website tracking
Military Madness: Nectaris on Game and Player

Military Madness: Nectaris

Michael Ubaldi  //  October 7, 2009

How does modesty measure up?


ince having played and praised the Xbox Live Arcade release of Battlefield 1943, I have been awaiting a dilemma over valuation. Days of Geometry Wars and Joust ports have passed, taking with them the novelty of Xbox Live Marketplace. When competing against titles that, if expanded only slightly, could respectably be billed as A-list full-features, how does modesty measure up?

Tokyo-based Hudson Soft's answer, choosing spirit medium Backbone Entertainment for the remade, turn-based strategy offering Military Madness: Nectaris: with a sound game, not too badly.

An array of war machines allows for rhythmic, chromatic little plans.
Why war? In Nectaris' future, corrections have taken penal isolation so literally that chain gangs work on the hard rock pile known as the Moon, maximum security thus defined as 384,000 kilometers of vacuum. A catastrophic prison riot compromises the satellite big house, and former inmates build deus ex machina in the form of a superweapon pointed at Earth. Earth's response? Tanks, space-suited marines, tanks, antiaircraft and artillery batteries, tanks, tanks, aerial fighters and transports, tanks, tanks and tanks.

There are eight varieties of tank joining a couple dozen more combat units, each with its own curious name (Bison, Kilroy, Octopus, Polar) alongside eponymic single-player campaign levels (Icarus, Galois, Darwin, Sabine), embellishment as the Japanese are wont to do. Hudson Soft's original charm, even twenty years old, effects most of Nectaris' style — between Backbone's dully rendered and animated vehicles, predictable lunar desolation, and a dreary soundtrack best turned off, this is one homely game.

Easily overlooked, however, as Hudson's name was made on play mechanics. Following succinct orders to eliminate the opposition, players mobilize their forces across a hexagonal grid that honeycombs the Moon's surface. Most units can move or hold position, then attack an enemy target in an adjacent hex. Tracked and wheeled vehicles must remain on roads, dunes, and Luna's pastures of regolith. Marines, sporting jet-packs, are equipped to scale mountains. Batteries are limited to one action but may fire from several hexes away, while aircraft benefit from vast — and unpredictable — mobility. While unable to build new units, players gain vehicles from captured factories; and may send any unit to a factory for single-turn repairs.

Welcome to, you guessed it, the Moon: this is one homely game.
Although players have little reason not to advance, combat rewards forethought. When two units join, three factors are run through calculus: terrain, favoring higher ground; friendly support, multiplying strength in both offense and numbers; and longevity, represented by rank, and articulated through raw power.

Hudson's array of war machines allows for rhythmic, chromatic little plans. Move in from the west, move in from the east, finish off with an indirect volley from behind a ridge. With each force acting in turn, finely arranged attacks play as ballistic solos and ensembles. Hudson is no Avalon Hill, certainly. There aren't any gambits to play. Every unit is visible; no position can be prepared. Delicate units such as infantry are useful only to capture buildings — too busy mining anorthosite, Moon-felons neglected to build a proper downtown for antitank tactics.

Still, artificial intelligence is capable, heightening elation at having outmaneuvered the enemy, and providing a little succor when a player realizes he fell for a feint. Inasmuch as Nectaris' multiplayer channels, like those of too many minor acts, appear dormant at the wrong hour — in spite of populated leaderboards, I could not connect to a single game — clever AI is fortunate for the very sake of the game.

Minor, modest, accidentally single-player — does anyone have time for this? In lieu of a showing from Front Mission, they might want to reserve some. Hudson Soft's Nectaris series spans ten titles, owing to persistence but also to permanence, a characteristic of quality.

Alexandr Beran // October 10, 2009 // 3:33 PM

Does anyone know how this remake stacks up to the TurboGrafx original? It's available on Virtual Console and is quite charming.

Visually, the remake doesn't look much better than the original, but I'm wondering about the deeper differences.

Michael Ubaldi // October 11, 2009 // 12:12 AM

I would be surprised, Alexandr, if the game's math had been changed in any way.

Join the Discussion

Military Madness: Nectaris



Backbone Entertainment


Hudson Soft

NA Release

October 1, 2009


Play Mode

ESRB Rating

In Favor

  • Turn-based strategy as it should be
  • Challenging AI
  • Variety of units


  • Dull production
  • Elusive multiplayer

G&P Rating

Articles by Michael Ubaldi

July 1, 2011

February 12, 2011

G&P Latest

July 1, 2011

June 28, 2011

About  //  Editors  //  Contributors  //  Terms of Use