Overall Rating: 3/5
Back in 1988, the Nintendo Entertainment System was just a toddler in video game years, and still finding its firm legs in discovering what genres and types of cartridges were enjoyable, marketable, and ultimately successful. Along came the development team SNK, who released several cart titles for the NES, one of which was Iron Tank.
With a premise straight from the World War II books on American History, it followed our courageous hero Paul as he stormed the beach of Normandy in his titular tank. Armed to the teeth and very mobile, the player must drive and tank and blast the way through jungles and cityscapes to help the Allies to victory.
This is a title that is largely shrouded in obscurity and never on the “greatest ever” lists, but does it deserve to be so vastly ignored?
The directional pad controls the direction of the tank, the A button fires the small turrets, and the B button fires the big gun. Between firings of the turrets, the cannon stays fixated in its fixed direction, allowing creative drivers to fire in one direction while moving in another. This is handy, and definitely a big help in certain areas.
Otherwise, it plays exactly like you would expect, with your tank plowing ahead and taking punishment. However, a couple neat features exist; when you bump into certain friendly characters, you can talk to them. In addition, when you hit Select, you arrive at a panel screen in which you can select different types of rounds for your turret, or receive incoming radio calls.
There are huge, intimidating “boss” type vehicles, and opposing infantry units that pose little threat on the other end of the spectrum. But the greatest discovery a beginning Iron Tank player will make is not only can you run over infantry without having to shoot them, but doing so restores your tank’s health.
The graphics for Iron Tank are just right; nothing spectacular, but fully rendered in appropriate, gritty, militaristic and jungle colorings, with explosions animated fairly well. This game does, at times, suffer from skipping and choppy framerate issues when many sprites are on screen at once. Otherwise, it is neat to see enemy plans flying overhead for strafing runs, and the unique characterization of both the common grunts of the opposing army and the supporting cast players will run into.
The background music is passable, and the effects are what is to be expected. There is nothing outrageously notable
here. In fact, in some situations, the sound seemed to cut out entirely. The debugging crew must have been shorthanded because, between the occasional animated quirks and sounding issues, there do seem to be some holes in development that were never fixed.
Creativity and Innovation
The aforementioned control panel feature and the speaking allies on the ground are noteworthy, along with the password aspect that actually makes this a replayable, conquerable, fun title to get through.
Otherwise, it does get very difficult. The very first boss (it looks like the enemy just welded a bunch of tanks together) is a perfect example: It is bigger than you, moves more quickly and move nimbly than you, has stronger firepower, and can take more damage, yet you are expected to defeat it by memorizing its firing and movement patterns, rather adeptly dodging its spread rounds, and getting off your own on-target cannon fire in between dodges. But afterward, you are rewarded with some infantry grunts to run over for energy and a power-up as well, very much like later bosses, so all hope does not seem lost.
It is not a completely original game, and seems to have just taken the ideas from a couple other titles and put them into a tank situation. But for having a solid password function, the control panel abilities, and the heart of the speaking roles you run into (literally), it is a little above the average run-of-the-mill NES title and thus grabs a three-stars-out-of-five rating. For a look at other above-average selections for the classic Nintendo Entertainment System console, visit NintendoLegend.com.