When Military Madness was originally published for the TurboGrafx-16 back in 1989, it was praised by critics but didn't sell all that well due to the system's inability to catch on in a market that was then dominated by Nintendo and Sega. It wasn't until Nintendo published Advance Wars for the Game Boy Advance in 2001 that console owners really noticed and took a liking to the military-themed, turn-based strategy genre. Now that the TurboGrafx-16 version of Military Madness is available for the Wii's Virtual Console, today's strategy buffs have the chance to discover what a few TG-16 owners already know: Military Madness was ahead of its time. The game offers the same sort of complex turn-based combat as Advance Wars but also does enough differently from Nintendo's franchise that it hasn't been rendered obsolete in the intervening years.
Like Advance Wars, Military Madness is a turn-based strategy game with a military focus. The story concerns two warring factions that are both trying to take control of the moon. Both sides have a base, some factories, and a variety of units at their disposal. Movement takes place on a hexagonal grid, as opposed to the rectangle-based grid found in Advance Wars, but the gist is the same. During your turn, you can move units under your control, make them attack enemy units, or hide them in factories. Once your turn is over, your opponent gets to go. The goal is to defeat your opponent by capturing the other side's base or destroying all of the other units. There are 23 different types of units, including infantry, tanks, long-range ballistics, flight craft, and transports. Each unit has its own individual attack, defense, and movement ratings. You can also situate units on rough ground, rocks, mountains, or factories to give them a defensive boost. One of the key differences distinguishing Military Madness from Advance Wars is that you can further bolster your units' attack and defensive ratings by clustering them together or by surrounding enemy units. Another interesting aspect of Military Madness is that it doesn't let you manufacture additional units in factories. Instead, you use factories to repair the units you already have, which gain experience and toughen up the more times you successfully use them to attack your opponent. Building up a few units and then using them to systematically rout the enemy's entire force is very satisfying.
Strategy games aren't known for pushing the envelope with regards to graphics and audio. Because of that, Military Madness doesn't look or sound too outdated compared to its contemporaries. Map features, terrain, and unit icons may look simple, but everything is clearly defined. Every attack and factory capture is accompanied by an animated scene showing the units involved lobbing bullets and bombs at each other. The artwork in these scenes is just a bunch of scaled sprites overlaid atop patches of terrain, but they convey the action in suitable fashion. All of the machine gun and cannon sound effects are fitting, too, as is the dramatic music that changes tempo based on which side is winning the fight. Where Military Madness comes up short compared to today's games is in terms of bonus features. The 16 stages in the normal campaign and the 16 tougher stages in the advanced campaign can take approximately 30 hours total to complete, but once you finish the campaigns, there's no war-room mode or map mode to invest additional time in. There is a cheat code that will let you play the CPU's side in the campaign, however. The game also supports two-player matches, although you're limited to using the same maps from the campaign.
For 600 Wii points ($6), 30 hours of play time is a good value. If you're into the turn-based strategy genre or just want an affordable way to see what the genre is all about, then you should definitely check out Military Madness on the Virtual Console.