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Missile Command: Recharged Review

Publisher: Atari

Price: $2.99

Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch

Arcade games were never the same when Atari released the very first Missile Command in 1980. A technological and entertainment marvel, Missile Command was an incredibly popular arcade machine that found even more popularity on the Atari 2600, selling more than 2 million copies. Missile Command was lauded for its gameplay and presentation, which would continue to see praise for several decades. Now, Missile Command has returned as Missile Command: Recharged, bringing the classic gameplay into a newer generation for all to enjoy. Missile Command: Recharged is an excellent throwback to earlier times, but those looking for a deeper experience will not find it here.

The original Missile Command was released in a dizzying time in American culture. Fear of nuclear war with the Soviet Union continued to pulsate throughout American communities, and pop culture took to this fear to create a variety of movies and games. Missile Command is one such creation, putting players as the commander of their own missile defense system to defend the cities on the ground. Players used a unique controller, the trackball, to roll the aiming cursor towards the incoming missiles. Additionally, the unique mechanic of the game was to fire missiles ahead of incoming missiles, as the missile will detonate ahead of the target and destroy the target in the blast radius. Speed and precision had to be mastered to gain the highest possible score.

Missile Command: Recharged sticks to the same tried and true gameplay mechanics, with a new, sleeker presentation, leaderboards, and a new control interface. The goal of Missile Command: Recharged is simple: Defend the cities and destroy as many missiles as possible. Missile Command: Recharged adds a new aspect to the classic formula by including power-ups. The randomized power-ups provide players with the ability to rack up a higher score and stay alive. To compensate for the lack of a trackball, Missile Command: Recharged has two methods of play. The first is to use the joy-cons to aim and fire. The next method is to play in undocked mode and use the Nintendo Switch touch-screen to eliminate missiles. At the end of a run, players upgrade their missile defense system, form the explosion radius to the reload speed.

Missile Command: Recharged perfectly recaptures the timeless gameplay of the original. The visuals are sharp, dynamic, and eye-popping, with an astounding presentation that gives the sensation of being at a military computer system. The gameplay is still refreshing as ever, though the trackball is sorely missed, and the joy-con aiming does the bare minimum. Fortunately, the use of the touchscreen in undocked mode creates an incredibly addictive gameplay sensation, pinpointing where missiles will detonate.  The thumping music and the steady increase in difficulty all create a heightened action experience, and the use of the game’s many power-ups are exciting. From chain missiles that greatly increase the multiplier to massive bombs and large explosions, Missile Command: Recharged becomes an exciting retro experience. For those looking for a challenge, Missile Command: Recharged has leaderboards for players to conquer.

Missile Command: Recharged is a great revisit of an arcade video game, but sadly, like its predecessors from decades past, Missile Command: Recharged does not have much to offer outside of one game mode. The game contains the main gameplay mode that all are familiar with, but that is all that Missile Command: Recharged has to offer. This feels like a perfectly missed opportunity to expand Missile Command: Recharged further, and potentially provide a history of the game through a campaign in a way not dissimilar from Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, which told the actual history of the band through the levels of the campaign. Missile Command is a historical video game icon, on par with Pacman and Tetris. Missile Command was featured in various pop culture moments most famously seen in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, where John Connor plays the game as a foreshadowing of the imminent nuclear destruction that was to come within the movie. It would have been fascinating to explore these appearances and listen to the interview from those that played the game.  Additionally, the core gameplay could’ve been spun into something new in another gameplay mode. Boss fights, a revenge mode, perhaps an entirely new mode altogether could have further enhanced the game. This level of thinking would have been similar to 2018’s Battlezone: Gold Edition, another revisiting of a classic Atari arcade game.

Missile Command: Recharged is an amazing reintroduction of one of the most popular and important arcade video games of all time. The presentation is sharp, the gameplay is as strong as ever, and the leaderboards will have you locked into competition for quite some time. It just feels as if we should have seen so much more from an arcade classic and a new means to educate a newer generation on the importance of Missile Command. Still, Missile Command: Recharged is an excellent choice for instant arcade action on the Nintendo Switch, and for the price, you simply cannot go wrong with revisiting allout nuclear war.

A review key was provided by UberStrategist for the purpose of review on the Nintendo Switch.

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