Moving Out, Moving Up
Man, don’t you just love it when a developer doubles down on a sequel in order to ensure that it’s vastly superior to its original? I sure do. And, of course, by “sequel”, I mean Tiny Metal: Fully Metal Rumble. Don’t get me wrong, the original Tiny Metal wasn’t bad — but it did leave a few things to be desired. Fortunately, Full Metal Rumble came along to see most, if not all, of those desires, realized.
Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble isn’t simply a sequel; it’s a major step up for the Tiny Metal series as a whole. It’s obvious that Area 34 took everything that fans were saying about the original game to heart, and used that as a driving force to ensure that its sequel was better in as many ways possible. Be they obvious changes, like introducing new units and giving each commander their own unique abilities, or more subtle, such as the addition of fuel and ammo for units, Full Metal Rumble is the culmination of using both experience and feedback in order to craft something that everyone can be happy about.
This War of Ours
Taking place sometime after the crisis which spurred Nathan Gries and his allies to fight for the continued freedom of Artemesia within the original Tiny Metal, Full Metal Rumble begins with the occurrence of yet another crisis which threatens the world at large — Dinolda. Thought to be entirely defunct and void of life, the kingdom of Dinolda has recently begun sending out innumerable swarms of AI-controlled soldiers whose mission has become to claim the powerful Lost Tech artifacts of the past and eliminate any and all who stand in their way — including Wolfram and her White Fangs mercenary group. Already in the midst of scouring the world for her long-lost brother, Wolfram must now continue her mission while driving back the Dinoldan Forces whenever and wherever they might show up, lest the world falls into Dinolda’s cold, mechanical grasp.
I’ve already talked plenty about how much better Full Metal Rumble is than its counterparts, but what I haven’t mentioned is the fact that you don’t even need to begin playing the game to see the positive changes. Accompanied by an English dub this time around (woo-hoo!), Full Metal Rumble‘s story goes beyond a straight-shooting World War story, and branches into something more intimate and personal. Wolfram’s struggle to find her brother — who may not even be alive — combined with her continued effort to support and lead the White Fangs makes the story feel much more human. Added to this is the fact that Wolfram and the White Fangs have now found allies in the nations of Artimesia and Zipang — a three-fold relationship which feels very unified and friendly, and compliments humanity’s fight for survival quite handily. Full Metal Rumble‘s story, of course, doesn’t overshadow the actual gameplay, but it’s great to see Area 34 putting so much effort into crafting relationships between the game’s characters and the world in which they live and fight.
War Never Changes (Except When it Does)
Full Metal Rumble may be bigger and better, but not everything has changed. In fact, when it comes to the game’s core mechanics, most things haven’t. Once again touting itself as a spiritual successor to Advance Wars (which it totally is), Full Metal Rumble is all about using brains over brawn to win the war by demonstrating superior tactical prowess. As anyone who’s played a game like this can tell you, brute force is rarely the answer — and if it is, then you probably just got lucky. Rather, players must carefully build up their army and scope out the surrounding land as they explore the grid-based map around them, and, when sufficiently ready, outsmarting their opponent into submission — while making sure that the same thing doesn’t happen to them.
When it comes to the basics of war, Full Metal Rumble‘s biggest change is the inclusion of ammo and fuel stats. While it might not seem like a big deal to have that at first, and with certain units, it honestly isn’t, some of the game’s more powerful units require a lot of strategy to properly maneuver through these. Powerful ground units, like the Heavy Metal, easily burn through their ammo very quickly due to them often being put at the front lines, and aerial units like the Gunship can easily find themselves low on fuel if they aren’t properly taken care of. Because of this, players must now strategize not only in order to defeat their opponent, but to prevent them from defeating themselves by running out of resources. Fortunately, restocking is as easy as visiting an appropriate facility (such as cities or airports), or designated re-supplying unit.
Since I mentioned it at the end of the last paragraph, I should probably take some time to talk about the new units as well. That’s important, right? As I’ve already mentioned, Full Metal Rumble features ground and aerial supply units (similar to Advanced Wars‘ ACP), but those pale in comparison to the real stars of the shows; mechs. Acting as a hybrid between infantry and metal units, Full Metal Rumble‘s three new mech units boast superior movement skills — thanks to both a high MP (movement) and the ability to travel across forests and mountains — as well as formidable firepower. Basically, they’re the units that you never knew that you wanted, and a huge boon to Full Metal Rumble‘s meta.
Commander and Conqueror
Units aren’t the only thing that has been upgraded in Full Metal Rumble; commanders have been overhauled as well. Taking a far step away from their interchangeability within the original Tiny Metal, each of Full Metal Rumble‘s commanders has their own unique strengths and skills which, with a handful even going so far as to parallel COs in Advance Wars (such as Wolfram and Sami both being infantry specialists). The game, however, doesn’t just blatantly rip ideas off from its source material. A good deal of Full Metal Rumble‘s characters feel entirely new and unique, such as the defense-heavy Victoria, or the Mech specialist Nora. Commander abilities, while utilized in the same way that CO Powers were in Advance Wars, also have their own unique flair, with many of them providing effects not directly related to their commander’s specialty.
On the whole the commander overhaul is an incredibly welcome change, however, it isn’t without its imperfections. With only a few exceptions, Full Metal Rumble‘s commanders typically lack any real weaknesses — only possessing strengths. While this is nice in some aspects, it can also make certain characters feel overpowered. The fact that I can easily move across the field with infantry thanks to Wolfram’s permanent +1 MP to all infantry is great, but being able to roll out tanks and artillery without any kind of backlash almost feels unfair. Similarly, the Dinoldan Army itself is a literal powerhouse. Not only do they boast better vision and a larger fuel and ammo reserve, but, after a certain point in the story, all of their units become stronger without any kind of backlash whatsoever. While these buffs aren’t so overwhelming that they ruin the story missions — the game’s main draw — they can be a tad frustrating at certain times.
Fiercely Fun Fights
In the end, it doesn’t matter how you slice it — this game is truly a superior sequel. With more units, more characters, more maps, and more ways to strategize Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble is a step up from its predecessor in every way possible, and an absolute must-have for Advance Wars fans. The world may be cowering in fear from the Dinoldan Army, but stopping them is more fun than you can shake a Mega Metal at.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC; Publisher: AREA 34, Inc.; Developer: AREA 35, Inc.; Players: 1 – 2; Released: July 10, 2019; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.