Is it “Power Mission” or “Power Missiøn”? This forgotten release provided a pretty decent portable war gaming experience. It would be eclipsed by better-known games within a matter of months.
Japanese Title: パワーミッション
Developer: Graphic Research
Publisher: VAP [JP] NTVIC [U.S.]
Release date: 8.24.1990 [JP]
Genre: Strategy (Turn-based, Military)
Super Game Boy: No enhancements
Previous in series: None
Next in series: None
Similar titles: Battleship [Use/Mindscape, 1989], Radar Mission [Nintendo, 1990]
Back in July 1990, Nintendo Power featured a small promo for a game called Power Mission. Bearing a remarkable resemblance to Mega Man, Power Mission was to feature platforming action and colorful graphics — surely a fine NES game in the making. Eventually, it was renamed Power Blazer for Japan and Power Blade for America, and it was indeed pretty good.
This, however, is not that game. Unfortunately. While I’m marvelously suited to weigh in on the merits of Mega Man-esque action games from the 8-bit era, I’m less adroit when it comes to releases like the Game Boy title that actually did come out bearing the name “Power Missiøn” (note the diacritic in the ø — perhaps to differentiate it from Taito’s original solicitation for Power Blade?).
Hailing from none other than VAP, the infamous creators of worst-Famicom-game-ever Super Monkey Daibouken (see Chrontendo episode 12 or Retronauts episode 80 for all you need to know about that one), Power Missiøn is a turn-based strategy game in the classic style. I am absolutely terrible at games like this, and Power Missiøn is no different. That being said, this failing seems to be more an issue with myself, not the game. Despite the presence of the name VAP on the title screen, though, Power Missiøn doesn’t appear to be particularly terrible. It’s a by-the-numbers war simulation, basically taking Battleship a step further by allowing players to move around the map rather than simply sit stationary and launch missiles.
It’s definitely not a game you want to play solo, however. Power Missiøn is designed for head-to-head play, and that’s the way to approach it. Playing solo proves to be an exercise in tedium and failure, involving a great deal of watching a static screen as the computer plays out its action with unfailing efficiency. Another player could never be so cannily accurate at hunting down your fleet as the computer, because another player would be bound by the same fog-of-war as you are — a limitation the CPU doesn’t seem to concern itself with.
Each session of Power Missiøn begins with players choosing from one of several different fleet configurations. You have about half a dozen different vehicles of war at your disposal — a carrier, jets, submarines, destroyers, etc. — each with different hit point values and a different weapons load out, and you can choose from a small selection of predetermined ship combinations. Once you’ve done so, you place your individual ships and jets within a limited range at your own end of the map. You can only scan so far ahead on the map, so at the beginning of the battle you won’t be able to see your enemy’s fleet, which is arranged at the opposite end of the battlefield, out of your visual range.
Play proceeds by rounds in a fashion that should feel familiar to anyone who has ever played a war strategy game: You take a turn moving all your ships around, then your opponent gets a turn. Each ship or jet is allowed a few actions per round: A radar scan to explore the map, moving a set number of map grids, or attacking within that unit’s range from a palette of different offensive options. Each vessel has its own specific set of weapons: A range of surface-to-surface, surface-to-air, air-to-air, or air-to-surface offensive capabilities, determined by the nature of the unit in question. Assuming you select the correct type of assault — definitely something you’ll need the game’s manual for, since all weapons icons look almost indistinguishable from one another and bear no in-game description of their capabilities or even their names — you’ll inflict some damage on your target, and once the target’s hit points have been wiped out it’s removed from combat.
Your ultimate goal in each battle is to take out the enemy’s flagship while protecting your own. Flagships are quite durable, but their offensive capabilities are fairly limited, so it’s important to set up a defensive screen around it to take out inbound attackers. Naturally, much of the challenge of Power Missiøn is finding and homing in on your opponent’s flagship… a difficulty that, again, doesn’t seem to affect the CPU. In every round I’ve played, the computer always seems to home right in on my flagship at the outset.
Aside from that one major annoyance, though, Power Missiøn doesn’t seem like too bad a game. Nevertheless, it remains painfully obscure, with complete copies proving quite scarce (huge thanks to Armen Ashiekan for lending his complete copy to the cause). This seems to be, to some degree, a function of timing: In the year following Power Missiøn’s Japanese debute, Nintendo would publish two different takes on military combat, Radar Mission and Game Boy Wars — yes, as in Advance Wars. Later in 1990, Koei would release Nobunaga’s Ambition, and Navy Blue ’90 (a greatly expanded Japan-only sequel to Battleship) would arrive soon as well. Although Power Missiøn beat all these games to market, and two of them didn’t even ship in the U.S., the game ultimately arrived just a bit too early to a genre that was about to explode on Game Boy, and perhaps that explains its obscurity.
And I do mean obscure. Normally whenever I encounter a game I’m poorly suited to analyze, I do considerable research around the web. Power Missiøn, however, doesn’t seem to have inspired a single living person to have published a review online — not even someone dragging the game in GameFAQs’ user reviews. It’s just another forgotten release from VAP and its sister corporation NTVIC: Ultimately little more than detritus from the ’80s Famicom boom from a publisher that would soon bow out of the biz.
VAP and NTVIC (which appear to have been sibling divisions of a single corporation, much as with Pony Canyon and FCI) may not have been long for the world, but developer Graphic Research was just getting started on Game Boy. This was Graphic Research’s first Game Boy creation, and they’d be around for more than a decade following this, publishing dozens of games that… well, frankly, no one remembers. Aside from contributing to a handful of games that saw Western release, including a Digimon game, Graphic Research’s c.v. is an arm-long list of Japanese licensed titles and other niche titles doomed to languish, unknown, in Japan, forgotten even by the Japanese.
So in that sense, Power Missiøn feels like a perfect summation of its own provenance: Decent, unremarkable, obscure, forgotten, quickly overshadowed by better and more famous games that outperformed it both in terms of design and sales. But hey, even forgotten obscurities need love, too. War game fans could probably do worse than hunting down a couple of copies of Power Missiøn to play with a fellow enthusiast. They could do better, too, but sometimes there’s merit in muddling through the middle.