Desert Commander (NES)

Desert Commander Box Art

Desert Commander

System: NES

Release Date: June 1989

Developer: Kemco

Publisher: Kemco*Seika

Genre: Strategy

Color me surprised that we were gifted a turn-based strategy warfare game by Kemco in the guise of Desert Commander. You take control of the Allies in Northern Africa and go against the Axis Army. Both armies have a goal of defeating the other’s Headquarters unit. Once that happens, the battle is over.

There are five scenarios of increasing difficulty. The AI doesn’t get any smarter as you move along, they just get more units. There are ten different units that make up your armies. Before each scenario, you can accept the default troop load out or customize it for an advantage. Each unit has a range of movement that varies among the terrain. Ground units move quickest on road, medium in the desert, and slowest in the wilds. They also have fuel that gets expended as they move. And a maximum amount of ammo before they must resupply.

Tanks are your jack of all trades units. They have a large movement range, plenty of ammo, and are well matched against other ground units. Armored cars have the highest movement of ground troops, but they aren’t as strong as tanks. Troop Transports are weak, but as their name implies, can carry infantry to help them be more mobile. Infantry are mainly weak, but are effective against the enemy Headquarters, so are useful. Supply trucks replenish ammo and fuel to units adjacent to them.

Field Cannons are artillery units that can fire up to four squares away. These are very strong against tanks, but if they are attacked, expect them to die. Anti-Aircraft guns can attack up to three squares away and excel at destroying bombers and fighters, but can still be useful against ground units. Bombers have a huge range of movement and can blast away ground units with great efficiency, but must replenish ammo frequently. Fighters are good at taking out other flying units, but terrible at fighting ground units. Headquarters units aren’t very mobile, but they have a ton of ammo and are very good defensively.

Terrain is important to control in order to win the battles. The wilds give a bonus to defense, while giving a penalty to movement. You can resupply ground units by ending their turn on towns. This can also heal units on top of fuel and ammo. Airfields act as towns for airborne units. There are also oasis squares that increase attack power and bunker squares that increase defense power. Using these squares intelligently will go a long way to securing victory for the good guys.

Graphics: 2.0

Graphics are average, but you can tell what every unit is supposed to be and won’t be confused by the terrain tiles.

Sound: 2.0

There are multiple background music tracks to choose from. Some of them sounded like they were similar to Superman, which makes sense being from Kemco.

Gameplay: 2.5

The controls work decently. You can undo a move before you accept it by pressing the B Button.

Difficulty: 3.0

The levels become more difficult by way of troop increases. If you can funnel them into your traps, they’ll fall quickly.

Fun Factor: 2.0

This isn’t the most fun strategy game I’ve ever played, but for 1989, this is a fine little war romp.

Overall Grade: 2.3

Desert Commander earns a C+. I wasn’t expecting this and I was pleasantly surprised. If you like the Nintendo Wars series, give this a try.

Desert Commander Video Review on YouTube