For as long as the GBA has existed, fans of the classic PC strategy game X-Com have clamored for a portable version. Better late than never; the makers of the legendary tactical game have finally come through with Rebelstar: Tactical Command. Though it lacks the base-building and economic concerns of its ancestor, Rebelstar delivers in a big way with a lengthy, engaging campaign married to an elegant turn-based combat system.
In the game's sci-fi storyline, Earth has been overrun by a psionic race of aliens called Arellians who resemble your standard X-Files extraterrestrials. Under Arellian rule, humans are implanted with mind-reading chips at birth, then taken away from society once they reach 30 years of age. The humans with the willpower to resist the mind-control chips have formed ragtag rebel bands to fight the Arellians, as well as the Zorn, a brutish alien race who serve their Arellian masters. A third alien race, the insect-like Fraylar, also get involved. You'll take the role of a human lad named Jorel, who runs away to join the rebel cause after his parents are abducted. Over the course of the game's lengthy 24-mission campaign, you'll learn more about the relationships between all the races, and more about Jorel as well.
The core of Rebelstar's gameplay is turn-based, tactical combat on a gridlike map. You'll control small squads of soldiers, each of whom can carry weapons like sniper rifles, laser pistols, and even combat knives, as well as other equipment like ammo clips and grenades. Each side takes turns, during which you can move each of your troops, order them to fire, and/or do special actions such as heal a friendly unit or use psionic power to frighten or stun enemies. The game follows strict line-of-sight rules, so you can only see what your soldiers see in front of them. Obstructions on the maps, like foliage, walls, and debris, can not only provide cover, but concealment as well. Some of these obstacles can be destroyed by heavy weapons; you'll need to take full advantage of the terrain in each map to succeed.
Those who are familiar with X-Com will recognize Rebelstar's action-point system, which determines how much each of your soldiers can do in a turn. Everything from moving to firing a weapon, reloading, or throwing grenades takes a specified number of action points. Even the act of turning your character around takes a few points. This forces you to make some hard decisions about where and how far to move your soldiers on a turn, lest you find yourself face-to-face with an enemy, without enough action points to fire your weapon. To help you out with this, the game shows you a handy, color-coded grid each time you select a soldier to move. This shows you how far you can move while still having enough points left to do an aimed shot, or a quicker (but less accurate) snap shot. If you leave yourself enough action points at the end of a turn, you can put your soldier into overwatch mode, which will allow him or her to attack during the enemy's turn if a foe should wander into that soldier's line of sight. Not everything's quite the same as X-Com, though. You can't kneel or go prone to improve your accuracy, for example.