Work that funky East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, Baby!
You knew it was coming. The grognard (We swear this a word - Ed.) armchair militarists have taken Rommel's Panzers to Washington, fought with Montgomery at El Alamein, and driven Patton tanks to Berlin ahead of the Russians. War in Europe has been done, redone, recreated, reheated, and rehashed to a total overwhelming finality. Hitler was either dead or the ruler of everything. The United States was either victorious or vanquished at the hands of the nefarious Nazis. Now that all of us have had our fill of the European War, it is time to go to the other side of the world.
And Pacific General is exactly the type of the game to do just that, and do it rather well, if I might add. Of course, you might expect such things from a game whose predecessors were the incomparable Panzer General and Allied General. This third installment in the World War II "General" series sticks closely to the tried and tested formula of the originals.
The desktop and turn-based game play are essentially the same, with pull-down menus on either side of the screen and a labeled point-and-click interface of buttons on each pull-down menu. Labels appear if you leave the mouse cursor on the button for an extended period of time. This type of user-friendliness pervades the entire game, including the Unit Purchase screen and the Scenario editor. This is always a good thing, because while reading the instruction manual cover to cover is certainly recommended for anyone who wants to totally dominate the opposition, it should not be required reading just to start playing.
Other facets of the game include a great soundtrack, though admittedly a little too passive and optimistic for war, graphics which actually include better drawn cities and mountain ranges, and a phenomenal scenario and campaign editor that includes all Axis and Allied units from Panzer General and Allied General. One unique feature is the ability to see the chances a certain unit will have offensively against another unit on the battlefield. Anyone who has watched a precious armored unit get destroyed by some obscure special infantry piece will appreciate this feature. Hey, everyone likes to know whether a battle is going to be a suicide mission before he or she sends in the troops to get the job done.
The campaign structure is fairly simple with only two choices, the Allies (Americans) or the Japanese. My only complaint about the American tour of duty is its brevity and narrow path. I would have appreciated the opportunity to take on the Japanese in China, Burma, or even a last ditch defense of North America. The Japanese campaign is more open ended, with more choices concerning where you focus your forces.
All in all, this is a great game that will most likely be overshadowed by the hype surrounding the release of Panzer General II. This is unfortunate, because it seems that of the original "Five Star Series", all elements have come to perfection here; graphics, sound, interface, gameplay, and campaign structure. There comes from this game a feeling of a true appreciation of history on the part of its designers, an essential element that many might actually consider to be a luxury. This has been the precedent with all SSI military history games in recent years, and this writer can only hope that it continues in the next line of games. Chalk up another for SSI!