War games are in great abundance in the market these days. I can always count on seeing a whole row of games dedicated to probably the worst aspect of human existence. Games about WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and the Korean War. Heck, there are even futuristic war games like Third World War for the Sega CD and other titles like it for the PC and consoles.
I’ve never personally understood why these war games are really popular, or more particularly why so many are being made anymore. Perhaps everyone has a lust for blood and killing down the enemies of the past.Or perhaps there’s some kind of fascination with the historical aspect behind it. But to me, there’s only so many times I can storm Normandy Beach and not start to go, “Is this it?” I can only take so much of the realistic war games until I start wanting to play something else.
Not that I don’t appreciate history or war games, but again it begins to go stale when you’re shooting at Nazis, the Japanese, terrorists, etc. for the thousandth time. However, I’ve recently fell in love with what I like to call mock war games. The Advance Wars series for the Game Boy Advance is really popular here, and I can see why. It has a very nice anime style graphically and the strategic gameplay is simply addictive. But I’m going way back before Advance Wars (but not before Famicom Wars, but the American audience didn’t know it existed). I’m talking about EA’s take on war, General Chaos.
General Chaos, created by Game Refuge Inc. whose creations include Xenophobe and Rampage, is the lightest rendition of war ever. With the same graphical style as Rampage, you never take the game seriously, unlike most war games now. Each solider is hilariously animated, as they try to take down each other in the closest quarters possible. Even the death scenes are hilarious, with most just hitting the ground and laying around for while then turning into skeletons. Shame that the music is pretty much nonexistent.
For a strategy game, it’s quite simple: Two warring parties do battle on different terrain such as forests, deserts, and cities, all in the name of total conquest (in campaign mode anyway). Before each battle, you are a choice of four different squads, three of them a team of five members and one team of “commandos” with only two members. There are five different solider types with different ranges of attack: a machine gunner, a grenade thrower, a dynamite expert, a bazooka launcher, and a flame thrower. Once you pick your squad, you are thrust immediately into battle. Each battle is only one screen, so no scrolling and no chance of losing focus on your crew. With the five member team, you control your troops in a Starcraft-esque sort of way. You can control where your troop run too and who they shoot at. With the commando team, you have direct control of their movement instead of controlling your members with cursor. This sound confusing to you? The game actually features a boot camp to get you used to the controls and setup, something console games didn’t really have when this was released.
The object is to mow down your enemies while staying alive. This is quite a feat, for there are several hazards abound the game world, not just the enemies’ fire. If your squad member is crossing a river and you simply forget about him in the thick of battle, he will drown. When one of your soldiers is knocked out, you have the ability to revive him by moving your cursor over the character and pressing the C button. This will bring a medic onto the field to drag your character out, and shortly, he will be running back into battle, good as new. You might want to watch out during battle, because your troops will sometimes have to reload their weapon, making them vulnerable to attacks. Also, if you wish to gain a higher score (which doesn’t really matter anyway because there’s no save feature), you can try your hand at completing some optional special missions which – depending on what terrain you are on – include destroying the enemies’ water tower, protecting a railroad shipment, or disabling an aircraft (by blowing it up).
While most of the combat is focused on weaponry, General Chaos has a quirky system that allows for close combat. When two opposing parties are close together, the action stops to center around the two combatants to go toe-to-toe and see what they’re made of. Your character has your standard punch, kick, and block moves, all with varying height by pressing the directional pad. The winner stays to fight as the loser is knocked on the ground for a few seconds or ,even worse, killed (this has lead to hilarious scenarios with my friends when someone would die immediately due to a brawl of punching each other in the junk). The system is usually a button smashing fest of who can push the buttons faster, but you have to mix up your moves. If you attack someone with the same attack the entire time, the enemy will pull out a gun and shoot the other character, making your efforts worthless if you’re being a cheap bastard.
General Chaos‘ selling point certainly wasn’t it’s single-player mode. There are only three campaigns of the tale between General Chaos (you) versus General Havoc (the enemy). While fun, the game has a really bad difficulty balance. Besides, this is first and foremost, a party game. The multi-player in this game is incredible, being able to battle with your friends or against them and have giant junk-punching contest. It’s one of the few games that supported Electronic Art’s 4-Way Play Adapter (a multi-tap for the Genesis made by EA).
General Chaos‘ take on war is never serious, and it’s completely addictive and easy to get into. While the one player mode is fun but unbalanced, it’s the multi-player that set this game above most other party games. It’s a shame this game went underappreciated and generally ignored.
Defunct Games – The Life & Times of an Adventurous EA Good article about an old EA that was actually daring and creative.
Sega-16 – General Chaos Review of the game.