(DSiWare)

Sea Battle (DSiWare)

Game Review

Sea Battle Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jake Shapiro

Please sink this battleship

It's surprising there aren't more DS titles based on the classic board game Battleship. The DS, with its plastic exterior and flip-up dual screens, looks remarkably like a Milton Bradley Battleship board you probably have stuffed in the back of a closet. You don't need to dig through all your old board games to play Battleship any more; you don't even need a 3DS. All you need is an old-school DSi, as Japanese developer WaiS and Polish publisher Teyon bring us perhaps one of the last games ever to be released on the ageing DSiWare platform: Sea Battle, for a scant 200 points.

The inherent problem with Sea Battle is that its source material, Battleship, isn't very good. Battleship is an almost entirely luck-based game in which you try to blindly guess which tiles your opponent's ships are on before they can guess the locations of yours. The closest thing there is to any sort of deep strategy is, "if you land a hit, you should probably aim for tiles near it so you can hit the rest of the ship." Battleship is only marginally more complex than Tic-tac-toe or Bingo; once you've learned its ins and outs, there's nothing more to master. Despite these flaws, Battleship remains a fun board game for young kids primarily because of its tactile interface; many children are likely more interested in the cool plastic warship pieces and the faux-radar game board than in the intricacies of the gameplay itself.

With a digital adaptation of Battleship, the tactile interface is totally gone; what you're left with is a boring grid-based affair that takes far too long to play and relies far too heavily on luck. The only advantage Battleship has on a handheld console over its real-life counterpart is convenience and single-player against the computer. Does anyone really want to play Battleship alone, though? Developer WaiS did the best it could with the source material, but there's just not enough wind in this old ship's sails.

Perhaps we've been too spoiled by gorgeous 3DS audiovisuals for the last three years, but Sea Battle's DSi graphics are as unremarkable as they come, with virtually no animation. The music is fittingly dramatic and warlike, but there are only about two songs that play on repeat. Controls are serviceable, with support for both the touch screen and standard buttons. There's no way to save your progress mid-battle, however, so if you want to stop and come back to a match later you'll have to start over again.

Your board is displayed on the lower screen while your opponent's board is on the upper screen, but strangely, Sea Battle never lets you see both boards at once except for at the very end of a battle. When it's your turn, the blue silhouette of a sailor covers the upper screen with a large text box describing what's happening, such as "Missiles launched!" and "Missed!" When it's your opponent's turn, the sailor silhouette covers the lower screen and says the same things... but this time he's red instead of blue. This seems like a massive waste of space. Theoretically, a video game version of Battleship could show impressive naval warfare scenes for each turn, but these short text-based descriptions are as close as we ever get. When a battle ends, you receive either a congratulatory static image of an aircraft carrier, or a defeated static image of a battleship blowing up. And that's it. The game's over.

Sea Battle is split into three modes: Single Player, Mission, and Network Game. Network Game allows for two-player DS wireless play, although both players must own a copy of Sea Battle; there's no online multiplayer to speak of, but that's to be expected from a budget DSiWare title. Single Player is split into Classic Mode and Modern Mode: Classic Mode is a direct adaptation of the bare-bones Battleship experience, and Modern Mode adds a few bells and whistles. In Classic Mode, you can choose between an 8x8 map or a 10x10 map, and whether you want to play on Normal or Expert difficulty. Normal difficulty has virtually no AI programming at all; even if the computer player hits one of your ships, they'll still fire missiles randomly across the board instead of aiming close to their hit so they can sink your ship. Expert difficulty is about as competent as a human player, although even with human players Battleship is still mostly luck.

Modern Mode adds a few twists to the Battleship formula: bigger maps, more obstacles, but only a superficial increase in complexity. Maps can range anywhere from 8x8 to 16x14 and your ships can now be placed diagonally, rather than only vertically and horizontally like in standard Battleship. This sounds interesting, but it doesn't add any strategic depth; all it does is make battles take much longer to complete, as the exact same luck-based logic still applies to the gameplay. There are also randomly-placed beaches and islands dotting the ocean landscape where you can't place your ships. This sounds like it could make the game more difficult, but opponents can't see your land tiles — to your opponent, the land tiles may as well be any other random tile you didn't place your ships on. All this does is make it slightly more complicated to place your ships prior to battle.

There are two new units in Modern Mode: underwater mines and fighter planes. Mines add a bit of offense to your defence — if your opponent hits one of your mines, they lose a turn. You can place your mines before battle like you do with your ships, but your opponent doesn't need to destroy your mines to win. Fighter planes are automatically launched by your aircraft carrier mid-battle if you hit a "Lucky Item" tile, and essentially act as new single-tile units your opponent must destroy to win. These Lucky Items are random tiles that give you bonuses when you hit them — you can also get a souped-up weapon that hits multiple tiles with one hit, or a quick radar scan that helps you locate enemy ships. Because the Lucky Items are randomly placed and must be used immediately, they don't add any depth to the core gameplay.

Mission mode is Sea Battle's short single-player campaign with four different challenges, and they're even more dull than the standard Single Player. You can't choose the positions of your randomly-placed ships in Mission mode, which removes a level of depth from an already-shallow experience, and the computer is permanently set to lobotomised Normal difficulty in these missions, with the exception of the final mission where the difficulty is turned up to 11.

"Mission 1: Sink the enemy's submarine!" sounds stealthy, but it's simply a standard Single Player battle where your opponent has only one ship instead of a fleet. "Mission 2: Navigate in a minefield!" sounds dangerous, but it's a battle in which the enemy has an abundance of mines that make you miss your turn. "Mission 3: Destroy the enemy fleet with just one ship!" sounds daring, but it's Mission 1 with the roles reversed. "Mission 4: Destroy the invincible fleet" sounds infuriatingly difficult, and it is — it's simply a standard Single Player battle in which you play on a huge 14x14 board with ten ships on both sides, and the enemy AI seems to know exactly where all your units are. Once you've completed all four missions, there's nothing left to do in Mission mode; it delivers very little.

Conclusion

At 200 points, Sea Battle is a good deal for those desperate for something new to play on their aging DSi, but once you get past the nostalgia factor of its source material Battleship is a shallow, luck-based board game remembered best by children for its fun plastic game pieces and tactile feel, that Sea Battle's low-budget presentation doesn't come anywhere close to replacing. WaiS' modern updates like diagonally-placed ships and underwater mines are admirable attempts to spice up the barren naval warfare experience, but there's only so much Sea Battle can do to improve Battleship's boring core game mechanics.

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User Comments (25)

Dyl_73

#3

Dyl_73 said:

Why bother to create this? What next, DS snakes & ladders... possibly DS Twister?

deadaccount

#4

deadaccount said:

Well, Yoshi got a 4 here, so Ill enjoy this game also.

Personal note to the head of this site: You should take care to keep the quality of this site. Recently some reviews are just bad. Same on BitBoy Arcade aso....Sure I know reviews are just personal opinions, but dont forget that some people use your reviews wether to buy a game or not. Now go and imagine what the last case could mean for the future. And Yoshi surely isnt that bad, same on BitBoy. Did some reviewers actually play the game or just went through their text to be finished?

TG1

#6

TG1 said:

This is a long review for such a small game. Realistically, at just $1.99 on ancient hardware you need to have proper expectations This game is far from great, but it's a low cost and solid diversion for those who enjoy the board game. Taken in proper context (this isn't a 3DS eShop release) and with consideration for its target audience, Sea Battle is hardly a poor game.

HandheldGuru97

#7

HandheldGuru97 said:

Sad to see a bad score for what might be the last DSiware game ever. Oh well at least there are plenty of other hits inside that old shop!

BakaKnight

#8

BakaKnight said:

@deadaccount Bad reviews "damage" sales as much as good reviews boost them, it's a service that help customers, not an evil plan for destroy games' develloppers >_>;

And anyway I feel safe to say that this site makes very fair reviews. The opinions of the reviewer are mixed with many details about the game, meaning the game has its chance to shine. Indeed this review is a great example, I can see people still getting this game despite the 3, afterall in the text it's extremly clear what the game has to offer and many could find that more than enough for the cheap price.

On a side note, if you disagree so much on the reviews you mentioned, did you consider to post there your experience with the game?
No offense, but knowing you disagree with NL it's not a useful data and doubting the quality of the reviews just make your point weaker...
On the other hand, instead than attacking the reviews you could help by posting WHY you think those games are good, the details about what you think the reviewer missed or misunderstood; that could actually help readers, afterall a well justified second opinion can be very useful for a potential customer and contribute to have a richer and more complete view of the game.

(BTW, sorry for jump into a "personal note" that wasn't for me >o>;;; )

Klimbatize

#9

Klimbatize said:

Well this is another example of why reading the review actually works! If you read the review, you can tell that for some this game will be quite enjoyable. The reviewer states that he doesn't like Battleship, but then says everything presented is serviceable. If you like Battleship, then this game is likely for you. If you don't like the game, like the reviewer, then there's nothing in the game that will change your mind.

Read the reviews, and you'll be just fine.

BulbasaurusRex

#11

BulbasaurusRex said:

While I think the core game of Battleship is better than this reviewer claims, I'll stick with "Radar Mission." Although it doesn't have multiplayer, mines, nor diagonal placement options; it does have a superior mission mode, the same fighter plane and lucky hit options, and an extra "Steel Diver" like mode.

Yomerodes

#12

Yomerodes said:

"there's no online multiplayer to speak of, but that's to be expected from a budget DSiWare title."

Budget or not, it would be absolutely illogical and stupid to put online features when the NWFC is just days from being shut, and that includes every single DSiWare with online multiplayer, as few as they were.

HeroOfCybertron

#13

HeroOfCybertron said:

I'm still getting this game I don't let reviews tell me whether to buy a game or not. I loved playing Battleship so I'm getting this game.

TG1

#14

TG1 said:

@Klimbatize Perhaps this might have been better reviewed by someone didn't dislike the source material - there's bias before the game is even played! If "everything presented is serviceable" that would be in conflict with the score of 3 per NL's scoring policy. I certainly agree with you about actually reading reviews, but the unfortunate reality is that some reviews just aren't that good, regardless of opinion.

Windy

#15

Windy said:

Should have had online play. At this point in time why make a battleship or a Golf game without online play? There's a couple other genres which could use some online co-op as well. The whole Online strategy is very strange. Nintendo doesn't want strangers mixing with kids yet street pass is totally encouraging strangers to mix with everyone. Direct play with Real life Friends and messenging has been pretty much been left out of online games yet playing with strangers is how you are forced to play most online games. I just don't get it **shakes head**

Windy

#16

Windy said:

@TG1 Well here is a review discrepancy for ya. Race to Line which was originally called Camaro something or other in Europe got ripped on in Europe. They release it here in North America and for some reason or another the reviewer gives it a rating of 6 which is a pretty decent review. Being a fan of racing games I buy this steamer, Race to the Line isn't worthy of a 2 rating. I have no clue why it has 4 stars in the Eshop but it does. the game is truly horrid. If it has anything good the graphics look kinda neat. But seriously why put a reviewer on a genre they dislike?

Zodiak13

#17

Zodiak13 said:

@Windy @TG1 I had never read the scoring policy, but I believe the game should have got a 5 based on what I read. However the scoring system like all of them is flawed. What if I made a game called "Walking Down a Hallway" and all you do in the game is walk down a hallway. So, the game allows you to do the intended, which is walk down a hallway, and the graphics are ok and the music does not make you want to cut out your eardrums. Does that game deserve a 5?? Based the on the scoring policy maybe. Anyway, not a big deal to me. Just thought that was interesting.

Obito_Tennyson

#19

Obito_Tennyson said:

Now, I want a Battleships game where I could move my ships mid-game... or even hide my ships off their radars and attack from behind! Now that's a Battlships game!

Donjwolf

#20

Donjwolf said:

Sorry to nitpick on your review, but why would you want animation for a Battleship game? The actual game never had any, so why would a video game based on it need it?

Anyway, all I want is Battleship on a handheld so I'll either get this one someday or Radar Mission if it ever appears as a CN reward again.

sinalefa

#22

sinalefa said:

@Windy

The thing with Streetpass is that it is an anonymous interaction. Unless the person is there playing with their 3DS, there is no way of knowing who gave you the streetpass, or even a need to talk to the person, as you get what you want. No personal information is exchanged either.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#23

Philip_J_Reed said:

@deadaccount said:
Personal note to the head of this site: You should take care to keep the quality of this site. Recently some reviews are just bad. Same on BitBoy Arcade aso

Hate to burst your bubble, but I've been begging Nintendo Life to fire me for years. They won't do it. :(

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