I’m never sure the concept is structurally sound when I hear about board games getting the video game treatment. Especially when they’re going to be single-player only. When was the last time you sat around playing a board game by yourself? That’s what card games are for, right? So strip away the single most powerful incentive to play a board game and translate it into electronic form. Super Battleship is an interesting take on the popular formula, providing both a classic Battleship mode and an all new turn-based type game.
Classic Battleship is played on a grid with ships of varying sizes, which are then placed on the grid strategically. Once both players have set their pieces, you take turns with the computer selecting three locations where you believe they’ve placed something. After choosing which three squares seem most probable for a computerized mind, you’ll see if you got any hits on any of the opponent’s pieces. This goes back and forth until both a player’s entire fleet is destroyed. There are no variants and of course making this mode multi-player wouldn’t have made any sense, since you would be able to see your opponents screen. There’s not much replay value on the table.
Thankfully, Super Battleship features another mode, with plenty of missions to satiate your primal urge to blow things up. The missions descriptions are terse, which is probably a good thing. One asks that you “escort a convoy”, the in-game description is “escort a convoy or destroy all enemy ships in 40 turns”. There’s no need for a storyline, or for elaboration. It’s pretty self-explanatory since your ships are blue and the enemies are red. Destroy them and you’ll be congratulated with a clip of a battleship slowly floating into a port.
It’s a shame the movement is so sluggish and that it takes so long to make any kind of change in direction with your ships. The vessels are, of course, taken straight from Classic Battleship, in their size and lack of detail. So you’ll need to accommodate the faster crafts, because it becomes all too easy to unintentionally have them speeding off for an extended island vacation, much like in Gilligan’s Island. A beached Battleship will remain aground for the remainder of the game. It’s much easier for the slower boats to turn, so I assume this was done for realistic purposes.
Besides, Super Battleship should probably be judged on its execution, in terms of turn-based strategy. Which it handles well. You’ll have a top-down view of the action while navigating the boats or deciding what to blow up. It’s easy enough to tell which boats are which; you’re blue and enemies are red. Striking a delicate balance between action and strategy, you’ll flip to an on-deck perspective, viewing the enemy from behind the ship’s guns. Specific areas of the opponent can be aimed at and depending on how close you got before firing the initial first shot, it’s pretty easy to tell what’s been damaged on the ship. What it basically comes down to is knocking out their primary guns and then going for whatever is keeping the boat afloat. Likewise, they have the same objective. Ships do vary in main gun types as well as other weaponry. Torpedoes, self-guided missiles, and depth charges are also available for your destructive impulses. Repair crews are aboard each ship, ready to be assigned to fixing the engine, or any other part of your watercraft that may take fire.
Often, there are mines in the water which cannot be seen from above and these will cause your ships to sink instantly, if hit. There are already enough challenges imposed by turn-limits and such within every mission that the game will prove to be more than a little tasking. I don’t need all of my boats hitting floating mines and landing ashore because they’re going too fast to turn. Does anybody really want that, in a game? As your last boat sinks, you see water overtake your screen and a skull icon in the corner, followed by a brief message which reads: “All is doom!”
Aside from the aforementioned problems, I did enjoy the missions. Super Battleship will just move at too slow of a pace for many, as it takes forever for many of the sprites to move about on screen. But if you’re looking for an oddly satisfying fresh look at an old board game which is entirely single-player, on the SNES, Super Battleship might just be the game you’re looking for.