Tactics games were/are an incredibly popular genre of games, especially within their heyday on the handhelds of the 2000s. The most popular series of those days were Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem, as well as Advance Wars. Area 35’s Tiny Metal, and now it’s sequel, Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble want to be a spiritual successor to these series (especially Advance Wars) even if some of those series are still thriving. Which begs the question: whose place are they trying to take?
Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble is a tactics game that heavily borrows from the Advance Wars series in terms of gameplay. While I have never personally played a full Advance Wars myself, I can sense building on top of something else when playing it. Unfortunately Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble isn’t really doing that. It simply does the bare minimum to pull an audience through nostalgia rather than give them a fresh experience. This isn’t to say the gameplay is bad. It is in fact the best part of the game. The problem is it is exceedingly average in its execution.
Not a single mission in Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble’s exhaustively long campaign did anything truly exciting occur. Both in gameplay or plot. The story is so cliche and boring that I can barely recall the protagonist’s names. Though the excellent art style easily paints them in my mind for me days after I was done with the game. For the most part, the story feels like an excuse to pad out the game, an afterthought. And within that story is the details, such as the incredibly awkward writing that feels as if it was written by a teenager in high school rather than someone interested in telling a story.
Not a single mission in Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble’s exhaustively long campaign did anything truly exciting occur.
Though possibly even worse than the awful dialogue is the confusing, befuddled voice acting. The actors sound as if they are recording in someone’s closet. Possibly in the dark, because often times one character would say a line in a completely different emotion implied, only for the other character to act as if the previous character wasn’t yelling. It is without a doubt some of the laziest voice direction I have encountered in a game. It is very clear that anything to do with a story was rushed, but it isn’t the lone element that feels like it got a once-over.
The game has a huge lack of menus. Visual novels seem to be some of the easiest kinds of games in the world to make, and even they have a basic save game menu. In no way can you actively save your game in Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble. There is a problem with the game being incredibly bright and oversaturated (with a large number of levels taking place in bright, white snow) and yet no menu to adjust this.
And while I can’t speak to whether technical problems I encountered were my computer’s fault or the game’s, I felt it worth mentioning my game became stuck at mission number 10, and no matter how many times I beat it I was unable to progress. But again, not knowing the exact cause of this issue, please take it with a large grain of salt. This error is not going to tally into my final score, I only felt it should be noted.
Back to the better elements stated earlier, you do get a cavalcade of unit types from foot soldiers, vehicles, tanks, aircraft, and mechs. So does your enemy, with very few varieties in the missions to actually cause any excitement. The majority of time spent in the game is you simply pushing your way through enemy forces to capture their main headquarters. Over and over and over. An endless cycle.
Still, a shining part of the game is it’s unique, cute anime art style that gives memorable character designs. It’s just rather disappointing you will probably struggle to remember their names. And in battles, the models for troops are fun little chibi designs, which are weirdly charming despite them murdering each other in a battlefield. And astoundingly the vocal performances are more talented by simple troop voice lines than they are for the story. Once again, this is a bit of a mixed bag for what exactly is going on with this game.
Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble is definitely an eye-catcher with its art style and nostalgia imagery for tactics games of an older time. Yet it contains neither the actual charm, character, or innovation that series before it inspired. There are certainly other tactics games being made worth your time.