Footnotes: Super BattleShip

Image By Flickr User: Andrew Malone (cc)

It’s difficult trying to imagine the sheer amount of games that are available to play nowadays. For every major release gamers will be queuing up for this this year there are likely hundreds of smaller games made in the hopes of nothing more than becoming at least a small blip in the industry consciousness. And for every large rehash of ideas we’ve seen before, there’s something new and fresh just waiting to be discovered. There’s just too much to play out there to notice everything, and that really is a tragedy.

There are already plenty of ground-breaking games that never really got the attention they deserved. They may not all be necessarily great games, but each did things in such a way that we would do well to at least regard them as notable footnotes in the future. Take 1993’s Super Battleship for example.

This is the first board game to video game translation that I’ve ever seen try to expand beyond the basic source material, while still somehow managing to keep its core spirit intact.

Battleship has always been a game of strategy, using the information you gather to wage attacks on the enemy fleet. The board game had to rely on educated guessing in order to simulate that, but the makers of the video game realized that that particular restriction was more of a necessity than the actual core of the game. Thusly, Super Battleship revolves around what the boardgame only wishes it could: strategic naval combat. (Complete with all the classic ships…but only the sneaky enemy gets to use subs :(…)

Over the course of 16 missions, the player commands several fleets of varying composition in an efforts ranging from seek and destory, to defense, to merchant escort. The tools at your disposal range from radar, big guns, torpedoes, and guided missiles (for surface ships), to sonar and depth charges (for submarines and mines). It’s one of those games that plays out in two separate parts: the map and the encounter. The map is where most of the game takes place. It’s from here that you will arrange your boats, scan for other ships or hazards, use long-range weapons like the missiles, and make repairs to your ships that managed to limp away from their last battle. However, it’s in the encounter screen that we see all that glorious ship-to-ship combat! It is here that you must prove your worth against the enemy, and do so in the most efficient way possible. Depending on the ship, the key to victory will not always be a quick sink, nor will that always be an option. Sometimes settling for disabling the ship for a stronger ally to mop is the absolute best outcome one could possibly hope for. Like I said before, this isn’t the BattleShip you grew up with. Targeted strikes on an enemy are essential for victory!

It goes so far beyond the simple “place-and-go” play of the original boardgame, to the point where going into a mission without some sort of plan in mind becomes…well just a really stupid thing to do, and it makes absolutely certain that you learn just how much of an idiot you were for doing so. I’ve had this game since 1996 and I’ve still never managed to make it all the way through.

It’s got its share of flaws of course: Re-arming ships is possible but how to do so isn’t very well explained, It can be hard to tell mines apart from subs, and encounters can become tedious if you manage to disable the right parts of an enemy ship right away with a weaker vessel. However, there is a solid game here that definitely feels like Battleship even though the boards and blinds are gone! Fast forward to modern days where the best Battleship translation a developer/publisher can come up with winds up being an FPS, I can’t help but wonder how that could happen if the basis for a successful translation were already made available more than 20 years ago! With that in mind, and all the games coming out these days, who knows how many important innovations and methods are going unnoticed? It’s a tragedy that must be put to an end!

Do your part to end it and play more games! The gaming world needs you to do it in order to avoid falling backward like it did with Battleship!

Have you played any games that accomplished their goals better than a similar modern game? How can go about seeing that truly innovative games get the recognition they deserve?


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