The Japanese love big robots; you only have to look at series like Gundam, Macross and Patlabor to see this. However they seem to like strategy videogames a lot less, which is what makes Namco's Metal Marines (Militia in Japan) all the more surprising.
Released at a time where real time strategy titles were only just beginning to emerge, Metal Marines was afforded a fair degree of exposure thanks to the pedigree of the developer, the lovely anime artwork and the fact that the strategy genre was not exactly well represented on the SNES.
The gameplay was probably a little too complex for console tastes but it nevertheless gained a cult following, rather like Herzog Zwei on the Megadrive/Genesis and Military Madness on the TG16/PC Engine.
Facing off against the forces of the malevolent Zorgeuf, it's your duty to rise up and reclaim your beloved Earth from the clutches of this military madman. Your main weapon in this commendable struggle is the titular 'Metal Marine' – a massive, hulking war robot that packs a significant punch. These fiendish devices come in three different flavours, each suited to a particular style of combat.
In addition to controlling massive mechas, you also have the ability to build structures such as factories, mine fields, anti-aircraft guns and a hangar in which to store your precious Metal Marines. As is the case with countless other games of this type, you have a central HQ which must be defended at all costs – destruction means game over.
The strategy genre has evolved almost beyond measure over the past decade and it's therefore unsurprising that Metal Marines has dated pretty badly. Compared to recent games of this type – Advance Wars, for example - it's incredibly basic. However, there's still enjoyment to be had here, and if you're willing to invest a bit of time you'll find that Metal Marines represents a worthwhile purchase.
The presentation is excellent, and although the plot isn't exactly original it certainly makes a change to be fighting humans rather than aliens; the aforementioned anime illustrations are fantastic and really add to the appeal of the game, giving each enemy commander a distinct personality (Joan Rile is such a hottie you'll actually feel bad about beating her).
Metal Marines isn't for everyone, but if you liked Military Madness and have a penchant for commanding armies of death-dealing robots then this should appeal to you.