The game everyone who owned a Game Boy Advance had to have was Advance Wars. It changed the way people saw strategy RPGs and created a huge demand for the genre in the west. Sadly, the series hasn’t seen the light of day in a while, but that just leaves capable developers to deliver the genre to a new generation of gamers.
Developers Area 35 has done just that with their Tiny Metal series, now with its follow up entry Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble. While the game has some pretty good moments of strong SRPG gameplay across multiple maps, it’s story structure might leave some gamers lost.
Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble tells a wartime story as various factions come head to head all the while Commander Wolfram investigates her brother’s disappearance. During her mission, she comes across Lost Tech that can change the tide of battle but must first win the trust of its owner. Throughout the story, players will learn more about Wolfram and the struggles that she faces along the way.
The problems with the story emerge early on as it throws the player head first into the war with not much of an introduction. The first few missions were spent scratching my head wondering what I was doing and why I was traveling around the map and fighting in these skirmishes. It becomes more clear after a few hours in what is going on but it doesn’t make that easy or clear. I had to sort of fill in the blanks that it left out to make my time playing not feel like a confusing mess. Regardless, the ending of the campaign is a strong one and has some of the most epic battles that I’ve played in an SRPG. There are also a few stand out characters that emerge from the haphazard storyline who made a nice impact on me by the end of it.
Another issue the game runs into, though, is not allowing the player to learn things on their own or offer a particular training on individual unit types. Instead, the game just teaches you in lump batches over the first few missions and delivers it in an overall boring manner. Even with their tutorial, most of the best strategies I learned I had to learn on my own, but it took me at least four matches to properly know how to use the Striker and Radar units.
Throughout missions, players will take turns moving units and capturing bases. Each unit plays a key role in any given match and the requirements to complete a match vary from destroying a target to capturing a certain number of bases. I enjoyed the freedom that the game gives you to choose how you want to complete a match because sometimes it can end without too much confrontation.
Each unit earns ranks over a battle, but only Hero units retain those ranks over multiple missions, which makes them some of the strongest units you can have on the field. Players can commence joint attacks or push the enemy into a corner or just capture all the bases and overrun them. The strategic gameplay in this game goes deep, and it’s possible to play one match for an hour while setting up your units for a full-scale assault or hurridly retreating after encountering a hidden attack.
Environments vary enough to make each map feel unique and new. The problem with traversing these maps comes with a line of sight and how the enemy likes to hide in bushes just out of site. This becomes an issue because even if you know they are there, you’ll have to use two turns in order to set up next to them in order to see them and then attack them during the next turn — unless they kill you on their turn. It all becomes a bit tedious in the later parts of the game, but that is where mastering units like the Radar comes is.
I ended up really enjoyed the challenge and strategic elements that Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble provides. Even though I began the journey without a clue of why I was doing it all, the turn-based flow of the game is solid and can really test the skills of any capable SRPG fan. Getting down these mechanics was crucial for a game like this and as a fan of the genre, I can honestly say that I appreciate the developers building upon the Advance Wars foundation and putting their own unique spin on its system.
For the price of the game, I’m amazed at just how much content is available here. After the campaign, players are free to take on endless skirmishes across a ton of maps with additional difficulties. While I wasn’t expecting much in terms of extra content outside of the campaign, there’s a variety of content to keep SRPG fans busy for as long as they’d like. Furthermore, online multiplayer offers even more replayability, but it’s important to come with your A-game here because some players are ruthless, as war should be.
The graphics and style of Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble are wonderful, I thought it played off well with the arcade nature of the genre. Similarly, the illustrations of the characters during cutscenes made them all look really cool and fit in this war-torn world. I’d also say the music is a nice companion to the game’s SRPG roots and plays nicely when the battle gets heated during a match. There are voiceovers in the game as well, but it definitely varies in quality as sometimes it’s really good, but other times it feels a little unemotional and out of place.
Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble has some issues with its tutorial and early game hours. However, if you push through you’ll find an engaging and satisfying SRPG adventure. Even if you’re just playing through for the story, I feel like the price of entry is so low that you’ll easily get your money’s worth and for those that want more, then skirmishes and online multiplayer matches will be there for you.
I had a decent time with Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble, but there were some moments that I wish the game set up its story to be easier to digest instead of throwing me in without a clue of which side I was on or what I was fighting for. In the end, though, it’s all about the SRPG systems and Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble nails it.
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