Publisher: O3 Entertainment
Developer: Milestone Inc.
Release Date: April 2007
When Tank Beat first premiered at the Tokyo Game Show last fall, many attendees speculated that the title would never see release outside of Japan, where it hit stores in late November. However, thanks to O3 Entertainment, Milestone’s quirkily titled strategic action game will grace American DS systems later this spring. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve had a chance to get some hands-on time with recent builds of the game, and what follows is a dossier on the handheld happenings held within Tank Beat.
It may sound like an amusing rhythm game of sorts, but Tank Beat is no Elite Beat Agents. In actuality, Tank Beat is a panzer simulation; one that takes full advantage of the Nintendo DS’ touch screen to create a hands-on strategic experience unlike any previously seen on a portable platform. Though the top screen portrays 3D visuals that represent the ongoing action, most of your time will be spent staring down the simplistic map on the bottom as you move your treads and take on enemy forces.
Much of the touch-screen is taken up by the radar screen, which typically uses shades of green to indicate the different aspects of the environment, be it flat ground, forests, or a raised section of land. On the radar screen is a small dot, roughly the same size as the tip of your stylus. Navigating the terrain is as simple as touching the dot and drawing a path to your intended destination. As your tank moves along its path, you will see the action rendered above in real-time. Altering the camera perspective is as easy as dragging the stylus along the radar screen, as the vision cone emanating from your dot will move along with it, thus affecting the top-screen visuals.
Tanks are expected to carry a heavy payload, and sure enough, the vehicles in Tank Beat wield various types of ammunition, which are easily fired with the help of the left shoulder button. By holding down the L button, you will switch from “Move” to “Attack” mode. Enemy targets that come into range (and are picked up by the vision cone) will appear as red dots on the screen. Firing is as easy as clicking on or near the enemy targets on the radar screen. With quicker weapons (such as machine guns), you can aim at the enemy dot and fire away in short bursts, but those with larger cannons will have to learn how to lead their shots based on expected enemy movements.
Bordering the radar screen are several smaller icons and statistics. Enemy tanks are displayed in the red boxes on the left, while your own tank and those of your allies are shown in the blue boxes to the right. Life bars are displayed for all tanks, which helps when an enemy is out of view on the top screen. The “Stop” button is pretty self-explanatory; tapping it will bring your active tank to a halt. On the bottom right are boxes for ammunition. Each tank may hold up to two types of ammo, and switching between the two is as simple as clicking the preferred box.
The final icon is designated for allied commands. Many single-player missions will put you in control of a second tank, and Tank Beat gives you four selectable commands for keeping your buddy in line. Attack mode is the most aggressive type, as your ally will patrol the area and fire at will. Those looking for some extra protection will want to consider Support mode, while Defense mode will cause the allied tank to halt in its current position and defend the area. Finally, control freaks can take solace in Remote mode, which hands the movement commands to the user. Just as with your own vehicle, you can control the tank by drawing a path from its current position on the radar screen.
I spotted roughly 15 tanks during my time with Tank Beat, though there are said to be roughly two dozen in total. Get ready for the Dorcus, Batocera, and Allotopus M! Silly names aside, the tanks are rated in four categories (Power, Defense, Speed, and Range) and have varying abilities. The AMS 1000 has a monstrous drill attached to its nose, making it a deadly weapon in the hands of advanced players. Other tanks are armed with lasers or the ability to hover across pools of water. Some tanks are unable to fire without coming to a halt, so you may want to consider using a tank with a movable turret. I found the Dynuster G to be a particularly well-rounded vehicle that kept me alive and kept me moving while unleashing powerful shells on the enemy.
Tank Beat does not present an especially compelling visual experience. An impressive CG intro fails to set a trend for the in-game graphics, which are functional but ultimately a bit sketchy. The tanks are decently rendered, though they tend to come in one of just a handful of colors (typically red, green, blue, or brown). The backgrounds seem to recall the simplistic 3D environments of many a Game Boy Advance game. Generic and pixelated terrain is the main drawback, though it all moves at a very nice clip. Most matches will be spent staring down the radar screen, so the visual presentation is not a major concern.
The Story Mode in Tank Beat puts you in the shoes of Vill Vitt Katjue, a freshly trained tank jockey whose country is attacked following years of peace. After meeting up with the Akitia Guerilla Force, Katjue teams up with several other characters with hard-to-pronounce names in an effort to take back Haloondo, the metropolis in which his family resides. The narrative plays out in simplistic text blurbs between missions, and the dialogue is a bit flat, packed with typical “animeisms” and uninteresting character interactions. With 24 missions, the Story Mode should take the average gamer five or six hours to complete, and unlocked missions can be replayed in Skirmish Mode (along with a handful of bonus missions).
Multiplayer is likely to be the main draw of Tank Beat, as it supports single and multi-card play, as well as Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support. Up to four players can play simultaneously in any mode, and from my experience, more is better. Two-player matches were a bit dull, as each death would be followed by a considerable gap in which the respawned tank would have to search the map for its lone competitor. We were unable to get a four-player match together over the Wi-Fi connection, but the three-player battle represented a significant step up from the two-player matches. Having three tanks simultaneously converge on a spot for all-out warfare was pretty amusing, even on the small screens of the DS.
For all its simplistic fun, the multiplayer is limited, even by DS standards. As it currently stands, just three maps are available, with the lone gametype being a free-for-all deathmatch of sorts. Some kind of team battle would be nice, if not a more varied alternative. But with just a handful of worthwhile Wi-Fi games available for the DS, Tank Beat may find a home in many a DS system upon release. Initially scheduled for a March release, Tank Beat will now likely premiere sometime in April, as Milestone and O3 Entertainment are still working out the bugs and polishing the Wi-Fi experience. Stay tuned to WorthPlaying for future coverage of Tank Beat, and be sure to check back later this spring for a full review.
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