Nibiiro no Koubou - 32 Nin no Senshachou (PSX)
There’s little to no information in English about this game on the internet. Yet it was vital in the development of the acclaimed Panzer Front games, a fact well known in Japan but not elsewhere. Even the likes of The Panzer Front Ultimate Web Site did not seem to have anything about it. So this webpage aims to try and remedy that situation.
Note that this article makes use of online machine translators, so things may not be 100% accurate.
The game is set in a fictional world somewhat analogous to our own, but with a radically-different timeline. The world map shows locations such as Aberdeen, Suez Canal and Alexandria, but the names of specific countries are different:
Eurodyell Empire/Republic – Great Britain
United Far East – Japan
Empire of Efinos – Greece
Grand Duchy of Nordland - Norway
Gustav - Germany
Isparia - Spain and Italy
Kingdom of Camrahn – Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and southeast China
Kingdom of Suominen - Finland
Muromets Union - Soviet Union
Norad - America
Sadalsut Emirates – Saudi Arabia
Vichy Kingdom – France
The story tells of an insurrection to usurp the Queen of Eurodiere and replace her with an empress. She escapes with some loyal forces into Europe, and the game tells of their battle to restore her to the throne.
The plot takes place over a number of years, and events are told through text boxes (in Japanese), still pictures and some basic animation. Various individuals pop up throughout the story. Does the story change according to your selected character(s)?
You can choose from some 32 individual characters in the game, with men and women of different ages and nationalities. You can have up to 10 characters on your side in a battle, to who you can assign any available tank. It appears that you can level-up any of these characters and gain new allies as you go through the game. The debug menu enables you to add any character to your team from the start:
(Source: The Cutting Room Floor)
The official Shangri La website listed 25 tanks from a range of countries. In the game, there are some 68 vehicles to choose from, including guns. Furthermore, some of these tanks seem to have variants. For example, there are four types of the Rosina tank (based on the Soviet T-34). Although the setting and plot of the game are fictitious, the tanks are based on real armoured vehicles. Like Panzer Front, they reflect specifications such speed, armour and range.
The game allows you to see the details of each tank, including a 3D model. When playing a mission, you cannot see your own vehicle unless it is destroyed. Other tanks are clearly rendered (within the limits of the PS1).
Panzer Front and its sequels focused on vehicles mainly from the 1930s and 1940s, with some fictional AFVs and three from the late 20th century. Nibiiro no Koubou covers tanks up to and including the Second World War. Notable tanks include the T-26 (1933 version) and very early designs like the British Mark III and German A7V.
Here’s a list from the official website:
Mark A Whippet
Char B1 Bis
CKD Lt. Vz. 38.
Type 97 Chi-Ha
There are variants of these tanks, and some other tanks also exist in the game.
There are 22 levels in all, each with their own set of missions. Winning or losing a specific battle may mean that the next level will be different. Timing is also a factor as to your progression. If you tank is destroyed, the game ends.
Here’s a map of the different paths:
(Source: Official Shangri La website)
This obviously adds some replay value to the game. Here’s an online translation of the official website guide:
Chapter 1 Upheaval
Chapter 2 Invasion of Nordland
Chapter 3 Suominen Defense Battle
Chapter 4 Far East
Chapter 5 Invasion of Nefertia
Chapter 6 Landing on Kamran
Chapter 7 Effinos
Chapter 8 Suez Defense Battle
Chapter 9 Omsk Defense Line
Chapter 10 Novosibirsk
Chapter 11 Middle East Counteroffensive Operation
Chapter 12 Ural Counteroffensive Operation
Chapter 13 Gazelle Landing
Chapter 14 Quibi Chef
Chapter 15 Volga
Chapter 16 Landing in Salerno
Chapter 17 Pyrenees Fortress
Chapter 18 Barclay Offensive
Chapter 19 Roman Tank Battle
Chapter 20 Orleans Tank Battle
Chapter 21 Minsk Tank Battle
Chapter 22 Mainland Battle
These cover a wide variety of places, from ports to fortresses (like those on the Maginot Line) to snow-covered tundra. Some battles take place in towns or cities.
Unlike Panzer Front, the missions are fought from a first-person perspective. You still have to load and manually fire the tank’s gun. Depending on the specific tank, loading times can be really slow.
You also have access to a level map as seen in Panzer Front. With this, you can see the layout of the entire level, as well as enemy placements. It’s a much more basic version compared to the later games, but it does what it is supposed to do.
You can direct your allies and issue orders as you engage the enemy forces. This obviously precedes the strategy elements seen in Panzer Front. More tanks become available as you go through the game, although it’s unclear if you have to complete certain levels to get specific vehicles.
Another similarity is that you can easily be destroyed by the enemy. Here, the Japanese adage is true: “leave the gate and the enemy is waiting.” One notable contrast is that you see the crews of hostile vehicles escaping just as you destroy them. That doesn’t seem to happen when your tank is blown up!
So while this has a number of limitations compared to the Panzer Front games, it is clear that it has many aspects that formed the foundation of its successors. For fans of Panzer Front, it is worth seeking out this earlier incarnation.
Official Shangri La Website (via Wayback Machine)
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