way that peppy J-pop could. Perhaps equally as surprising would also be the map that allows up to four players to battle for dominance on the planet Palma (of Phantasy Star I & II fame) using only the finest in Cold War era weaponry. It’s a charming bit of fan service and one that goes a long way in reaching out to fans of both games.
One last note: as you may have noticed on your RSS reader, Tommy Lasorda Baseball and Super Daisenryaku were released within a week of one another. There won’t be any releases in the month of May, but starting with June, the flood gates will start to creak open. Of the one hundred and fifty plus games I will be covering on this website, the vast majority saw their way to store shelves in 1990 (keep in mind that this is game eight and the system had been on the market for six months by now.) I should have enough content to easily last until the holiday season of 2011, at this rate.