War has never been so much fun.
That’s a controversial way to start a Retroist post, so imagine the uproar when a little video game called Cannon Fodder used it to maximum effect back in 1993!
Cannon Fodder from Sensible Software rocked Great Britain, baiting the British media into advertising it through its use of the Remembrance Day poppy, and that ‘catchy’ phrase. The newspapers had a field day with this game, criticising it for its juxtaposition of war and humour, calling the game “offensive to millions” and “monstrous”.
It wasn’t all bad press though. One paper stated that the game was “a relatively profound statement on the futility of war”. Regardless, the publicity surrounding Cannon Fodder made it a game worthy of attention. And did I mention that the game intro actually SANG that memorable catchphrase too? Look and listen kids…
Thankfully, media attention and controversy were not the defining features of this war game. Cannon Fodder is incredibly good! An overhead action game where you are your soldiers fight with nothing but a mouse pointer to guide them.
I could spend time explaining the gameplay. The nice little touches like the poppies planted in the field for each lost soul. The overwhelming feeling of dread when you lost a soldier that had been with through numerous campaigns. If you’ve not played the Amiga original, you should really hunt out a longplay video on Youtube to see for yourself. This game was truly brilliant, and a reason to own the hardware.
The Amiga version of Cannon Fodder wasn’t really meant to be my focus for this post though. Instead, let me introduce you to the scaled down Game Boy Color edition:
Quite by accident I spotted on Ebay listing for Cannon Fodder GBC and was surprised to see a high purchase price. I didn’t know anything about this version of the game, but that high price intrigued me.
I went looking for a gameplay video to learn more and I was not disappointed. The game is a delight in every regard!
It has a CGI intro, gorgeous graphics, amazing audio and technically stunning gameplay that I didn’t know this Nintendo portable was capable of… this video really is a must-see:
The game is clearly cut-down from its original source. You don’t control the same number of soldiers, the viewable area is much smaller, proper tactical decisions are mostly replaced by a simpler version of the core games run-and-gun mechanic… you get the idea.
It’s basically everything I thought would be wrong with the game. Except in this rare exception, this diminutive Cannon Fodder doesn’t suffer at all from these changes. It instead becomes a game that borrows heavily from its source, making something wonderful for its host system.
Whilst researching this article, I read the original manual for Cannon Fodder on the Amiga. It is full of really funny comments, such as:
You do not directly control troopers but instead determine their behaviour thanks to a remarkable interfacing technique involving a mouse, a pointer, and a troop leader,
BAZOOKAS – Not to be confused with the crude trombone-like musical instruments of the same name, or, indeed, bazoomas, which are something else entirely. These bazookas are weapons of war.
… on a more serious note: don’t try playing this at home, kids, because war is not a game – war, as Cannon Fodder demonstrates in its own quirky way, is a senseless waste of human resources and lives. We hope that you never have to find out the hard way.
If you like the Cannon Fodder theme tune, this video might interest you. It is the Amiga CD32 intro which features the developers acting up. The CD32 of course was Commodore’s ill-fated foray into the world of console gaming:
Still here? Then watch as the creator of the Cannon Fodder theme, Jon “Jops” Hare, sings and plays his creation at Pixel Heaven 2014!
If I still haven’t convinced you that Cannon Fodder on the Game Boy Color is a worthy title, IGN gave it a 90% review back in 2001.
Please don’t leave the screaming wounded to die. Bite the bullet, so to speak. and do the decent thing: finish them off.
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