All things being equal, you should be reading a review of Flying Nightmares for the 3DO. The reason you’re not is that after putting in several hours over a couple of days, I gave up. With confusing, multi-button controls, massively over-sensitive input from the d-pad and a difficulty curve that starts at Eiger level on the training missions and just gets harder, it became too frustrating to review. So whilst you’ll never get a score from me for that title, you can pretty much guess my opinion of it. Instead, you’re getting the back-up review: The Perfect General, also for the 3DO.
A port (seemingly) of a turn-based strategy title released in 1991 for the Amiga and PC, the 3DO update takes only some of what made the original release a decent if unspectacular game and tries to make it fit on to a home console. I will say now that the original garnered a fair few real-world scenario add-ons that covered World War 2 and the late 20th Century which cemented the feel of realism about the title. Well, as real as a hex-based game can get. But in saying that, it took its subject seriously. Naturally, being a home console release, that’s not what we get here and the first sign of this is the splash screen when the game loads – see the image above.
You can play The Perfect General in one of three modes: Campaign, Tournament and a Bonus mode. Campaign mode is fairly simple, with three maps and five missions per map. These must be tackled in order and provide a hefty challenge, with each mission lasting up to an hour or more. Fortunately, there are three save slots available to keep track of your progress.
Tournament gives you the option of human v computer, human v human and computer v computer battles This is effectively the training area where you can select options for difficulty (one of three, increasingly difficult opponents – Alexander, Sergio and Ghengis), the type of damage you can take, the hit probability, limits on the map view and a handicap to vary the challenge a little bit more. There are fourteen maps included here and to be honest, this is probably the best place to start when first playing The Perfect General. The Bonus game is a multiplayer mode.
Once you have selected your game, you’ll get the chance to select your forces on a dollar based value, watch a bit of video and then off you go. And it’s here that my issues with the game start.
Obviously, being an early-90’s CD console port, there are “enhancements” over the original game as well as the adaptation to a gamepad controller. For The Perfect General, these “enhancements” are the general user interface design (very reminiscent of pub quiz machines in style), an inoffensive light music track that plays constantly in the background and burrows itself into your head so that long after you’re finished playing the game, you’ll find yourself humming the music for days to come which also contrasts poorly with the subject of the game (I image the composer thought the players would be ensconced in their study with this title, not hogging the living room TV) and, finally, the full motion video clips. Yeah. FMV. Sigh…
A cynic might say that the introduction of video scenes into this title was simply a way in which to fill up the disc – remember, the core game arrived on floppies back in the day. Someone slightly less cynical may say that the FMV exists to highlight the benefits of the 3DO (Look! It can do this!!!) and to immerse the player in the game. Me, I say it could be a bit of both of those points of view. In fact, what may have been seen as charming and funny back upon release is now just cheap looking and boring. Yes, I know Command and Conquer pretty much ruled when it came to in-game video cut scenes but they had a budget, talent and a studio to record in. The Perfect General’s videos lack all of those things. They are small, poor resolution clips that sound like they were recorded in a toilet cubicle nestled in the depths of an abandoned factory. And as for the acting, well, Genghis looks like they doped up Grandpa, stuck him in front of a green screen and made him read off cue cards without his glasses. It also doesn’t help that each (ahem) actor has a slightly irradiated Ready Brek look caused by the green-screening – especially the “Killer Weather Chick” (their description, not mine).
This does not necessarily mean that The Prefect General is a bad game per se, except that it demonstrates that whatever money was used to port the title over to the 3DO was pretty much spent on poor CGI and terrible FMV. The in-game graphical style is quite different from the home computer versions, and while it may be more fitting to the home console market (whatever that means), it does make the viewable area of the map quite small, leading to a lot of scrolling around. In-game animation is limited, as are the sound effects and on the whole, the original title looks a lot cleaner and is easier to view.
So, with poorer graphics and nothing special in the sound department (Isn’t that every strategy game in the 90’s I hear you ask?) it is left to the gameplay to save The Perfect General. Except it’s here that the final nail is driven into the coffin. It’s just not a nice game to play.
The hints and tips given during the briefings at the beginning of each campaign mission are complete and utter bobbins – so ignore them. Also, campaign mode difficulty is variable at best and downright punishing at worst. Controls are an issue as well – they are simple to use but if ever a game needed mouse input, this is the one. Scrolling around using an unresponsive d-pad coupled with an unresponsive cursor is fun-sappingly dull, which is where the limited map view really hits home, especially as some of the maps are quite large. When just trying to move units becomes a chore, you know there is something wrong here. What passes for humour and the over the top presentation have not aged well either.
As noted before, the tournament mode is best used for training purposes and at least some of the maps provided display more whimsy but I didn’t get a chance to try out the Bonus game mode.
Turn-based strategy games have never been an easy sell on home consoles. The control mechanisms cry out for mouse input (even with analogue sticks, it just doesn’t feel right) and even back in the early ‘90’s, the average PC screen was way ahead of the standard TV resolution. That is not to say that developers shouldn’t have tried. Here, they have certainly delivered a turn-based strategy game, just one that you may have played three years prior on a computer and, more importantly, not one that brought anything new to the genre. Pretty much all of the additions are frivolous decoration and little attention has been paid to actually making the game fun to play on the 3DO. As such, this amounts to little more than shovelware, which I would like to think is not what the developers intended. If you’re a fan of the genre and of the 3DO, then this may appeal as a curio but it is certainly not an essential part of this console’s library. Otherwise, save yourself the effort (and a lot of frustration) and search out the original PC version. I promise you, you’ll have more fun with that, even without the FMV and Killer Weather Chick!
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Technically competent but dated and not much fun to play, this is a title that is best left for completists and the curious.