Kaiju Wars Review - Screenshot 1 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

If you’ve ever wanted to find out if you could save the world from giant monsters rampaging across the city, you’re in luck. Kaiju Wars gives you the chance to marshal the forces of a small nation beset by a force of five kaiju, each modelled after a famous city-destroying monster from cinema history. The retro graphics hide a surprisingly complicated and satisfying tactics game with a decidedly tongue-in-cheek tone that strikes a decent balance between silly moments and the serious business of saving the world.

Kaiju Wars’ gameplay will be familiar to fans of tactics games. Each map offers different resources and layouts, forcing you to adjust your strategy based on what opportunities present themselves and which of the five kaiju appear. Something you’ll learn early on is that your meagre military forces are no match for the monsters that you’re facing, as most will be destroyed in a single hit and deal minimal damage to them.

What they can do, however, is slow them down long enough for your scientists to drive the kaiju back into the ocean, so the bulk of your gameplay will be spent trying to get your team into position to take advantage of the largely predictable paths the monsters take around the map. Tanks can slow down ground-based enemies while planes can slow down aerial units. You'll rarely deal enough damage to one of the creatures to make them retreat, which helps hammer home the helplessness of your situation. These creatures are simply too big a problem to be solved through brute force alone.

Kaiju Wars Review - Screenshot 2 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Resources on each map are scarce. Each region produces money based on how many civilian buildings are present and 'science' based on how many labs it has. Earning enough science is usually the key to victory on each map, while money can build labs, airfields, and army bases as well as purchase the units that these facilities spawn. Eventually, one of the monsters will set its sights on the lab where your chief scientist is hidden, forcing you to make a hasty retreat to a new location before starting the whole process all over again.

The concept is simple but there is enough depth to keep Kaiju Wars from feeling like a mere button-clicking exercise. You’ll seldom have enough money to purchase everything you need, so there is an important balancing act that takes place, ensuring that you have enough units on the field to slow down the monsters without wasting your valuable resources. Throw in a handful of elite units, such as a laser cannon and a manned mecha and you’ll have plenty to do each time you sit down with this game.

This careful balance is countered by the randomness that comes with the cards the game uses to simulate events. Both the player and the shadowy organisation controlling the kaiju have a deck that they draw from that allows them to change things in their favour. Sometimes you’ll get extra income for a turn, only for the computer to move its kaiju twice and take out half your island. And early in the game, you get to build your own deck, allowing you to stack it with cards that fit your playstyle.

Kaiju Wars Review - Screenshot 3 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

While it isn’t a particularly deep system, it does allow for some fun experimentation. You can focus on building superweapons or flood the map with cheaply produced units to see which is more fun for you. Either one can work, though usually there is an optimal route to victory on each map that you’ll need to find. Defeat is almost inevitable as you try to find the correct strategy, especially in the more difficult optional missions that can be tackled for extra medals.

The visuals and sound in Kaiju Wars are designed to stir those nostalgic feelings in fans, with graphics that all have the red tint of a Virtual Boy console and a midi-inspired soundtrack that stops just short of being repetitive. It is all simple but effective, giving the game a fun aesthetic that doesn’t get in the way of the actual gameplay.

The only downside to the presentation is that it was all clearly developed for mouse and keyboard controls, meaning that the Joy-Cons feel clumsy and imprecise when trying to focus on a crowded map or click a small icon to skip a cutscene. Tablet mode allows you to use the touchscreen to overcome some of these issues, but even then, the text was too small for our fingers to be a good replacement for a trusty mouse. This was less of an issue for us in docked mode, but if your Joy-Cons have even the slightest bit of drift you’re going to have a rough time.

Kaiju Wars Review - Screenshot 4 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The other disappointment with the Switch version of Kaiju Wars is the lack of online functionality compared to the Steam version. While PC players eventually got Twitch chat integration, a local versus mode to play with friends, and a custom level creator system, the Switch version is lacking those at launch, which is disappointing, but hopefully, those features will be added in a later update. There is enough gameplay here without them but they would be something to keep players coming back for more.

From the retro presentation to the witty banter between characters, Kaiju Wars is a very slick, well-written game that provides just enough strategy to keep you on your toes throughout. It will only take around 10 hours to beat the main plot, which is only there to provide an excuse for the kaiju to keep attacking, though completionists will find enough to stretch that time to around 15 hours. Kaiju Wars manages to stay just long enough to not overstay its welcome, ensuring that the jokes don’t run thin.

Conclusion

If you’re a fan of tight strategy games that don’t take themselves too seriously, Kaiju Wars is a short but well-balanced title that sees you defending your homeland from giant monsters. The retro graphics and sound allow the developers to lean into the campest kaiju film tropes, but the gameplay itself shouldn’t be overlooked because of the silly packaging. Even without the additional features that the PC version eventually got, there is plenty here to sink your teeth into across the short playtime.