Sometimes when going through my old games, I find ones that not only have I never played before, but I’m not even sure where they came from. This is the case with this week’s game, Garry Kitchen’s Super Battletank: War In The Gulf. I’ve never played this game before in my life. There’s no Goodwill price tag, which is pretty common in old games in my collection that I’ve never played. My only clue is a faint “2.99” written in marker on the back.
I had no idea what to expect going in to this game. I didn’t even know who Garry Kitchen was. Apparently, he was a prominent Commodore 64 programmer. That being said, I was actually really impressed as soon as I turned the game on. It starts with a shocking good looking tank turning its cannon toward the screen and firing. I think it might have been digitized images of a real tank, that’s how good it looked.
When you start the game, you’re given mission details from your commanding officer. This also looks really good. Your CO is a large, highly detailed character model pointing at a map of the Middle East. Although very impressive looking, since you don’t interact with him in anyone, it’s easy to understand how they pulled it off on the SNES. Still, looks great and is a cool way to send you into a mission with some context of what’s going on.
Mission 1 takes place in Kuwait. It’s your job to take out three enemy tanks. The game takes place from a first-person perspective primarily, although you can switch to a map view. On the map, it’s very easy to find the three tanks. It took me a little bit to figure out how to actually move to them, however. The Y button accelerates and the X button brakes. You use the shoulder buttons to steer and the D-Pad to aim your cannon.
When in the first-person view, you have a minimap pointing out anything immediately around you. And when I say immediately, I mean that you won’t see anything on there until they’re close enough to see with your eyes. To find your enemies easier, switching to the map view by pressing B gives you the full view of the battlefield. You can even continue to drive from this view, meaning that when crossing large areas of land, I mostly was just staring at a map.
That’s kind of a shame too, because the actual game looks awesome. Enemies are large, detailed sprites that have enough frames of animation to look convincing enough, especially by SNES standards. The environments are a little less impressive at first, since it’s basically just wide open deserts, but each mission I played took place at a different time of day, drastically changing the look.
When you find an enemy, you obviously have to destroy it. You have a couple different options in doing so. Hitting A will fire your cannon, which is what I did most of the time. Hitting select will change your weapon to the machine guns, which I only used when I ran out of ammo for the cannon. As I mentioned earlier when I was talking about controls, the aiming is independent from steering, which is actually fairly rare for a game like this on the SNES. It has a very “ahead of its time” feel.
The only thing besides enemies you need to worry about is your ammo and your fuel. Unfortunately, unless I just couldn’t figure it out, there’s no way to replenish either resource. If you run out of fuel, you automatically lose the mission. I never ran completely out of ammo, although I did have to resort to the machine guns a few times.
Super Battletank was a very nice surprise. I went into it with zero expectations and left thoroughly impressed. While I can’t say how long the novelty will last, the gorgeous visuals and the easy to pick up and play nature of the game allowed me to really enjoy the first few missions. This is an obscure SNES title that’s definitely worth a look.